Hampshire South Downs National Mapping Programme project
The project revealed a rich and varied archaeological landscape within the new South Downs National Park. The results of the National Mapping Programme (NMP) project are used to inform decisions regarding strategic planning, management and research of archaeological sites and historic landscapes.
The historic environment
The South Downs is a landscape of recognised and designated natural beauty. In addition, the variety and extent of the archaeological remains of the South Downs represent one of the richest cultural landscapes in England. Much of this landscape, however, is masked by current land use. The incomplete knowledge of the archaeological resource was identified as a key issue in the South Downs Management Plan consultation draft. Hampshire South Downs NMP was one of a number of projects carried out by English Heritage (now Historic England) within the South Downs National Park.
The archaeological survey was undertaken principally to provide information to inform decisions regarding the strategic planning, management, preservation and research of archaeological sites and historic landscapes within the Hampshire South Downs. The results assist the implementation of the historic environment elements of the South Downs Management Plan.
The Hampshire South Downs NMP project was carried out to English Heritage’s National Mapping Programme (NMP) standards and covered that part of the new South Downs National Park that lies within the county of Hampshire. The project was funded by the Historic Environment Enabling Programme (now replaced by Heritage Protection Commissions - Project No 5174).
Mapping took place between December 2007 and March 2010 and was carried out by the Historic Environment Service of Cornwall County Council. Data resulting from the survey has been incorporated in the Hampshire Archaeology and Historic Buildings Record (AHBR) database and Geographic Information System (GIS).
As a result of the project 3,509 archaeological sites were interpreted, mapped and recorded in the project database. 87% of these were newly identified having not been recorded previously. This is partly due to the scope of the project being wider than the past remit of Hampshire’s Archaeology and Historic Buildings Record (AHBR). However, it is particularly significant that 77% of all prehistoric and Roman sites mapped during the project were newly identified.
The prehistoric landscape
Few monuments from the Neolithic period were identified but those that were include a possible cursus monument. More research is needed to confirm the interpretation of the cursus but, if proven it will be the first such feature recorded in Hampshire.
Many Bronze Age barrows were mapped, of which more than half were newly identified during the project. Many of the previously known barrows are sited in prominent positions on high ground, whereas some of the newly identified sites are on lower lying land such as in the coombes and valleys.
Extensive Celtic fields are a feature of the prehistoric landscape and again more than half of those mapped were previously unrecorded. Their distribution is overwhelmingly centred on the chalklands and virtually all are plough-levelled.
The survey revealed much evidence for Iron Age and Romano-British settlement in the form of enclosures and enclosure complexes. There is a much greater range of settlement types on the chalk; elsewhere settlement is characterised by infrequent small discrete enclosures not obviously associated with fields.
The medieval landscape
Twelve deserted or shrunken medieval settlements and a further six possible settlements were recorded. For the most part these are located in the eastern part of the project area, including on the Greensand landscape. Far more evidence of the medieval fieldscape was mapped in the form of plough-levelled boundaries but, typically for Hampshire, there was little evidence for terraced lynchets or ridge and furrow.
The post medieval agricultural landscape is characterised by extensive water meadows throughout the valleys of the Itchen and Meon and at a few locations in the northeast. A number of dewponds were also identified in the form of cropmark or soilmark pits or hollows.
One important finding was a large number of small circular soilmarks interpreted as possible post medieval charcoal burning platforms in the heavily wooded area around East Tisted. Although there is no well documented charcoal industry in Hampshire these features suggest that charcoal production was more extensive than previously realised.
A relatively small number of 20th century military and defensive sites were recorded compared with previous NMP projects in Hampshire. The most notable aspect is a series of large camps in the Itchen valley dating from the First World War. The identification of training trenches associated with these camps on the nearby downland is an important discovery.
The key findings from the project can be found in the report
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.
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