The Warren field system


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1018435

Date first listed: 09-Oct-1981

Date of most recent amendment: 16-Nov-1998


Ordnance survey map of The Warren field system
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

County: Dorset

District: Purbeck (District Authority)

Parish: Chaldon Herring

County: Dorset

District: Purbeck (District Authority)

Parish: West Lulworth

National Grid Reference: SY 79533 80770


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

Reasons for Designation

Irregular aggregate field systems are generally of later prehistoric and Roman date and include collections of field plots which do not display conformity in overall arrangement or orientation. Individual field plots can range in size from 0.1ha to about 3ha and the irregular units can be rectilinear, polygonal or sub-circular in plan. Such field systems are spread widely across England, generally on south-facing slopes, sheltered from prevailing winds, and they often survive on higher ground, where post-prehistoric land use has often been of low intensity. Irregular aggregate field systems occur mostly on the chalk downlands of Wessex, the south west, the Cotswolds, East Midlands, South Yorkshire, Cumbria and Northumberland. The majority of dated examples fall between the periods 1750 BC to around 450 AD. However, some examples are known to date to the Neolithic period, while others from South West England and often associated with circular enclosures, are known to date to between the 4th to 6th centuries AD. All well preserved examples are considered to be of national importance. The field system known as The Warren survives well and will contain archaeological and environmental evidence relating to the monument and the landscape in which it was constructed. It is an extensive survival, well preserved and occupying an unusual topographic setting. The steep gradients within the system will ensure that deposits survive around the lower slopes, buried by hillwash. This will provide good conditions for the survival of both palaeoenvironmental samples and evidence of occupation. The Warren also incorporates earlier archaeological remains, notably bowl barrows, a series of later fields and boundaries, and a rabbit warren and associated structures. The use and development of the monument will, therefore, reflect the wide range of pressures on land-use from the Iron Age to the post-medieval periods.


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


The monument includes the extant remains of an irregular aggregate field system known as The Warren, situated along the coastal promontories and associated dry valleys to the south of a prominent chalk ridge. The remains of the field system, which now extend over an area 202.3ha, was surveyed by the Royal Commission on the Historical Monuments of England in 1970 and also reviewed by Colin Tracy in 1987. The system may have been linked with other blocks of fields situated to the north, but the intervening areas have been subjected to intensive ploughing. The name `The Warren' reflects the later use of the area as a rabbit warren during the post-medieval period. The field system is focused around the three coombes known as Middle Bottom, Vicarage Bottom and Scratchy Bottom, all situated to the south of Chaldon Down. It also extends over the steep slopes of the intervening headlands and incorporates a dispersed group of four earlier bowl barrows, representing burial monuments of Bronze Age date. It is possible that the field system developed to the south of a pre-existing trackway which ran along the ridgetop. Within the field system ancient ploughing has produced a series of lynchets, or terraces in the hillsides, which are generally 0.6m to 1.2m in height, but which are upto 3.5m high in Middle Bottom. Within the terraces there are individual fields defined by an interconnecting series of field banks and scoops cut into the hillsides. Vicarage Bottom and Scratchy Bottom contain the best preserved group of fields. There are over 60 examples within these areas, which have an average size of about 0.8ha. In general, the size and shape of the fields within the group relates directly to the associated topography. There are a group of flint filled hollows, which are likely to represent flint quarries, across Middle and Vicarage Bottoms. These quarries are of an uncertain date, but could relate to the construction of the monument. Although no settlements have yet been positively identified as associated with the field system, a Romano-British site lies to the north east and could have been occupied during the time the field system was in use. Although no detailed palaeoenvironmental sampling has taken place within the field system and it is therefore not yet possible to detail what crops were grown here, the ancestry of the site is reflected by the presence of Iron Age and Romano-British pottery recovered from Scratchy Bottom and Vicarage Bottom, by the medieval strip lynchets on the eastern part of Newlands Warren, and by traces of ploughing to the west and in Scratchy Bottom. When the post-medieval rabbit warren was developed at the site, the Warren House was sited within the north western area of the monument. All fence posts and metalled surfaces are excluded from the scheduling, although the ground beneath them is included.

MAP EXTRACT The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.


The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.

Legacy System number: 29083

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
Historical Monuments in the County of Dorset: Volume I, (1970), 628-9
Tracy, C, Historic Landscape of the Weld Estate, (1987), 19-21
Tracy, C, Historic Landscape of the Weld Estate, (1987), 94
Tracy, C, Historic Landscape of the Weld Estate, (1987), 96
Tracy, C, Historic Landscape of the Weld Estate, (1987), 16
Lynchets overlying celtic fields, RCHME, National Monuments Record,

End of official listing