Warren in Collins Coppice, Hatfield Forest


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1015433

Date first listed: 09-Oct-1996


Ordnance survey map of Warren in Collins Coppice, Hatfield Forest
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

County: Essex

District: Uttlesford (District Authority)

Parish: Hatfield Broad Oak

National Grid Reference: TL 53688 19759


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

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 merit protection.

The warren at Hatfield Forest survives well and includes at least two phases of construction and alteration and two types of mound. It is the most complete surviving example of a large scale warren in Essex. Archaeological features and deposits relating to the construction and use of the warren will survive and will allow an insight into this important aspect of medieval agricultural economy.


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


The monument includes a rabbit warren situated on a gentle south-facing slope in Hatfield Forest, in an area of wood pasture and woodland. It includes a total of 22 mounds, of two types (linear pillow mounds and circular rabbit buries) within an area of about 4ha. The warrener's house at the north edge of the warren also still stands but is excluded from the scheduling, although the ground it is included. Thirteen of the mounds are pillow mounds of linear form, the majority arranged in three broadly parallel rows aligned north west to south east. The pillow mounds are sub-rectangular, flat topped, surrounded by a ditch and vary in length from 13m to 45m. Most are between 20m and 25m long and almost all are between 7m and 10m wide standing roughly 1m above present ground level. The mounds in each row are connected by drainage ditches which connect the mound ditches and which, in the east and west sides of the monument are continued northwards and southwards to create a rectangular, partly enclosed area. Concentrated in the southern part of the monument are four circular mounds or rabbit buries, and further drainage ditches. The rabbit buries are much smaller than the pillow mounds, 0.4m high and 5m-6m in diameter. These are encircled by a ditch and are only found within the enclosure. At the south east corner of the warren is an enclosed annex, measuring roughly 60m north- south by 100m east-west. This annex has cut into, and partly reused, a coppice boundary to the east which forms its eastern side. The function and date of the annex are uncertain but it is believed to be associated with the refurbishment of the warren in the later 17th century. Warren Cottage (the home of the warrener who managed the warren) is a 17th century dwelling house. The square garden has an earthwork bank and ditch boundary around all four sides, although the earthworks along the southern side are somewhat degraded. Warren Cottage, which is Listed Grade II, is excluded from the scheduluing although the ground beneath it is included.

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: 24886

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
Rackham, O, The Last Forest: The Story of Hatfield Forest, (1989)
RCHME, , Hatfield Forest, Essex, (1993)
RCHME, , Hatfield Forest, Essex, (1993)

End of official listing