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Results of the Historic Farmstead Characterisation
The project has generated a comprehensive data set relating to the character of Shropshire’s historic farmsteads and revealed a wealth of information about the county’s agricultural heritage.
Distribution of Historic Farmsteads
6194 historic farmsteads were mapped during the characterisation project. Of those approximately 87% of historic farmsteads, as recorded from late 19th century maps, have retained some or all of their traditional working buildings.
Over 80% of historic farmsteads are dispersed across the farmed landscape, either within small hamlets or as isolated individual sites or clusters. They are an integral part of an historic pattern of dispersed as opposed to village-based settlement within the county.
Using the different plan types it is possible to make broad distinctions between small and large farmsteads.
Small Scale Farmsteads
Some of the highest densities of historic farmsteads are evident in the Oswestry uplands, across parts of the Shropshire Hills, and within the north eastern part of Shropshire. It is in these areas that small scale farmsteads predominate; most comprising only one or two farm buildings or some with the farmhouse attached in a linear or L-plan arrangement.
The majority of these areas developed as small scale pastoral economies, often in upland or hilly locations. The character of the individual farmsteads often reflects this; for example linear farmsteads and farmstead where the farm buildings are set along a track are ideally suited to dive the cattle direct from the farmstead onto the common lands, and their design enables them to accommodate the more restrictive typography.
Small farms can often be found is association with smallholdings, and together these cluster around industrial areas such as Llanymynech, the Clee Hill and the Stiperstones. In these industrial areas small-scale farmers often supplemented their income working in the quarrying and mining industries.
In the north-east of Shropshire extensive areas of heathland and wetlands presented more of a challenge to procure viable agricultural land and this resulted in small-scale encroachments into these areas from the 16th and 17th century onwards, with later 19th century small scale planned development, particularly in the more easily tackled heathlands.
Large Scale Farmsteads
Large farmstead complexes, typified by the 18th and 19th century ‘Model Farms’, dominate the central Shropshire Plain and the eastern side of the county. These areas are dominated by the large land owning estates who farmed the most fertile regions of the county, particularly along the valleys of the Severn, Tern and Corve. It is in these areas that the most extensive reorganisation and improvement of earlier field pattern took place, resulting in larger fields associated with the larger farms. Intense capital investment, particularly between c1840-1870s, also saw large landowners improving their wider estates, bringing poorer quality land into agricultural use and often resulting in extensive areas of planned enclosure and newly built planned isolated farmsteads.