Hargreaves, John A. (2010) Book review : POINTERS TO THE PAST The historical landscape of Hebden Township, Upper Wharfedale edited Heather Beaumont Yorkshire Archaeological Society Occasional Papers 5 2006 vii+57pp ISBN 1903564557. The Local Historian, 40 (1). ISSN 0024-5585

Inspired by the pioneering work of W.G. Hoskins nationally, and his Dales-based contemporary, Arthur Raistrick regionally, this succinct ground-breaking microhistory of Hebden, a relatively small mid-Pennine township in Upper Wharfedale, is the first in-depth local exploration of one of the most characteristic features of the relatively undisturbed rural landscape of the Yorkshire Dales- its drystone-walled boundaries and enclosures. A combination of extensive fieldwork and detailed documentary analysis, particularly of tax returns and title deeds from the late seventeenth century and the mid-nineteenth century tithe map and enclosure award, has allowed a tentative reinterpretation of the evolution of the local landscape from the medieval period onwards. A range of factors shaped the development of the landscape, including the distinctive manorial history of upland Dales communities (where land management had passed from the mortgaged manor to Hebden freeholders in 1589). This gave a large measure of local control, but also explains the protracted nature of piecemeal enclosure, resulting from the necessity for agreement among a growing body of freeholders. The impact of transport networks, the development of lead-mining and textile manufacturing and the various phases of the enclosure movement were, this study concludes, characterised by different types of drystone walling.
Subsidised by grants from sponsors including the Countryside Agency, the Heritage Lottery Fund, the Workers’ Educational Association and the Yorkshire Dales National Park, the Hebden History Group, which undertook the study, is to be congratulated in producing such an illuminating survey. Published in a laminated A4 softback format and lavishly illustrated by aerial and other photographs, detailed line drawings and a series of full page colour maps, this is the first piece of collaborative research of its kind on this scale. It explores the theoretical framework for interpreting the landscape, provides a succinct summary of the impact of the communities of Hebden on the landscape through time, and offers a provisional chronology and typology of drystone wall construction which will form a useful model for comparative studies of other Dales communities, and possibly suggest an approach to the study of other landscapes further afield.

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