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Peter Messenger

Research student

Peter Messenger

Bowland College Lancaster University Bailrigg Lancaster LA1 4YT

LA1 4YT

United Kingdom

Research overview

Vernacular architecture, domestic and agricultural. Building Histories and building conservation. Clay buildings - history and survival, construction methods and repair. Landscape history.

Career Details

1971 BSc (Hons) in Geography at Manchester University. My dissertation examined the impact of the pre-urban cadaster on the suburban growth of Carlisle.

1973 MA Vernacular Architecture and Conservation at Manchester University. My research dealt with Farmstead planning with particular relevance to the Farm Buildings of West Cumbria.

1976 Dip TP Birmingham Polytechnic. My dissertation examined the value of Historic Buildings Trusts in the planning process.

Member of the Royal Town Planning Institute

Member of the Institute of Historic Building Conservation.

Between 1972 and 2011 I have been involved, at various levels, in the conservation of historic buildings and areas in the council planning departments of Staffordshire, Leicestershire and, latterly, Carlisle City. My last post was head of Conservation at the City Council.

In 2001to 2002 I was seconded to MAFF/DEFRA to establish a team to investigate the treatment of historic farm buildings which were being cleansed and disinfected (and damaged) by unsupervised and untrained operatives. The aim being to prevent further damage and give guidance on the most appropriate methods to adopt in cleansing, repair and reinstatement works.

Thesis Title

Land ownership and Landscape History in northern Cumbria. (Working Title)

Thesis Outline

My PhD research is specifically examining how various forms of land tenure have influenced the introduction and spread of rural improvement, and how this is manifest in the rural built environment. By examining the surviving vernacular architecture and building materials of northern Cumbria and linking this with evidence derived from the Field Books of the survey work associated with the 1909 Finance Act, I am hoping to establish links between Customary, Copyhold and Leasehold Tenures and the diffusion of new ideas promoting innovation and improvement in agriculture and rural architecture. 

Current Research

From 2004 to 2006 I worked with Oxford Archaeology North in the extensive survey of Clay Buildings on the Solway Plain, writing the sections on Historical Background, Dating, the Discussion and the Recommendations. One of the main conclusions was that it was impossible to identify all the surviving clay buildings by field survey. The reticence of farmers and property owners to give access meant that some known sites could not be investigated and those which were unknown remained so.

To overcome this, English Heritage agreed to fund a three year programme of research and training which ended in 2012. The training involved giving practical training in the craft skill of clay dabbin construction and repair. The research element had two aspects. The first  covered a programme of dendrochronological sampling to try and date specific buildings. The second involved documentary research at the National Archives examining the IR 58 Field Books derived from the 1909 Finance Act.

The craft skills training was managed by the North of England Civic Trust and has now been completed, The sampling for dendrochronology has been completed by the Nottingham Tree Ring Dating Laboratory and the final results are due soon.

The Documentary research has been carried out by myself and this has provided us with a much clearer  picture of the distribution of these buildings and their condition in 1910. Over 1300 structures were identified and mapped, how many have survived to the present day(beyond the 250 or so that we are aware of)  remains to be determined. It was the variation in the distribution pattern of these buildings that appeared to require an explanation that led to thoughts that this could relate to tenure and land-ownership

Additional Information

Publications

As well as producing general information leaflets on conservation issues, including Caring for Carlisle, which was an outline of the Councils conservation strategy, I have produced the following articles:

‘Lowther Farmstead Plans: A Preliminary Survey’, Cumberland and Westmorland Archaeological and Antiquarian Society, LXXV, 1975, pp. 327-51.

‘A Medieval Hall and Cross-Wing House in Queniborough’, Leicestershire Archaeological and Historical Society, lxii, 1988, pp. 9-15, with Dr Martin Cherry.

 Traffic in Historic Towns, Carlisle, English Historic Towns Forum, 1989, with Colin Cuthbert.

Shopfront Design Guide, Carlisle, Carlisle City Council, 1996.

The Development of Corby Castle, unpublished report for Lord Ballyedmond of Corby Castle, 1999.

‘The Clay Dabbins of the Solway Plain’, in J Hurd and B Gourlay (eds), Terra Britannica: A Celebration of Earthen Structures in Great Britain and Ireland, London, English Heritage, 2000, pp. 7-12.

Foot and Mouth Outbreak 2001: The Impact of Cleansing and DisinfectionOperations on Historic Farm Buildings in Cumbria, unpublished report to DEFRA, 2002.

‘Lessons to be Learned: The Impact of the Foot and Mouth Outbreak on Historic Farm Buildings in Cumbria’, Historic Farm Buildings Group, 16, 2002, pp. 1-9.

Clay Buildings on the Cumbria Solway Plain, Extensive Survey, Co-author with Oxford Archaeology North, of unpublished report for English Heritage, Lancaster, 2006.

Caring for Clay Dabbins: A Guide to Construction, Repair and Maintenance, produced for English Heritage, published on the North of England Civic Trust website, 2012. www.nect.org.uk/_file/Cg5MieAtpj_148931.pdf   

Research Grants

Funding

 Carlisle City Council is funding my research degree.