Principal Investigator: Dr Paul Everill, Senior Lecturer in Applied Archaeological Techniques
Established by order of William the Conqueror in 1079, the New Forest had already been a favourite royal hunting ground for some time. Documentary evidence for the hunting lodges themselves, however, is relatively sparse, with the first recorded that of King John’s 'principal house in the Forest' at Beaulieu.
In 1204 the land was given to the Cistercian order for the building of an abbey. King John then had a new house built at Romsey; in 1221 this was given to the abbess of Romsey by King Henry III. For much of the remainder of the 13th century, the ‘keepership’ of the Forest was granted to the reigning queen, and apart from brief mention of King Edward I visiting the deer park at Lyndhurst, or repairs being carried out in preparation for another of his visits in 1297, there is very little evidence for the location of royal hunting lodges – if indeed any existed outside of Lyndhurst. It was not until the reign of King Edward III (r.1327-1377) that historical sources described the construction and maintenance of a number of royal hunting lodges.
The location of the hunting lodges is not particularly clear, with the exception of those where surviving earthworks and placenames make an association very likely, as with Studley (Studley Castle) and Queneboure (Queen Bower, near Brockenhurst). The lodges are most commonly observed today as a platform of about 40 m2, enclosed by a shallow but wide bank and outer ditch.
The project aims to combine archaeological investigation (invasive and non-invasive techniques; and environmental sampling) with historical research, in order to better understand the form, lifespan, and relationship to the Forest landscape, of this group of earthworks.
The project team carried out geophysicical investigations in Feb/March 2016 and the first season of excavation took place in May/June 2016. Dr Everill returns in May 2017 for the second (and final) field season, however it is anticipated that other medieval earthworks of the same type in the Forest will be excavated over the next few years.