Professor Stephen Rippon

Research interests

I have research interests across the Roman, medieval and post-medieval periods, particularly in the area of landscape archaeology.

I have a long standing research interest in the Roman-medieval transition, with early papers examining both South East and South West Britain (eg Essex Archaeology and History 22 (1991) and in The Severn Estuary: the Evolution of a Wetland Landscape (1997). A recent £241k Leverhulme Trust grant has funded a major overview of the palaeoenvironmental  analyses that cover the Roman to early medieval periods, and the relationship between excavated Romano-British and medieval field systems (The Fields of Britannia project).

The exploitation of physically 'marginal' landscapes is another major research theme, which has been explored in the contrasting landscapes such as the uplands of the Greater Exmoor region, and wetlands such as the North Somerset Levels (see Landscape, Community and Colonisation, 2006) and Glastonbury Abbey's manor at Meare in the Somerset Levels.

I also have a long standing interest in the characterisation of historic landscapes, having undertaken the Gwent Levels Historic Landscape Study for Cadw and the Countryside Council for Wales (published in 1996 as The Gwent Levels: The Evolution of a wetland Landscape). I have supervised numerous PhD students who have carried out characterisation-based research in Devon and elsewhere, and was involved in the English Heritage historic landscape characterisation of Somerset. I have recently published a revised second edition of the Council for British Archaeology Handbook on Historic Landscape Analysis: deciphering the countryside. I was awarded an AHRC KTF grant in 2009 for a project called Our Wetland Heritage, working with Essex County Council and the RSPB in the development of a new nature reserve in southern Essex (a paper from which has recently been published in the journal Landscapes (vol 38.ii, 2013).

Along with Research Fellows Peter Claughton and Chris Smart, I have also also undertaken research into medieval silver mining in Devon, notably at Bere Ferrers by the Tamar Valley. This strongly inter-disciplinary project was funded by a grant of £75k from the Leverhulme Trust, and has been published by the University of Exeter Press as Mining in a Medieval Landscape: the royal silver mines of the Tamar Valley (2009). An exciting but unexpected discovery at Calstock was only the third fort to be found in Cornwall.

I was co-director of a major collaborative project, funded by a substantial Arts and Humanities Research Board grant, looking at the origins and development of dispersed medieval settlement patterns in the Whittlewood region of the West Midlands. Since then I have broadened my interest in the origins and development regional variation in landscape character to consider why villages and open fields were only found in a broad swathe of central England (running from the Dorset coast, up through the East Midlands, to the North East), and how landscape developed in areas to the east and west of this. These ideas are published in Beyond the Medieval Village (2008). My most recent book on Making Sense of a Historic Landscape has just been published by Oxford University Press (2013). This is part methodological – exploring how a landscape archaeologist and historian goes about their trade – and partly thematic, in investigating when and why a major boundary in landscape character – the Blackdown Hills on the Devon/Dorset/Somerset borders – came into being.

Alongside historian Professor John Blair at the University of Oxford, I am currently researching the extent and significance of planning in the early medieval landscape. This project is supported by a £98k grant from the Leverhulme Trust.

Two projects show the impact that my research is having on the management of historic landscapes and their presentation to the public. In a recent £67k Arts and Humanities Research Council Knowledge Transfer Fellowship grant I worked with Essex County Council and the RSPB to study the historic landscape of a new nature reserve on the South Essex Marshes, on the north back of the Thames Estuary east of London. Interest in that project led Southend-on-Sea Borough Council to commission a similar study of the Stonebridge area where there are plans to enhance public access to the countryside. I also advised the Olympic Legacy Company, Essex County Council and Wessex Archaeology on future plans for one of the Olympic venues (the Mountain Biking venue at Hadleigh Farm in Essex).

 

Research collaborations

I have had interdisciplinary research collaborations with geographers, palaeoenvironmentalists, and historians (for example through the Whittlewood Project, and his work on pollen sequences in Devon).

My current Leverhulme Trust funded project - Planning in the Early Medieval Landscape - is a collaboration with Professsor John Blair at the University of Oxford.

My current AHRC-funded project Exeter: A Place in Time is a collaboration with the University of Reading, Cotswold Archaeology,Historic England, Exeter City Council and the Royal Abert Memorial Museum.

The Ipplepen Project is a collaboration with the British Museum, Portable Antiquities Scheme, Cotswold Archaeology and Devon County Council.

I am currently working with Gerben Verbrugghe and Wim de Clercq (Archaeology Department, University of Ghent) to investigate Flemish settlement in Britain following the Norman Conquest in a project titled Little Flanders Beyond Wales. A landscape archaeological contribution to the discussion of Flemish influence on settlement landscapes in the British Isles (http://www.ugent.be/lw/archeologie/en/research/research-projects/histarch-flanderswales.htm).