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Ravensdale deer park, lodge, mill and fishpond

A Scheduled Monument in Mercaston, Derbyshire

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Latitude: 52.9838 / 52°59'1"N

Longitude: -1.5934 / 1°35'36"W

OS Eastings: 427392.4827

OS Northings: 343018.6486

OS Grid: SK273430

Mapcode National: GBR 5BL.ZY8

Mapcode Global: WHCFF.H8GC

Entry Name: Ravensdale deer park, lodge, mill and fishpond

Scheduled Date: 8 March 2004

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1021232

English Heritage Legacy ID: 35605

County: Derbyshire

Civil Parish: Mercaston

Traditional County: Derbyshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Derbyshire

Church of England Parish: Mugginton and Kedleston All Saints

Church of England Diocese: Derby


The monument includes the earthwork and buried remains of Ravensdale deer park
and those of the associated lodge, mill, fishpond and trackway all of which
lie within eleven separate areas of protection. The site is situated within
four parishes, the present parish boundary for Ravensdale Park partly utilises
this monument's park pale or boundary bank. The park sits in an undulating
landscape which slopes generally to the south. It is divided by three ridges
which run roughly north to south forming three valleys. Black Brook runs down
the western valley, the central valley of Ravens `dale' is dry although
seasonally waterlogged, and Hungerhill Brook emerges and drains the eastern

Ravensdale deer park was a distinctive part of the Royal Forest of Duffield
Frith which since 1285 had been essentially run as a Royal Forest with its own
Forest Courts. After the Norman Conquest in 1066 Henry de Ferrers was given
over one hundred manors in Derbyshire which became known as the Honor of
Tutbury. He was allowed a private forest which was initially based on Duffield
and remained within de Ferrers ownership until their lands were confiscated in
1266. They passed to Edward, Earl of Lancaster and then directly to the crown
in 1399 when Henry Duke of Lancaster became King Henry IV. Ravensdale was one
seven deer parks within Duffield Frith and later contained the hunting lodge
which was visited by royalty and other nobility throughout the 14th and 15th

The earliest reference to Ravensdale is in 1230 when rights were granted to
make a fishpond and mill there. The first reference to a park at Ravensdale is
in 1297-98. There are many documents referring to repairs both to the park and
lodge and to timber felled. There are also many surveys which record the type
of trees being grown and their condition at the time. The last known reference
to the lodge and park pale is in 1565 when it is recorded that both were in
reasonable condition. In 1633 the whole of Duffield Frith was disafforested.

The perimeter of the park is defined by a substantial boundary
known as a park pale. This comprises a large earth bank, which would
originally have been topped by a fence or hedge, and flanked by an internal
ditch. At Ravensdale it is estimated that approximately 88% of the boundary
bank survives to a height of 0.5m or more. The surviving width of the bank
varies from section to section ranging from 1m up to 8m. Very little of the
ditch is visible from the surface. It is quite common for the ditch to have
been infilled at a later date as the surrounding landuse changed but at
Ravensdale it is believed to survive as a buried feature. The infilled ditch
is approximately 4m wide and is included in the scheduling adjacent to the
internal edge of the bank.

A short section of a ditch is apparent just north of Chapel Farm. Here the
ditch survives to a depth of approximately 2m and 4m wide but its true form
has been distorted by quarrying and the subsequent reinstatement of the land
to the east of the pale. There is evidence that the natural landscape was
taken into account during the construction of the pale and this would
eliminate the need for an internal ditch along certain sections of the
perimeter. This is particularly noticeable where the pale follows the eastern
edge of the Old Covert. Here the bank survives up to 9m wide and up to 1.5m
high from the internal ground surface. To the west of the bank the ground
drops away steeply into the Old Covert and therefore functions in much the
same way a ditch would have done, to allow deer into the park but to prevent
them from leaving. Use of the land in this way is also apparent to the south
of Ling Hill where the drop of the hill serves the same function as a ditch to
the pale.

