Harbin's Park, a medieval deer park pale


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1020029

Date first listed: 10-Mar-1975

Date of most recent amendment: 11-Dec-2001


Ordnance survey map of Harbin's Park, a medieval deer park pale
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

County: Dorset

District: North Dorset (District Authority)

Parish: Iwerne Stepleton

County: Dorset

District: North Dorset (District Authority)

Parish: Tarrant Gunville

National Grid Reference: ST 90114 12697


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

Reasons for Designation

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 were established in virtually every county in England, but are most numerous in the West Midlands and Home Counties. Deer parks were a long-lived and widespread monument type. Today 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.

The deer park known as Harbin's Park lies within Cranborne Chase, an area of chalkland well known for its high number, density and diversity of archaeological remains. These include a rare combination of Neolithic and Early Bronze Age sites, comprising one of the largest concentrations of burial monuments in England, the largest known cursus (a linear ritual monument) and a significant number and range of henge monuments (Late Nelolithic ceremonial centres). Other important remains include a variety of enclosures, settlements, field systems and linear boundaries which date throughout prehistory and into the Romano-British and medieval periods. This high level of survival of archaeological remains is due largely to the later history of the Chase. Cranborne Chase fromed a Royal Hunting Ground from at least Norman times, and much of the archaeological survival within the area resulted from associated laws controlling land-use which applied until 1830. The unique archaeological character of the Chase has attracted much attention over the years, notable during the later 19th centruy, by the pioneering work on the Chase of General Pitt-Rivers, Sir Richard Colt Hoare and Edward Cunnington, often regarded as the fathers of British archaeology. Archaeological investigations have continued throughout the 20th century and to the present day. Harbin's Park medieval deer park pale is a well-preserved example of its class surviving as a visible earthwork along most of its boundary. It will contain archaeological and environmental remains providing information about medieval deer husbandry,the economy and the contemporary environment.


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


The monument includes the bank and ditch which defines part of the boundary of a medieval deer park, known as Harbin's Park, on the southern edge of Cranborne Chase, west of Harbin's Park Farm. The deer park was known as Tarrant Gunville Park until about the 19th century, when the name was changed to include the name of the owner at the time. The earliest documentary reference to the park dates to 1279 and the latest occurs in 1398. However in 1649, a dispute between Harbin and Pitt, lord of Cranborne Chase and owner of the adjacent estate, concerning deer from the chase, might suggest that the deer park continued in use into the 17th century. The park, lying on the eastern slope of a dry valley, encloses a rectangular area of about 55ha. It has probably altered little in appearance since the medieval period, lying in old woodland with several clearings referred to as `laundes' in medieval documents. The bank and ditch are generally well-preserved except on the northern side where the earthworks have been levelled by ploughing. A short section of the ditch at the north west corner is visible as a vegetation mark in an arable field. Early Ordnance Survey maps show the north eastern corner of the deer park as an earthwork with two sharply angled corners, but this is no longer visible on the ground. The ditch may survive as a buried feature but as the exact location cannot be verified on the ground this section of the boundary has not been included in the scheduling. The bank, which is 5m wide, is steep in profile, up to 0.8m high externally and up to 2m above the silted inner ditch which measures up to 5m wide. A 15m gap in the bank and the ditch at the south western corner may be the original entrance while several other truncations through the earthworks have been created in the past to provide access to the interior. The deer park may overlie an earlier field system, parts of which survive as earthwork banks in the interior. However, their extent and nature are poorly understood and on present evidence they have not been included in the scheduling. All fence posts 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. 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: 33557

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
Hawkins, D, Cranborne Chase, (1993), 51
Cantor, L M, Wilson, J D, 'Proceedings of the Dorset Natural Hist and Archaeology Society' in Medieval deer parks of Dorset IV, , Vol. 86, (1964), 170-172

End of official listing