Villages Study Group

The genesis of this Group was the Society's Millennium Project and has so far led to the publication of studies on Wimbledon (2000, by the Wimbledon Society), Shere (2001), Thorpe (2002) and Ewell (2004). Work is now well advanced on bringing the studies on Gomshall (including Peaslake and Ewhurst) and on Old Woking towards publication. New evidence has recently come to light regarding the development of Cranleigh and Cobham and work continues in many other villages.    

Historic maps and plans and Hearth Tax records

A workshop meeting took place at the Surrey History Centre on Saturday 31 January 2009 with the morning devoted to historic maps and plans and the afternoon to Hearth Tax records. Carole Garrad of Surrey History Centre kindly gave the opening presentation on the development of Surrey maps and estate plans over the past four centuries. This was followed by various presentations and discussions about ways to digitally ‘rectify and overlay' maps and plans of different periods (illustrated by examples drawn largely from the Old Woking study). The afternoon session on the analysis of Hearth Tax records was led by Andrew Wareham from the very active research programme into Hearth Tax records at Roehampton University. We are hoping to organise a further informal session on the use of Hearth Tax and Quarter Session records later in 2009. Further information will be sent direct to all members of the Villages Study Group or can be obtained direct from Richard and Pamela Savage (

Identification and Dating of Medieval Pottery

In order to develop pottery identification skills within the group The Medieval Studies Forum organised a full day training workshop on the identification and dating of medieval pottery in Surrey, led by Surrey's acknowledged pottery expert Phil Jones, at the Surrey History Centre in Woking on Saturday 18 October 2008. The day enabled participants to learn to recognise pre-Conquest pottery as well as identify and date the main types of later medieval wares produced in Surrey. Training covered form and fabric, and included much hands-on work. 

The next stage in the pottery project will be to set up a medieval pottery study group to work on some of the medieval material held by the Society and prepare this for publication. It is hoped that the knowledge gained will also prove useful in the proposed resumption of test-pitting.

Anyone interested in either leading this project or becoming part of the team should contact Richard and Pamela Savage as above.

Manorial records meeting

The Group held a very successful meeting on 20 September with the morning devoted to presentations on Manorial Records by Isabel Sullivan and Matthew Piggott, both of Surrey History Centre. During the afternoon we heard fascinating updates on the studies at Cranleigh and Hambledon, with a most interesting first presentation on the studies now in progress at Esher. We are grateful to the staff at Surrey History Centre for not only hosting this meeting but also for setting up a display of many original manorial documents with appropriate transcriptions.

The Victoria County History Seminars 2008

A number of members attended one or more of the seminars held in February and March to mark 75 years of the Victoria County History at the Institute of Historical Research.  Three were of particular relevance to the medieval period. Firstly, Dr Carenza Lewis talked on ‘Historic village investigation at the dawn of the 21st century - new opportunities, new directions and new knowledge'. Those of us of an archaeological bent were enthused by the work being carried out in East Anglian villages over the past three years on an extensive programme of test-pitting which is indicating forms of settlement development in the medieval period rather different from those found in the Whittlewood project in the Midlands. In some of the East Anglian villages studied, it was found that ‘gaps' within villages did not necessarily imply contraction in the fourteenth century but rather that the plots had never been occupied. In other words, these particular East Anglian villages seemed more polyfocal in origin than those in the Whittlewood study.

Carenza described the innovative funding of the project (based heavily on monies from the EU to encourage more teenagers to consider tertiary education) and also the archaeological techniques and statistical analysis that produces the results. We hope to be able to recommence test-pitting in suitable locations in the Society's Village Studies Project. 

A fortnight later, Professor Chris Dyer spoke on ‘Medieval villages: new approaches' in a talk which majored on archaeological aspects, including the social inferences that could be drawn from individual house plans as well as from analyses of the patterns of buildings within settlements.

The final seminar was given by Professor Tom Williamson on ‘Regional landscapes and regional societies: the environmental dimension'. This reminded us (if we had forgotten) that archaeologists and medieval historians ought to pay much more attention to soil types (and the very rapid changes in soil types, sometimes even within a single field) and geomorphological features, such as river catchment areas and watersheds. His examples were, perhaps not surprisingly, largely drawn from East Anglia but we were struck by how little work has been published along these lines for Surrey.