History: Building Raynes Park

Bronze Age Archaeology

DID YOU KNOW ….about the
Bronze Age Archaeological Dig
On the former RSA Sports Ground? (Now called, "The Pavilions", Greenview.)
Before building started at the bottom of the former RSA Sports Ground, I chatted a couple of times to people working near the site entrance at the bottom of Fairway. They were carrying out a pre-construction archaeological dig. At that time they had little to report, apart from getting extremely wet, and soon the development went ahead.
I had heard no more about it until recently, when browsing in the bookshop of the Museum of London, a copy of the “London Archaeologist” journal caught my eye: on the cover, “A Bronze Age Boundary Ditch in Raynes Park” [1] – a report by archaeologist Iain Bright on the RSA site investigation. [2]
The 5½-page Excavation Report includes a map of the location, a map of the whole field with 18 trenches, based on the OS map showing details of the roads around the site, and four diagrams of the digs. The finds wouldn’t excite the Time Team, but a brief summary may be of interest to readers of the Guide.
The very first words are “Raynes Park has, for some considerable time, had ‘drainage issues’.” Well, we all know about that! Edward Rayne (the landowner before the 1920s and 1930s developments) kept workers constantly busy digging ditches and drains.
This was not good agricultural land, but even so, the dig revealed a Bronze Age boundary ditch close to the Fairway entrance, suggesting “settlement activity in the immediate vicinity, indications of animal husbandry and strong hints that this prehistoric land boundary had continued to function as such right through to the present day.”
It is believed that field systems with boundaries started in the early to mid-Bronze Age. Clearing silted up ditches often results in a build-up of a bank on one side, fertile enough to encourage natural growth of a hedgerow boundary, reinforcing the demarcation.
No direct evidence of habitation was found, but finds included burnt flint, bones of animals and fragments of Bronze Age pottery, indicating flint working, tool use and a cooking hearth. It is suggested that there was a settlement on higher land nearby, to the south-east. The dig area would have been waterlogged in winter, but postholes of two enclosures for animals suggest summer grazing of livestock.
The ditch and hedgerow boundaries, over 4000 years, developed into a row of trees a little closer to the modern Fairway. The Ordnance Survey map of 1867 shows a boundary line of mature trees. The oak at the bottom of my garden (backing onto the site) appears to be a survivor of that tree line; it was fully mature, as seen in a contemporary photo, when these houses were newly built in 1928. It suffered badly in the droughts of the mid-1970s and by having half its roots covered by the tarmac of the Sun Alliance car park, but happily it is now flourishing again.
Remnants of Romano-British pottery and tiles and medieval roof tiles were also found in this dig. Mr. Bright believes that the1867 tree line was “clearly a remnant of an older land boundary “and that there is evidence of continuous land use here “from Bronze Age to present day”. He concludes: “. . . one thing is certain: continued occupation of this land is assured. Let’s just hope they’ve done something about the drainage.” Amen to that!
Barbara Sanders
November 2012 
[1] London Archaeologist, autumn 2012, Volume 13 No. 6.  Published by the London Archaeological Association, 44 Tantallon Road, SW12 8DG.
[2] Iain Bright of Pre-Construct Archaeology Ltd.

Join us on:


Share this page: