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Historic LandscapeCh atacrerisarion:

Its Rolein ConremporaryrBritish Archaeology and LandscapeHisro ryr

Abstract

StephenRippon

This articleintroducesthevariousschemesof Historic LandscapeCharacterisation

(HLC)

that have now been widely adopted by organisationssuch as Cadw,

English Heritage and Historic Scotland.Various articlesin this specialvolume of Landscapeswill discussthe achievementsof this technique in the fields of

planning and countryside management, although

several authors wili also

examine some of its problems. Most attention will focus on these specific schemesof HLC (and its equivalentsin Scotlandand Vales), and so this article

will considerthe wider issueof how the more generalprocessof mapping local and regional variation in landscapecharactercan inform us of its origins and

development,and how in assessingcharacrerwe need to move b.yond simple morphological criteria. Particularattention is paid to forms of evidencethat to date have beenlargelyignored, notably parternsof landholding and vernacular buildings.

Introducdon: Historic Landscapecharacrerisation

One of the many specialqualities of the British landscapeis the local and regional variation in its character. If one drives, for ."".np|., from East

Anglia, through the Midlands, and down into the South Vest peninsula, one will travel through a seriesof regionseachwith its own local iJentity. In

EastAnglia, particularly distinctive featuresof the landscapeare its dispersed

settlement pattern and its vernacular building tradition

structureswith elaboratedecorativeplasterwork (pargetting) painted in pastel

shades.In the east midlands the settlemenr p",i.rtt is f", -or. nucleated, consistingof compactvillageswithin which the traditional buildings aremad,e of local stone. If one continued this journey into the South \7.rt, another

of timber-fr"m.d

changein landscapecharactercan be observedbeyond the Blackdown Hills (ot the Somerset-Devonborder), where setdemenrpatterns are once again more dispersedand the local building tradition is one of cob (a mixture of mud, straw and small amountsof stone).

mapping this local

and regional variation in

thebest-knowntechniqueusedfor thismapping

* and the focus of this issueof Landscapes -

traced back to the i98os and the exciting fusion of landscapearchaeolog;.,local

history, historical geography and historical botany illustrated,,for 'ancienr'

by Oliver Rackham's (1986) seminal mapping countryside acrossEngland. \Tithin the world ;f

was also a growing awarenessof the need to move away from

heritage managemenrthere

'pl"nrred'

In

recent years there has been a growing interest in

landscape character. rMhile 'Hisioric

Landscape

Characterisation'(HLC) isnow

the origins of such work ."., b.

of

and

.""-p1.,

preserving

individual

archaeological sites and listed buildings towards protecting th.

wider landscape(see Faircloughand Rippon

overviews). In

invited English Heritageto preparea list of landscapesof historic imporrance

to complement the Registerof Parks and

with the intention of identifting areasof landscapeof particular significance

which were thereforeworthy of protection.Very soon, however, " philorophy emergedwithin English Heritage that the whole landscape,rather than a small number areasof particular importance, is of historic value and this led,to a seriesof Historic LandscapeCharacterisationsacrossentire English counties

(seeHerring and Lake, both this volume). A similar approachwas adopted by Historic Scotlandand the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historic Monuments of Scotland(see Dixon, this volume), while in \7ales Cadw and the Countryside Council for \Wales went down a different path - more in

keeping with what This Commln Inheritancehad envisaged - in creating the

Looz,and fuppon )oo4for recent Paper, Thls Common Inheritance,

Gardensof SpecialHistoric Interest,

r99r, a Government \Mhite

Registerof Landscapesof Outstanding Historic Interest in Wales,with

each of

theseindividual landscapesthen being subject to a detailed HLC (seeAlfrey

and Austin, both this volume; and Foard and fuppon 1998for a discussionof thesedifferenrapproaches).

involves taking an areaof countryside or rownscapeand

In essence,HLC

dividing it up into its smallestconstituent parcels:in the caseof most rural areas,which cover by far the greatestpercenrageof the counrry, these are predominantly agricultural fields, though other land uses,such as unenclosed,

rough Pasture, woodland, and intertidal

areas.An F{LC

'types':'enclosed land','woodland','upland moor', and so on. Theserypescan

be subdivided:'enclosed land', for example,can be dividedinto'"n.ient

AD 16oo) enclosure','post-medieval(ao

marshes, are important

in

some

then attributes eachparcel to

one of a seriesof predetermined

(pr.-

16oo-185o)enclosure',and'modern

can be addedto eachparcel,such

(post-no 185o)enclosure'.Other

as whether a field aPpearsto be derived from, for instance,the enclosureby agreementof former open-fieldland, parliamentaryenclosure,or the piecemeal assartingof woodland.

