Ancient Monuments

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Section of an early medieval boundary ditch known as the Nico Ditch on Denton golf course 320m south west of Lodge Farm

A Scheduled Monument in Denton West, Tameside

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Latitude: 53.4611 / 53°27'40"N

Longitude: -2.1454 / 2°8'43"W

OS Eastings: 390441.692044

OS Northings: 396052.962983

OS Grid: SJ904960

Mapcode National: GBR FXGF.B0

Mapcode Global: WHB9Q.08NG

Entry Name: Section of an early medieval boundary ditch known as the Nico Ditch on Denton golf course 320m south west of Lodge Farm

Scheduled Date: 8 April 1997

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1016197

English Heritage Legacy ID: 27601

County: Tameside

Electoral Ward/Division: Denton West

Built-Up Area: Manchester

Traditional County: Lancashire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Greater Manchester

Church of England Parish: Higher Openshaw St Clement

Church of England Diocese: Manchester


The monument includes a 205m section of a linear earthwork known as the Nico
Ditch. The earthwork is a bank and ditch which lies to the south and east of
the present city of Manchester. It has been traced as upstanding remains
and field boundaries for 5km between the Hough Moss in the west and the Ashton
Moss on the east side of the city. It cuts through the low-lying land between
these mosslands and defends the land to the north including the site of the
Roman fort and Anglo-Saxon burgh of Manchester. Its name has had 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 ditch'.
The surviving section of the Nico Ditch on Denton Golf Course runs from a
point 50m north of the eastern spur of Gorton Rears for around 300m to the
north east diagonally across the course, however only a 205m section is
included in the scheduling. The ditch is `U'shaped in section and about 1.5m
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 no longer carries water even
though it is referred to as the Nico Brook by local people. A well-preserved
section runs eastwards for 105m from the western end of the area of the
scheduling. Beyond this to the east there is a 100m long section of ditch
which has been partly destroyed by agriculture and the formation of the golf
fairways and is visible as a rise in the mown grass representing the degraded
bank on the north west side and a slight depression where the ditch has been
infilled by agricultural activity. This section is included in the scheduling.
For about a further 100m to the east the ditch is only traceable as a darker
mark in the grass during dry weather conditions; this section is not included
in the scheduling. The ditch has been excavated in various places in the past
20 years at other locations and these investigations have established the
consistent form of the bank and ditch. Its date and function have been
variously 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 as 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 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 linear
earthwork on Denton golf course survives well in this 205m long section. Such
survival is remarkable in this urban and extensively built-up area. Other
sections can still be traced as township boundaries and as footpaths in the
city. The ditch still retains its `U' shaped profile and the bank stands proud
of the surrounding landscape and will have traces of the original ground
surface beneath it. In this section where the ditch has been partly infilled
and the bank degraded by ploughing the remains will nonetheless retain
deposits in the bottom of the ditch and original soil under the bank.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Farrer, , Early Charters, (1902), 329
Nevell, M, Tameside before 1066, (1992), 82
Nevell, M, Tameside before 1066, (1992), 78
Nevell, M, Tameside before 1066, (1992), 83
Tindall, A, A Survey of the Nico Ditch, (1982), 6-7
McNeil , R, 'GMAU report' in The Nico Ditch, (1992)

Source: Historic England

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