Charnwood Forest is an upland area in north-west Leicestershire characterised by areas of woodland and distinctive outcrops of pre-Cambrian rocks. The literature to date suggests that medieval Charnwood Forest was a marginal and inhospitable environment which discouraged human interaction with the landscape. This study challenges those perceptions. It identifies the boundaries of medieval Charnwood Forest and explores the ways in which boundaries reflected relationships between people and place. A range of landscape, archaeological, place-name, documentary, and cartographical sources are examined. Many of the sources are post-medieval in origin; they reveal the location of medieval boundaries and the continuing significance of medieval boundaries in later periods. In this way, the boundaries of medieval Charnwood Forest are seen through the lens of the longue durée. Findings indicate that medieval Charnwood Forest was itself a boundary, but a permissive boundary which facilitated cultural interaction. The external boundaries of medieval Charnwood Forest are seen as a broad band formed by concentric circles of human activity surrounding an inner core of valued resources. Two foci of medieval encroachment are identified, one in the north of the study area, and one in the south. Encroachment was facilitated by the forest’s status as a seigneurial hunting ground or chase. Internal administrative divisions converged upon the two foci of encroachment. Other internal spatial divisions, such as those between elite and peasant space, private and public space, religious and secular space, and economic and recreational space, are less clearly defined. This study reveals that medieval Charnwood Forest was a familiar and utilised landscape demarcated by boundaries that were often broad bands of intercultural activity. The finding that many of Charnwood’s medieval boundaries were spatial rather than linear units is one that might have implications for the study of similar medieval landscapes.
Stones, Ann, “The Boundaries of Medieval Charnwood Forest Through the Lens of the Longue Durée,” Centre for English Local History Theses and Papers, accessed August 4, 2020, https://elhleics.omeka.net/items/show/149.