'attribures'

f{istoric Landscape C/taracterisation:

Its Role in Contemporary/ British Archaeology and La'.ndscape I{istory

b-_

Srephen RiPPon

'Characterisation' is now a key part of the heritagemanagementstrategies

of

there has been relatively

little published debate within the wider archaeologicalcommuniry over the

intellectual foundations of HLC, apart from recent discussionsby Rippon (zoo4), Lake and Edwards (zoo6a), Thomas (zoo6) and Williamson (zoo6).

This

ArchaeologyGroup (TAG) conferenceheld in Exeter in December zoo6 to

discussthe use of HLC, as had the editors of Landscaprs,who had planned a specialvolume of the journal on this subject.Thesevarious initiatives ro try to discussthe present practice and future potenrial of HLC therefore came togetherin a jointly organisedTAG session,the successof which can be measuredby the large number of proposedpaperssubmitted (for which unfortunately there was only time for a small number to be presented)and the packed lecture theatre on the d^y. All the papers at the Exeter TAG sessionappearin this volume, along with an additional commissionedarricle by Judith Alfrey which reviews progress in \7a1es. Jeremy Lake (English Heritage),PeterHerring (English Heritage),SamTurner (formerly of Devon

Counqy Council) and Piers Dixon (Th. Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historic Monuments of Scotland) review some of the achievementsand Potential of HLC, particularly within the areas of heritage management.

all the organisationsmentioned above, but

author

therefore decided to

organise a

session at

the

Theoretical

The technique is not, however,without its critics, as we will hear from Tom

\Williamson, Jon Finch and

David Austin.

Historic landscape analysis

Of particular concern to this author, however, has been the way that cynicism amongst the academiccommunity towards the way that HLC has been developedis tarnishing the use of characterisationin a broader sense

within the wider field of researchinto the origins and developmenr of our

historic landscape.This is *hy,

first approachedme to write one of their Handbooks on 'Historic

Characterisation',I initially declined, and what emergedinsteadwas a volume 'Historic

on the wider, research-orientated,concept of

(Rippon zoo4). Put simply, Historic LandscapeCharacterisarion(the scheme Promoted by EnglishHeritageet al.) doesnot equalhistoric landscape charac- terisation (the processof researchthat maps local and regional variation in landscapecharacter,and then seeksto explain its origins and developmenr through interdisciplinary work). A crucial distinction is that made by Tom

Bloemers (zooz) between past- and future-oriented archaeology.Let us take

just one example:the map-sourcethat forms the basisof the characrerisarion, which in the caseof many EnglishHeritage-sponsoredHLCs hasbeenmodern Ordnance Survey cartography.It may indeed be appropriate for HLCs that

when the Council for British

Archaeology

Landscape

LandscapeAnalysis'

are designed to

with

consistsof large fields designedto accommodatemodern, highly mechanised,

inform

planners and countryside rnanagers

concerned

'future-oriented archaeology' -

that a certain areaof countryside today

I{istoric Landscape Characterisation:

Its Role in Contemporary British ArchaeologJ and Lanhcape History

FIGURE

I

The distributions of

(A) late medieval and

(B) post-medieval standing buildings that are scattered across

the National Tiustt Holnicore estatein westernSomerset.

