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History project

Commons have been at the heart of our communities since the Middle Ages.  Much of their rich history has been lost to public record, but fragments can be found in the most unlikely places. 


Publication of new historical research

Our Common Heritage  is a collection of six essays about the social history of Chiltern commons, written by Commons Project volunteers who have been researching the history of local commons and the people who used them. 


Our Common Heritage

New research into the history of Chiltern commons was presented at this one-day conference on Saturday 24 January 2015.  You can download speakers' presentations below:

  • Prof Angus Winchester  introduced the day, exploring the rich history of commons, how they were used and how they have come to be as they are today.
  • Bruce Smith gave an insight to drovers, droving and how landscape clues help you recognise routes.
  • Dr Anne-Marie Ford presented her research on gypsy families who ued the Chiltern commons.
  • Norman Groves presented his research on the impact the Inns of Court Officers' Training Corps had on Berkhamsted Common and the surrounding area in WWI.
  • Graham Bathe concluded the day by explaining what makes the Chiltern commons special in a national and European context. 

Our Common History

This one-day seminar about the importance of commons to the historic Chilterns landscape took place on Saturday 28 January 2012 .  You can download the speakers' presentations below:

  • Dr Jill Eyers introduced the geology underpinning the commons in the Chilterns and outlined the archaeological evidence which shows who has lived here since the Neanderthals and what they did.
  • Alison Doggett explained how our ancestors’ use of fields, woods and commons has shaped the landscape we see today.
  • Graham Bathe discussed the impact commons have had on our social history – the different types of right, the contribution commons have made to rural life and the rural economy, and how this is reflected in our folklore and art.
  • Prof Ian Beckett talked about the amateur military tradition in Bucks and mentioned the importance of commons which were used as training areas for centuries.  He gave useful advice on how to research local military records.
  • Dave Greenwood explained how Archaeology in Marlow researched and mapped the WWI training trenches on Marlow Common.
  • Rachel Sanderson introduced the Chilterns Commons Project, outlined its proposed history projects local to commons and Chilterns-wide and described the funding available to support these research opportunities so that you can get involved.

If you would like to learn more about your local history, to help you get started you might find is useful to consult the project's useful handout which includes a reading list and helpful websites. This is available on the Training workshop materials page.

Further information about the history of commons and their enclosure is available on the National Archives website.


The Commons Project funded two detailed archaeological surveys, at Five Knolls on Dunstable Downs and at Moorend Common.  The survey at Five Knolls preceeded the restoration of erosion scars across the Scheduled Monument.  Follow the links in the place names above to read the reports.


 Coleshill Common


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