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Monument details

HER Number:TR 15 SW 6
Type of record:Monument


Large earthwork, comprising at least four distinct enclosures, within Iffin Wood is almost certainly the remains of the Medieval manor of Iffin. Depicted on the 1838 Tithe Map the site is called Iffin Castle, and a ruined chapel is described by the county historian Hasted in 1790. The chapel, dedicated to St Leonard, is mentioned in 1185, and the manor is mentioned in various documents between circa 1086 and 1465, but appears not to have been mentioned after the 15th century which is presumably the period of desertion. Investigation of a mound contained within an enclosure at the south west corner of the site indicated it had been formed by debris from a demolished flint building, possibly the chapel described by Hasted. Excavation in 1983 located the main walls.

Grid Reference:TR 1358 5397
Map Sheet:TR15SW

Monument Types

  • ENCLOSURE (ENCLOSURE, Unknown date)
  • MANOR? (MANOR, Medieval - 1066 AD to 1465 AD)
  • SETTLEMENT (Medieval - 1066 AD to 1465 AD)
  • CHAPEL (Medieval to Unknown - 1185 AD?)

Full description

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[TR 13515383] Earthworks [NR] (site of) (NAT) (1) In Iffin Wood, a mile from Heppington, there were traces "of an ancient camp, the outward trenches of which contain about 8 acres, of which only two acres are level and connected, the rest being cut cross-ways, and in different directions into several separate mounts and ridges. There are numbers of different intrenchments throughout this large wood, and one vallum especially which runs on the the Stone-street road." (2) The earthworks "consist of a rectangular enclosure with subsidiary banks and ditches;but they defy description, and short of a plan must be left alone. They may well be Medieval." (3) The earthworks are centred at TR 13575397 and comprise two contiguous rectangular bank and ditch enclosures measuring overall 150.0m by 70.0m. The SW corner of the site has been badly mutilated by old flint workings and the feature is crossed by a woodland track. The earthworks are non-defensive and probably Md. but no documentary evidence had been found to confirm the date and purpose. There are numerous other banks of weaker construction, sometimes with a ditch, throughout the wood; also the hollow-way of an old road. Earthworks surveyed at 1:2500. (4) Iffin Wood lies four kilometres (2.5 miles) south of Canterbury and one kilometre (0.625 mile) due west of Heppington. It is just to the west of Stone Street and lies between 100 and 110 metres (325-360 feet) above sea-level on Clay-with-flints over Upper Chalk. The wood is partly in three parishes, Petham (to the south), Lower Hardres (formerly Nackington) and Thannington Without (to the north). On the boundary of the latter two parishes but mostly now in Lower Hardres (Nackington) is a large earthwork site which consists of a least four distinct enclosures (centred on NGR TR13575397). The earthworks are depicted on the 1838 Tithe Map and called "Iffin Castle", and Hasted also describes the remains of a ruined chapel at the site. These remains are mostly in coppice woodland, though the western side is just cut into by dense coniferous woodland, planted about 20 years ago, and the present owner would like to bulldoze them and the coppiced area and turn the land into arable. No part of Iffin Wood is a scheduled Ancient Monument, though apart from the earthworks mentioned above, the wood contains two round barrows (a - b), at least two dene holes, several "dewponds", and many small banks and ditches (?ancient field-systems). The main earthwork system is almost certainly the remains of the Medieval manor of Iffin which is mentioned in many documents, particularly the Cartulary of St. Gregory's Priory, Canterbury (c), between c.1086 and 1465. This manor, the chapel of which (dedicated to St. Leonard) is mentioned in 1185, was originally part of Thannington and it is likely that the undefined boundary that is shown on the Ordnance Survey maps (and the Tithe Map) is wrong. The boundary now passes through the north-western side of the earthworks, but from the alinement further north, it can be suggested that originally the boundary went along the southern and eastern sides of the earthworks putting them all into Thannington. The main earthworks were surveyed and described in 1965 by A.S. Phillips (auth 4) of the Ordnance Survey and though he quotes from Hasted he failed to record Hasted's description of the chapel which isas follows: "At the north corner of thes camp are the remains of an oblong square building of stone, the length of it standing east and west. At the east end is a square rise against the wall, seemingly for an alter, and a hollow in the wll on one side. The foot or pedestal of a seemingly Gothic pillar, such as were made for churches was some years ago found among the rubbish in it." (d) This chapel has now been relocated in a separate small enclosure at the south-westcorner of the site. Hasted’s "north" is clearly wrong, and it seems very likely that the flint-walled building, which is c. 5.6 metres by 15.5 metres and just visible in a raised mound, is the c. 12th century chapel of St Leonard.
The three larger enclosures to the east of the chapel enclosure are similar in many ways to a moated site and presumably contained the other, timber-framed buildings of Iffin Manor. To the south the enclosure is double-ditched and of about 0.5 acre having a raised central platform. This may well be the site of the principal manor house. In the middle is a large, c. 2.25 acre enclosure (perhaps the main stock yard, surrounded by small buildings) and to the north is another enclosure of about one acre.the manor appears not to have be mentioned after the 15th century and this is presumably the period of desertion. Hasted (d) suggests that the manor was "deserted when this part of the country was depopulated by the contests between the houses of York and Lancaster". At the end of the 18th century a new Iffin Farm was built on Stone Street 2/3 kilometres north-east of the earthwok site. This farm now owns the northern part of the old manor while the sourthern part (ie Iffin and Hand Woods) belong the Wincheap Farm.
Most Medieval manorial sites in Kent have post-Medieval and modern houses and farm-yards on them, so it seems particularly important that this site is at the very least scheduled as an Ancient Monument. If the conversion of the land to arable is allowed to take place, the main earthwork site should either be left unploughed or fully area-excavated. No Medieval manorial site in Kent has been completely excavated. (5)
The 1:2500 survey of 1965 revised to show (a) additional features and (b) to correct the shape of the north enclosure. (6)
Additional bibliography. (7,8)

