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Sheep grazing Coulsdon Common in the past

​Sheep grazing Coulsdon Common in the past

The 'original' Common

The 'original' Common was part of the ‘waste of the manor' of Coulsdon – land that was too poor to cultivate and which was therefore used as rough grazing for livestock. Until the late 19th century, the Common was probably a mixture of heathland and grassland maintained by livestock belonging to the Lord of the Manor and commoners exercising their rights. These activities kept the original Common open and not wooded.

Over time, natural succession changed this predominantly open habitat, through scrub to woodland over much of the original Common. The change from open heathland to woodland has happened on many commons near London as grazing declined in the 19th century.​

Rydons wood

​Rydons wood

Rydon's Wood

This area is shown as dense woodland on the earliest OS maps (1867). It is likely that at least part of it is ancient woodland, managed as coppice with standards and with livestock exclusion to prevent damage to vulnerable new growth. The wood was split into two when its central section was destroyed by installing an underground gas pipeline in the 1960s. We have introduced coppicing to small areas of the wood since the mid 1990s.​

Sheep grazing Merlewood on Coulsdon Common

​Sheep grazing Merlewood on Coulsdon Common

Farmland at Merlewood

A third area of Coulsdon Common is old farmland, comprising three main fields - the Maze, Merlewood Near and Merlewood Far. These areas are relatively open and contain patches of moderately species-rich chalk grassland so it's likely this area was kept open by grazing.

A small estate known as Neville House was built in 1883. You can still see the remnants of the estate today in the outline of the grass tennis court as well as the collection of mature exotic conifers located in Merlewood Near.

Cattle grazing Coulsdon Common

​Cattle grazing Coulsdon Common

Coulsdon Common since 1939

During the War nearby barracks expanded onto Coulsdon Common. Buildings were erected on the Grove, round the Fox Public House and on the southern edge of the football pitch. As the war progressed more of the Common was requisitioned until by 1945 the whole Common was taken.

Neville House was used as a forces' billet during the War but was pulled down shortly after 1945. All the army buildings were removed from the Common by 1960. You can still see brick rubble and the outline of buildings during summer drought in the Grove.

Grazing with sheep and cattle was restored to Coulsdon Common during the 1990s to maintain the open and natural aspect.​​

13 March 2012
Last Modified:
20 August 2018