Multi-period site in Itchen Wood

Overview

Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1021319

Date first listed: 02-Mar-1982

Date of most recent amendment: 26-Nov-2004

Map

Ordnance survey map of Multi-period site in Itchen Wood
© Crown Copyright and database right 2018. All rights reserved. Ordnance Survey Licence number 100024900.
© British Crown and SeaZone Solutions Limited 2018. All rights reserved. Licence number 102006.006.
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Location

The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

County: Hampshire

District: Winchester (District Authority)

Parish: Itchen Valley

County: Hampshire

District: Winchester (District Authority)

Parish: Micheldever

County: Hampshire

District: Winchester (District Authority)

Parish: Northington

National Grid Reference: SU 52348 36119, SU 52941 35652

Summary

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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.

Itchen Wood contains a unique collection of archaeological features ranging in date from the prehistoric to the medieval period. Due to woodland coverage from the medieval period, the preservation of these features is exceptional and many survive as earthworks, in contrast to the surrounding area, where such remains have been largely destroyed by development and arable cultivation. The archaeological features relate to a range of different activities, from farming to those associated with burial and settlement, while natural remains, such as trees and coppice stools hundreds of years old, further highlight the interaction between the man made and natural environment. Combined, this wealth of archaeological evidence presents a diverse picture of the different stages of occupation of Itchen Wood and a rare insight into the evolution of a landscape over the centuries.

The earliest evidence of major activity in the wood stems from the Bronze Age and includes a cross dyke. Cross dykes are substantial linear earthworks typically between 0.2km and 1km long and comprising one or more ditches arranged beside and parallel to one or more banks. They generally occur in upland situations, running across ridges and spurs. They are recognised as earthworks or as cropmarks on aerial photographs, or as a combination of both. The evidence of excavation and analogy with associated monuments demonstrates that their construction spans the millennium from the Middle Bronze Age, although they may have been reused later. Current information favours the view that they were used as territorial boundary markers, probably demarcating land allotment within communities, although they may also have been used as trackways, cattle droveways or defensive earthworks. Cross dykes are one of the few monuments which illustrate how land was divided up in the prehistoric period. They are of considerable importance for any analysis of settlement and land use in the Bronze Age. Very few have survived to the present day and hence all well-preserved examples are considered of national importance.

The Iron Age in Itchen Wood is represented by a field system, hollow ways and a banjo enclosure, which has additional value as part of a cluster of at least four such enclosures in Itchen and Micheldever Wood. Banjo enclosures were the dwelling places or stock enclosures of prehistoric communities, mostly constructed and used during the Middle Iron Age (400-100 BC), although some remained in use to the mid-first century AD. The enclosures consist of a central area (rarely larger than 0.4ha), usually oval or sub-rectangular, encircled by a broad steep-sided ditch and an external bank. The circuit is characteristically broken by a single entrance to either side of which the ditch and bank extend for up to 90m away from the enclosure forming an avenue or approach, hence the term `banjo'. The entrance to this avenue is sometimes formed by `antennae' ditches, giving a funnel-like appearance; or it may be connected to a transverse linear ditch. Where excavated, some banjo enclosures have been found to contain extensive evidence of habitation, including storage and refuse pits, and evidence for wooden structures provided by postholes and drainage gullies. These features, together with the ditches, generally contain abundant artefacts, and can provide environmental evidence illustrating the landscape in which the monument was set. The enclosures are often associated with a range of Iron Age monuments, including other types of enclosures, field systems, track ways and other settlement forms. The evidence from these sites, together with their relationship with other monument types provide important information concerning the diversity of social organisation and farming practices amongst prehistoric communities. Banjo enclosures are largely known from cropmarks and soilmarks recorded from the air, although a few survive as earthworks. About 200 are known, the majority of which are located in Wessex and around the Upper Thames Valley. Elsewhere they are very rare, with isolated examples recorded in Sussex, Bedfordshire and Cambridgeshire. All known examples are worthy of protection.

