Ancient Monuments

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The Shire Ditch See also WORCESTERSHIRE 244

A Scheduled Monument in Malvern Wells, Worcestershire

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Latitude: 52.0808 / 52°4'51"N

Longitude: -2.3385 / 2°20'18"W

OS Eastings: 376895.6242

OS Northings: 242551.993

OS Grid: SO768425

Mapcode National: GBR 0G0.HL7

Mapcode Global: VH934.FY2Q

Entry Name: The Shire Ditch See also WORCESTERSHIRE 244

Scheduled Date: 1 January 1953

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1003812

English Heritage Legacy ID: HE 244

County: Worcestershire

Civil Parish: Malvern Wells

Built-Up Area: Great Malvern

Traditional County: Herefordshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Worcestershire

Church of England Parish: Colwall and Upper Colwall

Church of England Diocese: Hereford


Medieval boundary dyke known as The Shire Ditch, 670m west of Malvern Wells.

Source: Historic England


This record was the subject of a minor enhancement on 18 May 2015. The record has been generated from an "old county number" (OCN) scheduling record. These are monuments that were not reviewed under the Monuments Protection Programme and are some of our oldest designation records.

This monument includes the remains of a large medieval boundary dyke situated in a commanding position on the Malvern Hills, west of the River Severn. The monument survives as the visible earthworks and buried features of linear boundary ditches with associated quarry banks, boundary stones and two mounds. The Shire Ditch is orientated north to south along the Malvern Ridge beginning at the south eastern facing slope of Sugar Loaf Hill, extending south for approximately 7.62km to the northern slope of Ragged Stone Hill. The dyke is broken by six gaps where the terrain and archaeological features renders the dyke unnecessary. The boundary dyke is defined mostly by a single bank with a ditch on the eastern side that is up to 40m wide. The dyke begins along the south eastern slope of Sugar Loaf Hill and is defined by a low bank with a shallow ditch on the eastern side. The boundary continues southward as a single bank and ditch for about 890m along the ridge of Worcestershire Beacon. At the summit of Worcestershire Beacon the dyke is divided by two circular mounds. The northern mound is approximately 11m in diameter and up to 0.6 high and the southern mound is about 11m in diameter and about 0.5m high. On the south facing slope of Worcestershire Beacon the dyke terminates at a road gap and resumes southward for about 640m to a second road gap. A short section of about 260m long is situated on the ridge north west of Upper Wyche where the dyke is denoted by two banks up to about 2m high with two ditches up to 0.9m wide and 0.6m deep with a quarry face to the east. A section about 3.3km long is situated on the Malvern Ridge west of Malvern Wells terminating on the southern facing slope of Wynds Point. The dyke is then separated by a hillfort on the Herefordshire Beacon and Millennium Hills and continues from an abutment on the south eastern corner of the ramparts on Millennium Hill before turning south to follow the ridge across Hangman’s Hill. The boundary dyke then extends across the ridge of Swinyard Hill until it is cut by Gullet quarry. The dyke recommences on the northern facing slope of the Gullet Pass and crosses the northern slope of Midsummer Hill with a bank up to 0.5m high and ditch 0.9m wide. The dyke abuts the northern external ditch of the hillfort and then resumes across the top of Ragged Stone Hill. A series of nine stone and iron boundary markers have been erected along the length of the boundary dyke.

Archaeological survey work has revealed that some lengths of the boundary were originally built in the Bronze Age and the earthworks were modified and extended by Gilbert de Claire in about 1287 to define the boundary between his lands and those of the Bishop of Hereford.

Further archaeological remains survive within the vicinity of the monument, but are not currently protected because they have not been formally assessed. The Shire Ditch runs between other archaeological remains, protected separately as scheduled monuments Herefordshire Beacon Camp (1001792 or HE3) and Midsummer Hill Camp (1003813 or HE4).

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

Medieval boundary dykes are substantial linear earthworks, typically comprising a bank and ditch or double bank and ditch. They are recognised as earthworks, as cropmarks on aerial photographs, or as combinations of both. They are also sometimes referred to in early documents. In earthwork form they can be confused with prehistoric dykes, and indeed some may be prehistoric in origin, reused at a later date. Medieval boundary dykes were constructed throughout the Anglo-Saxon and post-Norman Conquest periods as boundary markers for large estates, townships or other areas of the landscape. Some had an additional defensive or other role which can sometimes be identified by the specialist design of the earthwork. The construction of medieval boundary dykes required a huge investment in labour. They are of considerable importance for the analysis of contemporary settlement and land use patterns. Relatively few examples have survived as earthworks to the present day and hence all well preserved examples are identified as naturally important.

Despite partial afforestation and the insertion of pathways and fences, the medieval boundary dyke known as The Shire Ditch survives comparatively well with some substantial earthworks. The Shire Ditch is of considerable significance and is a good example of a prominent boundary and local landmark. The ditches and banks will contain important archaeological information relating to the use and construction of the monument.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Bowden, M, Field, D, Winton, H, The Malvern Hills an Ancient Landscape, (2008)
Hancox, E. & Russell, O. 2009, Recent Changes to Scheduled Monuments in Worcestershire. Worcestershire Historic Environment and Archaeology Service.
Herefordshire SMR:-30819, 3798, 3818, 3751, 3822, 3824, 3823, 3825, 3826 & 3819
PastScape Monument Nos:- 1334798, 113491, 1334784 & 113500, Worcestershire SMR:- 3821
Vaughan, T. & Rimmington, N. 2006. Condition Assessment of the Shire Ditch, The Malvern Hills, Herefordshire and Worcestershire. Worcestershire Historic Environment and Archaeology Service.

Source: Historic England

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