Medieval deerpark and other archaeological remains in Sutton Park
Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number: 1020420
Date first listed: 30-Jun-1971
Date of most recent amendment: 07-Mar-2002
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.
District: Birmingham (Metropolitan Authority)
National Grid Reference: SP 08966 96072, SP 09976 98407, SP 10486 96699
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 at Sutton Park survives well as an earthwork feature, including almost the entire circuit of the pale, as well as a number of internal features, such as compartments and enclosures and possible pitfall traps and fishponds. The deer park is well documented and the history of its development and ownership will help to illuminate the changing recreational fashions among the aristocracy as well as the changing fortunes of the park. At Sutton Park the banked and ditched 16th century coppice boundaries and associated internal features demonstrate both the change of ownership from aristocratic manor to common land, and the change of use from deer park to woodland used for both grazing and the production of forestry products. The woodlands are well documented and provide an insight into the changing management of wooded areas from the medieval to post-medieval periods. The Sutton Park water mills played an important role in the development of local technology and economy and will further demonstrate the changing industrial exploitation in the area.
Roman roads were introduced to Britain by the Roman army from around AD 43. Their main purpose was to serve the Imperial mail service. In addition, throughout the Roman period and later, Roman roads acted as commercial routes and became foci for settlement and industry. Although a number of roads fell out of use in the fifth century AD, many have continued in use down to the present day and are consequently sealed beneath modern roads. Roman roads are widely distributed throughout England and provide important evidence of Roman civil engineering skills as well as the pattern of Roman conquest and settlement. The section of Roman road surviving in Sutton Park is well- preserved and will retain artefactual and other evidence for its construction and use.
A burnt mound is an accumulation of burnt stones, ash and charcoal, usually sited next to a water source. On excavation, a trough or basin capable of holding water is normally found close to or within the mound. The size of the mound can vary considerably, between under 0.5m high and less than 10m in diameter, to over 3m in height and 35m in diameter. Their shape ranges from circular to crescentic. Built during the Bronze Age, over a period of around 1000 years, the mounds are the remains of a process which used heated stones to boil water in a trough or tank for cooking or steam baths. Excavated sites have often revealed several phases of construction, indicating that individual sites were used more than once.
Burnt mounds are found widely scattered throughout the British Isles. They are a relatively rare monument type in England, which provides an insight into life during the Bronze Age. The Sutton Park mounds are a well-preserved example of a group of mounds unusually located at some distance from a water source. They include possible structural or settlement remains and will provide evidence for their construction and use.
Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.
The monument includes the earthwork and buried remains of the medieval deer
park located in Sutton Park. Also included in the scheduling are the buried
and earthwork remains of: the medieval fishponds at Bracebridge Pools and
Keeper's Pool, post-medieval coppice boundaries, a number of post-medieval
mill ponds at Longmoor Pool, Blackroot Pool and those adjacent to Park House;
the prehistoric burnt mounds; a section of Roman road, a 19th century militia
camp and firing range with target; a 19th century racecourse and part of the
19th century golf course. The scheduling is in three areas of protection.
Sutton Park is a roughly oval area of enclosed parkland situated on the north
eastern edge of the Birmingham plateau, to the north west of Sutton Coldfield.
The solid geology comprises Hunter Pebble beds, with Hopwas Breccia in the
north and areas of drift cover, while the soils are largely acid brown soils.
Sutton Park covers approximately 900ha and is included in the National
Register of Historic Parks and Gardens as Grade II. It is also a National
Nature Reserve and Site of Special Scientific Interest.
Initially an unenclosed extension of the Cannock Chase, the park originated as a royal deer park created out of Sutton Chase. In 1086 there was woodland two leagues long by one league wide attached to the royal manor of Sutton. A park and free hay (areas of coppice woodland) and foreign wood, lying between the rivers Thame and Bourne, were included in the manor of Sutton in 1126 when the Chase passed from Henry I to the Earls of Warwick, who are believed to have enclosed the deer park. In the early 15th century the deer park was leased by the Earls to Sir Ralph Bracebridge, and in 1471 on the death of Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick, the park reverted to the Crown.
In 1528, under the influence of Bishop Vesey, Bishop of Exeter and a native of Sutton Coldfield, Henry VIII granted a charter to the town of Sutton Coldfield and gave the park, in perpetuity, to the new Royal Town. From the 16th century the park became an important economic resource for the town, acting as common ground, pasture and coppice woodland. During the 18th century water powered industrial activities were introduced and leisure activities developed in the 19th century. These later activities co-existed with the last of the common agricultural regime of grazing and woodland management. In the 19th century, the consolidation of the neighbouring Hartopp estate created alterations to the boundary, and the Town Gate became the main entrance to the park. Sutton Park became an area of municipal parkland in the early 20th century.
The enclosure of the park at an early date preserved a number of earlier features within its boundaries, such as sections of Roman road and several burnt mounds. The survival of monuments from these periods is unusual in this heavily urbanised area.
The northernmost area of protection includes a group of six burnt mounds formed of heat shattered pebbles. The mounds were exposed following a fire in 1926 and partially excavated. The group is arranged in an arc partially surrounding an uneven surface including a depression measuring 5m in diameter, believed to be a hut circle. The two excavated mounds lay 54m apart and were pear-shaped, with a circular depression on top reflecting an oval pit lying below. One measured 18m long by up to 9m wide by 0.8m high, and the other measured 12m long by 5m wide. The pit in the larger mound measured 1.3m by 1m and was 0.5m deep; the pit in the second measured 0.8m by 0.6m and was 0.25m deep. Four other mounds of varying sizes were recorded, without evidence of pits.
