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The WoodlandsFuelling a Revolution

The 35 woodlands in the Fuelling a Revolution programme are almost all ancient woodlands, that is, woodlands that are known to be at least 400 years old. Throughout Britain, ancient woodlands are known to be of importance for the wildlife they support and for their place in the landscape.

However, in contrast to other ancient woodlands, those in South Yorkshire are remarkable because so much is known about their history. The work of landscape historian, Professor Melvyn Jones, has resulted in a detailed knowledge of local woodland history. In his very readable books, Professor Jones traces South Yorkshire's woodland heritage from prehistory to the present day and outlines the social and economic history of the woods and their biological and landscape heritage.

This work, based both on site visits and the examination of resources held in a number of archives, means that a visit to a South Yorkshire wood can be as historically significant, and as interesting, as one to a cathedral, ancient manor house or historic sailing ship. Indeed, evidence from Professor Jones' work, shows how timber from South Yorkshire's ancient woodlands would have provided the raw materials for such constructions. Perhaps more importantly, it shows how, through the production of charcoal, the local woodlands fuelled the development of South Yorkshire's early iron and steel industry, the backbone of the industrial revolution and particularly of the area's cultural heritage.

Information on the history of the Heritage Woodlands comes from four main sources.

Within the woods are many archaeological remains, both ancient and more recent, which testify to their place in the history of the region. These features are described in the section of this website dealing with archaeology. Methods used in archaeological surveys taking place during the Fuelling a Revolution programme are described in the section dealing with Survey and Monitoring.

Maps showing some of the Heritage Woodlands date back as far as the late 18th century. They often show the sizes and shapes of the woodlands to have changed little over time.

Documentary evidence
Documentary evidence on the woodlands dates back to the Domesday record of 1086. Other documentary evidence includes court records, surveys, property inventories and records of purchases and sales.

Documentary evidence is especially strong for those of the woodlands that were for a long period the property of the Dukes of Norfolk and their predecessors, the Earls of Shrewsbury. Such woodlands include Canklow Wood and Treeton Wood. A particularly significant document, written between 1598 and 1616, listed woodlands belonging to the 7th Earl of Shrewsbury, the major landowner in the area at the time and an extract from this can be seen in the book, Sheffield's Woodland Heritage.

Scholes village
Many ancient woodlands are named after nearby settlements.
This is the village of Scholes, near Scholes Coppice.
Place names
A lot can be learned about the history of woodlands from their names.

Ancient woodlands are often named after nearby settlements, examples being Herringthorpe Wood, Canklow Wood and Treeton Wood.

Some woodland names are those of their former owners. In a document dating from as early as 1332, Bowden Housteads Wood is referred to as Baldwynhousted. Baldwyn is an Anglo-Saxon personal name; hous means house; and sted has a variety of meanings including a place occupied by a farm or other building, so it is presumed that the woodland is named after a nearby farm; tenanted or owned at one time by someone named Baldwyn. Falconer Wood, in common with the adjacent Falconer Farm, is thought to derive its name from Robert de Faulkener, a fourteenth century Norman lord and landowner. Similarly, the name of Wheata Wood derives from the Whete family who had tenant rights there in the late fifteenth century. Nearby Prior Royd is so called as a result of the wood being owned by Ecclesfield Priory before the dissolution of the monasteries.

Other woodland names tell us about the landscape. Storth is an Old Norse word meaning wood and is often found in the names of fields or settlements established on land previously cleared of woodland. Until the middle of the 19th Century, Buck Wood went under the name of Berry Storth Wood. Another word which means a small wood, this time of Old English (Anglo-Saxon) origin, is graefe as in the name of Gibbing Greave. Carr, as in Carr Wood is an old Norse word for a damp, riverside woodland. Lees, the Saxon word for a woodland clearing, is incorporated in the name of Leeshall Wood in the Gleadless Valley. Also of Saxon origin is the name of The Lumb, Lumb being the Saxon word for a steep sided valley. Hang, an Old Norse name meaning steep bank occurs in the name of Hang Bank Wood.

Two other names that suggest an ancient origin are coppice, as in Scholes Coppice and spring, for example in the name of nearby Bassingthorpe Spring. Both refer to the former management of these woodlands by coppicing.

The names of Woolley Wood in Sheffield and Woolley Bank Wood in Barnsley are of particular interest in that they show that they were both once the home of wolves.

Not all woodland names have stayed the same over time. The name of Hail Mary Hill Wood is thought to have originally been Hell Mother Hill Wood, and on a map dating from 1828, it is referred to as Hail Mother Hill Wood. From at least 1600 until the early 19th century, the nearby Treeton Wood was known as Oaken Cliff, a reference to both its composition and steep slope.

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