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Scots' Dike

A Scheduled Monument in Annandale East and Eskdale, Dumfries and Galloway

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Latitude: 55.0525 / 55°3'8"N

Longitude: -3.0012 / 3°0'4"W

OS Eastings: 336135.528

OS Northings: 573566.3269

OS Grid: NY361735

Mapcode National: GBR 7BH0.1M

Mapcode Global: WH7Z8.W81K

Entry Name: Scots' Dike

Scheduled Date: 9 October 1981

Last Amended: 24 January 2001

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1016860

English Heritage Legacy ID: 32824

County: Dumfries and Galloway

Electoral Ward: Annandale East and Eskdale

Traditional County: Dumfriesshire


The monument includes the earthworks and buried remains of Scots' Dike, a 16th
century linear earthwork consisting of banks and ditches, which was
constructed to demarcate the border between England and Scotland. The
scheduling includes only the earthworks lying to the south of the border. The
remains of the dike on the northern side are protected separately under
historic monuments legislation for Scotland. The dike originally ran for
approximately 5.6km between the rivers Sark and Esk across a tract of land
known as the Debateable Land, an area of the borders recognised as one of the
most lawless parts of Great Britain for many centuries on account of the
constant claims, counterclaims and warfare of its inhabitants. In 1552
Commissioners appointed by Mary, Queen of Scots, and Edward VI met `and agreed
on a line to be marked by a ditch and marchstones, the ground to one side
whereof was thenceforth to belong to England, and that on the other to belong
to Scotland.' This is the only section of the border to be marked by a linear
earthwork. Generally speaking, two parallel trenches were dug and the
excavated material thrown into the centre to make a mound thought to have been
1.8m-2.4m high. At some places the mound was doubled with a space of about 9m
between the mounds. The original plan called for the erection of a square
stone at either end of the dike, with the Arms of England on one face and the
Arms of Scotland on another; however, it is not known if these stones were
ever erected.
No surface remains of Scots' Dike survive west of the minor road at Craw's
Knowe some 0.2km east of the River Sark. From this point the dike runs
eastwards for some 5.4km to the River Esk in varying states of preservation,
surviving best as a mound up to 1.3m high and 3.5m wide and flanked either
side by ditches. In places earthwork remains of a ditch survive on the north
side of the mound only, elsewhere on the south side only. Traces of the double
mound are few and elsewhere little surface evidence of mounds is discernible,
the course of the monument being represented mainly as a ditch of varying
depth and width. At irregular intervals stones have been set up on top of the
mound. These are of red sandstone, stand approximately 0.7m high, and are
thought to be 19th century replacements for original boundary markers which
have been removed.
A number of features are excluded from the scheduling; these are all fence
posts, gateposts and telegraph poles, the A7 trunk road, Marchbank Cottage,
Border Cottage, Orchard View and its stable, and all outbuildings, paths,
flagged, tarmaced and gravelled surfaces associated with these three
dwellings; the ground beneath all these features is, however, included.

The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.

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.

Despite considerable afforestation which has in places mutilated the monument,
Scots' Dike survives reasonably well and is a rare example of a 16th century
earthwork constructed to demarcate part of a national frontier. Although not a
defensible boundary in the strictest sense, its construction and subsequent
presence illustrated clearly to monarchs, governments and inhabitants a
national boundary which had previously been in dispute for many centuries. The
building of Scots' Dike therefore contributed significantly to the defence of
both England and Scotland in the borders area during the latter half of the
16th century.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Ridpath, , Border History, (1848), 394
Logan Mack, J, 'Trans Hawick Arch Soc' in The Old Scots Dike: Its Construction AD 1552 and Its Destruction, (1923), 3-5

Source: Historic England

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