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Multi-period site in Itchen Wood

A Scheduled Monument in Itchen Valley, Hampshire

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Latitude: 51.1179 / 51°7'4"N

Longitude: -1.2464 / 1°14'46"W

OS Eastings: 452845.413216

OS Northings: 135666.067813

OS Grid: SU528356

Mapcode National: GBR 96P.XBQ

Mapcode Global: VHD0Y.B5YD

Entry Name: Multi-period site in Itchen Wood

Scheduled Date: 2 March 1982

Last Amended: 26 November 2004

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1021319

English Heritage Legacy ID: 33408

County: Hampshire

Civil Parish: Itchen Valley

Traditional County: Hampshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Hampshire

Church of England Parish: The Itchen Valley

Church of England Diocese: Winchester


The monument includes a multi-period site at Itchen Wood, situated east of
the A33 and cut at the north western tip by the M3. The monument, which is
in two areas of protection, comprises a wealth of archaeological features,
including a Bronze Age cross dyke, Iron Age banjo enclosure and earthworks
relating to the continuous management of the woodland from the medieval
period onwards. These features were protected and hidden from view by
woodland coverage and many were recorded for the first time during
archaeological investigations prior to the construction of the M3 in 1973.
Further archaeological features are believed to remain hidden within dense
parts of the wood, where survey was impossible.

Itchen Wood, situated on a chalk ridge with an overlay of clay and flint
deposits of varying depth, stretches out for approximately 1.2km south of
Northington Road. Its present boundaries coincide with those mapped in the
mid-18th century, and are thought to have remained unaltered for many
centuries before. The northern boundary of the wood is also the parish
boundary between Micheldever and Itchen Valley, and is marked by a dry
valley, through which Northington Road runs, following the Lunway, a
prehistoric route across the Downs. Its western boundary lies along
Chillandham Lane, the former boundary between the parishes of Itchen Abbas
and Martyr Worthy, prior to the establishment of Itchen Valley parish.
These parish boundaries can thus be seen to represent a survival of
medieval and earlier boundaries.

One of the earliest prehistoric earthworks in Itchen Wood to have been
recorded is a Bronze Age cross dyke situated at the junction of
Northington Road and a track bending southwards towards the Itchen Valley.
The cross dyke is visible within the fork of two roads as a bank 0.5m
high, now supporting ash coppice stools. It continues as a slight rise
underneath the track, while its entry point into the Wood is marked by an
old oak tree. Within the forest the cross dyke takes the form of two banks
with a track running through the central ditch southwards into the wood.
It is accompanied by two parallel ditches, 36m long, to the west. The
cross dyke and ditches terminate in the south at a plateau, which is
bounded on the west by a hollow way, this is well-marked for 90m before
fading out gradually further into the forest. North of Northington Road
the cross dyke lies within Micheldever Wood, where it is the subject of a
separate scheduling.

About 500m south of where the cross dyke enters Itchen Wood, is a banjo
enclosure. This has been the subject of a detailed archaeological survey.
The earthwork encloses an area of 0.2ha and is defined by a ditch and two
banks. The entranceway faces north east and is 80m long, bounded on both
sides by banks which stand up to 1m high and measure approximately 7m
wide. About 60m to the east and running parallel to the banjo enclosure's
entranceway are two ditches, 300m long with a depth of 0.75m. They have
been interpreted as prehistoric hollow ways, associated with the banjo

An Iron Age field system runs through the centre of the wood, positioned
along a 500m long bank, which stands up to 0.3m high. The main part of the
earthwork is aligned north west-south east with field boundaries along its
eastern aspect. It makes a sharp bend at the northern terminal and
continues for another 200m in a south westerly direction. Archaeological
investigation has further identified prehistoric earthworks throughout the
wood, including enclosures, hollow ways and field systems.

The area of the monument reverted to woodland after the Roman period and
became part of a mixed coppiced pasture common, with open areas providing
right of way to Itchen Abbots and the Tithing of Chilland to the south.
The common was enclosed in 1814 when it came into the ownership of
Baroness Bolton and subsequently Lord Ashburton. Throughout the Wood
medieval wood banks are visible which delineated properties and excluded
animals from the coppices. They survive as banks standing up to 0.5m high.
Wood banks were often planted with thick hedges and pollard trees, the
stools of which are still preserved in some places.

