Rachel Swallow

Postgraduate research student
Postgraduate research student

Thesis Title: Cheshire Castles in Context.


My postgraduate study concerns the number, location and distribution of castles raised in Cheshire in the period of the Earldom of Chester, c.1066 – c. 1237. The research is multidisciplinary, with documentary, archaeological and topographical sources being used in order to respond to the following questions.

To what extent:

  • Each castle’s martial and strategic role affected its placing and landscape context
  • The castle builders’ display of personal power played a part in the choice of locations, as well as the shaping of their landscapes
  • The location of any given castle in the Earldom of Chester was influenced by the builder’s desire to appropriate pre-Norman power centres and ancient locales in the landscape
  • The location of a castle was influenced by the builder’s overall distribution of landed holdings within and outside the county of Cheshire
  • Other patterns of lordship and the distribution of high-status settlement were affected in the choice of castle site


Since obtaining my MA in 2000, I have been staff visiting lecturer in the Department of History & Archaeology at the University of Chester. I was also a tutor for four years in Landscape History at Keele University and have led several day and weekend courses in local landscape history at Burton Manor College on the Wirral, Cheshire.

Published work


Beeston Castle : English Heritage Guidebooks


Published Articles

Forthcoming (2016). A Paradigm Shift in Landscape Continuity?: The Eleventh Century Elite Landscape of Nantwich Castle and Acton, Cheshire, Medieval Settlement Research Group Journal, Vol. 30 (2015)

Forthcoming (2015): 'What law says that there has to be a castle?: The castle landscape of Frodsham, Cheshire', in Hausmair, B., Jervis, B., Nugent, R. & Williams, E. (eds.) Archaeologies of Rules and Regulations: Between Text and Practice.  Manchester: Manchester University Press.

Forthcoming (2014): 'Seeing the bigger picture: Researching medieval landscapes of power in Cheshire, England', in www.dissertationreviews.org

‘Gateways to Power: The Castles of Ranulf III of Chester and Llywelyn the Great of Gwynedd’ in Archaeological Journal, Vol. 171, 2014, pages 291 – 314.

‘Palimpsest of Border Power: The Archaeological Survey of Dodleston Castle, Cheshire’, in Cheshire History Journal, No. 54, 2014-5. (Cheshire Local History Association, 2014).

'Two for One: The Archaeological Survey of Shocklach Castle, Cheshire' in Cheshire History Journal, No. 53, 2013-4. (Cheshire Local History Association, 2013)

‘Landscape of Power: Aldford castle, Cheshire’ in Cheshire History Journal, No. 52, 2012/2013 (Cheshire Local History Association, 2012)

‘Castle in context? An analysis of heritage interpretation and presentation at Beeston Castle, Cheshire’, Chester Archaeological Society Journal, Vol. 81 (2006), published 2010 

‘Castle in context: redefining the significance of Beeston Castle, Cheshire’, Chester Archaeological Society Journal, Vol. 81 (2006), published 2010



2015 (11 April). Edgar the Peaceable and Power and Place on the Anglo-Welsh Border: Aldford Castle, Cheshire. Contest and Collaboration: Chester Conference on the March of Wales, University of Chester.

Forthcoming (January 24, 2015):  Comital Power and Place in Medieval Cheshire: A Multidisciplinary Approach. Ranulph Higden Society: Keele University (venue to be confirmed).

Forthcoming (December 13, 2014): A Paradigm Shift in Landscape Continuity? : The Eleventh Century Elite Landscape of Nantwich Castle and Acton, Cheshire. Medieval Settlement Research Group Winter Seminar: University of Leicester.

New Perspectives on Old Landscapes: Dodleston Castle, Cheshire. Council for British Archaeology (CBA) North West: Castles Research Conference, Grosvenor Museum, Chester. (8 November, 2014).

Cheshire as a Frontier: the medieval castles of the Earls of Chester and their Barons. Cheshire Local History Association (CLHA) History Day Conference, The Lifestyle Centre, Winsford. (25 October, 2014).

Frodsham Castle in Cheshire: All the trappings of a medieval castle landscape, but where is the castle? Session: Landscape and Seascapes: Shaping the Landscape, led by Prof. Catherine Clarke, Southampton University and Dr. Leonie Hicks, Canterbury Christchurch University.The International Medieval Congress (IMC), Leeds University. (July 8, 2014).  Nominated as one of the top ten papers to look forward to at IMC, by medievalists.net (February 2014).

When the best defence really was a good offence: The Castles of Ranulf III of Chester and Llywelyn the Great of Gwynedd. Session: Conflict: Society and Self. History and Archaeology Post Graduate Conference, University of Chester. (May 15, 2014).

East is East, and West is West, and never the twain shall meet? : a multidisciplinary research approach to the medieval Welsh border and the castles of Cheshire. M6 Seminar Group, at Manchester Metropolitan University. (May 14, 2014).

Pushing the Boundary? : Cross-border marriage and the castles of medieval Cheshire. Gender and Medieval Studies 2014 (GMS), The University of Winchester. (January 9, 2014).

What was so special about the Earldom of Chester? : Charters, Place and Identity in the early thirteenth century. The International Medieval Congress (IMC), Leeds University. (July 3, 2013).

Castle in the Air? : A landscape historiographical approach to putting the foundations below Frodsham Castle in Cheshire.Early Medieval Archaeology Student Symposium (EMASS), University of Chester.(May 2013).

The Magna Carta of Chester and the castles of its princeps: a landscape historiographical approach.   Theoretical Archaeology Group (TAG), Liverpool University. (December 17, 2012).

Parade, Power and Place: King Edgar the Peaceful and the siting of Norman castles in a Cheshire landscape. International Medieval Congress (IMC), Leeds University.(12 July 2012).

The Power of Place in an Eleventh-Century Elite Landscape: Nantwich Castle and Acton, Cheshire. The Society for Medieval Archaeology (SMA) Student Colloquium, Cambridge University. (October 28 – 30, 2011).

Book Reviews

(Forthcoming, 2014): Review in Archaeology in Wales journal – Title by Clarke, C.A.M. (ed.). 2011. Mapping the Medieval City: Space, Place and Identity in Chester c. 1200 – 1600. University of Wales Press. (Paperback).

Review in The Archaeological Review from Cambridge (ARC) (April 2014) – a journal published by postgraduate students at the University of Cambridge: Title by Davies, M.I.J. & F. Nkirote M’Mbogori (eds.). 2013. Humans and the Environment - New Archaeological Perspectives for the Twenty-First Century. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Pages 232 – 235.

Swallow, R E, Review in Archaeological Journal 168 (2011): Title by Malcom Airs and P S Barnwell (eds), 'The Medieval Great House' (Shaun Tyas, Lincolnshire 2011)

Conference initiator/organiser

2015 (10-11 April). Contest and Collaboration: Chester Conference on The March of Wales: A major interdisciplinary conference hosted by Department of History and Archaeology, University of Chester, 10-11 April 2015. This pioneering conference will lead to collaborative research and publication.

Affiliations and Memberships

  • Society for Medieval Archaeology
  • Royal Archaeological Institute
  • Medieval Settlement Research Group
  • Castle Studies Group
  • Cheshire Archaeological Society
  • Chester Society for Landscape History
  • The Council for British Archaeology North West
  • Ranulf Higden Society