(Data suppliedby

IsabelRichardson)

Stephen RiPPon

FIGURE Z ,

The distributions of late medieval

and post-medievai

standing buildings

in Chiselborough, \Iest and Middle

Chinnock, and Haselbury Plunkettin

south-east Somerset, basedon research by the Somersetand SouthAvon Vernacular

BuildingsResearch Group (SSAVBRG

1984;1993;r990. Note how the late medieval

buildingsare restricted to the viliage centres, and that it is only post-medievalhouses that are found out in the now-enclosed former open fields.

arablefarming, but this is of no value to those of us interestedin rrying to understand the history of the countryside. \7e need ro know whether the earlier field boundariesthat were swept awaywhen thesearableprairies were createdresultedfrom enclosur. by agreement,or parliamentary enclosure,of

piecemealassartingof woodland or common, and

researchwe need to use the earliestcompre-

hensive large-scalemapping we have available,which in most caseswill be

so on. For such

former open-field land,

'past-oriented'

the tithe maps of c.r84oor the Ordnance Surveyfirst edition six-inch maps of the r88os.Methodological concernssuch as rhis, alongsidethe fact that historic landscapecharacterembracesa far wider rangeof factorsthan simply

morphology -

languageof landscape(place- and field-names,etc.),and its culturalassociations

including vernacular architecture(and building materials),the

- mean that this author prefersthe term 'historic landscapeanalysis'for this interdisciplinaryresearch. Another major concernwith researchthat placesall of its efrort into analysing

morphology is whether patterns mapped in the nineteenth cenrury are a

reflectionof anything other than the landscapeof that specificperiod of time

and see

Austin, this volume). For example,anothermajor characterisationformed the

basisof Roberts and \Trathmell's (zoo o) Atlas of Rural Settlementin England, which used the difrering degreesof settlementnucleation and dispersionin

'provinces'

(such'doubts aboutmorphogenesis'gobackto the r98os:Austin rggi;

nineteenth-centuryEngiand to divide the

('Th. South East Province', iCentral Province'and 'Northern

country into threebroad

Vestern

zoo5)

Province').This too hasattractedsomecriticism (

and a key issueis whether settlementpatternsduring the nineteenth century can tell us anything about the medievalpicture. In parts of the South Vest, for example,it hasbeendemonstratedthat the isolatedfarmsteadsthat charac-

terisedthe landscapein many areasduring the nineteenth cenrury were in fact all that remained of what in the thirteenth century were small hamlets ( g. Beresford ry64; Fox r9B9;Henderson and \Teddell ryg+; Riley and Wifuo.r- North zoor). So how reliableare nineteenth-cenrurysettlementparternsas a guide to the medievalperiod?This is an issuenot just for academicresearch,

but also for the programmesof HLC,

resultsrepresenta snaPshotof an ever-changingcountryside or are actually

mapping differencesin characterthat havelonger-term roors.

Dyer zoor; Hinton "rd

as it needsro be clearwhether their

The pattern of settlement

The answerto this question will clearly vary from arearo area,but a number of generalobservationscan be made. Firstly,.even the small hamlets of South

\fest England in the thirteenth centuryz,of which there were severalin an averageparish' representa far more dispersedsettlemenr parrern than the nucieated villages of the Midlands. Secondly, there is a i"rg. of sources

and techniques that we can use to test the antiquiry of differ

patternsin some regions(i.e. test the resultsof HLC). Unfortunately, in the South Vest there has not been a great deal of iarge-scalefieldwalkirg, but acrossin East Anglia and the eastmidlands there has, and this confirms that regional variations in nineteenth-century settlement parrerns are indeed a generalreflection of the medievalsituation. Fieldwalking in the eastmidland,s,

where in the nineteenth century there was a rrtr.l."t.d

revealsdesertedand shrunken villages but relatively few isolated settlements

(other than the scatteredfifth- to eighth-/ninth-cenrury farmsteadsthat were swePt away when villageswere created).In Essex,in contrast, which during

the nineteenth century had a dispersed settlement pamern, fieldwalki"E

consistentlyfinds desertediarmsteadsbut no desertedvillages( Pagezoo6; Rippon forthcomirg).

r,

,.r,lement

settlement partern,

g.

Jones and

I{istoric Landscape Characterisatiott; Its Role in Contemporary/ British Archaeology and Landscape History

Another source of evidence that can be used to resr the antiquity of

Srcplten RiPPon

Patterns mapped through characterisingnineteenth-centurysettlements is the vernacularbuilding stock.This hasall too often beenstudiedin isolation from other aspectsof landscapecharacter,but it can provide a further 'layer' of data in historic landscapeanalysis.In central/south-eastern Somerset,for example, the nineteenth-century settlemenr parrern was largely nucleated,

whereasto the west it wasmore dispersed,and the analysisof the locationsof standingmedievaldomesticbuildings within the landscapeconfirms that this

Pattern datesback at leastto the late medievalperiod: in wesrernSomerset standingmedievalhousesarespreadacrossthe landscape(Figure i), while in central/south-eastern Somersetthey areonly found in villages,with the scatter of isolatedfarmsteadsdepicted on nineteenth-cenrurymaps dating only to the post-medievalperiod (being farmsteadsthat moved out from the villages

into the former open fields after they had been enclosed:Figure z; Rippon forthcoming).

