Professor Robert Silvester

Visiting Professor

Qualifications

BA (Exeter); PhD (Exeter); FSA

Overview

I studied archaeology in joint honours with history at the University of Exeter, graduating in 1972. After a stint as an archaeological field officer in Devon, and then for twelve months on the re-assessment of the Meare East lake village for the Somerset Levels Project, I worked in Norfolk for the Fenland Survey for seven years. In 1989, moved across country to Wales where I was deputy director of the Clwyd-Powys Archaeological Trust until my retirement in February 2016.

Almost inevitably, my research interests have transmuted during a professional life that has extended over more than four decades. In my years in Devon, Iron Age and Roman settlement were major interests, but the move to Norfolk fostered a change both in approach from fieldwork and excavation to fieldwalking – six years of it! – and an intensifying interest in the archaeology of the historic era and the development of the historic landscape. Leaving the lowlands of East Anglia for the hills of Wales involved a further shift, particularly towards fieldwork projects in the central and northern uplands of the country, but also a range of other projects so numerous that I’ve almost certainly forgotten some of them, though most have been embedded in the medieval and post-medieval eras. An assessment of all the historic churches in east and north-east Wales in the 1990s was instrumental in me taking on the role of archaeologist for the diocese of St Asaph  and more recently being appointed as one of the seven commissioners on the Cathedrals and Churches Commission which advises the Representative Body of the Church in Wales on heritage-related issues. Another Cadw-funded programme in Wales focussed on deserted rural settlements of medieval and early post-medieval date, and a series of papers on the subject led to my doctorate from Exeter and, currently, my presidency of the Medieval Settlement Research Group. Other roles at present include being a trustee of the Powysland Club, Wales’ oldest county society, and reviews editor for the journal Archaeologia Cambrensis, though I recently gave up a similar role for the journal Landscape History after more than twenty years in the post.

Research

In the world of churches, my research interests focus on a long-standing interest in eighteenth-century memorials in the churches of east Wales, and a more recent appreciation of the carvings in some church roofs of north-east Wales. With medieval settlements, it is the development of such sites in the landscapes of Wales and the English border counties that take my interest. Finally evolving from my work in the Norfolk fens thirty years ago, the value of historic cartography and particularly estate maps in unravelling the landscape has become a major pre-occupation and has led to an interest too in the maps themselves and the surveyors who compiled them. 

Published work

Published work (since 2000)

2000

  • Deserted rural settlements of medieval or later date in north-eastern and central Wales, in Atkinson, J A, Banks I and MacGregor, G (eds), Townships to Farmsteads. Rural Settlement Studies in Scotland, England and Wales (Oxford), 100-08
  • Medieval upland cultivation on the Berwyns in north Wales, Landscape History 22, 47-60

2001

  • The landscape and settlement of Trefnant, Montgomeryshire Collections 89, 147-62
  • John Probert and the map of Trefnant township, Montgomeryshire Collections 89, 163-78
  • Some early maps of the Fens, in T. Lane and J. Coles (eds) Through Wet and Dry. Essays in Honour of David Hall (Sleaford, Lincs), 10-17
  • Archaeological works at Valle Crucis Abbey, Denbighshire, Archaeology in Wales 41, 87-92
  • (with N Jones and N Edwards) Hope church, Flintshire, Archaeology in Wales 41, 42-51
  • (With E Evans, A Davidson and N Ludlow), Medieval churches in Wales: the Welsh historic churches project and its results, Church Archaeology 4, 5-26

2002 

  • Some early maps of the Fens, in Lane, T and Coles, J (eds) Through Wet and Dry. Essays in Honour of David Hall, Heckington, Sleaford: Heritage Lincolnshire, 10-17

2003

  • Introduction, in D. Browne and S. Hughes (eds) The Archaeology of the Welsh Uplands  (Aberystwyth: Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales), 9-20
  • (with D Leighton) Upland archaeology in the medieval and post-medieval periods, in D. Browne and S. Hughes (eds) The Archaeology of the Welsh Uplands  (Aberystwyth: Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales), 31-40
  • Y Berwyn, in D. Browne and S. Hughes (eds) The Archaeology of the Welsh Uplands  (Aberystwyth: Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales), 81-86
  • (with T Driver) Mynydd Epynt, in D. Browne and S. Hughes (eds) The Archaeology of the Welsh Uplands  (Aberystwyth: Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales), 87-98 
  • An illustrated guide to common field monuments, in D. Browne and S. Hughes (eds) The Archaeology of the Welsh Uplands  (Aberystwyth: Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales), 125-33.
  • (with R Hankinson), Glasbury: church, clas and village, Transactions Radnorshire Society 73, 113-36

2004

  • (with P. Courtney and S. Rees), Castell Blaenllynfi: a Marcher castle and its landscape, Archaeologia Cambrensis 153, 75-103
  • The commons and the waste: use and misuse in central Wales’, in I D Whyte and A J L Winchester (eds), Society, Landscape and Environment in Upland Britain, Society for Landscape Studies Supplementary Series 2, 53-66

2005 

  • The commons and the waste: use and misuse in central Wales, in I. D. Whyte and A. J. L. Winchester (eds) Society, Landscape and Environment in Upland Britain, (Birmingham: Society for Landscape Studies), 53-66
  • Build and rebuild - the message of stone in the churches of east Wales,  in M. Coulson (ed) Stone in Wales, Cardiff: Cadw, 65-69
  • (with S Rees and N Jones), Conservation and investigation at Cwmhir abbey, Powys, Archaeologia Cambrensis 154, 133-52
  • The historic landscape in R Farmer (ed.), Lake Vyrnwy Farming and Conservation. A Case Study, 12-14, RSPB.

