Mother’s day on Mousehold Heath

May 9, 2023

6/23 11:49:00 UTC
NightDay

For Mother’s Day, we set out to Mousehold Heath for a meditation on power and possibility. We also went to show off the fact that our modular garments support changing bodies. The side zips in our Anorak and Shell, for example, function not only as fashionable alternatives to heat dumping, unattractive “pit zips,” but they also allow the garments to be worn throughout the duration of a pregnancy. 

Anorak

Our insulation shirt looks svelte and sharp when buttoned up and when running and jumping through the forest at 32 weeks. 

Insulation Shirt

Which brings us to the forest. Today Mousehold Heath is an important greenspace for the people of nearby Norwich— heathland, insect-friendly, wildflower beds with over 40 species, a wide range of birds, mammals, and amphibians, and biodiverse because of carefully coordinated monitoring. However, because of its history, it’s also important to us all. [1]

That’s because Norwich was a site of solidarity for resistance to the enclosures. The enclosures were a series of laws and practices that took place in 16th through 19th century England, which led to the privatization of common lands and the consolidation of small farms into large estates.

Cape

Because women were responsible for gathering crucial resources, such as food and fuel, from common lands, they were disproportionately affected by their loss. They were forced to rely on men to provide, who— because they could no longer fish and graze on the land— were required to work in newly emergent large-scale agriculture. Women’s exclusion from this wage labor further exacerbated their dependence on men, leaving them with little autonomy in their newfound role of reproducing labor and maintaining households. 

When we hear this story, it’s often told as a relentless march of progress required to unlock the abundance of large-scale agriculture and industrialization. We now know, however, that our dispossession from the land led to economic oppression and set us on our current path of ecological destruction. But just as we resist these outcomes today, so too did the people of England resist them then. 

Shell

Witch hunts, for example, were important campaigns of terror and violence against women who resisted this new order. They were a way of disciplining women and breaking down communal forms of reproduction. Midwifery was forbidden, and practicing traditional forms of healing was one of the surest ways to be targeted as a witch. 

However, in 1549 Mousehold became an important site of resistance to the enclosures and the oppression that accompanied them, largely because of solidarity between men and women and urban and rural protesters. It was even led by a landholder, who— when seized upon by the rebels— agreed with their arguments and made common cause with them. Robert Kett led the protestors to successfully seize Norwich until the rebellion was put down, with 3000 men killed. The oak where Robert and his brother rallied supporters, and where 9 of them were later hanged, still survives thanks to the loving care of Norwich citizens. [2]

Shell

Because of the rebellion’s brief success, it’s one of the few to have its demands survive. [3] In them, we’re reminded of the importance not only of our connection to nature but of our connection to each other. Suppose the enclosures were the violent beginning to our alienation from the land and the exploitation of women’s reproductive labor. In that case, the solution is simple: solidarity in restoring the commons. 

Photographer: Timothy Foster

Talent: Lea Feary of Architecture Practice Studio 163

Sources:

[1] https://research.ncl.ac.uk/wastesandstrays/wastesandstraysblog/hidden-mousehold-heath/

[2] https://www.edp24.co.uk/news/20750861.norfolks-famous-tree-brought-back-jeopardy-health-boost/

[3] https://blogs.bl.uk/digitisedmanuscripts/2016/11/ketts-demands-being-in-rebellion-1549.html