The many wood banks preserved in Itchen Wood represent valuable evidence for the history of woodland management from the medieval period to the present day. In conjunction with documentary evidence for the ownership and exploitation of the wood, the system of boundary banks helps to explain the medieval and post-medieval development of this rare surviving landscape.

History

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Details

The monument includes a multi-period site at Itchen Wood, situated east of the A33 and cut at the north western tip by the M3. The monument, which is in two areas of protection, comprises a wealth of archaeological features, including a Bronze Age cross dyke, Iron Age banjo enclosure and earthworks relating to the continuous management of the woodland from the medieval period onwards. These features were protected and hidden from view by woodland coverage and many were recorded for the first time during archaeological investigations prior to the construction of the M3 in 1973. Further archaeological features are believed to remain hidden within dense parts of the wood, where survey was impossible.

Itchen Wood, situated on a chalk ridge with an overlay of clay and flint deposits of varying depth, stretches out for approximately 1.2km south of Northington Road. Its present boundaries coincide with those mapped in the mid-18th century, and are thought to have remained unaltered for many centuries before. The northern boundary of the wood is also the parish boundary between Micheldever and Itchen Valley, and is marked by a dry valley, through which Northington Road runs, following the Lunway, a prehistoric route across the Downs. Its western boundary lies along Chillandham Lane, the former boundary between the parishes of Itchen Abbas and Martyr Worthy, prior to the establishment of Itchen Valley parish. These parish boundaries can thus be seen to represent a survival of medieval and earlier boundaries.

One of the earliest prehistoric earthworks in Itchen Wood to have been recorded is a Bronze Age cross dyke situated at the junction of Northington Road and a track bending southwards towards the Itchen Valley. The cross dyke is visible within the fork of two roads as a bank 0.5m high, now supporting ash coppice stools. It continues as a slight rise underneath the track, while its entry point into the Wood is marked by an old oak tree. Within the forest the cross dyke takes the form of two banks with a track running through the central ditch southwards into the wood. It is accompanied by two parallel ditches, 36m long, to the west. The cross dyke and ditches terminate in the south at a plateau, which is bounded on the west by a hollow way, this is well-marked for 90m before fading out gradually further into the forest. North of Northington Road the cross dyke lies within Micheldever Wood, where it is the subject of a separate scheduling.

About 500m south of where the cross dyke enters Itchen Wood, is a banjo enclosure. This has been the subject of a detailed archaeological survey. The earthwork encloses an area of 0.2ha and is defined by a ditch and two banks. The entranceway faces north east and is 80m long, bounded on both sides by banks which stand up to 1m high and measure approximately 7m wide. About 60m to the east and running parallel to the banjo enclosure's entranceway are two ditches, 300m long with a depth of 0.75m. They have been interpreted as prehistoric hollow ways, associated with the banjo enclosure.

An Iron Age field system runs through the centre of the wood, positioned along a 500m long bank, which stands up to 0.3m high. The main part of the earthwork is aligned north west-south east with field boundaries along its eastern aspect. It makes a sharp bend at the northern terminal and continues for another 200m in a south westerly direction. Archaeological investigation has further identified prehistoric earthworks throughout the wood, including enclosures, hollow ways and field systems.

The area of the monument reverted to woodland after the Roman period and became part of a mixed coppiced pasture common, with open areas providing right of way to Itchen Abbots and the Tithing of Chilland to the south. The common was enclosed in 1814 when it came into the ownership of Baroness Bolton and subsequently Lord Ashburton. Throughout the Wood medieval wood banks are visible which delineated properties and excluded animals from the coppices. They survive as banks standing up to 0.5m high. Wood banks were often planted with thick hedges and pollard trees, the stools of which are still preserved in some places.

The field under arable cultivation within the south of Itchen Wood is not included in the scheduling. The modern surfaces of all roads, driveways, fences, gates and other modern structures are excluded from the scheduling, although the ground beneath these features is included.

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

Legacy

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

Legacy System number: 33408

Legacy System: RSM

End of official listing