Post-medieval Resource Assessment

by David Andrew

Introduction

Post-medieval suggests an afterthought. It would be preferable to use the historians’ terms, early modern and modern, for after all, this is a period for which the historical sources take over and the contribution of archaeology is reduced. For that reason, where the scope and scale of projects allow it, there would be mutual benefit to working with social and economic historians. Because post-medieval archaeology deals with the recent past, it presents opportunities to capture public interest and hence for community involvement.

Much post-medieval work involves sorting out existing structures, finishes and layers overlying older ones which are likely to be the main target of the exercise. A limiting factor is that with more permanent construction methods, post-medieval buildings last much longer and ground levels stabilise, so that no longer is there the accumulation of deep stratified sequences which can make archaeology such a valuable resource. The evidence for change is contained in the many phases of alteration and modification manifested by the buildings themselves, which are often difficult and not always very profitable to analyse. Building recording accounts for much post-medieval work. Figures derived from the Archaeological Data Service archives suggest it amounts to between 12-36% of all work with a post-medieval component in any year. The understanding of buildings obtained through this recording should inform archaeological excavation. Unfortunately this is not always the case, and there can be a disconnect between building recorders and field archaeologists, which can lead to unfortunate results, such as the interpretation of a ‘hunting lodge’ found near Stansted airport (Cooke 2008, 244-8, 266-7).

Building Recording and Archaeology

The early modern period, the 16th and 17th centuries, was one of great political and social change, processes from which housing and buildings were not exempt. It saw the end of the tripartite house, of a hall flanked by parlour and services, which had been a constant since the 12th century. Carpentry methods also saw significant change for the first time since the 14th century. The development of the chimney made it possible to insert an upper floor in the hall, the social function of which became less important than it had been. The upper floor provided more rooms, creating scope for enhanced privacy reflecting change in living patterns and doubtless satisfying long nurtured aspirations. The upper floors could also be cantilevered out from the side of the house, creating the long wall houses which were ubiquitous in 16th century towns and villages. In large houses, the floor plan became less predictable as people experimented and the hall became more of a flexible entrance area. Nevertheless, numerous cottages, often two-cell, were built with open halls at the end of the 16th century and into the early 17th century. In larger houses, the floor plan becomes less predictable as people experimented with and the hall became more of a flexible entrance area. Display gables are a feature of 16th and 17th century houses, but one which as well as making a statement, reflect greater use being made of attic storeys, whether for work related storage or accommodation. This was made possible by the supersession of the crown post roof by other forms, notably the clasped purlin. Such houses often had long rear ranges, which have often survived behind rebuilt frontages. From early in the 17th century, the lobby-entry ground plan became widespread, a front door opposite the chimney forming an entrance lobby. In later examples, the door is made central if it was at all possible to achieve a symmetrical façade. Typically the stair is located the other side of the chimney. This layout can be found across the social scale and continued into the 18th century. Sliding sash windows, roofs parallel to the street, classicising door cases, and projecting bays give later 18th century and early 19th century housing a quite different appearance, accompanied by plan form alterations reflecting changing fashions, typically the chimneys no longer dominant and finding a new location at the ends of the building.

Much of the research on vernacular architecture over the last 50 years has concentrated on the older buildings, which are now in many years better understood than the early modern ones. The single most valuable new tool in investigating historic buildings, tree-ring dating, has reinforced this trend: not only has it been targeted at older buildings, but more modern ones are less susceptible to its use because of the quality of the timber found in them. In effect, there tends to be a cut-off for dates obtained of c.1650. In the historical period, reliable dating is essential to interpretation and argument. Accurate dates would be very valuable in assessing the transformation of towns and villages in Georgian times, particularly putting them in a social and economic context such as the highly cyclical fortunes of the cloth trade.

