UK (University of Chester) New book looks at the landscape in major contribution to region’s history

 The stories behind Cheshire and the region’s landscapes and features – from its churches and houses to railways and canals – are shared in a new book marking the anniversary of a Chester society.

Looking at the Landscape: Glimpses into the History of Cheshire and Beyond has been published by the University of Chester Press as part of celebrations for the 35th anniversary of the Chester Society for Landscape History (CSLH). The publication has been heralded as making a major contribution to understanding how Cheshire and nearby areas in England and Wales have been shaped.

The third volume in a series from the CSLH, it brings together the work of seven members and offers insights into the past based on what can still be seen today.

There are numerous links between the University and Society. The publication is edited by Graeme White, CSLH President, Emeritus Professor of Local History and former Head of History at the University whose landscape history courses led to the founding of the Society in 1986, and Sharon Varey, who studied her Master’s and Doctorate at the University. Contributors Polly Bird, Vanessa Greatorex and Chris Pilsbury, and Managing Editor of the University of Chester Press Sarah Griffiths, are also alumni along with many members of the Society, while contributor Thomas Pickles is a Senior Lecturer in Medieval History at the University. Another contributor, Maggie Taylor, was formerly Enterprise Manager at Chester College, forerunner of the University.

The book arose from a Research Day held in 2021 to celebrate the Society’s 35th anniversary, and was launched at an event in Chester at the end of November. It focuses on Cheshire but reaches beyond it to the north and south, and ranges in time from the 10th to the 21st century.

The chapters cover:

  • ­The Christian Landscape of Early Medieval Chester and Wirral by Thomas Pickles.
  • Contrasting Settlements Along the Dee Valley Frontier: Defence, Crossing, Refuge by Graeme J. White.
  • Cringlemire – Taming a Lakeland Landscape by Maggie Taylor.
  • Early 19th-Century Growth in ­Three North Shropshire Market Towns and the Influence of the Ellesmere Canal by Robert Ginder.
  • ‘Estimating the Effects of the Railway on Chester is Not Easy’ by Chris Pilsbury.
  • Carnegie Libraries in Cheshire by Vanessa Greatorex.
  • ­The Effect of Planning Laws on Settlement Development in 20th and Early 21st-Century South-West Cheshire by Polly Bird.

Graeme said: “Every contributor to this book seeks to explain features in our landscape and find answers to specific research questions.

“Topics range in time and some of our contributors consider a broad sweep of terrain, others focus on specific buildings, settlements or the impact of transport systems within the landscape. The large variety of topics covered in this volume shows the wide scope of research currently being undertaken by CSLH members – and collectively, they express the enlightenment and the enjoyment to be found in the study of landscape history.”

Sharon added: “­There is much to be learned about the history of a building, a community, a neighbourhood, from looking at its landscape with a discerning eye. ­

“We hope these papers will inspire others to visit some of the places mentioned and explore their local landscapes, ask questions about what they see, take up the challenge to find out more and, in so doing, answer some of the many questions about the development of the British landscape.”

Alan Crosby, Editor of The Local Historian, described the book as: “Eminently readable, thoroughly researched, and properly contextualised, the papers in this book – individually and collectively – make a major contribution to our understanding of the historical processes which have created Cheshire and the adjacent areas of England and Wales.”

For further information on the publication and to purchase a copy, please visit: here. Alternatively, email Sarah Griffiths at: sarah.gri­ or call 01244 513305.

The ebook version is available through Google Play and library collections including EBSCO, Ebook Central and Gardners.