Ancient Monuments

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Strip lynchets on Stopsley Common

A Scheduled Monument in Barnfield, Luton

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Latitude: 51.9059 / 51°54'21"N

Longitude: -0.4066 / 0°24'23"W

OS Eastings: 509712.024048

OS Northings: 224243.979019

OS Grid: TL097242

Mapcode National: GBR TV7.6P

Mapcode Global: VHFRF.WCX7

Entry Name: Strip lynchets on Stopsley Common

Scheduled Date: 4 September 2015

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1425022

County: Luton

Electoral Ward/Division: Barnfield

Built-Up Area: Luton

Traditional County: Bedfordshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Bedfordshire

Church of England Parish: Stopsley St Thomas

Church of England Diocese: St.Albans


A series of strip lynchets, understood to date to the Saxon period but possibly earlier.

Source: Historic England


The strip lynchets are located on an escarpment of the Chilterns on the northern outskirts of Luton, and stretch for c960m from Badgers Hill Road at the southern end to a field boundary at the northern end. They survive as a series of earthworks and buried remains which define six, graduated linear terraces with steps or risers on the down slope (western edge) of each. A trackway divides the flight of lynchets roughly east to west and would have provided access for the plough teams to the individual terraces.

The lynchets form six steps to the north and five to the south of the trackway, which curves down the hillside and links to a footpath leading through the modern housing to the west. On average the terraces are c12m wide while the risers or steps survive as steep banks up to 3.5m high. At the southern end of the scheduled area the earthworks have been cut by a small quarry which has been identified on the first edition Ordnance Survey map (1884) as a chalk pit but documentation also suggests the site of a lime kiln. Beyond the area of assessment to the north the terraces have been ploughed flat as a result of modern agricultural practices although soil marks still indicate the line of the lynchets.

The Historic Environment Record indicates an exploratory archaeological excavation of one of the lynchets has been carried out although the date and details of the work is not documented. The excavation did however reveal that 1.46m of soil had built up against a drystone boundary wall.

The trackway that divides the flight is c200m long and on average is 1.2m wide with a bank along its northern side. A tithe map of 1844 suggests the trackway runs between holdings, and on the 1846 Estate Map one holding is called ‘piece under the steps’. It seems likely that the track either pre-dates or is contemporary with the lynchets, the bank on the south side being caused by the plough moving the soil down the slope away from the trackway. The height of this bank indicates a long period of use and might suggest a Roman or pre-Roman date of origin for the trackway.

The extent of scheduling stretches for c1km from Badgers Hill Road and St Thomas’s Road on the southern edge to a field boundary in the north which marks the boundary between Central Bedfordshire and Luton Unitary Authorities. It is a linear parcel of land which is aligned roughly north to south. On the eastern side it is defined by a modern field boundary fence and remnants of a metal estate boundary fence and on the western edge by an intermittent field boundary fence north of the central trackway. South of the trackway the scheduled area runs along the rear boundaries of properties fronting onto Lippitts Hill.

All modern fences, signs and steps are excluded from the scheduling although the ground beneath all these structures in included.

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

The strip lynchets, at Stopsley Common, of Saxon or earlier date, are scheduled for the following principal reasons:

* Archaeological potential; for the deep and well preserved stratified deposits which have the potential not only to help in identifying the structural features but also the dating of the monument. The buried land surface will harbour important historic environment indicators to help in the understanding of contemporary land use patterns and the historic natural environment;

* Survival: as a discrete and well preserved group of lynchets of considerable scale and quality;

* Vulnerability: as a vulnerable monument on the edge of the urban landscape with huge potential of retaining nationally important archaeological deposits.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
, H. C. Bowen, Ancient Fields, (1962)
Bigmore, P, Beds And Hunts Landscape, (1979)
Evans, J. G., Introduction to environmental archaeology, (1978)
James, Dyer, The Stopsley Book, (2005)
Reynolds, P.J. , Ancient Farming, (1987)
Taylor, C, Fields in the English Landscape, (1975)
Roden, Roden, 'Field systems of the Chilterns' in , Baker and Butlin, Studies of Field Systems in the British Isles , (1973), 352-76
Bedfordshire HER entry 209 - Badgers Hill Lynchets

Source: Historic England

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