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Medieval woodland boundary in Darenth Wood

A Scheduled Monument in Darenth, Kent

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Coordinates

Latitude: 51.4312 / 51°25'52"N

Longitude: 0.2711 / 0°16'15"E

OS Eastings: 557971.356617

OS Northings: 172694.456788

OS Grid: TQ579726

Mapcode National: GBR X6.F12

Mapcode Global: VHHP1.N955

Entry Name: Medieval woodland boundary in Darenth Wood

Scheduled Date: 24 April 1978

Last Amended: 4 January 1996

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1013378

English Heritage Legacy ID: 27012

County: Kent

Civil Parish: Darenth

Built-Up Area: Bexley

Traditional County: Kent

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Kent

Church of England Parish: Darenth St Margaret

Church of England Diocese: Rochester

Details

The monument, which falls into four areas, includes a medieval woodland
boundary in Darenth Wood, situated on the south eastern side of the modern
town of Dartford. The irregularly-shaped, sinuous boundary survives in
earthwork form and encloses a wood of around 35.5ha, managed during the
medieval period and later as coppice with oak standards. The boundary has a
total width of up to 12m, with a rounded bank surviving to a height of up to
0.5m, flanked along most of its length by an outer ditch up to 0.5m deep. The
coppice has a smaller annexe to the south east shown by part excavation to
have been constructed at a slightly later date than the main enclosure. To the
north, slight traces indicate the former existence of a further annexe,
destroyed by the construction of the A296 road in 1921. Several small gaps in
the enclosure earthworks have been interpreted as representing original
entrances into the wood, although the boundary has also been partly damaged in
places by the construction of a modern road, by footpaths, vandalism and
tipping.
The woodland boundary was partly excavated in 1964 when its age was indicated
by pottery sherds discovered within the bank dating to the period AD 1200-
1250. At this time the manor of Darenth was held by the See of Canterbury.

MAP EXTRACT
The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.
It includes a 2 metre boundary around the archaeological features,
considered to be essential for the monument's support and preservation.

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

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.

Although sections have been partly destroyed by modern road building, the
medieval woodland boundary in Darenth Wood is of an early date and survives
well. Its earthworks are comparatively large for this type of monument, and
have been positively dated by part excavation. The monument will also contain
environmental evidence relating to the way in which the wood was exploited
during its period of use.

Source: Historic England

Sources

Books and journals
Caiger, J, 'Archaeologia Cantiana' in Darenth Wood, its Earthworks and Antiquities, , Vol. 79, (1964), 77-94
Other
ASP source no 5, RCHME, TQ 57 SE 38, (1965)

Source: Historic England

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