The pattern of fields and landholding

Trul;, interdiscipiinary historic landscapeanalysiscan test landscapecharac-

terisations in

at further facets of rhe counrryside.

Remaining in Somerset,for example, the easr-westdifferencein nineteenth-

other ways by looking

century setdement patterns describedabove is also seen in the evidence

for how medieval field systemswere managed, with

a range of indicarors

- parliamentary enclosureacts, ridge and furrow, and referencesin medieval surveys - showing the existenceof rwo- and three-field open-field systemsin central/south-eastern Somerset,but nor in the west (Rippon zooq, tzvS).

Another facet of the landscapethat can be usedto reconstrucrpast patterns of land managementis that of landownership.Th. boundary berweenlandscapes characterisedby villagesto the eastand dispersedsettlementro the west runs

just to the east of the Blackdown Hills. To the west of this boundarir, in Monkton, eastDevon, for example,thereis little in the field boundary partern

to indicate former common field and the patterns of landownership recorded on the tithe surveysupports the hypothesisthat this was a landscapethat has alwaysbeen characterisedby closesheld in severalty(Figure 3).

>--

The pattern of landownership in

nearby Sheldon, in contrast, is more

complex, and a characterisationof the landscape aIlows the parish ro be divided into a seriesof characterareas(Figure 4). Acrossmosr of the northern and easternpart of the parish,for example,the field boundary patrern consists of small, irregularly shaped fields suggestiveof closesheld in severalry,a hypothesissupportedby the compact blocks of landownership.To the south

and west of the parish there is a rather difrerent field boundary parrern, with

larger,straight-sidedfields that would appearto have been laid tut

recently.This pattern, which occupies an areaof high ground, is suggestive of the post-medievalenclosureof former common land, with th. fr"gmented land ownership in one block of rectangularfields probably resulting from each tenement that held grazingrights in the former common receivinga parcelin

relatively

t

T

I

i\

Monkton

H church

I farmstead

lli':l

straight-sidedtields

rndicariveof recentenclosurc

[:]

f

T

ll

Iargeslraisht-sidcdfield indicativeofreccnt enclosure

I

:mall, inegularly shapcdticids indicruve of plecemealcnciosurc

I woodland

F-. ---r

f'.'.'.1

E

I

Iim

or

cothgc

owniile

land

selected

landscape

character

Noes

Tithe survey

land ownership

Sheldon

t

I

N

Ilistoric Landscape Cltaracterisation:

Its Role in Contempordry) British Archaeolog dnd Lanclscape I{istory

FrcuRE

)

'Ire patternof Iandownershiprecorded in the tithe surveyof Monkton in eastern Devon. Note hoi,vthe morphology of the field boundarypatternand the compact blocksof fields belonging ro each farm aresuggestiveof a landscapechalac- terisedby closesheld in severalry.(Research by Adam \Tainwright and drawing by Chris Smart)

.

FTGURE 1 . 'The pattern of landownershiprecorded

in the tithe surveyof Sheidonin eastern Devon. To the east rhe small irregularly shapedfields and compact landholdings suggesrclosesheld in severalw.The larger, rectilinearfieldson higher ground ro the wesrareindicarive

of rhe enclosureof former common land. In berween,rhe blocks of long, narrow fields and highly fragmented landownershipsuggest

fbrmer common field. (Research by

Adam V'ainwrighr and drar,vingby Chris Smart)

