The excavations in Denny Inclosure – directed by Dr Paul Everill from the University’s Department of Archaeology in collaboration with the New Forest National Park Authority – are focused on the remains of a medieval forester’s lodge.
A number of hunting lodges were constructed in the New Forest by order of King Edward III in the mid-fourteenth century. The site at Denny – a Scheduled Ancient Monument protected by law – shares a number of similarities with known royal sites and may indicate that they were initially foresters’ lodges before being converted to accommodate the king during his hunting trips. The reign of King Edward III is the epitome of the English age of chivalry, when he and his knights would return from war and engage in hunts that fostered the martial spirit.
The current project represents a new collaboration between archaeologists at the University of Winchester and the New Forest National Park Authority, and plans to encompass a number of related sites over the next few years. It builds on the historic links between Winchester, as the ancient capital of England, and the New Forest.
The New Forest National Park Authority is supporting the excavations with advice and volunteer time. They hope to shine light on this fascinating period of the New Forest’s past, encouraging more people to appreciate the area’s heritage and care for its special landscape.
Dr Everill, Senior Lecturer in Applied Archaeological Techniques, said: “Working to help tell the story of the New Forest is such a fantastic local opportunity and provides a superb training experience for our students, especially for those targeting graduate employment in British archaeology.
“This excavation is revealing more about the rich history of the New Forest, and the acidic, sandy soil at the site presents a number of challenges. Some archaeological materials do not survive well in this soil, but we have already defined the extent of the enclosing bank and ditch and now hope to retrieve evidence for the date of construction.
“We have been fortunate to work closely with our colleagues in the National Park throughout this process, and are grateful for the specialist support and advice we have received.”
Frank Green, New Forest National Park Authority Archaeologist, said: “Working closely with our archaeological colleagues from the University of Winchester is an exciting opportunity to further our knowledge of this part of the New Forest’s past.
“The excavation on the site at Denny Wait provides a rare opportunity to find new evidence on lodges as the last archaeological excavation on this type of site was a hundred years ago. Modern scientific dating techniques and the ability to recover information about the site’s use can now provide us with a much better understanding and the potential for more accurate dating of the site.
“We hope this will lead to similar work on other lodge sites as part of a much larger project that will expand our knowledge of potential Royal hunting sites from the medieval period.”
In addition to the research goals, the excavation has already provided an opportunity for a group of school children participating in the Jon Egging Trust’s Blue Skies Programme to gain experience of archaeology and to develop teamwork skills. It allowed the children to build on class-based skills learnt at the University of Winchester a fortnight earlier.
Dr Everill’s team has been granted permission by Historic England, Natural England and the Forestry Commission to continue excavations at the site until 17 June.
A print-ready image of the excavation is available to download by clicking here