Hedgerow Protection

These web pages set out the types of document which can be used to investigate the historical criteria for assessing the importance of a hedgerow under the Hedgerow Regulations 1997.We attempt to show their usefulness for investigating hedgerow history but it should not be used as a substitute for taking professional legal advice.

NB the advice given is designed to assist searchers visiting Hampshire Record Office - for research in another county you should contact the relevant record office, rules and finding aids may differ.


References to hedgerows are scarce in the indexes, but there are likely to be more references to features such as manor or other estate boundaries within the parish, manorial or estate records. Check both the card indexes and the computerised search facility (CALM) for references to hedgerows, boundaries and surveys/surveying.

Hedgerow Regulations 1997

The Environment Act 1995 enabled Ministers to introduce regulations for the protection of important hedgerows in England and Wales. The regulations came into force on 1 June 1997 and introduced new arrangements intended to protect important hedgerows by controlling their removal through a system of notification. To get permission to remove a hedgerow you must write to your local planning authority. The local planning authority can grant or refuse permission for removal of hedgerows based upon the examination of the hedge in the light of certain criteria, several of which concern the historical importance of the hedge.

The local planning authority will assess the site to see if the hedgerow is 'important'. To be 'important' the hedgerow must (i) be at least 30 years old and (ii) meet at least one of 8 criteria. The criteria identify hedgerows of particular archaeological, historical, wildlife or landscape value.

Important Hedgerow Criteria

1. Marks a pre-1850 parish or township boundary

2. Incorporates an archaeological site

3. Is part of, or associated with, an archaeological site

4. Marks the boundary of, or is associated with, a pre-1600 AD estate or manor

5. Forms an integral part of a pre-Parliamentary enclosure field system

6. Contains certain categories of species of birds, animals or plants listed in the Wildlife and Countryside Act or Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC) publications

7. Includes

8. Runs alongside a bridleway, footpath, road used as a public path, or a byway open to all traffic and includes at least 4 woody species, on average, in a 30 metre length and has at least 2 associated features listed at (i) to (vii) below

The associated features are:

Although a hedgerow is considered important if it qualifies under any one of the criteria, the local planning authority must evaluate the hedgerow against all the criteria and must specify in the hedgerow retention notice, which of the criteria are met.

Research using Historical Records

Research into Criteria 1, 4 and 5 must rely on published and publicly available records (i.e. records held at local or central government record offices and therefore accessible to the public). The wording of the Regulations excludes the use of privately held maps and documents in establishing the 'importance' of hedgerows.

NB the permission of owners of records must be obtained before records are consulted for legal purposes. If the owner refuses permission then records cannot be used in evidence.

It is important to record all information of relevance (or lack of it) found on each map or document. An extract of the relevant section should be taken by photocopy, if this is permitted, or otherwise by tracing or photography. A protective sheet of melinex should be placed on the original material before tracing. If required Record Office staff will certify that the copies are a true extract of the original; a fee is payable.

Ordnance Survey maps

The first important record which could be used in making investigations is the 1st edition Ordnance Survey 6" to the mile. These were produced between 1853 and 1893 for the whole of England and Wales. For the purposes of the hedgerow regulations they could be used in conjunction with other records to indicate whether a particular hedgerow formed part of a parish boundary before 1850 (criterion no.1). The boundary might not follow the line of the current civil parish boundary, as a consequence of the rationalisation of boundaries in the late 19th century. It is the ecclesiastical parish boundary that has antiquity, demonstrates historical continuity and is also supported by documentation. Although 1st edition 6" maps post-date 1850 they can be used alongside other documents such as tithe maps and possibly enclosure maps to show the continuity of the parish boundaries shown thereon. The various editions of the county series of the Ordnance Survey maps, at both 6" and 25" scales, could also be used as evidence that a hedgerow is over 30 years old.

OS 1" maps, surveyed between 1810 and 1817 for Hampshire, are too small scale to show field boundaries and hedgerows, but the surveyors recorded field boundaries on a large scale in their field books, which are now in the British Library. Please bear in mind that pre-1830 OS maps are considered to be less reliable compared to modern ones in terms of the accuracy of the surveying. (A list of Ordnance Survey maps held by Hampshire Record Office can be found at the map desk in the search room - please ask staff for details of holdings.)

Enclosure maps

Large-scale maps were drawn up when strip fields or commons and waste were enclosed and, as far as parliamentary enclosure was concerned, were mainly produced in the period 1730s to 1870s. In a minority of cases the maps drawn up by the Enclosure Commissioners to show the situation before enclosure have survived, and examination of these maps can help to clarify whether the hedge formed part of a pre-Enclosure Acts field system (criterion no.5). If they exist, other enclosure records such as surveys, Commissioners' minutes, field books and valuations may provide useful details.

However, most enclosure maps reflect the post-enclosure situation, so can only be used for other hedgerow criteria. Parliamentary enclosure of open fields was usually on a whole parish basis, so the pre-1850 enclosure maps can provide useful evidence of historic parish boundaries (criterion no.1).