The way building recording is administered in the planning development control process often fails to give completely satisfactory results. Heritage Statements, the minimum requirement to accompany work to historic buildings, are assessments of significance, not records. If repairs or opening up become necessary in the course of works which were not expected to reveal anything about the fabric of the building, then there is often no provision for recording. Similarly, building recording conditions may ensure recording is carried out before work starts, but not require monitoring of what happens when it does, when things are likely to be found which will materially affect subsequent interpretation.

Many cottages were built in the 16th and 17th centuries. They or rather their occupants were a source of concern to contemporaries lest they became a burden on the parish, issues reflected in legislation concerning cottages, incomers and the Elizabethan Poor Law. Their location, and the amount of land they had, are important factors in understanding them. These cottages account for the majority of the one hearth houses which in Essex comprised about half the households recorded in the 1670 Hearth Tax (Ryan 2012). Graphic representations of them are a conspicuous feature of the late Tudor estate maps made by the Walker family (Edwards and Newton 1984). Yet they are a category of building which has been little studied and which are under pressure from improvement, extension and fire damage.

Farm buildings are also under threat, from redundancy and conversion. Whereas the only surviving medieval farm building is usually the barn, a wider suite of post-medieval buildings are to be found, reflecting changing practices and economic conditions, with an increasing tendency towards better planned and model layouts. However humble, these buildings are in increasing demand for dwellings, as the traditional farmstead becomes redundant and vanishes from the countryside. Of the listed barns in Essex, about 311 are medieval and 1553 post-medieval. Again, these later buildings have been relatively little studied.  Some have been successfully tree-ring dated, and they probably have more potential for dating than contemporary houses. Barns represent significant capital investment and their chronology must reflect the changing fortunes of agricultural holdings and agriculture in general. Building recording when they are converted rarely includes tree-ring dating, and often includes little information on how they have been used, even in recent times. Conversion often sees the loss of 20th century grain processing and other equipment, which is often overlooked or removed before recording takes place.

Isolated but useful tree-ring results are being obtained all the time and published in the annual summaries in Vernacular Architecture (VA).  The Godwick Great Barn at Tittleshall in Norfolk has been dated to 1597 and shown to resemble the large barns at Paston and Waxham (Arnold and Howard 2013). A brick barn at Aldeby Hall in Norfolk has given a date of 1614-26, with a later phase of 1726-51 (VA 2014, 112). But until more synthetic work is undertaken, such dates will be more meaningful if obtained in the context of a wider project.

A study of Coggeshall centred round tree-ring dating of its many timber-framed houses carried out 2009-12 successfully dated 18 buildings, a high score for East Anglia, but only three were 17th century and four 16th century, the latest being 1636 (Andrews 2013; Stenning 2013). Coggeshall was one of the leading cloth towns of the north Essex/south Suffolk region in the 16th and 17th centuries. The industry has, as elsewhere, proved largely invisible in the material record of the buildings themselves. The town initially adapted to pressure on space arising from commercial and population growth by rebuilding houses with cross-wings and rear ranges to provide more accommodation. Later on, particularly in modern times, houses were sub-divided. 17th century houses generally have more attic space and some are taller, two and a half storey. Prosperity is manifest in the quality of the houses and features such as carved bressumers and moulded joists, though the gulf between the average long-wall jetty house and the elaborate display of Paycocke’s house which belonged to an exceptionally rich merchant, reflects either remarkable disparities of wealth or exhibitionism of a sort which others may have found distasteful. The only clearly legible relics of the cloth trade are a few merchants’ marks, and dowel holes in stud walls for warp frames.  These important under-recorded features make it possible to identify workshop spaces.  The process whereby these early modern houses were remodelled with a Georgian aspect tends to fall outside the potential of dendrochronology, carpentry, and other architectural features to provide precise dates, and is rarely well documented. As a consequence, these later phases of buildings are often treated perfunctorily when it is possible that more painstaking examination placed within a wider survey might yield results. For the moment, the transformation of such towns and villages in the 18th and early 19th centuries is not well understood. It needs to be seen in the context of houses often being rented, and by the 18th century if not earlier divided for multiple occupancy, features evident from the analysis of a 1575 rental and of later documents.