2006

  • Deserted rural settlements in central and north-east Wales, in K. Roberts (ed) Lost Farmsteads. Deserted Rural Settlements in Wales, York: Council for British Archaeology, 13-39
  • Appendix III. The Badminton manorial survey, in K Roberts (ed.), Lost Farmsteads. Deserted Rural Settlements in Wales, Council for British Archaeology Research Report 148, 209-113
  • Open-field agriculture in the central Welsh borderland, in M. Meek (ed.) The Modern Traveller to our Past. Festschrift in honour of Ann Hamlin, (Belfast: DPK), 252-8

2007

  • Landscapes of the poor: encroachment in Wales in the post-medieval centuries, in Barnwell, P.S. and Palmer, M, eds Post-Medieval Landscapes. Landscape history after Hoskins. Volume III, Oxford: Windgather Press, 55-67
  • (with J Alfrey), Vaynor: a landscape and its buildings in the Severn Valley, in J. Finch and K. Giles (eds) Estate Landscapes: design, improvement and power in the post-medieval landscape, Woodbridge, Suffolk: Boydell and Brewer, 39-55

2008

  • Humfrey Bleaze’s map of Welshpool and Powis Castle, 1629, Montgomeryshire Collections 96, 1-14
  • Abertanat, Llansantffraid and Clawdd Coch: Barri Jones’s excavations in Montgomeryshire’, Studia Celtica 42, 27-54
  • (with W. J. Britnell, R. Suggett and E. Wiliam), Tŷ-draw, Llanarmon Mynydd Mawr, Powys – a late-medieval cruck-framed hallhouse-longhouse’, Archaeologia Cambrensis

2009

  • (with J. W. Evans), Identifying the mother churches of north-east Wales, in N. Edwards (ed) The Archaeology of the Early Medieval Celtic Churches (Leeds: Maney Publishing), 21-40
  • John Probert of Copthorne: A Georgian land agent. Trans Shropshire Archaeol. Hist. Soc 84 (2009), 51-71

 2010

  • Abandoning the uplands: depopulation amongst dispersed settlements in western Britain, in C. Dyer and R Jones (eds) Deserted Villages Revisited, Hatfield: University of Hertfordshire Press, 140-161
  • Historical concept to physical reality; forests in the landscape of the Welsh borderlands, in J. Langton and G. Jones (eds) Forests and Chases if Medieval England and Wales c.1100-c.1500, Oxford: St John’s College Research Centre, 141-54
  • (with H Toller), Roman roads in Wales and the Marches in Burnham, B and Davies, J. (eds) Roman Frontiers in Wales and the Marches, Aberystwyth: Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales, 91-7

 2011

  • Mynydd Hiraethog. The Denbigh Moors, Aberystwyth: Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales
  • Recent research on late prehistoric and Romano-British enclosures in Montgomeryshire, Montgomeryshire Collections 99, 1-26
  • (with L. Barker) Gwylfa Hiraethog: icon of the Denbigh Moors, Trans Denbighshire Historical  Society 59, 175-91

2012

  • (with J. Kissock), Wales: medieval settlements, nucleated and dispersed, permanent and seasonal in N. Christie and P. Stamper (eds) Medieval Rural Settlement. Britain and Ireland, AD 800 – 1600, Oxford: Windgather Press, 151-71
  • The north side of the churchyard, in W.J.Britnell and R. J. Silvester (eds). Reflections on the Past. Essays in honour of Frances Lynch, 432-451
  • Mapping Montgomeryshire: estate maps from 1589 to 1840. Montgomeryshire Collections 100, 149-80
  • Edited (with W. J. Britnell) Reflections on the Past. Essays in honour of Frances Lynch. Welshpool: Cambrian Archaeological Association 
  • Edited (with S. Turner) Life in Medieval Landscapes. People and places in the Middle Ages. Oxford: Windgather Press

2013

  • Welsh medieval freestanding crosses, Archaeologia Cambrensis 162, 309-337

2014

  • Thomas Badeslade: his life and career from eastern England to north Wales, in S. Ashley and A. Marsden (eds) Landscapes and Artefacts: studies in East Anglian Archaeology presented to Andrew Rogerson. Oxford: Archaeopress Archaeology, 217-229   

2015

  • (with W Davies), Hen Caerwys: an historiography of the first fifty years, Trans Flintshire Historical Society  40, 17-40