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Regular aggregate field system, associated trackway and Anglo-Saxon barrow field on Farthing Downs, 490m east of Hooley Farm

A Scheduled Monument in Coulsdon East, Croydon

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Latitude: 51.3055 / 51°18'19"N

Longitude: -0.1367 / 0°8'11"W

OS Eastings: 529984.040869

OS Northings: 157915.002185

OS Grid: TQ299579

Mapcode National: GBR G6.D7L

Mapcode Global: VHGRY.LG31

Entry Name: Regular aggregate field system, associated trackway and Anglo-Saxon barrow field on Farthing Downs, 490m east of Hooley Farm

Scheduled Date: 29 November 1932

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1002013

English Heritage Legacy ID: LO 88

County: Croydon

Electoral Ward/Division: Coulsdon East

Built-Up Area: Croydon

Traditional County: Surrey

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Greater London

Church of England Parish: Coulsdon St John the Evangelist

Church of England Diocese: Southwark


The monument includes a regular-aggregate field system, associated trackway and Anglo-Saxon barrow field surviving as earthworks and below-ground remains. It is situated along a steep-sided ridge of chalk downland, known as Farthing or Fairdean Downs, which overlooks Coulsdon.
On each side of the trackway are field banks orientated broadly east to west. These enclosed areas are divided by cross-lynchets and form rectangular fields, which are generally less than 2.5 acres in size. A group near the south-western corner of the site are particularly well preserved with lynchets over 2m high.
The trackway or fieldway is orientated north to south and runs along the ridge for at least 1.4km from a point near Stepping Stone Cottage at the south end of the monument. A modern roadway, Downs Road, runs parallel to the trackway a short distance to its east. The trackway survives as an earthwork denoted by lynchets in places and banks with ditches elsewhere.
During the Second World War, the field system was partially disturbed when anti-aircraft trenches where dug across the site. Two late Neolithic or early Bronze Age flint axes, burnt flints, flakes and flake tools were recovered from the ditches. Other finds associated with the field system include pottery dating between the end of the first century BC and the early second century AD, a Late Iron Age marling pit and a 4th century Roman coin. The field system is thought to have been in cultivation during the Late Iron Age and early in the Roman period.
An Anglo-Saxon barrow field is also situated along the ridge. The barrows are circular mounds varying between 3.5m and 12m in diameter. There are two distinct groups of barrows; one at the northern end of the ridge which comprises at least nine barrows, and another about 380m further south on the crest of the ridge with at least three barrows. There are also two outlying barrows towards the southern end of the site. The northern group is located in close proximity to, and generally respecting, the Romano-British trackway which is thought to have continued in use during the early medieval period. More barrows have been recorded on the site in the past and it is likely that these survive as buried remains. Partial excavation was carried out on the site in 1760, 1871, 1939, 1948, 1950, 1992, 2005 and 2006. A large number of Anglo-Saxon burials were recovered from the mounds. The burials were interred within the barrows as well as in groups of flat-graves. A total of 26 burials have been recorded and these are thought to date to about the mid-7th century AD. They were found with extensive grave goods including knifes, spearheads, a sword, a gold disc pendant, a shield-boss, an iron ring, silver hipped pins, glass beads, a bone comb and iron shears. Other finds on the site have included a single Neolithic or early Bronze Age pit, a late Bronze Age razor, and the discovery of cart ruts running along the alignment of the trackway.
The monument excludes the surfaces of Downs Road, all modern buildings, all fences and fence posts, gates and gate posts. However the ground beneath all these features is included.

Sources: NMR TQ25NE17, TQ25NE12, TQ35NW6, TQ25NE10, TQ35NW11, 5Q25NE16. PastScape 400066, 400049, 403801, 400045, 403816, 400063.
Geake, H, The use of grave-goods in conversion-period England c.600-c.850, BAR British Series 1 (1997), 181-2
Hope-Taylor, B, 'Two Flint Axes from Farthing Down, Coulsdon', In Surrey Archaeological Collections, Surrey Archaeology Society, Vol 49 (19XX), 94-98
Hope-Taylor, B, 'Celtic Agriculture in Surrey', In Surrey Archaeological Collections, Surrey Archaeology Society, Vol 50 (19XX), 47-72
Meaney, A, A gazetteer of early Anglo-Saxon burial sites (1964), 240-1

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

Regular aggregate field systems date from the Bronze Age (2000-700 BC) to the end of the fifth century AD. They usually cover areas of up to 100ha and comprise a discrete block of fields orientated in roughly the same direction, with the field boundaries laid out along two axes set at right angles to one another. Individual fields generally fall within the 0.1ha-3.2ha range and can be square, rectangular, long and narrow, triangular or polygonal in shape. The field boundaries can take various forms (including drystone walls or reaves, orthostats, earth and rubble banks, pit alignments, ditches, fences and lynchets) and follow straight or sinuous courses. Component features common to most systems include entrances and trackways, and the settlements or farmsteads from which people utilised the fields over the years have been identified in some cases. These are usually situated close to or within the field system. The development of field systems is seen as a response to the competition for land which began during the later prehistoric period. The majority are thought to have been used mainly for crop production, evidenced by the common occurrence of lynchets resulting from frequent ploughing, although rotation may also have been practised in a mixed farming economy.
Barrow fields are groups of between five and 300 closely-spaced hlaews, or burial mounds, dating to the early medieval period. The usually circular mounds, some of which are surrounded by an encircling ditch, were constructed of earth and rubble and covered one or more inhumation burials. These were deposited in west-east aligned, rectangular graves cut into the underlying bedrock. Cremation burials, sometimes deposited in pottery urns, have also been found. Many burials were furnished with accompanying grave goods, including jewellery and weapons, and, at two sites, wooden ships were discovered within large mounds. Most barrow fields were in use during the pagan Anglo-Saxon period between the sixth and seventh centuries AD, although barrows dating to the fifth and eight centuries AD have also been found. The distribution of barrow fields is concentrated within south eastern England, particularly in prominent locations on the Kent and Sussex Downs. Barrow fields provide important and otherwise rare archaeological information about the social structure, technological development and economic organisation of the people who constructed and used them.
Despite some disturbance in the past, the regular aggregate field system and associated trackway on Farthing Down survive well. The field system and trackway give an indication of the type of land use which occurred on this part of the Downs in the Iron Age and Romano-British periods and suggests a population in the vicinity which was able to exploit this resource. The continued use of the field system from the Iron Age into the Romano-British period, its possible association with Romano-British settlement and the re-use of the area in the Anglo-Saxon period add to its interest.

Source: Historic England

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