Cobham Landscape Detectives

Cobham Landscape Detectives Project wins Heritage Lottery Fund support

The history of Cobham will be unearthed and brought back to life with a three-year archaeology project. Kent County Council has secured a grant of £96,000 from the Heritage Lottery Fund for the project, Cobham Landscape Detectives.

It will be led by a community archaeologist in partnership with local volunteers. Activities will include:
• exploring the wooded landscape to identify ancient trees and hidden earthworks
• fieldwalking to look for archaeological finds that give a clue to past land use
• geophysical surveys to discover buried remains
• small-scale excavations to test detective work

The information gathered will help tell the story of the changing landscape from prehistory to the present day.

People of all ages and abilities are invited to get involved and become Cobham Landscape Detectives. The project will work with community, groups, local schools and the Kent branches of the Young Archaeologists Club.

Results will be presented to the public through a series of walks, talks, open days, on the web and through social media. A richly-illustrated final report will detail the findings. Kent County Council is well-known for running successful and engaging community archaeological projects.

Previous projects, including Shorne Woods Heritage Project and the Shorne HubCAP project, have worked with a wide range of volunteers, offering unique opportunities to explore the archaeology of a range of sites across west Kent.

KCC Cabinet Member for Environment and Transport Matthew Balfour said:

“This will be a great learning experience for the residents of Cobham as well as those taking part. In the past, people taking part have not only learnt important archaeological skills, but been able to talk about their new-found knowledge to the community at a wide range of events, involving thousands of people. The landscape around Cobham is a treasure trove of archaeological sites of all periods, from still standing prehistoric earthworks to buried Roman villas and from lost medieval manors to world war two camps”.

The Cobham Landscape Detectives project which is working in partnership with major land managers in the area such as the National Trust, Forestry Commission, Plantlife International and the Woodland Trust, will provide opportunities to explore these sites further and present the results to the public.

Stuart McLeod, head of HLF South East, said:

“From listed buildings and ancient monuments to 17th century woodland and literary connections, Cobham and the surrounding area has a rich and diverse heritage. Thanks to National Lottery players, this project provides a wonderful opportunity for people to delve into their local heritage and we’re delighted to award this grant so that the volunteers can begin their journey of discovery.”

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5 Responses to Cobham Landscape Detectives

  1. Gillian Hakli says:

    I live in Finland but heard abut your project in a roundabout way through the Kent History Forum. I am very interested in your project because from roughly 1701 ancestors of mine lived in the Parsonage, a now demolished building that was right next to St Mary Magdalene. The meadow where the building stood is nowadays called Parsonage Meadow. Would it be possible to look for footprints of the house plus the farm buildings that once belonged to it? If you’re interested I can send you two old photos taken by my grandfather in the 1880s. One is of the actual house and one is of the church, taken from the house. Old maps show clearly just where the Parsonage stood. The house in the photo is clearly newer than 1701 so it would be extremely interesting to know whether there are any footprints of the original, smaller house as well as the later, rather grand one in the photo.

    Possible footprints of other demolished buildings of great interest to me are those of the Great House and the White Lyon. The Great House was a mansion, possibly in the same style as Owletts, that stood on the now empty site next to the Ship Inn and was demolished by order of the 6th Earl of Darnley (died 1896). The White Lyon was demolished in the 1720s and a ‘mansion’ was built in its place. Both were on the Street and were owned by the same family of ancestors. And finally there is the demolished Vicarage, on the site of today’s primary school. The present head teacher apparently knows nothing of the history of the school and there are no archives.

    I look forward to hearing from you and will try and give you any more information you may need.

    Regards, Gillian

    • Hi Gillian,

      This all sounds fantastic, especially as we are hoping to do some work in the village next year!

      Could you possibly email Andrew Mayfield and we can get the ball rolling!

      Many thanks 🙂

      • Philip Reynolds says:

        Has it been considered to do a geophysical survey around Battle Street in Cobham, where historic maps and literature refer to standing stones, and possibly a prehistoric “warriors” grave? Some of the stones were removed in the 18th century by the order of the then Lord Darnley to the pleasure gardens of Cobham Hall, to form a rockery! Other stones can still be found in the environs of Sarsens Close (off Battle Street), at Rookery Corner (the Sole Street junction) and even within the church grounds and walls in Cobham itself. As well as some maps, references to this event are recorded in the diaries of Richard Hayes, former owner of Owletts, now a national trust property, and as commented in a book about Richard Hayes and the history of Cobham entitled “A yeoman of Kent”.

        • Hi Philip, this sounds very interesting and I have emailed you 🙂

        • Roger Cockett says:

          Hi Philip
          I have just been reviewing responses to the website and have come across your message above. Please do not put much trust in the old stories about warriors’ graves at Cobham. We are very familiar with Arnold’s book about the Hayes diaries and we have a manuscript transcript of parts of them – more than was published.
          There was a family in Cobham named Bataille (with variations) in the 14th/15th centuries and the legends probably began with them.
          1. Extract from the Dering Collection of deeds and charters: “1369 Joan dau of Jo Batayle of C[obham]. to Hen Bathelayssch of Cobham confirms a wood”
          from Arch Cant Vol XXVII (1905) NB the second surname may also be the same family.
          2. A grant in the Cecil MSS (Deeds 232/13) refers to “Battaille” wood in Cobham, dated 10 Edward IV [1470] from Miss Stevens’ notebook, image 65.

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