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Hampshire Downland National Mapping Programme project

Intensive arable cultivation poses a continuing threat to the extensive archaeological remains across the Hampshire Downs. The results of this mapping project will be used to aid decisions regarding the strategic planning, management and research of archaeological sites and historic landscapes.

Colour aerial photograph showing low earth banks in parkland with an avenue of trees; a road divides the park from pasture
Low earthwork banks of the shrunken medieval settlement of Chilton Candover. The site, which is clearly picked out by the low sunlight, was photographed during English Heritage’s ongoing aerial reconnaissance programme on 29-OCT-2007 ( NMR 24794/9) © Historic England

Project area

The mapping covered some 403 square kilometres of chalk downland bordered by Winchester, Andover and Basingstoke. To the south and west, the project bordered areas previously mapped for the Hampshire South Downs and Hampshire ALSF projects. The downland west of the Test Valley was excluded as it had been mapped for the Danebury Environs Project (Palmer 1984).

The project, undertaken to NMP standards, was carried out by Cornwall Council in partnership with Hampshire County Council. Mapping and recording was carried out between September 2010 and April 2013. The project was funded by English Heritage through the Historic Environment Enabling Programme (HEEP), now Heritage Protection Commissions (HPC).

Colour aerial photo showing two arable fields divided by trees; in one field are marks seen yellow against a green background
A potential Neolithic oval barrow and mortuary site photographed as cropmarks near Sutton Scotney on 20-JUL-1994 (NMR 15143/7) © Crown copyright. HE

The threatened landscape

The Hampshire Downs extend across central parts of Hampshire, and form part of the broad belt of chalk running across southern England, linking Salisbury Plain to the South Downs. Today the downland is a largely open landscape characterised by large fields and intensive arable production.

The Hampshire Downs possess a remarkably rich archaeological resource, much of which has been reduced or levelled by repeated ploughing. This continuing agricultural threat to the extensive below-ground archaeological remains meant that there was a need for up-to-date mapping to NMP standards, using both historic and recent aerial photographs.

The value of historic aerial photographs can be demonstrated by the image below taken on the 21-JUN-1924 during one of the flights for OGS Crawford and Alexander Keiller’s publication Wessex from the Air.

Black and white vertical photograph showing large earthwork enclosure butting against a trackway with large mound to left
An Iron Age hilltop enclosure with associated field system, plus an 18th century commemorative pyramid on a mound, known as Farley Mount, suggested to be a Bronze Age round barrow (ALK 7418/77) Reproduced by permission of Historic England

The revealed landscape

The richness of the cultural landscape of the Hampshire Downlands has been emphasized by the large number of archaeological sites mapped and recorded by the project. 3,096 sites were identified on the aerial photographs, of which 2,103 – 68% – were previously unrecorded. These covered a wide range of site types, and spanned all periods from the Neolithic to the 20th century, demonstrating both the great complexity and intensity of historic use of the landscape within the project area.

Colour aerial photograph showing a series of features as paler lines against the generally darker background of the field
A probable Iron Age settlement enclosure with later Roman villa buildings at Furzedown. Previously unrecorded, the site is clearly visible as cropmarks when photographed here on 10-JUL-1989 (NMR 4440/22) © Crown Copyright. HE

86% of the mapped sites had been levelled, and were recorded as cropmarks or soilmarks, reflecting the long history of intensive agriculture in the region. Only 194 (6.5%) of sites still possessed some degree of above-ground survival as earthworks.

This enhanced awareness of the archaeological resource will aid management of the area’s historic environment on a site-specific as well as strategic level. By looking in detail at the cropmarks, NMP mapping will help define those parts of the Hampshire Downs most sensitive to threats from continued ploughing.

The key findings from the project can befound in the report:

The National Mapping Programme: Hampshire Downland Mapping Project

The National Mapping Programme: Hampshire Downland Mapping Project

Published 17 July 2013

Report from the Hampshire Downland NMP mapping project.

The images used on this page are copyright Historic England unless specified otherwise. For further details of any photographs or other images and for copies of these, or the plans and reports related to the project, please contact the Historic England Archive.

For further information on a project or any other aspect of the work of the Remote Sensing Team please contact us via email using the link below.

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Historic Places Investigation

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