Srcplten RiPPon

FIGURE 5 . ttand

or

li

lhe pattern

olvnership

recorded

in the rithe surveYs of

Combe St Nicholas,

Wambrook, and

\flhitestaunton,

in Somerset. Here

the fragmentation

of landholding is

even greater, and

corresponds to the

areaof iong, narrow

and often curving

Eeldsthat clearly result

from the enclosure

by agreement of

former common-field

iand. Note horv the

landscapehas a very

different character in \Wambrook and

Whitestaunron,

where

mostly irregular-shaped

fields were held as

compacr blocks in

severalry. (Research

by Adam Wainwright

and drawing by Chris

Smart)

the newly enclosedfield system.Towardsthe centreof the parishlies a rhird,

long, narrow curving

far smaller, character areawhich comprisesblocks of

fieldsthat look as if they could be enclosedstrips in a former common field,

and this is supported"by the very fragmentedpattern of landownership.This correspondenceof strip-like fields and fragmentedpatternsof landownership is now being revealedacrossthe South tWest and suggeststhe presenceof

small open fieldsassociatedwith the numeroushamletsthat characterisedrhe

settlementpattern in the medieval period (

zoo6). These open fields were, however, ofr

a very small

England's 'centrai

Rippon

g.

Alcock 1975;Pattison 1999;

2oo4, fig. 19; Herring

scale,in contrast to the vast common fields that characterised

province',which extendedinto central and south-easrern

Somerset,just the other sideof Figure 5).

This exampleshowshow we can go beyonCclassifyingfield sysremssimply on morPhologicalgroundt by bringing in a rangeof other dataand developing

a more multi-faceted historic landscapeanalysisrhat helps us ro understand

the origins and developmentof this landscape.Such practicealsohas a value within the current programme of planning and management-basedHLC, as

the sizeand structureof landholdingswill influenceparternsof farming: small,

family-run farms, for instance, with detached areasof

specialised,environmentssuchasuplandsand wetlands,area key characteristic

of

to both summer and winter grazing.A potentialproblem with this useof data

on landownership, however,is that the only comprehensiverecord we have

is from the nineteenth century (the tithe surveys),which leads ro the same

problem as before -

the medievalpicture. This requiresthe survivalof suitabledocumentary sources

- which will not be the casein all areas -

North

landholding has been stablesince at leastthe late medievalperiod. In areas such as Puxton, the tithe survey shows that the fields held by tenements in this shrunken village were widely scatteredacrossareaswhose field boundary pattern and documentarysourcessuggestswere two former open fields;some of thesedispersedtenementscan be traced back through a seriesof deeds, surveys,rentals and manorial court rolls, largely unchanged, to the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries.To the north, in Congresbury Marsh, however,the nineteenth-century Pattern was characterisedby isolated farms with compact

the BlackdownHills (e.g. Combe St Nicholas:

grazingin diff.r.rrt,

certain landscapeswith a strongly pastoraleconomy,as rhey provide access

that of trying to establishhow far such patterns refect

but one case-studyat least,on the

SomersetLevels (Rippon zoo6), suggeststhat the overall characterof

I{istoric Landscape Characterisation; Its Role in Contemporary British Archaeology and Landscape History

blocks of closesheld in severalty,and this partern can similarly be tracedback

to the sixteenth century: while some tenements may have been amalgamated, othersdivided, and odd fields exchangedberweentenemenrs,the fundamental differenceberweenscatteredand compact parrernsof landholding in the rwo

areaswas unchanged for at least 5oo years.As such, this gives a valuable guide to the difrerent farming practicesthat have helped to shapelandscape character:open field around Puxton, and compacr blocks of closesheld ln severaltyon CongresburyMarsh.

The exampleof landholding patternsdemonstratesthat research-orientated

landscape characterisationsneed to

possible.Like many individual aspectsof historic landscapeanalysis,suchwork

is not entirely new, and there have been small-scalemappings of past parterns

of landownership before ( g.

data as

'layers' of

consider as many

Challacombe on Dartmoor:

Pattison 1999).

\fhat is innovative here is, firstly, its integration with a far wider analysisof

Srephen RiPPon

the historic landscape,and secondly,the scaleat which it can now be carried

out with

a small hamlet, amounted to around 3 km', while currenr

work on the Blackdown Flills by this author, from which the examplesin this article aretaken, hasso far coveredelevenwhole parishes,revealingremarkable difrerencesin the strucrure of landholdine.