A section of the Ryknild Street Roman road lies on the western side of Sutton Park. The section is approximately 2.6km long, cut by the railway in its northern quarter, and is visible as a bank of gravel (agger) 9m wide flanked by the discontinuous side ditches around 5m from its edge and intermittent quarry pits on either side. The road has been dated to the first century AD and is believed to have been of military origin linking the Roman forts at Wall and Edgbaston. It was probably constructed during the campaigns of Ostorius Scapula in AD 47, and chance finds suggest that it continued in use until the fourth century. The construction of part of the internal deer park boundary in the 12th century blocked the road and resulted in its replacement by a route around the western edge of the park on the line of the present Thornhill Road.
The deer park consists of four phases of park pale, or boundary. The outer enclosure of the park pale survives substantially intact on the east, north and west sides of the park and is believed to date to 1126. It has an internal ditch 5m wide inside the present park fence. The park was compartmented, with a series of banks and ditches, to exclude the deer from the coppice woodland. Several phases of the park boundary and internal features, such as linear woodland divisions, possible saw pits and boar traps survive to illustrate its growth and development.
A subsidiary enclosure within the deer park associated with the manor house is believed to be a stock corral of 12th century date. It forms a semicircular enclosure covering an area of approximately 1sq km on the eastern side of the park and centred upon Sutton Coldfield manor house; the enclosure is defined by a low bank approximately 2.25m wide with a ditch. Also visible on the eastern side of the park is a subsidiary enclosure of 14th century date, defined by a bank approximately 3.5m wide and 0.4m high with an internal ditch, and overall measurement of approximately 7m wide.
A further enclosure lies in the north of the park protecting the woodland and fishing rights at Bracebridge Pool. It is of 15th century date and forms an irregular enclosure of approximately 3.3sq km defined by a bank approximately 1.5m wide by 0.2m high with an internal ditch and overall measurement of approximately 4m wide.
Bracebridge Pool is believed to have been built as a medieval fishpond and is fed by Plants Brooke. Little Bracebridge Pool, lies to the north west, and may have also originated as part of the fishpond. A possible stew pond lies to the north east of the pool. This survives as a sub-rectangular ditched feature defined by a bank and ditched enclosure. Bracebridge Cottage, which stands at the south east of the dam, was constructed on the site of an earlier 19th century mill.
Keeper's Pool is medieval in origin. It is believed to have been dug or extended as a fishpond in the 14th century by John Holt. The pool is fed by Keeper's Well, which was enclosed in 1815 and which is thought to lie close to the site of the Park Keepers lodge. The quarry pit, created by extraction of materials for the dam, survives on the eastern side of the pool.
A number of features survive which post-date the deer park and are associated with its later use. Six areas of medieval woodland known as The Hayes, were enclosed in the 16th century by external ditches and banks, measuring over 4m wide, and topped with quickset hedges in order to protect the coppice woodland from grazing and livestock.
Longmoor Pool at the south western end of the park, was created in 1733 by John Riland and a flour and button mill was constructed on its dam in 1754. To the east of the pool is an enclosure covering four acres (1.6ha) associated with the former mill house. Enclosed by a bank, this enclosure served as an arable field and traces of ridge and furrow cultivation remains are visible. Blackroot Pool to the east of Upper Nut Hurst was created in 1757 by Edward Homer and Joseph Duncomb to power a mill originally used for leather dressing which later became a saw mill. The quarry pit created by the extraction of materials for its dam survives near the south eastern corner of he pond. The exit leat for the mill was straightened in the 19th century, and in the 1920s a paddling pool was added.
A mill pool in the grounds of Park House survives with an associated enclosure defined by an earthen bank. The pool powered a blade mill in the early 18th century and later a gun mill and tilt hammer. Park House, an 18th century mill house which replaced an earlier water mill, is a Listed Building Grade II.
To the north west of Holly Knoll is the site of a racecourse in use from 1847 to 1865. This is visible as an oval circuit with sloping spectator banks. To the south west of the knoll is the site of the golf course laid out around 1880.
During the late 19th century, the park was used for an annual militia camp. The camp, located in the south western part of the park, included at least 19 bell tents and a rectangular mess tent; the sites of which are visible as a series of drip gullies dug around the tents to direct water away. The buried remains of the latrines and midden pits are also believed to survive. To the north west of Rowton's Well are the remains of a 19th century rifle range associated with the militia, including military targets and firing butts. This survives as a large earthen mound, used to absorb shot from firing, against the base of which targets would be set up. A concrete lined trench runs at the foot of the mound which served to shield those employed in changing and moving targets positioned against the base of the mound. A series of firing butts used as emplacements for men firing at the target were constructed at regular intervals along the firing range, at 200, 300, 500, 600, 800 and 1,000 yard distances, between the encampment and the targets. In addition to the camp and firing range, other features related to the military use of the site survive, such as the zig zag practice trench.
A number of items are excluded from the scheduling. These are: Park House, Bracebridge Cottage, the modern bathing pool, paddling pool, boat house and modern buildings located within the quarry, all modern paths and surfaces, and all park furniture. The ground beneath these features is, however, 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: 30085
Legacy System: RSM
Books and journals
Benton, G B, Sutton Park, (1906)
Bullows, J L, Sutton Park Burnt Mounds, (1927)
Hodder, M A, Sutton Coldfield an archaeological survey, 1977, Unpublished Phd Theseis
Various unpublished notes, unpublished notes in SMR
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