Since 2006, an extensive and significant body of work has been produced but although the NWRRF is acknowledged in many project designs, it is not the priority. Most of this work derives from development control projects on varying scales, followed by community based projects, often part of larger holistic landscape partnership schemes. The questions set by the original framework remain and but without syntheses, the results present a disjointed approach when considering patterns and trends across the region.
This is partially offset by the wide range of regional publication outlets but though there is extensive publication it is often single articles on aspects of a particular site or investigation and in general lacks regional integration. Those that attempt in-depth period based regional analysis have the most impact and should be encouraged. An important trend is the publication of major excavation results backlogs with further analysis implemented using new methodologies and scientific techniques where appropriate (see Norton Priory, Aldingham Motte etc.). Projects of particular significance often find their way to publication but the majority of the grey literature remains unpublished.
There are distinctive patterns across the region as to where work is being carried out and published. Since 2006, Cumbria in particular has benefited from extensive landscape surveys and settlement research although publications on the regional aspects of these themes have yet to reach fruition. A detailed review of late medieval landuse and settlement patterns in Cumbria is now possible.
Greater Manchester is an area where basic synthesis and publication through the Manchester’s Past Revealed series keep pace with the new information being generated by urban expansion and regeneration. However these publications are aimed at the general reader therefore lack depth and analysis and focus on specific locations, rather than county based themes.
Merseyside, Lancashire and Cheshire (outside of Chester) appear to be behind Cumbria and Greater Manchester in the amount of new information being generated and published for the period. The exceptions are sites arising from major infrastructure or utility projects such the M6 Heysham link or the Helmshore pipe line. For some projects the Lancashire Imprints provided the medium for synthesis and publication. Cheshire and Merseyside appears to be more dependent on local archaeology societies, the local Museums and ALGAO Services, although publications are generated regularly.
Perhaps the most significant development for the period is the discovery of major pottery production sites along with the growing number of other assemblages. This means that a new synthesis of types and analysis of regional development can be attempted. There are now enough site studies through survey and excavation to attempt new regional analysis, for example on moated sites. The accumulated evidence for landscape utilisation by the monastic orders has a great deal of potential for regional analysis, accompanied by in-depth documentary research to look at production, distribution and technology across monastic land holdings.
A range of castle sites have seen excavation and analysis along with new research and a growing pool of reports is offering new insights into the regions defences, which again would benefit from regional/county analysis.
Tree-ring dating has established that assumptions about the dates of origins for standing buildings need to be challenged. Medieval techniques and styles appear to carry on into later periods and conversely some buildings, especially agricultural structures, can be earlier in origin than they first appear. The extent of survival of medieval buildings in urban areas is not known but the HLC projects hint at possible wider survival than previously thought. Tree ring dating has become, and will continue to be, an important means of dating sites for a period where artefacts are comparatively rare.
The amount of new information that has been generated in the last 10 years is phenomenal and deserves a level of regional and thematic analysis not possible through a general review. During the research for this project, the sheer volume of information available became overwhelming and within the constraints of the current review it was not possible to include all the relevant information that was accessible. Developments in digital storage and retrieval mean digital copies of reports and articles are becoming more readily available with digital formats increasingly a medium for publication. The Archaeology Data Service, Historic England and the British Library are sources or portals to digital archives. This precludes production of a definitive bibliography and it would not be appropriate to duplicate the lists that such organisations hold. There is now perhaps a need to review what is needed from a Regional Research Agenda in a rapidly evolving digital environment.