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Multi-period site in Micheldever Wood

A Scheduled Monument in Micheldever, Hampshire

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Coordinates

Latitude: 51.134 / 51°8'2"N

Longitude: -1.2432 / 1°14'35"W

OS Eastings: 453044.729105

OS Northings: 137461.280798

OS Grid: SU530374

Mapcode National: GBR 96H.Y6S

Mapcode Global: VHD0R.DRLK

Entry Name: Multi-period site in Micheldever Wood

Scheduled Date: 13 September 1963

Last Amended: 26 November 2004

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1021320

English Heritage Legacy ID: 33409

County: Hampshire

Civil Parish: Micheldever

Traditional County: Hampshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Hampshire

Church of England Parish: Micheldever St Mary the Virgin

Church of England Diocese: Winchester

Details

The monument includes a multi-period site in Micheldever Wood, situated
immediately east of the A33 and cut by the M3. The monument, which is in
three areas of protection, comprises a wealth of archaeological remains,
including burial sites and linear boundaries of the Bronze Age, occupation
areas of the Iron Age and Roman period, 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 mapped for the first time during archaeological
investigations, conducted prior to the construction of the M3 in 1973.
While only five sites were known before these investigations, 21 sites and
41 linear features were recorded as a result. Further archaeological
features are believed to remain hidden within dense parts of the wood
where survey was impossible, as is indicated by the chance discovery of a
Bronze Age triple barrow and evidence of flint working industry, and Iron
Age banjo enclosure.

Micheldever Wood, situated on the Upper Chalks with an overlay of clay and
flint deposits of varying depth, covers an area of over 200ha. Its present
boundaries coincide with those mapped in 1730, and are thought to have
remained largely unaltered for many centuries previously. The southern
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. The
south eastern wood boundary coincides with the parish boundary between
Northington and Micheldever and a Bronze Age cross dyke at the very south
eastern tip of the wood. These parish boundaries can thus be seen to
represent a survival of medieval and earlier boundaries.

The Bronze Age cross dyke, which is amongst the few archaeological
features to have been documented prior to 1973, is positioned across the
Lunway to continue south into Itchen Wood, where it is the subject of a
separate scheduling. The northern part of the cross dyke is approximately
90m long and consists of a 3m wide bank, flanked by two ditches,
accompanied by smaller outer bank on the east. A medieval wood bank
continues in a northerly direction from its northern terminal.

At the centre of the wood, approximately 600m NNW of the cross dyke's
northern terminal, a linear Bronze Age earthwork transverses the wood
east-west. In most places it consists of several banks, which stand up to
0.5m high, and accompanying ditches. Along the linear earthwork are
several smaller north east-south west running banks, forming an extensive
field system. Two burial mounds, which were subject to antiquarian
excavations, are positioned in close proximity of the linear earthwork. At
the western edge of the wood is a bowl barrow situated immediately north
of the linear earthwork. It measures 25m in diameter and 2m high with a
large hollow in the mound left by early excavations. About 600m to the
south east along the same earthwork is a bell barrow, which stands 1.8m
high with a 23m diameter. It is surrounded by a 5m wide berm and a 3.5m
wide ditch accompanied by traces of an outer bank.

About 1km NNW of the cross dyke's northern terminal, is an Iron Age banjo
enclosure, comprising an internal area of 0.2ha, surrounded by a 6m-8m
wide ditch. Its entrance way lies in the east and continues as a 450m long
ditch running in a north easterly direction to the edge of the wood.
Another banjo enclosure is situated approximately 700m to the SSE, which
encloses an 0.3ha area with a 7m wide ditch. To the east is its 50m long
entrance way, which terminates in a sunken triangular area, enclosed by
ditches, from where a 260m long ditch continues in a northerly direction.
Of probable Iron Age date are two hollow ways forming a horseshoe shaped
area about 650m north west of the car park. These hollow ways, which
consist of a ditch with banks on either side, measure on average 10m wide.
The southern arm splits in several places.

Approximately 1.4km NNW of the cross dyke's northern terminal is a
Romano-British settlement complex, which was occupied from the first to
the fifth century AD and connected to the Roman Winchester to Silchester
road by two hollow ways. The first evidence of Romano-British occupation
emerged in 1844, when some Roman coins where discovered. The subsequent
investigations of 1846 revealed foundations of walls, a hoard of coins and
further artefacts, including a brooch and pottery. The central buildings
survive as two flint rubble platforms; one of which runs east-west and
measures 60m long by 10m wide. At a right angle is a wing measuring 30m
long and 17m wide, which probably extended further north. The complex is
surrounded by garden terraces, hollow ways and further settlement remains
to the north. Starting at the north eastern tip of the building complex is
a hollow way running in a north westerly direction, measuring 6m wide,
while a second track runs west towards the road from the south western
edge of the site. The latter splits to form two parallel tracks of 4m and
5m wide. Evidence from archaeological investigations suggests that both
tracks were cobbled. At right angles along the hollow ways are field
boundaries, which are visible as slight earthworks up to approximately
0.3m high. An early Romano-British field system consisting of a hollow way
and north-south running lynchets partly survives north west of the
settlement.

