Ancient Monuments

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Section of an early medieval boundary ditch known as the Nico Ditch in Platt Fields 480m SSE of Platt Hall

A Scheduled Monument in Fallowfield, Manchester

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Latitude: 53.4465 / 53°26'47"N

Longitude: -2.2194 / 2°13'9"W

OS Eastings: 385525.035302

OS Northings: 394439.970239

OS Grid: SJ855944

Mapcode National: GBR DQW.3H

Mapcode Global: WHB9N.WMBP

Entry Name: Section of an early medieval boundary ditch known as the Nico Ditch in Platt Fields 480m SSE of Platt Hall

Scheduled Date: 31 January 1997

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1015132

English Heritage Legacy ID: 27600

County: Manchester

Electoral Ward/Division: Fallowfield

Built-Up Area: Manchester

Traditional County: Lancashire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Greater Manchester

Church of England Parish: Rusholme Holy Trinity

Church of England Diocese: Manchester


The monument includes a 135m long section of a linear earthwork known as the
Nico Ditch. The earthwork is a bank and ditch which lies to the south of the
present city of Manchester. It has been traced as upstanding earthwork
remains and field boundaries for 5km between the Hough Moss in the west and
the Ashton Moss on the east side of the city. Its name has been recorded in
various forms in the past including `mykelldiche' and `magnum fossatum' in
AD 1190-1212. These names point to an Anglo-Saxon origin and mean the `great
The section surviving in Platt Fields runs from a point on the north of the
Shakespeare Garden where an iron rail fence cuts across the ditch and
separates part of the grounds of the school, and eastwards to the Oxford Road
wall. At a point 30m from the road it is intersected by another rail fence
defining the burial ground of the Unitarian Chapel. The part of the ditch in
the burial ground is also included in the scheduling. On the south side of the
ditch an iron rail fence has been built along the lip of the ditch to prevent
access to the grounds of the school and mark the limits of the park. The ditch
is `U' shaped in section and about 2m deep at this point and about 4m wide.
The bank is on the north side and stands 0.5m high and 5m wide at the base.
The ditch still carries water through to the lake on the west side of the
park. To the west of the area of the scheduling the ditch has been re-cut to
allow this water to flow more freely and this has destroyed the profile of the
original work. To the east the ditch has been destroyed by development. The
ditch has been investigated by excavation in various places in the past 20
years and this has confirmed the consistent form of the monument throughout
its length.
Its date and function have been previously described as a boundary for Roman
centuriation (a division of allocated land for cultivation), as an early
medieval administrative boundary to separate early estates and later parishes
and a defence of the burgh of Manchester reported in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle
under the date AD 919. The latter suggested function would have cut off the
access to the town by three Roman roads from the south side. Since the ditch
effectively forms a barrier to traffic between the Irwell and the Medlock it
may have formed part of the boundary of the kingdom of Rheged in the sixth
century or it may have been the limit of the kingdom of Mercia in the eigth
century. The facts are that it forms a demarcation between an area of
low-lying ground between two mosslands to the east and west of the site of the
Anglo-Saxon town of Manchester, that it forms a boundary between several
medieval townships along its length and that its name is firmly Anglo-Saxon in
origin. This means that it was constructed during the administration of the
Anglo-Saxon kingdoms between AD 600 and the tenth century.
The gravestones in the yard of the chapel and the iron railings on the
southern lip of the ditch and running across the ditch at the western end and
at a point 30m from the Oxford road, are not included in the scheduling but
the ground beneath them 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

A small number of substantial and defensible boundary features have been
identified as frontier works marking territories in the early medieval period.
Up to 50 examples are known with a fairly wide distribution across England,
including examples in southern England, East Anglia, Yorkshire, Derbyshire and
along the Welsh border.
Identified remains extend over distances from as little as 300m up to as much
as 240km in the case of Offa's Dyke. They survive in the form of earthworks
and as buried features visible as cropmarks or soilmarks on aerial
photographs. They appear often to have been constructed across the natural
grain of the landscape and, although many examples consisted of a single bank
and flanking ditch, to vary considerably in their form and dimensions, even
along different stretches of the same boundary, depending upon local
Evidence from contemporary documentary sources, excavation and survey suggests
that they were constructed in the early medieval period between the fifth and
eighth centuries AD. Some were relatively ephemeral, perhaps in use for only a
few years during periods of local strife; others, such as Offa's Dyke,
constructed between Wales and Mercia, have formed long-lived territorial
and/or military boundaries in use for several centuries.
As a rare monument type of considerable importance to the study of early
medieval territorial patterns, all surviving examples are identified as
nationally important.

The Nico Ditch is a linear boundary of the Anglo-Saxon period. The section of
the linear earthwork in Platt Fields survives well and is one of very few
sections of the Nico Ditch which remains identifiable. It has been destroyed
by urban developments in all but a few locations elsewhere in Manchester. The
original profile of the ditch is still evident and the bank is still proud
of the surrounding ground surface. The original ground surface will survive
beneath the bank.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Farrer, , Early Charters, (1902), 329
Mcneil, R, Excavation at Park Grove, (1992)
Nevell, M, Tameside before 1066, (1992), 82
Nevell, M, Tameside before 1066, (1992), 83
Nevell, M, Tameside before 1066, (1992), 83
Nevell, M, Tameside before 1066, (1992), 78
Tindall, A, A Survey of the Nico Ditch, (1982)

Source: Historic England

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