5. Varied development patterns. Historical research suggests that small towns tended to develop in broadly similar ways, and have similar economic structures. Across the region, many small medieval towns had lost their urban functions by the 16th century, and had become villages. It would be difficult to ignore the role of the marcher lords in Herefordshire and Shropshire (and in Wales) in the foundation of new towns, which led to the distinctive distribution pattern of medieval towns in the region. The decline of the institution of marcher lordships clearly had a significant effect on the long-term survival of a high proportion of marcher boroughs.
However it is possible to see some other distinctive types of small town, such as inland ports on the River Severn. Archaeology can make a contribution to the understanding of these urban settlements. In addition there are few ‘specialised’ small towns with unusual economic functions: Droitwich (Worcs) is probably the best known in the region, and archaeological study of medieval salt production is well-established (Hurst 1997).