IMC 2006: Sessions

Session 724: Early English Shire Towns

Tuesday 11 July 2006, 14.15-15.45

Sponsor:Victoria County History
Organiser:Richard Sharpe, Faculty of History, University of Oxford
Moderator/Chair:Chris Lewis, Victoria County History (Sussex), Institute of Historical Research, University of London
Paper 724-aNorthumberland and Newcastle
(Language: English)
Hugh Doherty, Faculty of History, University of Oxford
Index terms: Administration, Geography and Settlement Studies, Local History, Social History
Paper 724-bEast Anglia and its Shire Towns
(Language: English)
Lucy Marten, School of History, University of East Anglia
Index terms: Administration, Geography and Settlement Studies, Local History, Social History
Paper 724-cThe Emergence of Shire Towns: The Wider Picture and Future Research
(Language: English)
Richard Sharpe, Faculty of History, University of Oxford
Index terms: Administration, Geography and Settlement Studies, Historiography - Modern Scholarship, Social History
Abstract

Between the early 10th and the late 12th century in most shires, an individual town acquired a political and social status above other towns and became the urban focus of a rural ‘county society’. Shire towns emerged from the fusion of several factors. First, the Midland shires centred on defensive boroughs set a new example. Second, there was a trend, increased after the Conquest, for shire courts to meet in towns rather than at traditional sites in the country. Third, the Norman transformation of the role of sheriffs and their new manner of working, centred on a castle in the shire town, brought major physical and social changes. The town was affected not only by the intrusion of a great new fortification but by the enduring need of the great men of the shire to maintain a residence near the shire court’s meeting-place and the sheriff’s office.
This will have been the subject of a conference at Rewley House in April 2006, when some ten shires are likely to have been considered. The intention in Leeds is to widen awareness of a developing programme of study by focusing on three further shire towns.