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Excavation on Farthing Downs in 1948

​1948 excavation of Farthing Downs

Farthing Downs is a relic agricultural and pastoral landscape, having been grazed by livestock brought on from the surrounding farmland for hundreds of years. Farthing Downs has a long history of human activity and has several nationally important archaeological features. Past excavations have revealed fragments of Neolithic pottery and an Iron Age pit. The site received Scheduled Monument status in 1948 following detailed excavations by Hope-Taylor. 

A prehistoric fieldway (trackway) predates the Celtic field system described by archaeologists. There is also a mid-seventh century early Anglo-Saxon cemetery of 14 to 15 barrows (burial mounds) and nine flat grave burials.

The Downs were virtually treeless until scrub started spreading after 1930, its growth continuing unchecked during World War II. Extensive areas of scrub were cleared in the late 1960s, although some patches were left and form mature clumps today.

Past land use on New Hill

​Past land use on New Hill


New Hill

In the 18th century New Hill was divided into 12 open fields. The rich grassland flora on the upper slope of Eight and Ten Acre fields suggests these areas were not cultivated, sprayed or fertilised. However, we know from photographs that fields on the slopes of New Hill, facing Farthing Downs, were ploughed from World War II until 1962.

New Hill was bought for housing development in the 1930s and bulldozers carved out the route of two roads before the outbreak of war in 1939 halted progress. After the war, New Hill was designated Metropolitan Green Belt, ensuring it remained undeveloped.

Veteran coppice stool

​Veteran coppice stool 

Veteran trees

There are notable trees on the site, represented mainly by boundary trees as well as mature coppice and maiden trees located in relic shaws, shelter belts and hedgerows. The lines of old yew trees on the western and eastern boundaries are an important feature.  Some of these trees may be veterans.


13 March 2012
Last Modified:
18 July 2019