Ancient Monuments

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Purlieu Bank, Epping

A Scheduled Monument in Theydon Bois, Essex

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Latitude: 51.6827 / 51°40'57"N

Longitude: 0.0975 / 0°5'50"E

OS Eastings: 545099.6744

OS Northings: 200300.723

OS Grid: TL450003

Mapcode National: GBR NZ.R6N

Mapcode Global: VHHML.MYWX

Entry Name: Purlieu Bank, Epping

Scheduled Date: 4 April 2016

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1427620

County: Essex

Civil Parish: Theydon Bois

Traditional County: Essex

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Essex

Church of England Parish: Epping St John

Church of England Diocese: Chelmsford


Two stretches of a C13 purlieu bank, comprising a bank, ditch and track near Epping.

Source: Historic England


The C13 boundary known as Purlieu Bank, survives in the form of a track, ditch and hedge-topped bank at two locations near Epping: at Theydon Bois Golf Club and in Epping Lower Forest.

The stretch of purlieu bank at Theydon Bois Golf Course runs northwards between NGR 545094 200106 and 545121 0200491, and measures approximately 385m in length. The boundary of the former historic forest comprises a ditch, which is bounded to the west (interior of the historic forest) by a tree-lined track, and bounded to the east (exterior of the historic forest) by a bank topped with a hedge. The ditch measures up to 0.8m in depth and the bank measures up to 0.9m in height, from the current land surface and has a combined width of up to 7.9m. In its original form the ditch and bank may have had a combined height of 3-4 metres but silting of the ditch and natural attrition on the top of the bank over time has reduced the scale of the earthworks. To the west of the ditch and running parallel is an historic trackway. The track survives as a level terrace c2.5m wide lined on both sides by trees and with a low bank on the western edge.

The bank, ditch and track are intersected by a gravel path at NGR 545113 200346, and by a bridge at NGR 545113 200360, both running on an east-west axis. North of the intersection the line of the purlieu bank, ditch and historic trackway is less clearly defined. The gravel path appears to follow the line of the historic track but has been terraced into the current ground surface and will have degraded any surviving remains of the historic features in this area. It also appears that section of the ditch north of the intersection has been partly re-cut by a mechanical excavator in modern times, presumably as part of the routine maintenance of the golf course.

Another stretch of the purlieu bank survives in Epping Lower Forest, to the north-east of Epping and approximately 3.5km north-east of Theydon Bois Golf Course. This stretch of purlieu bank runs east-north-east between NGR 547090 202957 and 547168 202987, and measures approximately 85m in length, truncated to the north-east by flooded quarries and their associated earthworks. The ditch and bank at the Lower Forest are slightly wider than the section at Theydon Bois, having a combined width of up to 8.6m. Here the bank survives a little higher although, conversely, the ditch is not as deep. The ditch here has largely silted up through natural processes but is still evident. In contrast to the bank at Theydon Bois, that in the Lower Forest is not topped with a hedge.

The two areas of protection include the track, ditch and bank of the purlieu bank. The following features are excluded from the scheduling: modern paths and track surfaces, fences and signs, although the ground beneath all of these is included.

The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract. It includes a 2 metre boundary around the archaeological features, considered to be essential for the monument's support and preservation.

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

The two sections of C13 purlieu bank at Theydon Bois Golf Club and Epping Lower Forest are scheduled for the following principal reasons:

* Rarity: as a very rare surviving example of a C13 purlieu bank. A physical manifestation of the signing of Magna Carta in 1215 and the controversial setting out of the boundaries of the royal forest. The charter became the fundamental principal of English justice, the basis of the United States Constitution and part of the law of all modern democracies.

* Documentation: with both historical documents and recent archaeological survey providing considerable detail of the construction, development, function and significance of the boundary.

* Group value: for the close proximity to a number of scheduled monuments including the Iron Age monuments of Amresbury Banks and Loughton Camp, and the medieval manorial settlement of Hill Hall and Ongar Park Pale all of which aid the understanding of the landscape development and the context in which the purlieu banks were constructed.

* Survival: the two stretches of purlieu bank survive in good condition, with the ditch and bank system measuring up 1.7m from base of the ditch to the top of the bank.

* Potential: for the depth of silted deposits in the ditch which offer considerable potential for the survival of significant archaeological material including waterlogged organic material. The buried land surface beneath the bank also has the potential to retain significant information about the landscape in which the boundary was constructed, providing a stratigraphic relationship which, if analysed, will enhance our knowledge and understanding of the chronological sequence of the purlieu bank and the wider landscape in which it functioned.

Source: Historic England


Holder, Nick and Bazley, Ken, 'Survey and Historical Investigation of the Purlieu Bank and other historic forest boundaries', report for the City of London Corporation, October 2011

Source: Historic England

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