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Mere End Down Romano-British field system

A Scheduled Monument in Letcombe Bassett, Oxfordshire

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Latitude: 51.5325 / 51°31'57"N

Longitude: -1.473 / 1°28'22"W

OS Eastings: 436654.310887

OS Northings: 181644.470246

OS Grid: SU366816

Mapcode National: GBR 6YQ.SHZ

Mapcode Global: VHC17.FR51

Entry Name: Mere End Down Romano-British field system

Scheduled Date: 19 February 2014

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1415438

County: Oxfordshire

Civil Parish: Letcombe Bassett

Traditional County: Berkshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Oxfordshire


A Romano-British regular aggregate field system with associated trackway, field entrances and field bank.

Source: Historic England


A Romano-British regular aggregate field system with associated trackway and bank on a west facing slope on the Berkshire/Wessex Downs.

The field system at Mere End Down is the only extant part of a larger system which surrounds it. The field system includes a series of lynchets running NW-SE from which transverse lynchets spring running NE-SW. The most prominent lynchets are those which run NW-SE since these are at right angles to the slope of the land and therefore received the greatest accumulation of soil creep during periods of ploughing. These major lynchets stand to about 1.3m high, and the largest of the transverse lynchets to about 1m high. The lynchets extend into the arable field to the W where ploughing has denuded them, but they can still be seen standing to about 0.3m high although much spread. None of the fields are of uniform size, but the fields in the E part of the system are in the range of about 75m by 100m; that part of the system under arable to the W appears from air photographs to be subdivided into smaller units of about 70m by 30m.

To the E of the lynchets is a ditch about 3m wide by 0.8m deep which is a trackway alongside the field system, and to its E a berm of about 8m wide with a bank 0.7m high beyond. This bank appears to be a lynchet associated with the adjacent part of the field system to the E. Travelling N the berm narrows as the track and lynchet come closer together. About halfway along its length the ditch dog-legs slightly to the W where there appears to be an entrance into one of the fields.

At its N end the ditch continues into the adjacent arable field. It cannot be seen on the ground, but is visible on air photographs and is recorded on the Ordnance Survey map as continuing for a further 142m N into the field. Although having been ploughed over the ditch will retain archaeological information and environmental evidence relating to the field system and the landscape in which it was constructed. On the Berkshire 1882 County Series of historic maps this ditch is shown to dog-leg (in a similar fashion to the section to the S) just to the N of the modern field boundary.

The scheduled area covers an area 422m E-W by 673m N-S and for the most part follows the field boundaries depicted on the Ordnance Survey map or extensions of those boundaries. At its south side and on part of its west side the scheduled area abuts the county boundary with West Berkshire. At the north end of the monument the extension of the trackway within an arable field has a margin of protection of 15m on its W side where it is vulnerable to ploughing and to protect associated features such as field entrances and lynchet abutments.

All fences and drinking troughs are excluded from the scheduling but the ground beneath them is included.

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

The Mere End Down Romano-British field system, including its associated trackway and bank and an extension of the trackway to the north, are scheduled for the following principal reasons:

* Period: the regular aggregate field system and its associated features are representative of the Romano-British period and provide good evidence of the management and exploitation of this area at that time;
* Survival/rarity: the regular aggregate field system survives well and, being a rare type, there is a presumption in favour of designation when such features survive to any substantive degree; as is the case here;
* Fragility/vulnerability: these earthworks, although well managed and in pasture at the present time, could be destroyed by ploughing and the complexity of the relationship between the earthworks lost;
* Potential: there is potential for archaeological and environmental evidence to be retained in the lynchets and ditch fills;
* Diversity: the trackway and field entrances are recognised components of regular aggregate field systems.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Winton, H, Mere End Down Letcombe Bassett, Oxfordshire Aerial Photographs as a Resource for Conservation Management, English Heritage Research Department Report Series no 53, (2009)
Bowden, M, Ford, S, Mees, G, 'Berkshire Archaeological Journal' in The Date of the Ancient Fields on the Berkshire Downs, , Vol. 74, (1991-3), 109-130
Rhodes, P P , 'Oxoniensia vol XV' in The Celtic Field-Systems On The Berkshire Downs, , Vol. XV, (1950), 1-28
Air Photograph SU 3681/18 SU366817 09-JAN-2000 NMR 18657/18,

Source: Historic England

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