Legacy

Nearly every aspect of life in the North West embarked on a period of major transformation during the Post-Medieval era that continued into the 19th century, reflecting changing ideas and world views that were expressed through new approaches to agricultural practice and manufacturing processes, leading to economic growth and paving the way for the rapid industrialisation of the region during the following centuries. The most visible impact of Post-Medieval prosperity in the North West in the modern landscape is perhaps embodied in the impressive rural mansions and landscaped estates, together with the numerous country halls that were erected across the region.

Detailed studies of a sample of these building types have shed new light on their construction dates and chronological development, enhancing or providing a corrective to any historical accounts that exist, whilst excavations of former halls have yielded important information on the fabric and form of the foundations and the material culture of their occupants. This emphasises the hugely important role that archaeological evidence can offer to a broader understanding of the changes wrought to the landscape and material culture during the Post-Medieval period, especially for those areas for which there is a dearth of documentary material.

The archaeological dataset for the Post-Medieval North West has been expanded considerably since 2006, with professional, community, and academic archaeologists all providing significant contributions. The archaeology of Post-Medieval halls has been one focus of research, but several associated themes merit attention, such as the formal landscaping of large country estates, and their impact on existing settlements. Similarly, for much of the North West, there is little detail on the form and fabric of farms and other rural domestic habitation sites, and research into the development of dual occupations amongst the farming community would be a welcome addition to the existing corpus of data. Identification of rural buildings that had been abandoned before the end of the 18th century would also be of considerable interest, enabling sites that may not have been subject to 19th-century remodelling to be targeted for archaeological research.

Several large assemblages of Post-Medieval artefacts, especially pottery, have been recovered from stratified contexts during archaeological excavations since 2006, providing a fresh insight into material culture in both rural and urban settings. However, this has emphasised a need for an agreed terminology for ware types, as the present lack of standardisation in this respect can lead to inconsistencies in reporting and can hamper regional overviews of pottery production, supply and distribution patterns. The introduction of an effective transport network to facilitate the movement of people, goods and ideas was fundamental to the economic growth of the region. This was achieved in the early 18th century by the opening of river navigations, although further research is needed to establish the impact of these new trade routes on inter-regional exchange and the growth of associated port settlements such as Chester, Wigan, Manchester and Salford. This could be usefully expanded to examine the impact on the North West of these new trade routes, and the opening of docks in Liverpool, and whether they brought a marked improvement in links with Ireland and the Isle of Man.

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