The origins of the village in South Wales: a study in landscape archaeology


The debate on the origins of nucleated settlement and their associated open-field agricultural systems is now one of the most frequently encountered in landscape studies. This thesis has explored this debate in a processual framework. A hypothetico-deductive methodology has been employed and the evidence is presented in a retrogressive manner. The study is spatially limited to the four "old" counties of Monmouthshire, Glamorgan, Carmarthenshire and Pembrokeshire; there are no fixed chronological limits.
The first chapter set out the background to this thesis and defined the overall aim. This was then expanded into a number of overall objectives. Each objective was presented in the form of a model from which hypotheses were deduced and then, in subsequent chapters, tested. Underlying each model was the premise that the village is the physical - and therefore usually the archaeologically recoverable - manifestation of a particular form of social organisation.
It was argued that three processes led to village origins. A number of them were deliberately planted in order to stabilise the Norman-Celtic boundary in mid-Pembrokeshire. These were probably founded c. 1110 by locatores. These villages had the inflated status of "rural boroughs" in order to attract settlers. Two processes contributed to village origins in the pre-Conquest period: the need to increase agricultural production (to support both aristocratic and ecclesiastical elites) and the requirement to re-organise agriculture following the fragmentation of the earlier multiple estates.
This thesis also examined other related topics. The evidence for the stability of village plans was also explored. A wide range of material - maps, the degree of concentration of landownership, population figures and the shape and size of deserted villages - was discussed as part of this area of study. It was argued that village shape had not usually changed and hence the deductions made from morphological studies - for example deliberate plantation (for which there is ample ethnographic evidence) - were valid. Another study examined the landscape of Gower in some detail. This chapter demonstrated the difference between the Anglo-Norman and the Celtic landscapes of nucleation, the vibrancy of the upland economy in the later medieval period and developed the concept of village dating beyond the "one species per century" formula.
This thesis has contributed to the wider debate in two ways: it has gathered new information and offered new interpretations of the village in south Wales. It has also developed and refined some of the approaches and assumptions made by landscape archaeologists.







Kissock, Jonathan Andrew, “The origins of the village in South Wales: a study in landscape archaeology,” Centre for Regional and Local History Theses and Papers, accessed June 13, 2024,