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Romano-British and Iron Age buildings, field system and hollow ways in the southern part of Holt Down Plantation

A Scheduled Monument in Clanfield, Hampshire

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Latitude: 50.9537 / 50°57'13"N

Longitude: -0.974 / 0°58'26"W

OS Eastings: 472164.500025

OS Northings: 117644.567211

OS Grid: SU721176

Mapcode National: GBR CCV.0L9

Mapcode Global: FRA 86VL.8CS

Entry Name: Romano-British and Iron Age buildings, field system and hollow ways in the southern part of Holt Down Plantation

Scheduled Date: 28 July 1971

Last Amended: 11 December 2001

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1020135

English Heritage Legacy ID: 33959

County: Hampshire

Civil Parish: Clanfield

Traditional County: Hampshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Hampshire

Church of England Parish: Buriton St Mary the Virgin

Church of England Diocese: Portsmouth


The monument is situated on the southern slopes of a chalk scarp known as Holt
Down and includes the remains of Romano-British and presumed Iron Age
structures and an area of field system within which they are situated.
Limited excavations carried out on Holt Down in 1923 revealed a number of
walls belonging to a Romano-British building or a successive series of
buildings on the same site. The walls were constructed of flint and mortar and
appeared to define at least four rectangular rooms, all in close proximity,
three of which were aligned either east to west or north to south and the
fourth north west to south east. Only the most southerly room was excavated in
its entirety and proved to be 4m in length and 3.6m in width. Its walls varied
between 0.6m and 0.8m in thickness and had painted wall plaster showing a
simple geometric design executed in red, brown and yellow on a white
background. In contrast to the high quality wall decoration, the internal
floor was of trampled clay, whilst debris associated with the destruction of
the building suggested that it had once been roofed with sandstone and ceramic
tiles. A rubbish pit to the east of the excavated room produced animal bone,
oyster shells, sherds of Roman New Forest and Samian ware pottery and a small
figurine of Venus. These and a series of coins from the pit, including those
of Trajan, Caracalla, Gallienus, Tetricus, Urbs Roma and Constantine, suggest
that the buildings were occupied between the first and fourth centuries AD. A
sketch plan based on a series of aerial photographs taken in 1926 prior to
afforestation also appears to show the lines of further walls in the vicinity
of the structures excavated. The most extensive of these defined a series of
rooms orientated WNW to ESE and covering an area approximately 50m by 30m.
Taken together, the three different orientations of the structures revealed
either by excavation or aerial photography suggest that construction was not a
single event.
Field survey during 1997 confirmed that the Roman buildings were situated
within an extensive field system, parts of which were probably contemporay
with them or had been modified during the Roman period, but the majority of
which seem to be earlier and of Iron Age date. This interpretation of the
chronology appears to have been corroborated by the identification of two
groups of features situated 200m ENE and 200m ESE respectively of the Roman
buildings. The southerly group consisted of three collapsed drystone
structures, two of which were built upon a field boundary and abutted on their
northern side by a hollow way or trackway, orientated east to west, which
appeared to have been edged by a drystone wall. The third structure was
situated at the foot of the same field boundary. The northern group of
features included an east to west orientated terrace which had been cut at
right angles by a short length of hollow way. A circular depression at the
southern end of the hollow way was interpreted as a pond whilst a spread of
burnt flint was identified within the surrounding area. The precise dating and
function of both sets of features is not known, but the presence of Iron Age
pottery, burnt flint and small quantities of charcoal within one of the
drystone structures suggests that they pre-dated the Roman buildings to the
north west and, given their small internal area, possibly fulfilled some
industrial or agricultural purpose rather than being used as dwellings.
The field boundaries within which the other remains are situated define a
series of rectangular enclosures, the long axes of which are orientated along
the contours of the slope. In many places the cross-contour boundaries have
been buried by the downslope movement of soil brought about by long periods of
cultivation resulting in the formation of lynchets. The field system formerly
continued to the north and across the valley to the south. Survival in the
area to the north, however, appears to be more fragmentary, while the field
banks to the south have been levelled by arable cultivation; neither area is
therefore included in the scheduling.
All sign boards and fences are excluded from the scheduling, although the
ground beneath them is included.

The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

Romano-British farmsteads are small agricultural units comprising groups of up
to four circular or rectangular houses along with associated structures which
may include wells, storage pits, corn-drying ovens and granary stores. These
were sometimes constructed within a yard surrounded by an enclosure, and
associated field systems, trackways and cemeteries may be located nearby. Most
Romano-British farmsteads in south east England have been discovered by the
analysis of aerial photographs. They usually survive in the form of buried
features visible as crop and soil marks and very occasionally as low
earthworks. Often situated on marginal agricultural land and found throughout
the British Isles, they date to the period of Roman occupation (AD 43-450).
Although Romano-British farmsteads are generally regarded as low status
settlements, with the members of a small kinship group pursuing a mixed
farming economy, the buildings within Holt Down Plantation appear to be both
more substantial and of a higher quality than those usually encountered within
settlements of this type. Socially they may have fallen somewhere between
simple agricultural dwellings and villas, since the latter often also
incorporated mosaic floors, under-floor heating and were at the centre of
small estates, none of which is readily apparent at Holt Down. However, the
Roman buildings within Holt Down Plantation are situated within an existing
field system, itself a characteristic of farmsteads, which often show a marked
continuity with later prehistoric settlements.
Romano-British farmsteads occur throughout southern England, but cluster on
the chalk downland of Wessex, Sussex and Kent. As the most representative
form of rural settlement in the region during the Roman period, all
Romano-British farmsteads which have been positively identified and which
have significant surviving remains will merit protection.
Regular 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 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. 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. Regular aggregate
field systems occur widely and represent a coherent economic unit often
utilised for long periods of time, and can thus provide important information
about developments in agricultural practices in a particular location and
broader patterns of social, cultural and environmental change over several
centuries. Those which survive well or which can be positively linked to
associated settlements are considered to merit protection.
The Romano-British and Iron Age buildings, field system and hollow ways in the
southern part of Holt Down Plantation survive well as a series of earthworks
and buried deposits. These deposits will contain information about the dating,
layout and economy practised within the areas of occupation and the associated
field system. Environmental material preserved within the old land surface
beneath represents an unusually complete group. Not only do they show evidence
of use over a long period of time, with occupation from at least the Iron Age
through to the end of the Roman period, but they are a rare survival on the
chalk downland which has otherwise been subjected to intensive arable

Source: Historic England

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