I just got confirmation (Monday 24th March)  that you can now download documents relating to farmsteads in the North West of England. They (parts 1-3) are available from the HELM – Historic Environment Local Management website here.

Essential background reading for Pennine Lancashire, history and archaeology. Particularly of interest is this summary of medieval NW England settlement:

“The 12th and 13th centuries were characterised by rising
population, the colonisation of new land (through the
drainage of fens, clearance of woods and expansion of
farming on to upland moors) and the direct commercial
management by estates of their land, whether this was
dispersed among other holdings or ring-fenced in its
own boundaries.The Church was a particularly active
landlord, and monastic orders such as the Cistercians ran
their estates from both home (or demesne) farms and
outlying granges, which could be very large in scale
(commonly 3 to 1000 acres in size). Climatic changes in
the second decade of the 14th century, with increased
rainfall and lower temperatures, led to famine.These
troubles, compounded by pestilence (the Black Death of
1349 and subsequent epidemics), resulted in a sharp fall
in population and the contraction or desertion of
settlements on marginal soils. Direct cultivation by
landlords continued on some home farms, but in most
areas farms on estates became leased out – in whole or
in part – to tenants, a process often accompanied by the
breakdown of traditional customary tenancies. Other
developments which accelerated from the 14th century
included the amalgamation of farms into larger holdings,
the enclosure of former communally farmed strips, and a
steady growth in productivity sustained by greater
emphasis on pastoral farming, new techniques and
rotations of crops.”

Retrieved from HELM website 24/03/2014 historic-farmsteads-north-west-part2.pdf

http://www.helm.org.uk/guidance-library/historic-farmsteads-preliminary-character-statement-north-west/

I will post about sites around Rooley Moor and Whitworth relating to this subject soon!

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