Skip to main navigationSkip to main content
The University of Southampton
EnglishPart of Humanities

Re-Making Places: Medieval Heritage, Regeneration and Regional Development

Swansea was an important centre in the Middle Ages, comparable with any other historic European towns. Yet the medieval legacy of Swansea is almost invisible today. Two strands of research led by Professor Catherine Clarke have re-made and re-animated lost historic landscapes for diverse user communities, bringing significant social, cultural and economic benefits across the England-Wales border region and beyond. Innovative engagement strategies developed through the research have received international recognition, and the projects have been cited as a model of the public benefits of research in policy documents for the UK government.

Medieval Swansea
Medieval Swansea

City Witness: Place and Perspective in Medieval Swansea

The AHRC-funded research project City Witness: Place and Perspective in Medieval Swansea (2013-2014) used innovative methodologies and digital tools to explore space, spatial representation and spatial practices in medieval Swansea. A research resource – a manuscript in the Vatican Library containing nine eyewitness accounts of the hanging of the Welsh outlaw William Cragh in Swansea in 1290 – advanced scholarly understanding of the lost medieval urban environment of Swansea.

The City Witness website targeted local communities with multimedia content including maps, reconstruction fly-through videos and a game, attracting hundreds of thousands of visits. The project also produced a major exhibition at Swansea Museum and a new interactive tour of medieval Swansea, drawing visitors into the city centre and advancing the Council’s ‘Castle Quarter’ strategy.

Clarke also advised on new interpretation for Swansea Castle by a commercial company, helping to promote and realise the potential of the castle ruins as a heritage/tourism asset.

The ‘City Witness’ project featured as a full-page case study in the AHRC Impact Report 2014-15 to the Department of Business, Innovation & Skills. The combined project research, engagement and impact have also received awards including the silver medal for Public Engagement in the International Digital Humanities Awards 2014, and was a finalist in the 2016 National Co-ordinating Centre for Public Engagement Awards, modelling best practice between HEI and non-HEI partners in the delivery of impacts.

St Thomas Way

City Witness developed into research around the St Thomas Way: a new heritage route from Swansea to Hereford, inspired by the pilgrimage of William Cragh to the shrine of St Thomas, after his miraculous revival.

The St Thomas Way heritage tourism route has transformed public understanding of the medieval March of Wales, and enriched heritage engagement at 13 sites and with multiple local communities along the route. A day of launch events at Hereford Cathedral in July 2018 included living history, mini-lectures, family activities and a reception.

The route includes well-established tourism destinations such as Caerphilly Castle and Hereford Cathedral, and little-known locations such as Patrishow and Llancarfan. A feature in the Daily Telegraph travel section, ‘Who needs the Camino de Santiago when you can hike through South Wales?’ responded positively to this strategy, commenting that ‘in these small, unspoiled towns along the St Thomas Way you can capture something of the sounds, smells and rhythms of medieval life’ and promoting the route as a visitor attraction.

The project included a collaboration with an Artist in Residence, Michelle Rumney. Her art exhibition, Re-Making Maps of the Mind: Medieval and Modern Journeys, is inspired by the project research, and toured locations along the St Thomas Way and beyond. It helped facilitate arts and cultural access local communities along the route between Swansea and Hereford, developing the potential of local churches and heritage sites – often in under-served rural locations or disadvantaged urban settings – as cultural centres.

The British Pilgrimage Trust has recognised the route by distributing an initial run of 10,000 brochures at sites along it and creating a page for the St Thomas Way on their site, including GPS exchange format files for all the walking routes

Key Publications

List of all staff members in
Staff MemberPrimary Position
Catherine ClarkeVisiting Professor
    Share this case study Share this on Facebook Share this on Twitter Share this on Weibo
    Privacy Settings