Maps of pre-1836 enclosure will be particularly useful, as parishes where this occurred should not have tithe awards and maps. (See enclosure maps' lists)

Estate maps

Surveys and maps of large landed estates can be used to collect evidence in relation to criteria 4 & criteria 5. Early large-scale estate maps are rare, but they can date from as early as the 16th century. They continued to be produced until the late 19th century when they were largely superseded by large scale Ordnance Survey maps.

When large-scale maps are available they can provide a useful source of information on field boundaries and hedges, but of course they will vary considerably in terms of the accuracy of surveying. (See the maps and plans index, drawer 32, and ask staff for the draft estate map catalogue.)

Tithe maps and awards

These large-scale maps were drawn up following the Tithe Commutation Act of 1836 and date from the late 1830s. Tithe maps show historical parish boundaries, and could be used to investigate criterion 1 in conjunction with Ordnance Survey maps. Where parliamentary enclosure occurred before 1836, tithes were extinguished as part of the enclosure process, so tithe maps and awards were unnecessary.

Tithe maps and awards, therefore, are more common in areas where Parliamentary enclosure did not occur because the land had not been in the open field system, or enclosure had occurred late ie. after 1836. (See tithe map and awards lists.)


Charters may contain the earliest written evidence of hedgerows. The Public Record Office holds Anglo-Saxon charters, some of which relate to Hampshire. Hampshire Record Office hold charters dating from the medieval period onwards and they can form one of the few forms of evidence for criterion 4. They are legal conveyances of land, some of which have 'perambulations' appended that define the land by describing the boundaries.

The distribution of charters is very uneven, as is the mention of hedges. Searchers should note that the language of the law prior to 1733 was Latin, so it may be difficult to use these documents without help from staff. Please do not hesitate to ask the duty archivist for help, but owing to time constraints it may be necessary to use our paid research service for translations from Latin. (See also Grundy's 'Hampshire Charters and Place Names')

Manorial records

Please see Interpretation of Documents (below) for details of published reference works which will describe the various types of manorial documents available; of most interest to the hedgerow researcher will be manorial extents, surveys, and perambulations which could be used for criterion 4. As with charters, while these may contain useful information there may be a problem with translation from Latin.

Personnel undertaking hedgerow evaluation are not expected to have the necessary skills or time to undertake this, according to the Department of the Environment, but use could be made of records which have already been researched and translated, possibly in published form. (See also the Manorial Documents Register print-out.)

Aerial photographs

Hampshire Record Office holds a fairly complete series of aerial photographs taken by the Royal Air Force between 1945 and 1950. These are useful for looking at hedgerow and field systems, for comparison to the other sources mentioned above to show if a hedgerow is over 30 years old, and to assess the overall historical continuity. (See the aerial photographs catalogue.)

Published sources

There may also be research already available in published form at Hampshire Record Office into the history of hedgerows or individual parishes or estates. See the Library Catalogues in addition to the place and subject indexes and the CALM computerised cataloguing system.

Interpretation of documents

All historical documents were made by an individual or group of individuals for a specific purpose and it is inevitably difficult to use them for purposes for which they were not intended. The creator of the document would exaggerate, reduce or even ignore the elements which did not serve his immediate purposes so it is important to understand those purposes when using the records.

The following published books, available in Hampshire Record Office library, (see catalogues on shelf 1) can help with the interpretation of documents by making it clear why they were created and how they can be used today:

Even when the historical background of the documents is understood, there may well still be problems in relating these to the current hedgerows. Comparison of the existing hedge-lines to old maps may give some immediate indication of age, although this would not preclude replanting.

Charters and manorial records may describe field boundaries in ways which become fossilised over time and may not reflect the 'true' situation - the user should compare any given record with as many others as are available. It may not be possible to show the boundary described was a hedge and identifying the correct hedge can be difficult. In addition the terminology used in records may be ambiguous, e.g. the use of the term fence might actually refer to a hedge.

On many maps a boundary is simply a line and there is no means of determining with absolute certainty whether it was a hedge or fence.

Of course in addition to problems in understanding the actual historical records, there are problems inherent in the wording of the Hedgerow Regulations themselves. For example, what relationship is intended to be conveyed by the hedge being 'associated' with a pre-1600 manor or estate?

The terms 'estate' and 'field system' are open to interpretation also, as these are concepts which alter depending on where in the UK they are found, and at what time. Hampshire Record Office cannot give advice in interpreting the regulations themselves. This is a matter for professional legal opinion, and the Department of the Environment may be able to offer further advice.

Further information and sources

The countryside character initiative Rapid changes in the countryside in the decades since the 1950s have led to the concept of landscape character assessment which was developed in the 1980s by the Countryside Commission, now the Countryside Agency. This assessment is a means of identifying, describing, classifying and mapping the character of different rural landscapes, without making value judgements.

The Countryside Agency has published a landscape character assessment of the whole of England, entitled: Countryside Character: The character of England's natural and man-made landscape published in 8 volumes in 1999 - Hampshire is included in volume 7. Hampshire County Council published a countywide assessment in 1993 called The Hampshire Landscape which forms the basis of the County's landscape strategy. In addition, the district councils have published local landscape character assessments during the 1990s which provide more detailed assessments than the countywide one. The Hampshire Historic Landscape Assessment was published in 1999 to cover the historic and archaeological aspects of the landscape not covered in The Hampshire Landscape.

Other repositories and sources