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Devil's Ditch, section extending 1200yds (1100m) through Little Tomlins Copse

A Scheduled Monument in Lavant, West Sussex

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Coordinates

Latitude: 50.8655 / 50°51'55"N

Longitude: -0.8048 / 0°48'17"W

OS Eastings: 484206.373996

OS Northings: 108013.111194

OS Grid: SU842080

Mapcode National: GBR DGC.MCD

Mapcode Global: FRA 966T.894

Entry Name: Devil's Ditch, section extending 1200yds (1100m) through Little Tomlins Copse

Scheduled Date: 24 January 1935

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1005879

English Heritage Legacy ID: WS 83

County: West Sussex

Civil Parish: Lavant

Traditional County: Sussex

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): West Sussex

Church of England Parish: Lavant St Mary

Church of England Diocese: Chichester

Summary

A 1.1km length of Devil’s Ditch running eastwards from West Stoke Road through Little Tomlins Copse.

Source: Historic England

Details

This record was the subject of a minor enhancement on 27 October 2014. 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.

The monument includes a 1.1km 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 land north of Oldwick Farm.

The earthwork is denoted by a bank, up to about 1.5m high, with a ditch on the north side up to 1.5m deep. It is orientated broadly west-east but at the western end it runs in a northerly direction then east and returns south before continuing through Little Tomlins Copse, thus forming a ‘bastion’. In the north-west corner of this ‘bastion’ is an opening, which may be original. The earthwork continues beyond Little Tomlins Copse until it reaches a road north of Little Oldwick House. The ditch has become in-filled in places, but it survives as a buried feature.

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.

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 1.1km length of Devil’s Ditch running eastwards from West Stoke Road through Little Tomlins Copse survives very well. It will contain archaeological and environmental information relating to the earthwork and the landscape in which it was constructed.

Source: Historic England

Sources

Books and journals
Hamilton, S, Gregory, K, 'Updating the Sussex Iron Age' in Sussex Archaeological Collections, , Vol. 138, (2000), 63 & 66
Other
West Sussex HER 1940 - MWS3239. NMR LINEAR 34. PastScape 1065548

Source: Historic England

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