Ancient Monuments

History on the Ground

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A 210m length of Devil's Ditch running east from Chichester Main Road to Pook Lane

A Scheduled Monument in Lavant, West Sussex

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Latitude: 50.8665 / 50°51'59"N

Longitude: -0.7819 / 0°46'54"W

OS Eastings: 485816.459247

OS Northings: 108155.467718

OS Grid: SU858081

Mapcode National: GBR DGD.M4G

Mapcode Global: FRA 967T.57L

Entry Name: A 210m length of Devil's Ditch running east from Chichester Main Road to Pook Lane

Scheduled Date: 24 January 1935

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1005877

English Heritage Legacy ID: WS 81

County: West Sussex

Civil Parish: Lavant

Built-Up Area: Mid Lavant

Traditional County: Sussex

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): West Sussex

Church of England Parish: Lavant St Mary

Church of England Diocese: Chichester


The monument includes a 210m length of Devil's Ditch, also known as the Devil's Dyke, a prehistoric linear boundary surviving as an earthwork and below-ground archaeological remains. It is situated on gently sloping ground in the village of East Levant. The earthwork is denoted by a bank, which is up to 3m high. The ditch on the north side of bank is not visible in this section of the Dyke, but is thought to survive as a buried feature, having become in-filled over the years. This length of the Devil's Ditch runs east from Chichester Main Road, passing north of playing fields before ending at Pook Lane where it is met at a right angle by a north-south aligned entrenchment, which finishes at this point.
The Devil's Ditch in Sussex has been documented by antiquarians since at least the 18th century. It is part of a group of linear earthworks on the gravel plain between the foot of the South Downs and Chichester Harbour. The entrenchments run from Lavant to Boxgrove and appear to enclose the area of the coastal plain to the south. It has been suggested that these marked out a high status, proto-urban tribal settlement (or 'oppidum') preceding the Roman invasion. The Devil's Ditch is thought to date to the Late Iron Age (about 100 BC - AD 43) but was recut and extended in places during the medieval period. The name of the entrenchment is derived from a local tradition, which holds that the ditch was the work of the devil in an attempt to channel the sea and flood the churches of Sussex.
The monument excludes all modern fences and fence posts, gates and gate posts but the ground beneath these features is included.

Sources: West Sussex HER 1940 - MWS3239. NMR LINEAR 34. PastScape 1065548.
Hamilton, S and Gregory, K. 2000. Updating the Sussex Iron Age. In Sussex Archaeological Collections 138, pp 63 & 66.

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

Linear boundaries are substantial earthwork features comprising single or multiple ditches and banks which may extend over distances varying from between less than 1km to over 10km. They survive as earthworks or as linear features visible as cropmarks on aerial photographs or as a combination of both. The evidence of excavation and study of associated monuments demonstrate that their construction often spans at least a millennium from the Middle Bronze Age, although they may have been re-used later. The scale of many linear boundaries has been taken to indicate that they were constructed by large social groups and were used to mark important boundaries in the landscape; their impressive scale displaying the corporate prestige of their builders. They would have been powerful symbols, often with religious associations, used to define and order the territorial holdings of those groups who constructed them. Linear earthworks are of considerable importance for the analysis of settlement and land use from the Bronze Age; all well preserved examples will normally merit statutory protection.
The 210m length of Devil's Ditch running east from Chichester Main Road to Pook Lane survives well. It will contain archaeological and environmental information relating to the earthwork and the landscape in which it was constructed.

Source: Historic England

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