From the National Heritage List for England:

The monument includes the deserted medieval manorial settlement of Iffin, a hollow way and other associated earthworks, situated on a clay-capped, chalk hill forming part of the Kent Downs. The remains of Iffin manor include four, contiguous banked and ditched enclosures which together form a large, south west-north east orientated, rectangular enclosure covering an area of c.1.05ha. The banks survive to a height of up to c.1m, and the ditches fall to c.0.5m beneath the surrounding ground. The smallest enclosure, situated in the south western corner, contains a raised mound c.5.6m by 15.5m, the remains of a flint-walled, 12th century chapel, dedicated to St Leonard. To the east is a larger, rectangular enclosure of around 0.14ha, which is double-ditched on the southern and eastern sides. The interior has a raised, central platform, believed to be the site of the principal domestic buildings. The central enclosure, lying immediately to the north, is the largest, and is roughly square in shape, covering an area of around 0.55ha. The defensive earthworks of the northernmost enclosure survive particularly well and enclose an area of around 0.35ha. Running in a south westerly direction from the south western corner of the manorial enclosure is a hollow way, or disused road. It is a shallow linear ditch 0.4m deep flanked on either side by a slight bank, with an overall width of 8m. A complex arrangement of banks, ditches and other earthworks surround the manorial enclosure on all four sides. These are likely to form the earthwork remains of contemporary agricultural or other economic activity associated with the medieval manorial settlement. The medieval manor of Iffin is mentioned in many contemporary documents between c.1086 and 1465, particularly the cartulary of St Gregory's Priory, Canterbury. By the end of the 15th century, documentary references to the manor cease, indicating that it was deserted by this time. All modern fences within or on the boundaries of the monument are excluded from the scheduling but the ground beneath them is included.

