‘Fallen Fruits: Mapping Orchard Decline in the Quantock Hills at Parish Level with Tithe Record and Map Data’: Phase 2 Report
By Nick Nourse
In 2010 exploratory research was proposed at the offices of the Quantock Hills AONB Service, to examine the importance of orchards to the economy and ecology of this distinctive corner of Somerset. Following an AHRC-funded workshop at Halsway Manor in March 2011, an AHRC grant enabled Marianna Dudley of Bristol University to conduct Phase 1 of the ‘Fallen Fruits’ project. Using MapInfo GIS (Geographical Information System) software, Ordnance Survey mapping and aerial photographs from 1946 and 2007 were digitised to provide a 20th-century view of orchard decline in the Quantock Hills. The result is a series of map layers within the Quantock Hills AONB Service’s mapping systems that detail nine different stages of orchard coverage in the target landscape over a 50-year period. Phase 2 of the project extended that research.
Peter Coates (PI for ‘Local Places, Global Processes’ and ‘The Places that Speak to Us and the Publics We Talk With’), secured funding for Phase 2 of the ‘Fallen Fruits’ project (‘Mapping Orchard Decline in the Quantock Hills at Parish Level with Tithe Record and Map Data’) from the Quantock Hills AONB Service Sustainable Development Fund (75%) and a grant from the Lady Emily Smyth Agricultural Research Station Fund (LESARS) administered by Bristol University’s School of Biological Sciences, (25%). These grants funded Nick Nourse (postdoctoral researcher at Bristol University) to work with the Quantock Hills AONB Service to expand on the GIS mapping work begun by Dudley.
The methodology of Phase 1 has been repeated in Phase 2 of ‘Fallen Fruits’ by digitising source data in MapInfo. But where Phase 1 used Ordnance Survey mapping and aerial photography as its sources, Phase 2 has taken the tithe surveys of the mid-19th century for the Quantock Hills and surrounding buffer zone to produce a new, 19th-century map layer. Tithe maps were produced as an essential part of the Tithe Commutation Act of 1836, an Act that replaced a 900-year tradition of funding the established Church by the levying of tithes with a money payment based on a 7-year average price of standard crops. The project also relied on the tithe apportionments: the legal document that detailed ownership and the monetary value of the land. Both sources are held by the Somerset Heritage Centre at Norton Fitzwarren, either as high-resolution digital images or as original documents.
The new ‘Fallen Fruits’ map layer and its associated database consist of 1509 objects and entries extracted from 29 tithe districts and which are recorded under four different category headings: Orchard, Remnant Orchard, Mixed Use, and Possible Orchard. The advantage of employing GIS technology is apparent when the tithe map data is examined and interrogated with Dudley’s 20th-century map layers. The process reveals, for instance, that around 1840 the Quantock Hills supported over 1,400 orchards, but that by 2007 just eleven of those orchards survived. The same statistic in hectares shows 642.789 hectares under orchards c.1840, but only 9.8 hectares in 2007, or 1.53% of the original area.
The ‘Fallen Fruits’ mapped data also shows distinctive patterns of orchard loss between the two centuries, particularly in relation to local cider-producing centres such as the village of Kingston St Mary. The striking map images extracted from Phases 1 and 2 of the ‘Fallen Fruits’ projects are now providing a source in themselves to inform Phase 3 of the project: ‘At the Core of the Quantocks: Wider Dissemination of the Fruits of the Orchard Mapping Project’, which, like Phase 1, is being funded by AHRC. The centrepiece of Phase 3 is a an AHRC supported Quantock Apple & Orchard Heritage Day, which will be held at Fyne Court (a National Trust property where the AONB Service is based), on Saturday 19 October 2013. The website for the event is http://www.quantockappleday.co.uk/page1.php