The Norfolk Historic Buildings Group has carried out similar projects in Talconeston and Little Walsingham (Longcroft et al. 2009 and 2015). At the former, most of the houses were 16th to early 17th century: indeed most of the parish seems to have been rebuilt in this period. Features of interest were cross-wings, smoke bays, and a well defined sequence of roof types. At Little    Walsingham, over 70 buildings have been recorded. Several of them have been identified as possible hostelries in this important pilgrimage centre. 

The re-interpretation of taper burns as apotropaic or witch marks is a striking insight into the mentality of the people who made them (Dean and Hill 2014). Although dating remains to be made more precise, it is clear that the majority of these marks are post-Reformation, 16th or 17th century. As such, they could be considered more informative about popular belief than written records. Although their presence is often noted, more detailed assessments of their distribution and chronology could shed further light on this practice. An analogous practice is that of concealing objects in and around chimneys, something which it seems can involve continual additions over many years rather than one-off deposits (Easton 2014).

As to larger houses, a major study of Hill Hall, Theydon Mount, Epping, has been published, combining archaeological excavation, building analysis and documentary research (Drury 2009). This is an important example of late Tudor classicism. The reports on ceramic building material and finds are particularly valuable.

Urban Archaeology

Excavation in post-medieval contexts in urban centres tends not to be rewarding, the results difficult to untangle and relating to evidence more readily understood from historical sources. Where archaeological evidence is well preserved, it has the potential to put flesh on historic maps for towns and villages where buildings have been demolished. Such a site was Rope Walk, Ipswich, where the excavator noted the scope for further social history (Sommers 2010). Redevelopment should not be permitted to sweep away even relatively modern housing without a record being made of it. Finds too, when present in sufficient quantities such as clearance deposits, can be informative at the level of social history. Cologne or Frechen drinking jugs from a pit at 6 Market Place, Mildenhall, identify a nearby building as an inn (Craven 2009). Excavation in the garden of a house at St. Neots, Cambridgeshire, has produced interesting documentation for the material culture and way of life of a household in the early 20th century (Cessford and Dickens 2013). The archaeological assessment of Colchester (Gascoyne and Radford 2013) has a valuable account of early modern housing in the town, but it is noted that the post-medieval archaeological survival is much reduced by the existence of cellars on the frontages. An illustration of the complexity of post-medieval properties, their development and ownership, and the challenge they present to excavators and building recorders, is to be found in a study of Georgian tenements in Colchester (Wise 2007).

Industries and Artefacts

For a period for which the Industrial Revolution was one of the great features, the physical manifestations of it are often likely to consist of buildings which have had their working machinery stripped out, often standing over contaminated deposits.  One industry conspicuous in recent work is brick manufacture, which had a great impact on construction and housing. The textile industries, of wider economic importance, tend to be less susceptible to archaeological investigation, but when evidence is found, it should be prioritised. There should be awareness of the role of immigrant communities, such as the Dutch and Huguenots, in such industries and their possible impact on the historic environment.

The bricks which made possible the building of chimneys and the revolution in the design of the early modern house were only manufactured continuously from the 15th century. They were made locally to where they were to be used, in kilns or, if needed in large quantities, in clamps. Several brick clamps associated with Henry VIII’s palace at New Hall, Boreham, near Chelmsford, as well as a lime kiln, have recently been discovered. Late 17th/early 18th century clay pits and two brick kilns have been found at Wash Pits Field, Euston, Suffolk. At Buntingford Road, north of Puckeridge, Herts, a tile kiln has been found, in use c.1480-1700, its footprint later reused as a barn (Anderson et al. 2014).  A two flue brick kiln datable to the 17th century has been excavated in New Street, Chelmsford (Hawkins and Sudds 2011). These kilns represent a small scale and relatively primitive mode of production which would not have been equal to the 19th century growth of market towns with streets lined with brick villas. A later chapter in brick making has been revealed at Seymour Street, Chelmsford, strategically close to the railway, where a brickworks operated c.1874-1902 by James Brown has been excavated. Here a traditional up-draught Scotch kiln was accompanied by a more advanced Hoffmann-type kiln which could fire bricks on a continuous process. Indeed, this kiln is similar to a variant on the Hoffmann process patented by Arthur Edward Brown, James Brown’s son. Brown had several brickworks in Essex towns and villages, including Braintree where he had brickworks near the station. His was a thriving business supplying the demand for middle class housing.

