I realise I’ve not written much about my actual research yet, on this, my PhD research blog – so I thought I would take a few posts over several weeks to explore how my research topic has developed.

I’ll start with a little background: After my MA, I worked for a little over a year as the Community Archaeologist for Northumberland National Park. I really loved that job – it reminded me that working with kids and volunteers is great fun, that landscape archaeology is awesome, and gave me a taste of my dream job: working with a local authority to protect and share the archaeological resource. I knew that my role was time-limited, and when the funding ran out I needed to have something else lined up, and I thought a PhD would be a good idea.

I knew what I wanted the PhD to do for me: it had to result in a project of value to local authorities or others who managed heritage; to demonstrate how I could work with non-academic bodies to do archaeology in a practically-applicable way; to give me experience in a growing research field (contemporary military archaeology) plus in a well-established one (archaeological resource management) with skills transferable to Australia as well as the UK.

Thus, the idea of reviewing the archaeological management of the Otterburn Training Area was born.

Reproduced below the cut is the slightly abridged text of my initial research proposal. Reading back over it after 9 months, I’m amazed at what’s changed and what’s remained the same! I’ll leave you with this Wall of Text for now (I’ve gone WAY over my self-imposed word limit for blog posts) and be back in another blog post to review what I’ve changed and how things have developed.

PHD Proposal Draft 6

Research question:

How does the military modification (reuse and reworking) of existing cultural features of the landscape change through time and space, and what does this reveal about perceptions of rural cultural heritage and the formation of militarised landscapes?

Research proposal:

The Otterburn Military Training Area (OTA), established in 1911 and reaching its current extent in the 1980s, covers 32,000 hectares and comprises 25% of the area of the Northumberland National Park (NNP) (Cross and Charlton 2004). The impact of military activities on existing cultural landscape features within and around the OTA, such as prehistoric earthworks and cairns alongside Bastles and post-medieval farmsteads, has had to occur within the framework of the NNP’s objectives of conservation and preservation since the Park’s establishment in 1947. The MOD was first required to assess the OTA’s archaeological resource during the National Conservation Year of 1975, leading to fieldwork and reporting from 1975 to 1977 (Charlton and Day 1977; Charlton 1996, 2004). Proposals to upgrade the OTA’s training facilities in response to new weapons technology and the changing geopolitical context of the mid-1990s led to the Options for Change review, an update of the 1975-7 survey in 1995 (Charlton 1996) and ultimately the Otterburn Public Inquiry of 1997, which made available information on the military use of protected landscapes and gave a platform to the voices of interest groups with conflicting objectives for the OTA (Cattermole & Woodward n.d.). Subsequent monitoring programmes negotiated through this process have produced data on the condition of pre-20th century archaeological features within the OTA but less has been done regarding the military features themselves (B. Charlton 2014, pers. comm. 27 Jan; C Jones 2014, pers. comm. 10 Jan; Petts & Gerrard 2006; Young et al. 2005).

As shown in the recent study of military training estates at Tyneham and the Epynt (Cole 2010), the military reuse and reworking of existing landscape features forms part of the archaeology of 20th century conflict and defence: acts of military reuse and reworking of existing archaeological features become phases of landscape development in their own right, rather than outright “damage”. From this viewpoint, the proposed research aims to answer the following question:

How does the military modification (reuse and reworking) of existing cultural features of the landscape change through time and space, and what does this reveal about perceptions of cultural heritage and the “militarised landscape”?

Although the OTA’s boundaries are clearly mapped on paper, on the ground they are porous: an ambiguous “militarised landscape”, comprising internal divisions within the OTA, areas which were once within the OTA but now fall outside of revised boundaries, external training areas, physical traces of military activity and national defence (past and present), and the intangible influence of the Ministry of Defence (MOD) on rural and urban communities, extends into the NNP and its surroundings. It is argued that changes in military modification of existing archaeological features, over time and relative to the changing official boundaries of the OTA, will allow the mapping of the changing attitudes to the past enacted in the daily use of this militarised landscape.

A preliminary review of the literature and the Northumberland HER has identified four types of military reuse and reworking (see Table 1).  It is apparent that, as at Tyneham and the Epynt, this has at times involved “an initial period of neglect … followed by attempts to conserve remaining structures” (Cole 2010: 96).

Table 1: Preliminary types of military reuse and reworking of existing landscape features (omitted for space) – destructive reuse, destructive modification, constructive modification and adaptive reuse

Based on this preliminary review, four areas within this landscape have been identified as potential case studies to test this hypothesis (see Table 2), conditional upon detailed review. Areas 1 and 2 incorporate parts of the OTA’s current extent, whilst Areas 3 and 4 were selected as “controls” – they are clearly time-limited instances of military use of the landscape outside of the OTA.  After detailed review, a selection of reworked features from these areas will be selected for detailed study.

