Nowadays, the Deneholes of Hangmans Wood do not generate nearly as much curiosity as they did during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. However, that hasn’t stopped the site from catching the attention of Historic England, who have named it a Scheduled Monument and included it in their 400,000 strong list of historically and architecturally important sites of England. The site was named a Scheduled Monument under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979, meaning that it must remained unchanged for future generations to enjoy. As a result, the Deneholes have been fenced off to stop the public from entering them and are protected by an impenetrable double gated system.
A Folklore Interaction?
When I was personally surveying the site, I did come across something interesting that made me think that locals could still be interacting with the area’s folklore; though the folklore seems to have moved from the Deneholes to the wider wooded area in which they reside. The woods itself, being called Hangmans Wood, is sure to attract to stories of ghosts and other things that go bump in the night and I must admit, I was incredibly surprised that I hadn’t come across any of this when I was carrying out my research. Tony Benton has commented on Hangmans Wood and says that it is likely named as either the site of a former gallows, or as an evolution of the term for hanging woodland because the woods sit in a slope. He does make a case of it being a former gallows due to it existing at a junction of a major route. It would seem that locals are now being drawn to Hangmans Wood as a haunted site, as I discovered the remnants of a Halloween pumpkin placed in the undergrowth next to a pair of rather ominous looking trees. It is nice to think that the folklore of the area has undergone some sort of transformation and is now inspiring the minds of, probably young teenagers, to venture into the woodland on All Hallows Eve to scare themselves silly in what has become a modern yet traditional element to the October celebration.
A Nuisance in the Modern Age
In 2012, something rather peculiar happened not too far from Hangmans Wood. Sink holes began opening up in people’s driveways, with one family losing a car as a result. This first incident seemed to spark a national interest in sink holes that were frequently appearing along the Thames Estuary in Essex and Kent. The BBC had the following to say on the matter
Of course, it has never been officially proven that the Deneholes were created through chalk excavation, yet it does remain the general consensus on the matter. Unfortunately, this does seem to be correlated with the advancement of 21st century society. No longer do people sit around and tell stories involving the legends of the local area, so it would appear that those stories pertaining to Danish invaders and smugglers ring have been lost. All that exists now is a faint whisper of belief that carries through the ancient trees of Hangmans Wood, and sometimes the evident curiosity of a local dog who is particularly interested in sink holes, who may know something we do not.