History 'RATS' start work to recapture historic landscapes of the Gwent Levels!

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Our major new volunteering project has started with a kick-off meeting on February 13th attended by a whopping 24 enthusiastic volunteers from all ends of the Levels! The volunteers, under professional supervision, are hoping to delve into the records, court minutes and maps of the Monmouthshire Commissioners of Sewers to explore the development of the landscape of the Levels over the past 200 years. These important documents have never been formally studied and this project provides an exciting opportunity to explore the impact of tidal and fluvial flooding, the continuity of land tenure, settlement patterns, local government in action, and much, much more. Sewers in this instance are watercourses, either natural or manmade, and commissioners of sewers throughout England and Wales held jurisdiction over drainage and sea defence in low-lying coastal lands including the Gwent, Somerset and Gloucestershire Levels beside the Severn Estuary. The Court of Sewers was a court of record, on a par with Quarter Sessions, and many of its commissioners were also justices of the peace. The work of the court affected almost everyone living on the Levels because tenants and landowners were responsible for repairs and maintenance. The records are therefore brimming with personal names.

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The research undertaken by the affectionately named Sewers’ ‘RATS’ (Research and Transcription Service) will be complemented by other strands of the project. These include field surveys, archaeological investigations, oral history recording and GIS mapping. Outputs from the research will inform events, exhibitions, and new resources to help interpret and explain the history of the Levels.

Meetings will be held monthly over the next two years to support the RATS with their work and provide training and resources.

If you’d like to volunteer, please get in touch by emailing info@livinglevels.org.uk

A role description for the RATS is available here.