A contemporary Essex brickmaker was Mark Gentry, the dominant figure in the Sible Hedingham industry, whose business activity has been the subject of a recent book (Corder-Birch 2014). Gentry moved to Hedingham from Stratford and was active there from about 1884 until his death in 1912. By 1898, the output of his Langthorne brickworks had been increased from about half a million to about 10 million bricks. There were three up-draught (presumably Scotch) kilns, and four down draught ones, but no continuous kiln, though one was projected. Much of the production went to London, where his bricks can be found in the Blackwall Tunnel and Claridges Hotel, as well as further afield, to Ireland and even Africa. None of this would have been possible without access to the Colne Valley Railway, though the Hedingham station was not close to the brickworks. Gentry was keen to rectify this and was a great promoter of schemes for extensions to the north and central Essex railway networks, none of which came to fruition. Both Brown and Gentry had a role in the development of the character of local brick architecture, as they manufactured terracotta mouldings and plaques which were extensively used in contemporary buildings. Brown’s catalogue of the mouldings he supplied was illustrated, and no doubt also designed, by the architect George Sherrin. Gentry built a roadside lodge to his house profusely decorated with moulded brickwork to advertise his wares.  

The railways were crucial to the development of larger brickworks, and with the abolition of the Brick Tax in 1850, had a role in enabling brick buildings to cross the vernacular threshold. They introduced competition from further afield, notably the Bedfordshire fletton industry, which contributed to a reduction in the number of local village brickworks (cf. Ryan 1999, 41-4).  Small brickworks often did not survive the restrictions on firing imposed in the Second World War.  One of the few remaining ones was Reads at Aldeburgh in Suffolk, now regrettably closed (Prosser et al. 2012). This had been established, in typical fashion, on a farm in the 19th century. The plant included a disused 19th century Suffolk kiln, and four 20th century updraught ones which were oil fired, as well as a Berry brickmaking machine. These machines were made at Westcliffe-on-Sea, Southend, and are still in use in some traditional brickworks. 

Dr Beeching’s radical surgery of the rail network in the 1960s reduced many railway lines to industrial heritage. In Essex, there have been surveys of several of these lost lines as well as ones in use. They include the former Elsenham and Thaxted light railway (Crosby 2010), the Essex part of the London to Cambridge line (Crosby 2013), the Shenfield to Southminster line (Kemble and Garwood 2011), and the former branch lines to Maldon (Kemble and Garwood 2011). The Thaxted line was built under the provisions of the Light Railways Act of 1896, intended to make it easier to build railways and for them to obtain public funding, with a view in particular to helping agriculture then in the grips of a depression. The line was not a success and closed in 1952. At March, Cambridgeshire, an excavation has taken place at what was once one of the busiest marshalling yards in the country, uncovering two 20th century turntables and a section of Britain’s first mechanised or gravity ‘hump’ for manoeuvring wagons (Railton and Wooler 2013).

