chapter  8
11 Pages

The changing character of transhumance in early and later medieval England

WithMark Gardiner

This chapter focuses on the shifting character of transhumance which, over an extended period, was an important influence in shaping the countryside of England – the settlements, boundaries and indeed the landscape as a whole. It examines the changing patterns of transhumance over the millennium from ad 500 to 1500. Transhumance formed an important element of the Anglo-Saxon economy, but it is nevertheless remarkable that there are references to it in one of the earliest surviving prose texts from England. The most thorough archaeological investigation of a transhumance landscape has been undertaken in the area around Wharram Percy. The importance of the Wharram study is that it records the progression from seasonal to permanent occupation in a wolds landscape. The rising pressure of population in England in the thirteenth century put increasing pressure on commonland. The establishment of upland livestock farms or granges was an important factor in both the decline of transhumance and the restriction of commonland.