The area of the monument reverted to woodland after the Romano-British
period and formed part of the Royal Forest of Pamber. Charters of the
tenth to the thirteenth century name five main divisions within the area
that is now Micheldever Wood, two of which seemed to have been held by
Hyde Abbey: Magna and Parva Papenholt. The medieval and post-medieval wood
banks, which marked property boundaries and kept animals out, survive in
many parts of the wood and are visible as banks standing up to 0.5m high
accompanied by outer ditches. These banks were often planted with thick
hedges and pollard trees, some stools of which are still in place. After
the dissolution of Hyde Abbey, Micheldever Wood was purchased by Thomas
Wriotheseley, later the Earl of Southampton, and subsequently held by the
Duke of Bedford and Baron Northbrook. In 1919 the Wood came into the care
of the Forestry Commission.

All wooden buildings, the modern surfaces of all driveways, fences, gates
and other modern structures such as bins, picnic tables and interpretation
boards are excluded from the scheduling, although the ground beneath these
features is included.

MAP EXTRACT
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
Kent.

Micheldever Wood contains a unique collection of archaeological features
ranging in date from the prehistoric to the medieval period. Due to
woodland coverage since 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 in
Micheldever Wood relate to different spheres of prehistoric life, from
burial and settlement to farming and manufacturing of tools, and present a
diverse picture of the past communities which occupied the area. Apart
from the structural and artefactual evidence preserved in and underneath
the earthworks, they will contain, as archaeological investigations
indicate, organic deposits, which will shed light on the environmental
conditions (climate, flora and fauna) since their construction. The
evidence of the medieval woodland management is enriched by certain
natural features of considerable age, including trees and coppice stools
over a hundred years old, which provide valuable information on the
interaction between the man made and natural environment. Combined, this
wealth of archaeological evidence provides a rare insight into the
evolution of a landscape from the early Bronze Age onwards.

Whilst archaeological investigations have revealed some evidence of
Mesolithic and Neolithic activity in the wood, the evidence for the Bronze
Age occupation of the area is extensive. At the eastern edge of the wood
is a Bronze Age cross dyke which acted as a landmark and boundary feature
through the centuries and is now part of the Micheldever and Northington
parish boundary. 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 anlysis 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 to be of national importance.

Micheldever is exceptional in that it contains further evidence of the
demarcation of the Bronze Age landscape in the shape of a linear boundary over
850m long, which consists of multiple ditches and banks. Linear boundaries
usually extend over distances varying between less than 1km to over 10km. The
scale of many linear boundaries has been taken to indicate that they were
constructed by large social groups and were used to mark important boundaries
in the landscape, their impressive scale displaying the corporate prestige of
their builders. They would have been powerful symbols, often with religious
associations, used to define and order the territorial holdings of those
groups who constructed them.

Placed along this important boundary are two burial mounds: a bowl barrow
and a bell barrow. These barrows remain largely intact. The bowl barrow was pa
group, elements of which were destroyed during the construction of the M3.
Barrows were constructed as earthen or rubble mounds, sometimes ditched,
which covered single or multiple burials. Barrows occur either in
isolation or grouped as cemeteries and often acted as focus for burials in
later periods. Often superficially similar although differing widely in
size, they exhibit regional variations in form and diversity of burial
practices and provide important information on the beliefs and social
organisations amongst early prehistoric communities. A substantial
proportion of examples are considered worthy of protection. While bowl
barrows were constructed from the Late Neolithic period to the Late Bronze
Age (c.2400-700 BC), the construction of bell barrows was confined to the
Early and Middle Bronze Age with most examples belonging to the period
1500-1100 BC. Bell barrows are enclosed by a characteristic berm as well
as ditch and often contain burials accompanied by weapons, personal
ornaments and pottery, which appear to be those of aristocratic
individuals, usually men. As a particularly rare form of round barrow, all
identified bell barrows are normally considered to be of national
importance.

The Iron Age in Micheldever Wood is first of all represented by an unusual
cluster of three banjo enclosures, one of which was excavated prior to the
construction of the M3, providing rare evidence on the activities in and
surrounding the enclosure. The area surrounding the banjo enclosures will
preserve the relationship between the enclosures and the subsequent
Romano-British settlement. 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
greater 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
extended 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, trackways
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 considered worthy of protection.

The Roman period saw continued extensive occupation of the area centred on
a major building complex linked to the Roman Winchester-Silchester road.
Very limited excavation means its precise character and extent are not
well understood, yet as buildings, gardens, a field system and other
settlement features remain preserved, it will contain important
information on the organization of the Romano-British rural landscape.

The many wood banks preserved in Micheldever 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 landscape.

Source: Historic England

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