Whilst it is usually difficult to link the cloth trade to standing buildings, archaeological evidence for it is sometimes found. At Glemsford, at a site north of Lion Road, a double row of 85 post holes have been interpreted as representing two tenter frames, something which are well documented as a feature of the townscape in the clothworking belt of south Suffolk and north Essex. On land at The Swan Hotel, Lavenham, a building has been excavated within which there were at least ten furnace bases, datable to the late Middle Ages, which may have been used for dyeing cloth (Brooks 2014). Market towns were populated by artisans and tradesmen but evidence for their activities is often elusive. One record of the latter are trade tokens. A project based at Norwich Castle Museum is creating a catalogue of Norfolk tokens, researching who issued them and their circulation. Industrial buildings which have been excavated or recorded include a water tank in Dunstable, Bedfordshire, probably associated with a hat factory (Kaye 2013), and a former leather factory at Dereham, Norfolk (Phelps 2010). The latter was a three storey brick building dating from 1884, later used as a warehouse. At Bishops Stortford, Hertfordshire, Swan Dock which served the malting industry, later becoming a coal depot, has been investigated.

Ceramic manufacture is of particular interest to archaeologists. The pre-industrial country potteries have left little historical record. They could represent production on a significant scale. The Harlow potteries were important in parts of Essex and Hertfordshire from the 13th century, but the 17th century Metropolitan slipwares were widely traded throughout the country, and even as far as the Americas (Davey and Walker 2009). Texts and proverbs on the slipwares tell us something of the beliefs and attitudes of those who made and used them. Evidence has been found for the manufacture of Metropolitan slipwares, as well as red earthenwares, at Stock to the south of Chelmsford (Essex Archaeol. Hist. n.s.4, 4 2013, 213).

At Stowmarket, two large pits on a development site have produced a large quantity of glazed red earthenware, and a smaller one of black glazed wares, datable to the 16th-18th centuries, together with kiln furniture and wasters. Given that, as the report says, ‘Very little pottery from towns in Suffolk has been illustrated and none has been published … partly due to a surprising lack of material’, this is an important discovery and points to a significant industry in the Stowmarket area (Anderson 2015).

Landscape

Landscape change from the 16th century, in terms of the break-up of estates and the establishment of the existing pattern of farms and fields, are subjects which are not prominent in recent post-medieval archaeological work. The assessment of the wider landscape context and setting of farm buildings, and their role in their exploitation, should not be overlooked when such buildings are recorded or heritage statements are prepared for them. Numerous survey and research projects in coastal areas, mainly associated with climate change, nature conservation, and seaside regeneration, have proved valuable for the post-medieval and modern periods. They have provided information on the development of sea defences, fishing and fishing structures, oyster beds, duck decoys, salt production, hulks and wrecks. This work has been reviewed by Murphy (2014), and detailed accounts can be found elsewhere (e.g. Murphy et al. 2012; Ingle and Saunders 2011). The condition and significance of Essex grazing marshes has been comprehensively assessed, with an account of the processes of enclosure and reclamation (Gascoyne and Medlycott 2014). Work for the new London Gateway container Terminal in the Thames estuary has uncovered evidence of wrecks as well as World War II defences. Research on coastal areas is on-going in the form of the Coastal and Intertidal Zone Archaeological Network (CITIZAN) which will run till 2018, and has a thematic approach, which covers ships and shipping, coastal industries, working lives, and post-medieval jetties along the Stour. Historic urban characterisation reports have been prepared for ten Essex seaside towns in the Essex Seaside Resorts Project (Essex County Council 2012). The modern history of three of these resorts, Clacton, Walton and Frinton, has been chronicled in volume xi of the Essex Victoria County History. A study of seaside piers has been published by English Heritage (Wills and Phillips 2014).

The County Garden Trusts continue to study historic designed landscapes. The Capability Brown anniversary in 2016 was marked by new research and publications (Bate 2016; Essex Gardens Trust 2016). There was similar activity for the Repton anniversary in 2018. The Gardens Trust (2016) has published guidance on historic designed landscapes for planners and curators. The Essex Gardens Trust has added to its local authority surveys by completing an inventory for the City of Chelmsford (2012). It is currently working on Brentwood Borough and making a start on Colchester. Excavation and survey has taken place on the landscape and gardens of William Cecil’s former Theobalds palace in Hertfordshire (Rowe 2012). At Houghton Hall in Norfolk, built in the 1720s, a remarkable exercise in archaeological recording by Williamson (2013) has shown that the gentle sweep of the parkland is deceptively natural in appearance, being in fact the result of prodigious earth moving at a site where Brown and others are not recorded as working on the landscape.

