Capturing the history of common land

As part of the Building Commons Knowledge Project, historians Professor Angus Winchester and Dr Eleanor Straughton of Lancaster University History Department are providing free advice and research resources for commoners, communities, local historians, project officers and others, to help them capture the unwritten history of the commons in the 20th century.  There is currently something of a black hole in our knowledge of how common land was used and managed across much of the 20th century.  Local communities hold a substantial body of memory for this period, but it has yet to be recorded, and is in danger of being lost.

They are  encouraging communities across England and Wales to send them brief histories of their commons, completed questionnaires, personal recollections, and/or photographs, for inclusion in the ‘Commons Stories’ section of our website.  This will help us increase public understanding of common land, and help preserve local history and a distinctive ‘common’ culture for the future.

If you, or anybody you know, might be interested in capturing the history of a particular common, the  Questionnaire which you can download below  may be a useful starting point.  You may wish to use it to record your own personal recollections, or those of others, or to summarise those of a wider community.  For details of how to submit a completed questionnaire, please visit their website or contact them via the details given below.  Please visit the Common Land Research website to see their other resources, including the free ‘History Toolkit’ – a guide to exploring the history of common land.

History Contacts:,
History Department, Lancaster University, LA1 4YT

The ‘Building Commons Knowledge Project’. A partnership between the Universities of Newcastle and Lancaster, The Foundation for Common Land and The National Trust,funded by the Arts & Humanities Research Council.