Earthwork enclosure at Castle Hill, 144m SSW of No.102 Ashby Avenue.
Reasons for Designation
The earthwork enclosure at Castle Hill, 144m SSW of No.102 Ashby Avenue, is considered to be the remains of an enclosed hunting lodge within the bounds of Chessington Park, a medieval deer park.
Deer parks were areas of land, usually enclosed, set aside and equipped for the management and hunting of deer and other animals. They were generally located in open countryside on marginal land or adjacent to a manor house, castle or palace. They varied in size between 3ha and 1600ha and usually comprised a combination of woodland and grassland which provided a mixture of cover and grazing for deer. Parks could contain a number of features, including hunting lodges (often moated), a park-keeper's house, rabbit warrens, fishponds and enclosures for game, and were usually surrounded by a park pale, a massive fenced or hedged bank often with an internal ditch. Although a small number of parks may have been established in the Anglo-Saxon period, it was the Norman aristocracy's taste for hunting that led to the majority being constructed. The peak period for the laying-out of parks, between AD 1200 and 1350, coincided with a time of considerable prosperity amongst the nobility. From the 15th century onwards few parks were constructed and by the end of the 17th century the deer park in its original form had largely disappeared. The original number of deer parks nationally is unknown but probably exceeded 3000. Many of these survive today, although often altered to a greater or lesser degree. They serve to illustrate an important aspect of the activities of medieval nobility and still exert a powerful influence on the pattern of the modern landscape. Where a deer park survives well and is well-documented or associated with other significant remains, its principal features are normally identified as nationally important.
Hunting lodges were often the most prestigious and impressive building within a deer park. They were used for entertaining and for accommodation as well as a centre for hunting. In some cases they may have served as the main residence for an absentee park owner when in residence. Thus, some hunting lodges were equipped with a wide range of domestic facilities.
Despite some later damage and disturbance, the earthwork enclosure at Castle Hill 144m SSW of No.102 Ashby Avenue survives well. It will contain archaeological and environmental information relating to its construction, use and history and to the landscape in which it was constructed.
This record was the subject of a minor enhancement on 24 March 2015. The record has been generated from an "old county number" (OCN) scheduling record. These are monuments that were not reviewed under the Monuments Protection Programme and are some of our oldest designation records.
The monument includes an earthwork enclosure situated on the southern spur of a low knoll just to the east of Bonesgate Stream in Horton Country Park, Chessington.
The enclosure is denoted by a ditch with an internal bank and is sub-rectangular in plan. It is orientated NNE to SSW and the northern part of the enclosure is slightly wider than that to the south. It is about 115m long by 74m wide and encloses an area about 90m by 30m. The ditch is between 10m and 15m wide and is 0.5m below the surrounding ground level and 2.2m below the top of the bank. It has been destroyed to the north and is truncated elsewhere but largely survives to the south and east. It is also not present to the west but the Bonesgate stream may originally have run closer to the earthwork on this side. The bank is about 3m wide at the top spreading to 10m wide at its base. It is 1m high above the ground surface of the interior of the enclosure. Only probable fragments of the bank survive on the west side of the enclosure but it is over 2m high to the north where the ground levels away. It is likely to have originally been constructed from material excavated from the ditch. A possible entrance is situated on the north-eastern side of the enclosure. The interior includes a slight depression parallel to the eastern bank and an L-shaped feature in the south-west corner. These may correspond to the former sites of buildings within the enclosure. It is probable that below-ground remains, such as foundations of these buildings, survive within the enclosure.
The earthwork enclosure at Castle Hill is situated within the original bounds of Chessington Park, a medieval deer park. The park was probably fenced in about the 13th century, when Merton College, Oxford claimed a park on their land at Chessington by charter of Henry III. A lease of 1486 indicates that it was certainly fenced by this date. In the early 17th century, the park largely comprised of woodland. The earthwork enclosure at Castle Hill is considered to be the remains of an enclosed medieval hunting lodge, associated with the deer park. Medieval hunting lodges were often moated and embanked and the form of the enclosure at Castle Hill is similar to known examples of this type.
Further archaeological remains, including a pondbay or dam, survive in the vicinity of this monument but are not included because they have not been formally assessed.