Area 25: Linkenholt, Litchfield & Hannington

Downland stretching between Oxenwood to the West and the edge of the AONB at Quidhampton and Upper Wootton to the East. It straddles the Wiltshire Hampshire border.

There is an extensive area of Later Prehistoric field systems around Linkenholt and Faccombe and to the East in Wiltshire, for example around Smay Down. Surviving areas of unaltered pre 1700 fields and open chalk downland can be used to illustrate early pre modern land use. There is evidence of the post medieval pottery industry at Inkpen

Download the full Historic Landscape Character Area Description and Significance Statement

Present Day Historic Landscape Character

Ribbon like areas of unenclosed chalk downland survive across the North-East of the area associated with steep slopes not suitable for modern agriculture and with small recent regular woodland plantations.

There is a high survival of pre 1700 enclosure interspersed with reorganised and amalgamated fields. These are modern fields formed through the consolidation of existing, historic, enclosures into more regular holdings, usually to enable more efficient, mechanised arable agriculture. This type is usually created through a mixture of boundary removal and realignment of existing fields. The commonest origin of this type is where irregular boundaries of historic fields are straightened and more regularly-shaped fields are created in their place. There is usually some trace of the prior field-system visible in these modernised fields.

The small historic parks and gardens survive in today’s landscape. On the North-East side of the area there is a mosaic of replanted ancient woodland and ancient woodland.

Layers in the Landscape

In the East on the dip slope behind the scarp as it runs across towards Kingsclere, there are two Neolithic long barrows and quite a number of features of Neolithic date clustered onto the open downland. This suggests that the downland landscape has been evolving as a farmed landscape from this time. Whilst no Bronze Age settlement has been found there are a number of undated simple enclosures which may yet be established to be of Bronze Age date. The field systems which have been plotted from cropmarks may in some cases have Bronze Age origins, and it remains possible that some elements of the evidence of early farming landscape structure may emerge. There are also quite a number of burial mounds in the area. Extensive Celtic field systems and numerous Iron Age settlements indicate that this area was farmed and settled in the Iron Age. There are a number of Roman sites, particularly on the edge of the Test in the South. However no villas have been found, and it might be possible to suggest that the farmed and settled landscape continues to evolve in the Roman period, being ‘newly settled’.

To the West the light and general spread of Mesolithic material, with a preference for areas close to water courses, suggests that the area was only lightly exploited. There is little evidence of Neolithic or Bronze Age settlement and landscape exploitation, although there is some settlement and burial mound evidence overlooking the Test.

This pattern continues into the Iron Age and the core of the character area probably remained under-exploited, perhaps suggesting a late evolution of this part of the landscape. However, there is an extensive area of Celtic field systems around Linkenholt and Faccombe, and to the East in Wiltshire, for example around Smay Down. It is critical to understand whether these are of Iron Age or Roman in date as this may suggest when an agricultural landscape started to emerge. It is notable that there is a relationship between the Celtic field systems embedded in the woods at Faccombe and Celtic field systems still traceable within the present landscape.

The area was dominated by a Medieval pattern of nucleated dispersed settlements surrounded by open fields which exploited the open grazing of downland areas on higher ground. These were enclosed pre 1700. Areas of pre 1700 irregular fields are concentrated to the North of the area. These are irregularly-shaped fields and slotted into the framework of the landscape established by roads and tracks and open field strips, suggesting that they were enclosed on a gradual, piecemeal basis. The South and East of the area is associated with regular pre 1700 enclosure. These regular shaped fields were probably created following an agreement between local land-holders and farmers to rationalise and enclose holdings in common fields but obscure these earlier traces much more effectively.

Ancient woodland was common with small blocks scattered across the landscape. Designed pre 1700 to 1900 parkland was less common than in other areas with small parklands being associated with Fosbury house for example.

Historic Settlement Character

The historic settlement pattern is dispersed. Apart from the hamlet/ farm clusters and isolated farms, pre 1800 settlement is rare and is represented by irregular row settlement in the North-West corner of the area around Inkpen Common and one nucleated settlement in the far Eastern side at Hannington.

Historic Farmstead Character

Large pre 1800 historic farmsteads are spread thinly throughout the area with notable concentrations in the far South-East and North-West. There is a concentration of hamlets and farm clusters related to the belt of dispersed woodland which runs between Buttermere and Litchfield.