Defence and Fortifications

Defenceworks have left their mark on the landscape, particularly on the coast, eastern England having always been exposed to attack from northern Europe. At the eastern tip of Mersea Island, in the Colne estuary, coastal erosion has uncovered an elm revetment and quay associated with a triangular bulwark fort dating from the 1540s (Heppell 2013). Further up the coast, excavations have taken place through the ramparts of Landguard Fort at Felixstowe, an earthwork fort on a square plan with angle bastions built in the 1620s to defend Harwich Haven (Meredith 2008). It was later reinforced with a brick wall or fausse-braye outside the battered escarpment round its perimeter which proved a valuable defence when it was attacked by the Dutch in 1667. A large number of clay pipes were found, a useful assemblage ‘in an area where few studies have been carried out.’

Possible archaeological evidence for Civil War defences has been found at Kings Lynn. At Colchester, the 1648 siege works have been highlighted as a special feature of the town which would repay further study (Gascoyne and Radford 2013). Colchester became a garrison town after the Crimean War. The Victorian garrison site has now, like that at Shoeburyness, been redeveloped for housing. A final stage in the building recording is a report on the officers’ quarters or sergeants’ mess of the Royal Artillery Barracks, later known as Le Cateau Barracks (Lister 2013).

The anniversary of the First World War has stimulated research on its history (cf. Rusiecki 2008).  Near Bishops Stortford, Hertfordshire, World War I practice trenches, with a line of foxholes 100 yards to the south, have been excavated. Some World War I sites have been identified from aerial photographs in Thetford and the surrounding area (Bales et al. 2011 and 2012) The total warfare of the Second World War had a much greater impact on the civilian population and the landscape, though the effect on the latter has sometimes been surprisingly transient. A Royal Ordnance factory near Buntingford, Hertfordshire, which had completely disappeared by 1975, had been noted as cropmarks and then effectively rediscovered upon map research and evaluation (Snee 2012). A review of the work of the NMP in Essex includes a chapter on the military landscape of the county during World War II, which is a valuable interim statement on The World War II Defences in Essex Project which has been in progress since 1993 (Ingle and Saunders 2011, 147-76). To the archaeological recording in the county can now be added historical studies (Thornton 2012, 174-203; Rusiecki 2015). In Norfolk, aerial photography in the context of the National Mapping Programme has been very productive in recovering information on World War II sites in Norwich, Thetford and the line of the A11 between them (Bales et al. 2020 and 2011; Cattermole et al. 2013). Similar results can be expected from the on-going Breaking New Ground Breckland landscape study, which includes aerial photographic NMP and LiDAR projects. For Suffolk, an overview of World War II archaeology has been published in four guide books produced as part of the World War II Heritage project (Liddiard and Sims 2014). Surviving World War II structures are regularly being recorded through the planning system. Ablution blocks and three ‘Stanton’ type air raid shelters have been recorded at the former RAF Horham near Debenham, Suffolk (Sommers 2013). At the Swale, Martlesham, Ipswich, a range of defensive structures have been recorded, including a Type-22 and Type-23 Pillbox, a Lewis gun-emplacement, and a HFDF (High Frequency Direction Finder) tower in an octagonal curtain wall (Brooks 2012). A survey has been made of a rare and complete Special Duties Section (SDS) Sub-out Station or Zero Station, located under the car park of Pinebanks School, Thorpe Saint Andrew, Norfolk. This secret radio station would have transmitted information regarding German troop movements and intelligence gathered by local spies to the HQ of local Auxiliary Units. A more specialised exercise has been the excavation of a crashed Spitfire at Holme Fen, Cambridgeshire (Haskins et al. 2016). Cold War remains have also been studied and recorded. Operational Record Books for RAF Barnham, Suffolk, have been examined to supplement information on the previously recorded atomic bomb store (Cocroft and Gregory 2011).