Medieval manorial settlements, comprising small groups of houses with associated gardens, yards and paddocks, supported communities devoted primarily to agriculture, and acted as the foci for manorial administration. Although the sites of many of these settlements have been occupied continuously down to the present day, many others declined in size or were abandoned at some time during the medieval and post-medieval periods, particularly during the 14th and 15th centuries. The reasons for desertion were varied but often reflected declining economic viability, changes in land- use such as enclosure or emparkment, or population fluctuations as a result of widespread epidemics such as the Black Death. As a consequence of their abandonment, these settlements are frequently undisturbed by later occupation and contain well-preserved archaeological deposits, providing information on the diversity of medieval settlement patterns and farming economy, and on the structure and changing fortunes of manorial communities.

Despite some disturbance by woodland cover, a modern woodland track and localised flint digging, the deserted medieval manorial settlement in Iffin Wood survives well and contains archaeological remains and environmental evidence relating to the monument, the landscape in which it was constructed and the economy of its inhabitants. Relatively undisturbed medieval manorial settlements are particularly rare in Kent, where most have been heavily disturbed by later post-medieval or modern development. (15)

<1> OS 6" 1961 (OS Card Reference). SKE48369.

<2> Hist of Kent 3 1790 729 (E Hasted) (OS Card Reference). SKE43964.

<3> Arch Cant 46 1934 61 (OGS Crawford) (OS Card Reference). SKE35191.

<4> F1 ASP 27-JAN-65 (OS Card Reference). SKE42317.

<5> Archaeologia 30 1844 57-61 (JY Akerman) (OS Card Reference). SKE37313.

<6> Arch Cant 74 1960 55 (P Ashbee and GC Dunning) (OS Card Reference). SKE35574.

<7> Cartulary of the Priory of St Gregory, Canterbury (Ed AM Woodcock) charter nos 1 14-18 25-27 143 170 (OS Card Reference). SKE38602.

<8> Hist of Kent 2nd Ed 9 1800 291-2 note 8 (E Hasted) (OS Card Reference). SKE43956.

<9> Unpub Material (T Tatton-Brown March 1983) (OS Card Reference). SKE50698.

<10> F2 CFW 19-FEB-85 (OS Card Reference). SKE43259.

<11> Arch Cant 99 1983 119-124 (OS Card Reference). SKE36336.

<12> Md Arch 28 1984 225 (SM Youngs, J Clark and TB Barry) (OS Card Reference). SKE46633.

<13> Field report for monument TR 15 SW 6 - January, 1965 (Bibliographic reference). SKE5496.

<14> Field report for monument TR 15 SW 6 - February, 1985 (Bibliographic reference). SKE5497.

<15> English Heritage, Register of Scheduled Monuments (Scheduling record). SKE16191.

Sources and further reading

Cross-ref. Source description
<1>OS Card Reference: OS 6" 1961.
<2>OS Card Reference: Hist of Kent 3 1790 729 (E Hasted).
<3>OS Card Reference: Arch Cant 46 1934 61 (OGS Crawford).
<4>OS Card Reference: F1 ASP 27-JAN-65.
<5>OS Card Reference: Archaeologia 30 1844 57-61 (JY Akerman).
<6>OS Card Reference: Arch Cant 74 1960 55 (P Ashbee and GC Dunning).
<7>OS Card Reference: Cartulary of the Priory of St Gregory, Canterbury (Ed AM Woodcock) charter nos 1 14-18 25-27 143 170.
<8>OS Card Reference: Hist of Kent 2nd Ed 9 1800 291-2 note 8 (E Hasted).
<9>OS Card Reference: Unpub Material (T Tatton-Brown March 1983).
<10>OS Card Reference: F2 CFW 19-FEB-85.
<11>OS Card Reference: Arch Cant 99 1983 119-124.
<12>OS Card Reference: Md Arch 28 1984 225 (SM Youngs, J Clark and TB Barry).
<13>Bibliographic reference: Field report for monument TR 15 SW 6 - January, 1965.
<14>Bibliographic reference: Field report for monument TR 15 SW 6 - February, 1985.
<15>Scheduling record: English Heritage. Register of Scheduled Monuments.