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Ancient woodland

Originally part of the Bishop of London's Hunting Park, Highgate Wood is 28 hectares of ancient woodland predominantly made up of hornbeam coppice and oak standard trees. The size of the hornbeam coppice stools indicates that it was working woodland for many hundreds of years, with the hornbeams being cut on a rotational basis and used predominantly for firewood, charcoal making and tool handles. The oak standards were grown as single stem trees and used for house building, ship building and other purposes.

Past names and uses

Highgate Wood has had a number of names over the years; it was once known as Brewers Fall, when it was leased to local breweries in Highgate, with the hornbeam being used to fire the brewing process and the oak being used to make the barrels. Previous to that it was known as Gravel Pit Wood, when gravel was extracted from the west side of the Wood.

Many of the historical maps of Highgate Wood indicate that there has always been a field within the woodland and this is now used for sporting activities. On one map it was named as Brickfield indicating it was used for brick making. More recently during the Second World War the field was used by the government to anchor barrage balloons in an attempt to protect the railway line close by and during dry summers you can still see the remnants of one of the barrage balloon concrete anchor points.

Roman pottery and ancient earthworks

During the 1960s and 70s archaeological excavations at the north side of the Wood established that kilns were producing pottery for about 150 years from around AD43. The Roman pottery produced is known as Highgate Ware and was transported to Londinium some six miles south. Evidence of this emerged when some Highgate Ware pots were discovered in the drainage sumps of the Londinium Amphitheatre which was found under the Guildhall Yard in the City of London in 1988.

There is also a large ancient earthwork running through the Wood which has been mapped by the Museum of London but its origins are unknown.

Highgate Wood Heritage Assessment

This document explains just how important the historical features and records of Highgate Wood are and will be of great interest to anyone interested in the past and how today's wood is a product of human action.

Historic Highgate Wood – a self-guided walk (3MB)

08 December 2015
Last Modified:
30 August 2019