Medieval woodland boundary in Darenth Wood


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1013378

Date first listed: 24-Apr-1978

Date of most recent amendment: 04-Jan-1996


Ordnance survey map of Medieval woodland boundary in Darenth Wood
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

County: Kent

District: Dartford (District Authority)

Parish: Bean

County: Kent

District: Dartford (District Authority)

Parish: Darenth

National Grid Reference: TQ 57786 72400, TQ 57857 72929, TQ 58125 72440, TQ 58151 73026


Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.

Reasons for Designation

Woodland has been managed since at least the fourth millennium BC in order to produce timber and smaller wood for fencing, wattlework and fuel, including charcoal. However, it is only for more recent periods that evidence for woodland management survives in the woods themselves, generally in the form of wood boundaries and features relating to woodland crafts. Woods which are more than 100 years old often have some form of earthwork boundary: ancient wood boundaries (pre AD 1700) are either sinuous or zig- zagged; straight edged woods with slighter earthworks usually indicate a wood boundary of later than AD 1700. Such boundary earthworks are usually in the form of a wood bank with an outer ditch. This was traditionally set with a hedge (to keep out livestock) and pollarded trees (to define the legal boundary). The total width of the earthwork is usually between 6m and 12m. Within the wood may be dividing banks and features relating to woodland crafts, such as charcoal burners' huts and hearths, saw-pits for cutting timber and roads and trackways providing access. The easy availability of wood-based fuel often resulted in fuel-hungry industries such as ironworks, limekilns, potteries, tileries and brickworks being sited within woods. Quarries are often also located in woodland in order to minimise the loss of more productive agricultural land elsewhere. Varying in area from only a few hectares to several hundreds of hectares, medieval woodlands were usually managed by the control of young trees (underwood), which were periodically cut at ground level (coppiced) and allowed to regrow from the bole or by suckering to produce poles. Standing amongst the underwood were larger trees (standards), often oaks, which were allowed to grow to maturity. Contemporary documentary sources such as charters, maps, land surveys and estate accounts can confirm the age and past management of some woodland. During the post medieval period forestry plantations were introduced with an increasing tendency to plant high forest using one or two species, and by the end of the 19th century coppicing had fallen into decline with the loss of its ancient markets, especially after the widespread introduction of coal for household use and manufacturing. Since 1945 there has been a dramatic increase in the destruction of old woodlands due to increased competition for land. Although they are distributed throughout England, the highest densities of old coppiced woodland survive in the south east, in Sussex, Surrey, Hampshire and Kent.

Although sections have been partly destroyed by modern road building, the medieval woodland boundary in Darenth Wood is of an early date and survives well. Its earthworks are comparatively large for this type of monument, and have been positively dated by part excavation. The monument will also contain environmental evidence relating to the way in which the wood was exploited during its period of use.


Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.


The monument, which falls into four areas, includes a medieval woodland boundary in Darenth Wood, situated on the south eastern side of the modern town of Dartford. The irregularly-shaped, sinuous boundary survives in earthwork form and encloses a wood of around 35.5ha, managed during the medieval period and later as coppice with oak standards. The boundary has a total width of up to 12m, with a rounded bank surviving to a height of up to 0.5m, flanked along most of its length by an outer ditch up to 0.5m deep. The coppice has a smaller annexe to the south east shown by part excavation to have been constructed at a slightly later date than the main enclosure. To the north, slight traces indicate the former existence of a further annexe, destroyed by the construction of the A296 road in 1921. Several small gaps in the enclosure earthworks have been interpreted as representing original entrances into the wood, although the boundary has also been partly damaged in places by the construction of a modern road, by footpaths, vandalism and tipping. The woodland boundary was partly excavated in 1964 when its age was indicated by pottery sherds discovered within the bank dating to the period AD 1200- 1250. At this time the manor of Darenth was held by the See of Canterbury.

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: 27012

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
Caiger, J, 'Archaeologia Cantiana' in Darenth Wood, its Earthworks and Antiquities, , Vol. 79, (1964), 77-94
ASP source no 5, RCHME, TQ 57 SE 38, (1965)

End of official listing