The field under arable cultivation within the south of Itchen Wood is not
included in the scheduling. The modern surfaces of all roads, driveways,
fences, gates and other modern structures are excluded from the
scheduling, although the ground beneath these features is included.

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

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

Itchen Wood contains a unique collection of archaeological features
ranging in date from the prehistoric to the medieval period. Due to
woodland coverage from the medieval period, the preservation of these
features is exceptional and many survive as earthworks, in contrast to the
surrounding area, where such remains have been largely destroyed by
development and arable cultivation. The archaeological features relate to
a range of different activities, from farming to those associated with
burial and settlement, while natural remains, such as trees and coppice
stools hundreds of years old, further highlight the interaction between
the man made and natural environment. Combined, this wealth of
archaeological evidence presents a diverse picture of the different stages
of occupation of Itchen Wood and a rare insight into the evolution of a
landscape over the centuries.

The earliest evidence of major activity in the wood stems from the Bronze
Age and includes a cross dyke. Cross dykes are substantial linear
earthworks typically between 0.2km and 1km long and comprising one or more
ditches arranged beside and parallel to one or more banks. They generally
occur in upland situations, running across ridges and spurs. They are
recognised as earthworks or as cropmarks on aerial photographs, or as a
combination of both. The evidence of excavation and analogy with
associated monuments demonstrates that their construction spans the
millennium from the Middle Bronze Age, although they may have been reused
later. Current information favours the view that they were used as
territorial boundary markers, probably demarcating land allotment within
communities, although they may also have been used as trackways, cattle
droveways or defensive earthworks. Cross dykes are one of the few
monuments which illustrate how land was divided up in the prehistoric
period. They are of considerable importance for any analysis of settlement
and land use in the Bronze Age. Very few have survived to the present day
and hence all well-preserved examples are considered of national

The Iron Age in Itchen Wood is represented by a field system, hollow ways
and a banjo enclosure, which has additional value as part of a cluster of
at least four such enclosures in Itchen and Micheldever Wood. Banjo
enclosures were the dwelling places or stock enclosures of prehistoric
communities, mostly constructed and used during the Middle Iron Age
(400-100 BC), although some remained in use to the mid-first century AD.
The enclosures consist of a central area (rarely larger than 0.4ha),
usually oval or sub-rectangular, encircled by a broad steep-sided ditch
and an external bank. The circuit is characteristically broken by a single
entrance to either side of which the ditch and bank extend for up to 90m
away from the enclosure forming an avenue or approach, hence the term
`banjo'. The entrance to this avenue is sometimes formed by `antennae'
ditches, giving a funnel-like appearance; or it may be connected to a
transverse linear ditch. Where excavated, some banjo enclosures have been
found to contain extensive evidence of habitation, including storage and
refuse pits, and evidence for wooden structures provided by postholes and
drainage gullies. These features, together with the ditches, generally
contain abundant artefacts, and can provide environmental evidence
illustrating the landscape in which the monument was set. The enclosures
are often associated with a range of Iron Age monuments, including other
types of enclosures, field systems, track ways and other settlement forms.
The evidence from these sites, together with their relationship with other
monument types provide important information concerning the diversity of
social organisation and farming practices amongst prehistoric communities.
Banjo enclosures are largely known from cropmarks and soilmarks recorded
from the air, although a few survive as earthworks. About 200 are known,
the majority of which are located in Wessex and around the Upper Thames
Valley. Elsewhere they are very rare, with isolated examples recorded in
Sussex, Bedfordshire and Cambridgeshire. All known examples are worthy of

The many wood banks preserved in Itchen Wood represent valuable evidence
for the history of woodland management from the medieval period to the
present day. In conjunction with documentary evidence for the ownership
and exploitation of the wood, the system of boundary banks helps to
explain the medieval and post-medieval development of this rare surviving

Source: Historic England

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