For centuries, estates have provided a primary theatre for Welsh life. The historical and cultural impact of estates on the development of Wales has been immense.
Almost every square foot of the Welsh landscape has at some point or another been influenced and shaped by the priorities of an estate: think buildings of all types, roads, fields, hedges, walls and boundaries, woodlands, parks and gardens and industrial sites such as mines and quarries. It is important to remember that many historical estates, or their successors, continue to thrive in the modern world; and that other forms of estate, including council, industrial, housing, business and retail estates, have also impacted on the landscape.
From their country house powerbases, the owners of Wales’ most prominent landed estates long wielded influence over their surrounding communities. Their political, social and economic power was at times immense, often articulated through local governance, cultural patronage, industrial and agricultural development, conspicuous consumption, recreational pursuits and landlordship, to name but a few examples.
However, not all estates were large; nor was the sense of place and belonging associated with estates confined to the elite. Successive generations of so-called ‘ordinary’ people have lived on estates, provided goods and services to estates, or worked in country houses and on estate farms and gardens. It was on estates that much of the fabric of Welsh communities was stitched together, with those relationships which were negotiated between landlords, tenants, servants, neighbours, agents and retainers – sometimes through conflict, challenge, compromise and consent - providing much of the interconnecting thread.
This context provides a vibrant platform for research across and between multiple academic disciplines.