Ancient Monuments

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Cross dyke on Whiteleaf Hill, 165m south east of the Whiteleaf Cross

A Scheduled Monument in Princes Risborough, Buckinghamshire

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Latitude: 51.7274 / 51°43'38"N

Longitude: -0.8105 / 0°48'37"W

OS Eastings: 482254.626659

OS Northings: 203859.996416

OS Grid: SP822038

Mapcode National: GBR D3W.RWT

Mapcode Global: VHDVJ.WVX3

Entry Name: Cross dyke on Whiteleaf Hill, 165m south east of the Whiteleaf Cross

Scheduled Date: 25 July 1996

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1014598

English Heritage Legacy ID: 27148

County: Buckinghamshire

Civil Parish: Princes Risborough

Built-Up Area: Princes Risborough

Traditional County: Buckinghamshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Buckinghamshire

Church of England Parish: Monks Risborough

Church of England Diocese: Oxford


The monument includes a prehistoric cross dyke located on an elevated spur
which extends northwards from the Chiltern escarpment, approximately 165m to
the south east of the head of the Whiteleaf Cross which is a large hill figure
(the subject of a separate scheduling) cut into the chalk on the north facing
slope overlooking Princes Risborough and the Vale of Aylesbury.

The dyke is orientated south west to north east and extends for approximately
170m, crossing the narrow plateau between the upper slopes to either side of
the neck of the spur, and effectively separating the spur from the high ground
to the south east. The ditch is partly filled with accumulated silt and
averages 2m in width, varying between c.0.4m and 0.8m in depth. It is best
preserved as a visible earthwork towards the south western end, where the
accompanying bank on the northern side is about 8m wide and 0.8m high. A
second bank flanks the southern side of the ditch. This is most clearly
visible near the centre of the earthwork where it measures c.3m across and
0.4m high. The south western end of the dyke merges gently with the natural
slope, whereas the north eastern end has been truncated by a small quarry. The
earthwork is cut in two other places.

Footpath erosion has created a narrow gap some 12m from the south western end,
while a wider and deeper break towards the centre forms part of a hollow way
which extends along the spur from north to south. This latter feature is
thought to be medieval in origin.

Three prehistoric barrows (burial mounds) lie to the north of the cross dyke,
constructed on descending natural terraces along the spur and separated by
intervals of approximately 110m. The southern example (a long barrow), which
stands some 120m to the north of the dyke, was excavated in the 1930s and
shown to have been constructed in the Neolithic period. The two circular
mounds (bowl barrows) to the north are unexcavated, but can be dated by their
appearance to the Late Neolithic or Bronze Age. A Bronze Age spear head found
near the south western end of the dyke may indicate that the dyke was related
to the construction of the later barrows (which are the subject of separate
schedulings) and perhaps served as a boundary to the burial area.

The post and wire fence which crosses the centre of the dyke is excluded from
the scheduling although the ground beneath is included.

The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.
It includes a 2 metre boundary around the archaeological features,
considered to be essential for the monument's support and preservation.

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

Cross dykes are substantial linear earthworks typically between 0.2km and 1km
long and comprising one or more ditches arranged beside and parallel to one or
more banks. They generally occur in upland situations, running across ridges
and spurs. They are recognised as earthworks or as cropmarks on aerial
photographs, or as combinations of both. The evidence of excavation and
analogy with associated monuments demonstrates that their construction spans
the millennium from the Middle Bronze Age, although they may have been re-used
later. Current information favours the view that they were used as territorial
boundary markers, probably demarcating land allotment within communities,
although they may also have been used as trackways, cattle droveways or
defensive earthworks. Cross dykes are one of the few monument types which
illustrate how land was divided up in the prehistoric period. They are of
considerable importance for any analysis of settlement and land use in the
Bronze Age. Very few have survived to the present day and hence all well-
preserved examples are considered to be of national importance.

The cross dyke on Whiteleaf Hill survives as a well preserved earthwork,
clearly subdividing the local topography into distinct zones. The earthworks
will retain evidence for the date and method of construction, which may
include buried artefacts within the silts of the ditch and perhaps traces of
timber palisades on the better preserved sections of the banks. The earlier
ground surface buried beneath the bank is particularly significant since it
has been sealed and may therefore preserve environmental evidence illustrating
the appearance of the landscape in which the monument was set. The cross dyke
is an important indication of the manner in which the Chiltern escarpment was
sub-divided and utilised in the prehistoric period, all the more significant
in the light of its association with the other prehistoric monuments on the
spur. The cross dyke is accessible to the public and, although less readily
identifiable than the barrows or the famous Whiteleaf Cross, nonetheless
contributes to the palimpsest of archaeological sites which reflect the
prolonged use of the spur.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Wise, J, 'Records of Bucks' in A Survey of Prehistoric and Later Earthworks on Whiteleaf Hill, (1991), 108-113
Wise, J, 'Records of Bucks' in A Survey of Prehistoric and Later Earthworks on Whiteleaf Hill, (1991), 108-133
MPP Single Monument Class Description, Bowman, A, Cross-Dykes, (1990)
report of find, Pike, A & Farley, M, 5772: Linear earthwork, (1993)
Schedule Entry Copy SM: 19047, Barrett, G, A Bowl Barrow on Whiteleaf Hill, 200m north of Whiteleaf Cross, (1992)
Schedule Entry Copy SM: 19048, Barrett, G, A Bowl Barrow on Whiteleaf Hill, 90m north of Whiteleaf Cross, (1992)
Schedule Entry Copy SM: 19053, Barrett, G, A Neolithic Barrow on Whiteleaf Hill, 50m E. of Whiteleaf Cross, (1992)

Source: Historic England

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