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History of a Landscape: Thriplow

By Dr Alan Crosby and Shirley Wittering
The physical landscape

Image of a map showing the roads closed following the enclosures of the early 1840s
Roads closed following the enclosures of early 1840s 

  • Building a detailed picture of the landscape

The Thriplow Landscape Research Project started in 1997 from a different direction. Some members of a ten-week landscape archaeology evening course in nearby Sawston wanted somewhere to study in detail.

They were on the lookout for a village with an interesting 'shape', and about which little research work had been done. They chose Thriplow and asked me to talk to them about the village.

By then I had become completely hooked on local history and had a large number of copies of documents and maps, so I went along, armed with the maps, and was made an honorary member of the group.

The local history trail that we followed went beyond 'known' history, the history less often written down which would reveal how the local landscape revealed clues to the village's past. That is where the real detective work began.

The group began to devise their own historical investigation, trying to find out about the development of the community and its landscape. We talked to locals and give regular reports on our progress in the Thriplow Society's journal.

'I had long been intrigued by various 'humps and bumps' in the fields off School Lane ...'

I had long been intrigued by various 'humps and bumps' in the fields off School Lane and was delighted to find a group of people who were as keen as myself to find out about these unusual features. During the summer months we walked the lanes and fields of the village, trying to work out the origins of the boundaries and demarcations of the village.

I coloured a map which showed the boundaries of the village before its landscape was remodelled in the early 1840s, when enclosure had taken place. This map was so large that I had cut it into four and had each piece laminated. This made it a manageable size and was weatherproof - the sun does not always shine even in Cambridgeshire!

During the winter we wrote up our findings and spent some time re-discovering the 33 lost roads that had been closed in 1840 when the village was enclosed. We had wondered why there were such pronounced bumps on the roads leading out of the village and discovered that these corresponded to the ancient, pre-enclosure strips of the open fields that ran at the boundaries at right angles to the present thoroughfares.

Published: 2005-03-03



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