Lagham Park Historic Landscape Survey, South Godstone

July 10, 20207:04 pmLeave a Comment

Between December 2019 and early March 2020, members of the Surrey Historic Environment Record team were engaged in a project very different to anything we’d done before; a study of a sizeable tract of land around the village of South Godstone in east Surrey to identify previously-unrecorded historic landscape features and to develop a better understanding of ones that were known about already. What we found was a complex and fascinating mix of medieval and post-medieval elements that together tell a story of an ordinary bit of the Surrey Weald that saw a number of extraordinary episodes of activity. The main result of all of this is a report that details the findings of our fieldwork and associated research, and that you can download and read by clicking on the link that you’ll find towards the end of this blog post.

But first, in time-honoured tradition, a bit of background…

View of Lagham Park interior, December 2019

A view of the northernmost part of Lagham Park near Posterngate Farm, December 2019 (photograph copyright Surrey Historic Environment Record)

The setting for our work was Lagham Park (Surrey HER Monument 2531), a former hunting and/or landscaped park associated with the medieval moated manor house of Lagham (Surrey HER Monument 1331). Now covered mostly by farmland, Lagham Park was one of Surrey’s largest historic parks, covering over 580 acres. We know this because its boundary (or pale) can still be traced easily on maps or aerial photographs. In addition, we knew from information already in the HER database that earthworks survived – some said to be up to three metres or 10 feet high! Amazingly, despite its location on the A22 and with many lanes and public rights of way crossing or running close to the old park boundary, no-one had ever gone and recorded exactly where and in what state or states these earthworks survived. The opportunity for the Surrey HER to do this long-overdue work, and gain new experience of field monument recording and report writing, was too great to pass up.

Boundary of Lagham Park on John Rocque's map of Surrey

The line of the Lagham Park boundary (in red) overlain onto a georectified version of a version of John Rocque’s map of Surrey published around 1767, revealing suggestions of the western, eastern and to a lesser extent northern portions of the old park pale. This represents the earliest cartographic evidence for the existence of the former park boundary. The moat around ‘Legham Farm’, i.e. Lagham Manor, is depicted much more clearly, if not very accurately (image copyright Surrey Historic Environment Record)

HER team members made three visits to the Lagham Park area in December 2019 and January 2020. During these visits, we accessed the line of the former park boundary at six “observation points”, all on public rights of way (at the risk of stating the obvious, never go onto private property without first obtaining the permission of the owner). We found that the park boundary today takes a number of different forms. In some places, it is defined by a substantial bank and ditch, characteristic of historic park pales, whereas in others it looks like an ordinary hedge. And at some points the bank and ditch have been reduced or completely destroyed by ploughing or development. Overall, something survived of the park boundary at most observation points, which was gratifying to discover.

East boundary of Lagham Park next to Tandridge Lane

A stretch of the former east boundary of Lagham Park alongside Tandridge Lane. The bank here is between 2 and 3 metres tall, although this is probably due in part to erosion caused by centuries of traffic passing along the lane (photograph copyright Surrey Historic Environment Record)

A park is much more than its boundary, of course, especially when the area it defined has seen so much change since it ceased to serve its original purpose. For this reason we were also interested in the historic landscape features contained within the former park area – and, because we couldn’t help ourselves, several that lay outside of it as well! These were a mix of features that survive as buildings, structures like railway bridges, or earthworks, and ones that have been mostly or totally erased but that are easily identified on maps, aerial photographs or Lidar. Among them were earthworks associated with medieval ponds and a possible ‘garden moat’ (which may be the first of its kind to be identified in Surrey); an array of pits used to extract clay, gravel and ‘marl’ (the local Weald Clay Mudstone); three brickworks, all now vanished; and local landmarks in South Godstone village like St Stephen’s Church (built on the site of a ‘school chapel’ possibly established in 1869) and the war memorial, the latter formed from a granite water trough set up in 1902 to commemorate the coronation of Edward VII in 1902.

St Stephen's Church, South Godstone

View of east end of St Stephen’s Church, South Godstone, now Surrey HER Building 23604 (photograph copyright Surrey Historic Environment Record)

Our report lays out what we learned and concluded about 33 features and sites in and around Lagham Park, in addition to its boundary. Only six of these were already the subject of an HER entry; in other words, we identified and investigated 27 “new” things of historic environmental significance that were not in our database. The results are now fully incorporated into the HER, which means the information will be contained in any reports and maps we produce in the future to inform archaeological and heritage assessments associated with proposed developments in the South Godstone area, as well as any academic or amateur research into the local historic environment. Doing this work even allowed us to add “the one that got away” from the report; a pond, in existence by 1808, that may have begun life as a pit for extracting clay or stone and, according to certain maps, in the late 19th and early 20th centuries was used as a fish pond (Surrey HER Monument 23615). Our work in cataloguing Surrey’s historic environment is never done, but this feels like an appropriate place to end this particular project.

To download a pdf copy of our report, please click on the following hyperlink: Surrey Historic Environment Record, Lagham Park Historic Landscape Survey, South Godstone, Surrey (March 2020).

Rob Briggs, HER Officer

Written by HER Assistant - Modified by ESP Admin

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