The perimeter of the deer park was broken by gates. Documentary sources have
identified Shuckton Gate and Corkley Gate, both being mentioned in expense
accounts from 1313-15 when repairs were made to them. These gates were created
by offsetting the boundary bank to form funnel type entrances. This
arrangement would allow movement of animals and people in and out of the park
to be monitored. Another offset entrance is evident at the point where Hunger
Lane meets the park pale south east of Brook Farm. An entrance also existed
where Ravensdale Park Road crossed the pale just east of Parkhill Farm and
this road exited in the vicinity of Schoolhouse Farm in the south. From
Mugginton Lane End to Lawn Cottage this road survives as a terraced track but
continues south as a green sunken lane with a dense mixed species hedgerow
marking both sides. At Park Farm a narrow sunken track leads off to the east
but the main route continued down through Ravensdale itself. The sunken track
continues south of Park Farm for approximately 70m. This section survives as a
deep gully marked by a hedgerow on its eastern side. South of this point part
of the track has been removed by quarrying and the subsequent reinstatement of
the land to the east. Another surviving stretch of the lane begins at grid
reference SK27784390 and runs south for approximately 190m. This section
survives as a terraced track marked by a mixed species hedgerow on both sides.

Another feature of the deer park is the medieval deer course. This is
approximately one mile (1.6km) and 87m wide and is most clearly understood
when viewed on a map or aerial photograph. It is evident as a sinuous feature
running from just east of Parkhill Farm to approximately 250m east of Hill Top
Farm. The course is particularly sophisticated following the eastern side of
Ravensdale itself through the park. Although other courses are known to have
had the same valley-side position Ravensdale is thought to be by far the best
and at present the earliest known example of a nationally rare deer park
feature. Other deer courses tended to follow the valley bottom. The course
would originally have been hedged or walled along its length on both sides but
is currently defined by broken stretches of field boundary some of which are
clearly modern and others of which retain ancient hedgerow species. Because
the original boundary of the course only survives fragmentarily, it is not
included in the scheduling but its importance should not be underestimated.
The continuing respect shown for the course of the chase demonstrates its
importance as a landscape feature.

Deer coursing is a pastime which probably developed in the 12th or 13th
centuries from the simple chasing of deer across country with dogs. It became
a complicated and well organised spectator sport. The deer, usually one or
two, were chased by greyhounds along a hedged or walled track to a finishing
post. Sometimes the hounds were allowed to kill the deer but more usually it
was a race to see which dog reached the winning post first. In this case the
deer was allowed to escape. Aristocratic spectators usually viewed the race
from a grandstand close to the finishing post or followed it on horseback
along the outside of the course. At Ravensdale the medieval lodge is situated
approximately 150m north east of Schoolhouse Farm. Fieldwalking and
geophysical survey have revealed the existence of a high-status building which
is confirmed by 14th century documentation. It is situated on a spur
overlooking the southern end of the park, a prime position for viewing the end
of the deer course and the ornamental fishpond or lake further to the south.
Aerial photographs show a `D' shaped enclosure once surrounded the lodge
suggesting that it may have been moated. Documentary sources record that in
1314 30 shillings were spent on pales to enclose a small park round the
building at Revensdale. Such a feature may have been associated with the
moated lodge. During the medieval period a moat was considered to be a symbol
of wealth and power and again supports the evidence that the lodge at
Ravensdale was a high status building.

At the southern end of Ravensdale park, to the east, south and west of
Schoolhouse Farm are the earthwork and buried remains of a mill, mill dam and
fishpond. This area of the site is very wet boggy and represents the largest
and most species rich valley mire in Derbyshire. This area of the park is also
protected as a Site of Special Scientific Interest. Access to this area is
limited due to waterlogging but the mill, mill dam, inlet and outlet leats to
and from Black Brook and various platforms are clearly visible on the west
side of the access track to Schoolhouse Farm. These remains survive as both
earthwork and buried remains.