associatedwith

the use of GIS; at Challacombe,for example,the fields studied,

Buildings and character

As illustrated"above,anotherimportant facetof iandscapecharacterisvernacular

architecture,and progressis starting to be made in its integration with HLC (Lake and Edwards zoo6a; zoo6b; and seeLake, this volume). Archaeologists

and historical geographersare now used to

this morphological approach can easilybe accommodatedwithin

we also must consider other ways that standing buildings affecr landscape character.In the areasaround Glastonbury and llchester, for example, the compact villages are characterisedby the extensiveuse of blue-grey Lower Lias limestone in the churches, houses, farm buildings and even garden walls (Figure 6). Just a few miles to the south, the colour and texture of the vernacular buildings changes,as the orange-brown sandstonesof the Upper Lias, known as Ham Stone, dominates the villagescape(Figure ): there is nothing in the wo-dimensional, black and white, nineteenth-centurymaps to indicate a difference in the character of these villages based on rheir morphology, but on the ground the variation in colour and rextureis striking.

Building materialsmake a major contribution to local and regionalvariation in landscapecharacteracrossthe country, and just one further example must suffice.In Devon, the settlementpattern is far more dispersedthan in central

Somerset,and 'cob' the vernacular building traditions are also very different, with predominating in the central lowland areas.Cob is a mixture of red Devon soil, strawand fine stonechippings,and in most domestichousesit is limewashed,but in older agricultural buildings it remainsexposed,forming

the lowland

studying settlementparterns,and

HLC,

but

a

key character-definingfeature of Lake and Edwards zoo6b).

'red Devon' landscape(Figure B;

Conclusion

The stability of broad patterns of landholding demonstrated on the North

SomersetLevelswill not necessarilyhave been the caseeverywhere,and such detailedresearchcannot becarriedout on acounqF-widescale. Similarly,research

into

other facetsof landscapecharacter,such aslocal vernacularbuilding sryles

and

materials, requires time-consuming field-basedresearch.Such work can,

however,be usedto test and enhancethe morphology-driven models of HLC, somethingthat therehasbeentoo little of to date.The integrationof morpho- logical approachesto characterisation with a wide range of other categories of data, such as archaeologicalfield survey and standing building recording,

t2

---'-|

):<'

ii\N

.\\r-,

I{istoric Landscape C/taracterisatiorc; Its Role in Contemporary/ British Archaeology and Landscape HistorT

FIGURE

5 ,

Drayton, in Somerset. Blue-greyLower Lias limestoneis used throughout the villagesin this area for domestichouses, outhouses,agricultural buildings and garden

walls. Even the baseof the churchyardcross

is made out of this distinctive local stone.

FIGURE

7

Barringto.r, ,r, Somerset.Basedsimply on a morphological characterisationthere

is little to distinguish this part of Somerset from the areaaround Drayton - both are dominated by compact villagessurrounded

by former open fields mostly enclosedby

agreement -

but the

widespreaduseof the

local orange-brown 'Ham

Upper Lias

Stone' givesrhe viilag- escapea very different character.

FIGURE B .

Shobrooke,Devon. Cob is used rhroughourrhis landscape,in the seventeenth-century or earlierfarmhouse of ShobrookeBarton (iimewashed), late,

eighteenth-to

mid-nineteenth-century

agriculruralbuildings,

and churchyardwall (the restorationof

which has recenrly 'Local

paid for by a HeritageInitiative':

http://www.lhi.org.

uk/projects_directoryl

projccrs by reeion/ sourh_west/devon/ shobrooke_heart_ol_ cob_country/index.

a

html).

does,however,show how we can usehistoriclandscapeanalysisin its broadest senseas part of our researchinto the origins and developmenrof local and

regionaivariationin the characterof our counrryside.Suchacademicresearch can often be carriedout on a smallerscale,and overa longerrime period, rhan the HLCs sponsoredby English Heritage,Cadw and Hisroric Scotland,and

assuch hasthe opportuniry to bring a wider rangeof sourcesand

Landscape

to bear.It is thereforethe contention of this article

Characterisation',as practisedby various governmenrbodies, is but a small

sub-set of the wider concept of

Heritage schemein particular has attractedsome criticism but this should not tarnish the idea that we can further our understandingof the countryside

techniques

that 'Historic

historic iandscapeanalysis.The English

by first giving spatial control to discussionsof local and regional variation

- through characterisation -

such as patternsof landownershipand vernaculararchitecrure,that aid our understandingof its origins and development.

and then addingadditionallayersof informarion,

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