Green and Pleasant Land

Green and Pleasant Land

Willam Blake
William Blake

English ‘heritage’ or all that we inherit can evoke a wide range of emotions.  These will include family connections with past and future generations; buildings, properties, art and of the physical landscape.  Such emotions may also include patriotism, sporting competition and raise aspirations for improvement.  We may also be thinking of typical meadowland, farmsteads, cottage gardens, traditional village greens and communal life.

Perhaps the best description of heritage is that which is worthy of preserving.  Preservation is an area that requires considerable reflection over whether or not this may limit dynamic improvement.  For example, should we prevent modern architecture and or development from expanding into historic landscapes?  If we were to preserve all early features in aspic we would be preventing future generations from inheriting later examples for their descendants.

The inspirations of ‘heritage’ may emanate from the origins of our culture.  The founding English were characterised by their intense love of freedom, their reliance upon the ties of kinship (inheritance) and their inherent capacity for cooperation and unity.  Significantly, the basis of early English society was their communal cultivation of the land.  Over the years a system of agriculture developed which had a marked effect on the landscape.  Much of our infrastructure was formulated in that early agricultural society.  Our winding lanes today follow the old tracks that early farmers used to reach their strips within the large open fields.

When the Romans left our shores in the fifth century, the remaining population was a broad mixture of Romano-Brits made up from indigenous tribes including iron-age Germanic Celts and ex Roman military personnel from all over the world.  Shortly after the Romans’ departure Angle settlers began to arrive.  It was much more immigration than an invasion although clearly they had an ability to command and would gradually govern most of the countryside.

It was a natural instinct of the Angles to seek sheltered valleys and to live close by flowing waters.  Scandinavian philosophical mythology (Nordic Sagas) indicates their desire to find attractive areas in which to live.  They would clear woodland for crops and grazing preferring to live outside rather than within the wooded areas.  The ancient network of Iron Age tracks and salt-ways augmented by Roman roads, were adopted to advance their eventual settlement and governance over England.  Interestingly they made no attempt to adopt or revitalise the abandoned Roman towns.

A convenience of family settlements formed into hamlets and villages and their proximity to running water provided power for milling and irrigation.  The English created a relatively ambitious nation with a fair and intelligent society that would eventually source an Industrial Revolution that spread its English speaking influence throughout the world.

It is the legacy of Englishness from our ancestors that was caringly passed on to us to value.  We are its stewards and it is beholden that our heritage is not damaged before it is passed to the next generations.  ‘Preserving English heritage and our tradition of freedom’.



The Civic Culture


The origins of town government developed from the influence of Greek city/state democracy adopted by the Romans and distributed across the western hemisphere. ‘Democracy’ simply meaning ‘rule of the people’ became the general system of government.  There were varying levels of democracy where the residents could or could not elect their representatives.

Metro from ancient Greek metron is a measure of a town and the metropolites were the residents or citizens. Polis in ancient Greek was the ‘city state’.  Today in Britain, a ‘city’ describes a large incorporated town that has or had a cathedral. Civic culture usually relates to the city or its citizens.

Many of the ancient burghs that developed in the Middle Ages into our Borough towns gained incorporated independence, most commonly by the purchase of a ‘charter’.  More often this was delivered by a lord of a manor town which provided limited self-governance.  Full incorporation resulting from a Royal Charter (in return for some deed or favour) could allow a borough to have full independence.

A fully incorporated borough town had the privilege of returning representative burgesses to Parliament. These borough towns were self-electing and fully independent, with their own customs and regulations. As the towns grew larger they adopted systems of protection.  Guilds and trade associations developed across Britain and Europe in similar ways.

These protective measures of self-government created elements of privilege that caused political unrest.  A backlash of this was the suggestion of corruption and an accusation of ‘rotten boroughs’. Reforms pressed by a Liberal opposition during the 1830s led to Reforms and particularly to the Municipal Corporations Act 1835, that abolished the constitutional self-governance of the Boroughs.

Of the 250 or so Corporate Boroughs (in 1835) 178 were granted permission to allow the townspeople their own Councils with all ratepayers permitted to vote in council elections.

In 1972, Parliament changed the course of a thousand years of English urban history. The result of the ‘Local Government Act’ abolished the status of the municipal and county boroughs. Ancient cities and towns that had claimed their burgage rights from early Anglo-Saxon kings and Viking pirates were reverted to the rank of Parish.  Powerful ‘ports’ in Domesday were amalgamated anonymously into metropolitan ‘districts’.

The early boroughs whose charters were claimed from Norman barons or bought from Plantagenet kings and even those who had pledged support to the Victorian Liberal Party, were eliminated to be combined with less ancient urban districts. All favours previously gained were reduced to the dependence upon the ‘principal council’.

Early burgage rights, claimed from the Crown, in terms of independence from shire, courts and officers, marked an end to borough government. Each town, although robbed of its identity cannot be regarded as similar. Their history and traditions should not be allowed to be erased.

Where the custom of ‘Freedom’ has existed, there can be no question that this should be resurrected and allowed to flourish.  Every effort of encouragement must be given to those who would (legitimately) redeem their lost status as Freemen of their home town.

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