Recommendations

Inevitably there is an urgent need for synthetic assessments of the hundreds of projects and grey literature reports which have been, and continue to be, generated through the planning system. Such work would be likely to rebalance the present state of knowledge in many areas of study and give rise to new issues and problems that should be addressed.

Buildings have not figured prominently in previous research frameworks, despite the large numbers of records being made. There is a need for better communication between conservation officers and archaeologists in terms of setting briefs for recording of post-medieval sites and structures. The assessments of them should be presented in the wider context of building development and architectural history, making a more accurate assessment of their significance possible. The provenance of the timber used in buildings, whether local or imported, is a subject that warrants further research. Cottages and smaller houses are in need of further study. Work on farm buildings should attempt to consider how they have been used, and their relationship to the farmstead and wider landholding. The development of the farmstead c.1750-1914, and the way buildings reflect changing agricultural practice, remains an important research topic.  Regionally based studies of bricks and brickwork, like the work of Ryan (1996) for Essex, would assist the analysis of historic structures. Recording where necessary should be done earlier in the planning process, as a preliminary to applications so that it informs the decisions eventually taken. It should take place prior to any stripping of fixtures and fittings. Recording briefs should provide for monitoring once work has started. They should also be more precise about the drawings required, specifying ground plans with a basic degree of interpretation as a minimum. Special attention should be given to ensure recording where appropriate of the largely unlisted post-1840 building stock, more significant buildings being treated as undesignated heritage assets or given the protection of local listing.

Work in towns would benefit from the existence of urban characterisation surveys.  Changes through time in the built environment can reflect developments in the character and economy of towns.  Seaside towns, ports, wharves and structures associated with the marine economy, all need further study.  High streets, in their current depressed condition, are vulnerable to change and redevelopment, and should be monitored for investigation and recording.  Urban excavation should prioritise post-medieval deposits if in good condition: stripping down to earlier deposits is unacceptable in such circumstances. Excavation briefs should make it explicit that post-medieval layers should not be machined off, unless it has been established that they are of little significance. This should be made clear in briefs issued to contractors. Opportunities for environmental sampling of post-medieval deposits should not be neglected, so as to better understand the environment in this period. Urban archaeological databases should address the problems of post-medieval archaeology and areas of potential research.  Well preserved archaeological remains of 18th and 19th century housing are probably rare, and the opportunity to investigate them should be taken, especially if artefact assemblages are also present. It is at the level of ordinary living standards and material culture that archaeology can best contribute to the study of well documented periods. Artefacts that seem understudied, and which would benefit from regional overviews, are country pottery, clay pipes, and glass. More resources should be put into the study of artefacts which are relatively neglected compared to other periods.  Advantage should be taken of specialist knowledge in museums and local societies. From the 19th century, there is the opportunity to trace the success and distribution of branded goods.  

The wider landscape requires acknowledgement as the context for post-medieval settlement and industrial development, as well as farm buildings.  Conversely, the impact of social and economic change – religion, enclosure, poverty etc – on the landscape should be taken into account.  The county surveys of historic landscapes need to be brought to completion and updated where necessary, and integrated into the planning process as valuable tools for their protection.

Research on defences and fortifications tends to be unbalanced in favour of the two world wars, and should take more consideration of the impact of the earlier Civil War, the Anglo-Dutch wars, and Napoleonic wars.  The World War II surveys of Essex and the Suffolk coast, whilst requiring further synthesis, need to be extended to other parts of the region.  Greater consistency is required in recording World War II structures. The material culture of military sites is an aspect of them on which archaeology can uniquely provide information. Military sites which are being closed down or mothballed should be recommended for recording.