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History of Duncliffe Wood

Duncliffe Wood is quite well documented from early history. The Domesday Book of 1086 shows it was owned at that time by Roger de Belmont and valued at nine pounds. Subsequently the wood was owned by a French nunnery, became Crown property in 1414, was gifted to Eton College by Henry VI (1421 – 1471) and finally conferred upon King’s College, Cambridge by Edward IV (1441 – 1483).

For 500 years that’s the way it stayed, and there is ample evidence within the wood that it was regularly coppiced over at least that period. As recently as the 1930s, local history tells of woodsmen cutting hazel for thatching spars and weaving hurdles and the gathering of firewood and tanbark. (source: Archie Miles: Hidden Trees of Britain).

Local legends abound about Duncliffe Wood, backed by the discovery of historical artefacts including two bronze statuettes which are thought to link the site to ancient fertility rituals. One, found on Duncliffe Hill, was an iron age bronze statuette of a boar with large recessed eye sockets which were probably intended to take glass settings.

Duncliffe Wood is said to have inspired Thomas Hardy to write The Woodlanders, and Duncliffe Hill is mentioned in his book Jude the Obscure (part 4, chapter 4).

The site was bought by the Woodland Trust in 1984, a large proportion of its purchase price raised by local people.

Two neighbouring fields were later acquired by the Woodland Trust in 2005 to buffer and expand the wood. These were planted in 2012 and 2013 with help from local school children, the local community and volunteers from the Friends of Fifehead, Duncliffe and Kingsettle Woods.