To the east of the track is another flat, open, and waterlogged area. This
is believed to be the remains of the fishpond or lake. Lakes of this type have
been recognised all over England as decorative features of high status
medieval deer parks. At Ravensdale the fishpond would have provided a
reflective setting for the lodge.

Given Ravensdale's royal ownership it is not surprising that the landscape
within the park was ornamental especially in the area of the park overlooked
by the lodge. The park itself was a medieval designed landscape. The lake or
fishpond would be practical as well as ornamental and would have served as a
food source for visitors as well as a water supply for the deer. Situated at
the end of the deer course the lake would offer welcome refreshment for the
animals at the end of the chase.

All modern field boundaries, gates, fences, sheds, yard and track surfaces are
excluded from the scheduling, although the ground beneath these features is

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

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

Deer parks were areas of land, usually enclosed, set aside and equipped for
the management and hunting of deer and other animals. They were generally
located in open countryside on marginal land or adjacent to a manor house,
castle or palace. They varied in size between 3ha and 1600ha and usually
comprised a combination of woodland and grassland which provided a mixture of
cover and grazing for deer. Parks could contain a number of features,
including hunting lodges (often moated), a park-keeper's house, rabbit
warrens, fishponds and enclosures for game, and were usually surrounded by a
park pale, a massive fenced or hedged bank often with an internal ditch.
Although a small number of parks may have been established in the Anglo-Saxon
period, it was the Norman aristocracy's taste for hunting that led to the
majority being constructed. The peak period for the laying-out of parks,
between AD 1200 and 1350, coincided with a time of considerable prosperity
amongst the nobility. From the 15th century onwards few parks were constructed
and by the end of the 17th century the deer park in its original form had
largely disappeared. The original number of deer parks nationally is unknown
but probably exceeded 3000. Many of these survive today, although often
altered to a greater or lesser degree. They were established in virtually
every county in England, but are most numerous in the West Midlands and Home
Counties. Deer parks were a long-lived and widespread monument type. Today
they serve to illustrate an important aspect of the activities of medieval
nobility and still exert a powerful influence on the pattern of the modern
landscape. Where a deer park survives well and is well-documented or
associated with other significant remains, its principal features are normally
identified as nationally important.

Ravensdale medieval deer park survives well and significant evidence of its
original form and method of construction will be preserved within the
earthwork and buried remains. It is unusual for such a high proportion of the
park pale to survive and for the remains of the associated internal features
such as the mill, fishponds and lodge to survive. The waterlogged deposits in
and around the site of the mill and the fishpond potentially retain important
environmental, ecofactual and archaeological deposits. Such deposits can
provide vital information relating to the physical landscape and the way it
was managed before, during and after the medieval period. Ravensdale deer park
was a major component of the medieval landscape. It was the primary deer park
of seven within the Royal Forest of Duffield Frith and contained the Royal
hunting lodge of Duffield Frith. The level of survival of the archaeological
remains combined with the documentary evidence is again rare and taken as a
whole provides an insight into the construction, development and use of deer
parks during the medieval period and their position within the wider landscape
both during and since their use.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Connolly, P, Hill Top Farm, Ravensdale Park, Derbyshire Geophysics survey, (2000)
Connolly, P, Hill Top Farm, Ravensdale Park, Derbyshire Geophysics survey, (2000)
Duffield Frith Research Group, , Ravensdale Medieval Deer Park, (2001)
Taylor, C, Deer Coursing, (2003)
from web site:, accessed from
Information given in a letter, Taylor, C, Ravensdale Medieval Deer Park, (2003)
Phoenix Consulting Archaeology Ltd, Richmond, Andy , Archaeological assessment Ravensdale Deer Park, (2002)
Title: 1st Edition Ordnance Survey Map
Source Date: 1870

Source: Historic England

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