Ten medieval pillow mounds and part of an associated enclosure 300m north west of Combe Lodge
- Heritage Category:
- Scheduled Monument
- List Entry Number:
- Date first listed:
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.
- West Oxfordshire (District Authority)
- National Grid Reference:
- SP 42343 16116
Reasons for Designation
A warren is an area of land set aside for the breeding and management of
rabbits or hares in order to provide a constant supply of fresh meat and
skins. Although the hare is an indigenous species, the tradition of warren
construction and use dates from the 12th century, following the introduction
of rabbits into England from the continent. Warrens usually contain a number
of purpose-built breeding places known as pillow mounds or rabbit buries,
which were intended to centralise the colony and make catching the animals
easier, whether using nets, ferrets or dogs. The mounds vary in design
although rarely exceeding 0.7m in height. Earlier monuments such as burial
mounds, boundary features and mottes were sometimes reused as breeding places.
The mounds are usually surrounded by ditches and contain underlying channels
or are situated on sloping ground to facilitate drainage. The interior of the
mound may also contain nesting places constructed of stone slabs or cut into
the underlying subsoil or bedrock.
A typical warren may contain between one and forty pillow mounds or rabbit
buries and occupy an area up to c.600ha. Many warrens were enclosed by a bank,
hedge or wall intended to contain and protect the stock. Other features
associated with the warren include vermin traps (usually a dead-fall mechanism
within a small tunnel), and more rarely traps for the warren stock (known in
Yorkshire as `types') which could contain the animals unharmed and allow for
selective culling. Larger warrens might include living quarters for the
warrener who kept charge of the site, sometimes surrounded by an enclosed
garden and outbuildings.
Early warrens were mostly associated with the higher levels of society;
however, they gradually spread in popularity so that by the 16th and 17th
centuries they were a common feature on most manors and estates throughout the
country. Warrens continued in use until fairly recent times, finally declining
in the face of 19th and 20th century changes in agricultural practice, and the
onset of myxomatosis. Warrens are found in all parts of England, the earliest
examples lying in the southern part of the country. Approximately 1,000 -
2,000 examples are known nationally with concentrations in upland areas, on
heathland and in coastal zones. The profits from a successfully managed warren
could, however, be considerable and many areas in lowland England were set
aside for warrens at the expense of agricultural land. Although relatively
common, warrens are important for their associations with other classes of
monument, including various forms of settlement, deer parks, field systems and
fishponds. They may also provide evidence of the economy of both secular and
ecclesiastical estates. All well preserved medieval examples are considered
worthy of protection. A sample of well preserved sites of later date will also
The artificial rabbit warren represented by these enclosed pillow mounds formed an integral part of the economy of the medieval royal estate. The monument survives well and will contain archaeological evidence relating to its construction, the landscape in which it was built and the medieval economy of the area. This is one of the best preserved examples of an artificial rabbit warren in the Cotswolds.
The monument includes a group of ten pillow mounds and the northern and
western sides of an associated enclosure situated 300m north west of Combe
Lodge on the Blenheim Palace Estate.
The ten mounds are dispersed across an area of c.150m square which is bounded
to the north east and north west by two linear ditches which measure c.8m wide
and 0.5m deep. The exact location and extent of the surrounding enclosure is
not known on the south eastern and south western sides.
The individual mounds are all oval and measure from 7.5m to 9.1m in length,
3.9m to 5.6m wide and stand between 0.3m and 1m high. Eight of them are
aligned with their long axis from north west to south east while the remaining
two run south west to north east. The mounds are all flanked by narrow ditches
c.0.8m wide which have become infilled with silt and leaf litter but which are
visible as shallow surface features up to 0.2m deep.
These pillow mounds formed a managed artificial rabbit warren for the
Woodstock Manor Estate (now known as Blenheim Palace Estate) during the
medieval period. The land on which it sits was originally outside the boundary
of the deer park but was planted with trees after having been added to the
main park at the turn of the century. The area is now known as New Park.
MAP EXTRACT The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract. It includes a 2 metre boundary around the archaeological features, considered to be essential for the monument's support and preservation.
The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.
- Legacy System number:
- Legacy System:
During field visit 01/12/1993, JEFFERY, P.P., Discussion on site with H. Coddington (OCC) and S. Lisk (RCHME), (1993)
PRN 12,517, C.A.O., Rabbit Warren - Pillow Mounds, (1993)
PRN 12,517, C.A.O., Rabbit Warren - Pillow Mounds, (1993)
Title: Ordnance Survey 1:10000 Series Source Date: 1980 Author: Publisher: Surveyor: Sheet SP 41 NW
This monument is scheduled under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979 as amended as it appears to the Secretary of State to be of national importance. This entry is a copy, the original is held by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.
End of official listing