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Warren in Collins Coppice, Hatfield Forest

A Scheduled Monument in Hatfield Broad Oak, Essex

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Latitude: 51.8553 / 51°51'18"N

Longitude: 0.2299 / 0°13'47"E

OS Eastings: 553667.01281

OS Northings: 219757.157525

OS Grid: TL536197

Mapcode National: GBR MF0.QXW

Mapcode Global: VHHLW.XMWM

Entry Name: Warren in Collins Coppice, Hatfield Forest

Scheduled Date: 9 October 1996

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1015433

English Heritage Legacy ID: 24886

County: Essex

Civil Parish: Hatfield Broad Oak

Traditional County: Essex

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Essex

Church of England Parish: Bush End St John Evangelist

Church of England Diocese: Chelmsford


The monument includes a rabbit warren situated on a gentle south-facing slope
in Hatfield Forest, in an area of wood pasture and woodland. It includes a
total of 22 mounds, of two types (linear pillow mounds and circular rabbit
buries) within an area of about 4ha. The warrener's house at the north edge of
the warren also still stands but is excluded from the scheduling, although the
ground it is included.
Thirteen of the mounds are pillow mounds of linear form, the majority arranged
in three broadly parallel rows aligned north west to south east. The pillow
mounds are sub-rectangular, flat topped, surrounded by a ditch and vary in
length from 13m to 45m. Most are between 20m and 25m long and almost all are
between 7m and 10m wide standing roughly 1m above present ground level. The
mounds in each row are connected by drainage ditches which connect the mound
ditches and which, in the east and west sides of the monument are continued
northwards and southwards to create a rectangular, partly enclosed area.
Concentrated in the southern part of the monument are four circular mounds or
rabbit buries, and further drainage ditches. The rabbit buries are much
smaller than the pillow mounds, 0.4m high and 5m-6m in diameter. These are
encircled by a ditch and are only found within the enclosure. At the south
east corner of the warren is an enclosed annex, measuring roughly 60m north-
south by 100m east-west. This annex has cut into, and partly reused, a
coppice boundary to the east which forms its eastern side. The function and
date of the annex are uncertain but it is believed to be associated with the
refurbishment of the warren in the later 17th century.
Warren Cottage (the home of the warrener who managed the warren) is a 17th
century dwelling house. The square garden has an earthwork bank and ditch
boundary around all four sides, although the earthworks along the southern
side are somewhat degraded.
Warren Cottage, which is Listed Grade II, is excluded from the scheduluing
although the ground beneath it is included.

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

A warren is an area of land set aside for the breeding and management of
rabbits or hares in order to provide a constant supply of fresh meat and
skins. Although the hare is an indigenous species, the tradition of warren
construction and use dates from the 12th century, following the introduction
of rabbits into England from the continent. Warrens usually contain a number
of purpose-built breeding places known as pillow mounds or rabbit buries,
which were intended to centralise the colony and make catching the animals
easier, whether using nets, ferrets or dogs. The mounds vary in design
although rarely exceeding 0.7m in height. Earlier monuments such as burial
mounds, boundary features and mottes were sometimes reused as breeding places.
The mounds are usually surrounded by ditches and contain underlying channels
or are situated on sloping ground to facilitate drainage. The interior of the
mound may also contain nesting places constructed of stone slabs or cut into
the underlying subsoil or bedrock.
A typical warren may contain between one and forty pillow mounds or rabbit
buries and occupy an area up to c.600ha. Many warrens were enclosed by a bank,
hedge or wall intended to contain and protect the stock. Other features
associated with the warren include vermin traps (usually a dead-fall mechanism
within a small tunnel), and more rarely traps for the warren stock (known in
Yorkshire as `types') which could contain the animals unharmed and allow for
selective culling. Larger warrens might include living quarters for the
warrener who kept charge of the site, sometimes surrounded by an enclosed
garden and outbuildings.
Early warrens were mostly associated with the higher levels of society;
however, they gradually spread in popularity so that by the 16th and 17th
centuries they were a common feature on most manors and estates throughout the
country. Warrens continued in use until fairly recent times, finally declining
in the face of 19th and 20th century changes in agricultural practice, and the
onset of myxomatosis. Warrens are found in all parts of England, the earliest
examples lying in the southern part of the country. Approximately 1,000 -
2,000 examples are known nationally with concentrations in upland areas, on
heathland and in coastal zones. The profits from a successfully managed warren
could, however, be considerable and many areas in lowland England were set
aside for warrens at the expense of agricultural land. Although relatively
common, warrens are important for their associations with other classes of
monument, including various forms of settlement, deer parks, field systems and
fishponds. They may also provide evidence of the economy of both secular and
ecclesiastical estates. All well preserved medieval examples are considered
worthy of protection. A sample of well preserved sites of later date will also
merit protection.

The warren at Hatfield Forest survives well and includes at least two phases
of construction and alteration and two types of mound. It is the most
complete surviving example of a large scale warren in Essex. Archaeological
features and deposits relating to the construction and use of the warren will
survive and will allow an insight into this important aspect of medieval
agricultural economy.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Rackham, O, The Last Forest: The Story of Hatfield Forest, (1989)
RCHME, , Hatfield Forest, Essex, (1993)
RCHME, , Hatfield Forest, Essex, (1993)

Source: Historic England

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