Table 2: Preliminary case study areas for comprehensive review – two areas inside the OTA, and two areas outside the OTA. (Omitted for space.)

The proposed methodology is as follows:

  • Confirm case studies are a representative sample of military reuse/reworking through review of the condition data from NNPA’s 5-yearly monitoring programme of archaeological features in the OTA , the Heritage At Risk recording programme, the Historic Environment Working Group’s condition reports and the Historic Environment Register (HER) data, as well as management documents (the Integrated Land Management Plan and the Archaeology and Historic Environment Management Plan).
  • Establish physical extent of OTA border over time through review of available military and civilian literature and map regression analyses, to chart the location of case study sites relative to the OTA’s internal and external boundaries over time.
  • Ground-truth condition of archaeological features and evidence of military reuse/reworking at selected case study sites, to inform development of a typology of military interventions into existing cultural features in the landscape, and where possible date these interventions to add a temporal dimension to the interpretation.
  • Locate these instances of military reuse/reworking within the broader cultural context from 1911 to present, through review of relevant documentation (histories, newspaper archives, diaries, oral histories, planning documents and heritage legislation) to identify any relationships between views of heritage and the daily use of the militarised landscape over time and space.


Rationale for the research:

The archaeology of 20th century conflict is a growing research field (e.g. Pearson 2012) and the Centenary of the First World War is a fitting time to re-cast the military use of existing cultural landscape features as more than simple destruction – although certainly destructive, the military modification of these existing features also adds another layer to the cultural landscape and deserves to be studied as an archaeological landscape in its own right (Ref xx).

I am currently employed as the Community Archaeologist for Northumberland National Park and this position has enabled me to create a research project which will both contribute to the further academic understanding of 20th century militarised landscapes in Britain, and to the day-to-day management of the Park and the OTA through adding to the understanding of the OTA as a military artefact and enriching the HER data for the case study sites. The NNP is willing to work in partnership on this project, which can only add value to the final result, but the research design is sufficiently flexible that it could successfully be undertaken independently.

My previous experience working with Prof. Bob Johnston on the militarised landscape of the Trawsfynydd Valley in North Wales (2013), and the Archaeology Department’s expertise in the archaeology of rural upland landscapes, makes the University of Sheffield the ideal host for this research project.



Cattermole, A. and R. Woodward nd. Public Access Restrictions and Environmental Conservation on the Otterburn Training Area. Research Report. University of Newcastle, Centre for Rural Economy/Dept of Agricultural Economics and Food Marketing.

Charlton, B. and J. C. Day 1977. An Archaeological Survey of the Ministry of Defence Training Area, Otterburn, Northumberland. The Ministry of Defence Otterburn Training Area, Otterburn.

Charlton, B. 1996. Fifty Centuries of Peace and War: an Archaeological Survey of the Otterburn Training Area. The Ministry of Defence Otterburn Training Area, Otterburn.

Charlton, B. 2004. The Archaeology of the Otterburn Training Area. Pp. 321-337 in Frodsham, P. (Ed.) Archaeology in Northumberland National Park. Council for British Archaeology, York.

Charlton, B. 2014 . Meeting with Beryl Charlton regarding archaeological potential of Otterburn Training Area, 27 January 2014.

Cole, T. 2010. A picturesque ruin? Landscapes of loss at Tyneham and the Epynt. In C. Pearson, P. Coates and T. Coles (eds) Militarized Landscapes: from Gettysburg to Salisbury Plain. London: Continuum, 95-110.

Cross, R. and B. Charlton 2004. A Snapshot of Otterburn Training Area: Then and Now. Defence Estates.

Jones, C. 2014. Meeting with Chris Jones regarding potential for collaborative research project, 10 January 2014.

NNPA 2010. Historic Village Atlas GIS Layer. Created 29/07/2010.  Accessed 20/1/2014

Pearson, C. 2012. Researching Militarized  Landscapes: A Literature Review on War and the Militarization of the Environment. Landscape Research 37:1, 115-133.

Petts, D. & C. Gerrard 2006. Shared Visions: The North-East Regional Research Framework for the Historic Environment. Durham County Council.

Young, R., P. Frodsham & I. Hedley 2005. Archaeological Research Strategy for Northumberland National Park Authority: Resource Assessment and Research Agenda (2005). Northumberland National Park Authority, Northumberland.