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Section of Wansdyke and associated monuments from east of The Firs to the eastern side of Tan Hill

A Scheduled Monument in All Cannings, Wiltshire

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Latitude: 51.3804 / 51°22'49"N

Longitude: -1.871 / 1°52'15"W

OS Eastings: 409074.15

OS Northings: 164603.2241

OS Grid: SU090646

Mapcode National: GBR 3W4.FS5

Mapcode Global: VHB4B.JK7M

Entry Name: Section of Wansdyke and associated monuments from east of The Firs to the eastern side of Tan Hill

Scheduled Date: 18 April 1955

Last Amended: 13 October 1999

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1017288

English Heritage Legacy ID: 28116

County: Wiltshire

Civil Parish: All Cannings

Traditional County: Wiltshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Wiltshire

Church of England Parish: Bishop's Cannings and Etchilhampton St Mary the Virgin

Church of England Diocese: Salisbury


The monument, which falls into 12 areas of protection, includes part of
Wansdyke running from east of The Firs to the eastern side of Tan Hill,(a
kite-shaped enclosure situated on the northern side of Wansdyke on Easton
Down), a section of Roman road on Morgan's Hill, a Neolithic long barrow, five
other linear earthwork sections crossed by or abutting the dyke and 11 Bronze
Age bowl barrows adjoining Wansdyke or partially overlain by it. Elements of
some of these monuments are the subject of separate schedulings.
From the west, Wansdyke runs for roughly 72km ending just outside Marlborough
at its east end. The approximately 8.5km long section from east of The Firs to
the eastern side of Tan Hill runs across the Downs south west of Avebury and
includes the best preserved continuous length of Wansdyke.
The dyke includes a substantial earthwork bank which measures up to 30m wide
and stands from 1m to 3m high. For the majority of its length the bank lies
south and west of a substantial open ditch. This also varies in width but
measures up to 36m wide and remains open to a depth of 2m in places. The
majority of the bank and ditch sections in this area together measure from 30m
to 40m across. A further, slighter, bank beyond the ditch to the north is also
visible on several sections. The dyke was built in sections of varying length,
with breaks which would have allowed controlled traffic to pass from east to
west and for the movement of military patrols beyond the defences.
The dyke is later in date than the Roman road but was already built by the
mid-ninth century, when it is mentioned in a Charter. It is generally believed
to be a military frontier work between Wessex and Mercia. It is designed to
hold the edge of the high ground on the Downs and to protect the lower lying
plains to the south west. The name derives from Woden's Dyke, after Woden, an
important Anglo-Saxon god whose name survives in the word `Wednesday'.
The earlier Roman road includes a 800m long section of the route from Cunetio
(Mildenhall) to Verlucio (Sandy Lane). It runs east to west along the north
slope of Morgan's Hill and includes a rare engineered bend at the head of a
dry valley after which point the later dyke meets it and runs along its line.
The road measures between 8m and 10m wide and its outer (north) edge comprises
a well constructed embankment which stands up to 2m high. The road is terraced
into the slope at this point and the dyke follows the line of the road for a
distance of over 300m. South east of the wireless station on Morgan's Hill, a
50m long, slightly curved section of linear earthwork runs north from beneath
Wansdyke to end in a terminal. It is part of a longer feature, the remainder
of which starts about 20m north, runs to the edge of Horsecombe and is the
subject of a separate scheduling (SM 21900). The south end of this feature is
not known for certain but it appears to run beneath the Wansdyke for some
distance to the east.
Immediately south of the dyke on Roughridge Hill is a Neolithic long barrow.
The barrow mound measures about 75m long and up to 32m wide. It stands up to
about 1m high. Flanking the mound, but no longer visible at ground level due
to the spreading of the mound caused by ploughing, are two quarry ditches
which will survive as buried features. Although the only example in the
scheduling, the barrow is one of a line of more than four Neolithic long
barrows which are strung out east to west along the ridge of the Downs, all
spaced roughly 1km from their nearest neighbour in either direction.
The enclosure on Easton Down is roughly kite-shaped and has a 6m wide bank
which survives up to 0.2m high. Beyond this is a 5m wide ditch which has
become infilled due to cultivation but remains visible in places up to 0.5m
deep. This ditch has a counterscarp bank 3m wide and up to 0.6m high in the
north west corner. Although the western end has been levelled by cultivation,
it is known from aerial photographs and partial excavation to survive as a
buried feature. Previous records also show that the inner bank originally
stood 1.5m or more in height while the counterscarp bank stood 1m high.
The excavations showed that the southern boundary of the enclosure lies below
the line of the later Wansdyke, which appears to change course slightly at
this point. The excavations also produced Romano-British pottery sherds from
the interior of the monument, indicating that it was a settlement during that
period. The section of Wansdyke on Tan Hill crosses a series of four earlier
linear boundary ditches which form part of an earlier prehistoric land
division. Three of these run from north to south and the last runs east to
west and is abutted by at least one of the others. These boundaries survive as
buried features clearly visible on aerial photographs and, despite being
levelled in places, remain visible at several points above ground. The ditches
vary in width from 3m to 8m across and several have adjacent banks about 0.75m
wide and up to 0.3m high. Together they form three sides of a rectilinear
field within which is located a small Bronze Age barrow cemetery containing
five bowl barrows. Two of these are partially overlain by the Wansdyke. The
barrow mounds measure from 12m to 20m in diameter and stand between 0.2m and
1m high. All but one of these are surrounded by quarry ditches which vary from
1m to 2m in width and survive buried below the present ground level.
There are six further bowl barrows along the length of Wansdyke from east of
The Firs to the eastern side of Tan Hill which are partially overlain by the
dyke. Some of these are outliers of groups of barrows or cemeteries, the
remainder of which, where appropriate, are the subject of separate
schedulings. These barrows vary from 10m to 20m in diameter and stand up to 3m
high. Their surrounding quarry ditches measure from between 1m to 2m wide.
Several barrows near to Old Shepherds' Shore were partially excavated in the
1850s and finds included burnt animal and human bone and fragments of Bronze
Age pottery.
All fences, the track surfaces east of Morgan's Hill wireless station and all
information signs are excluded from the scheduling, although the ground
beneath all these features 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

The Downs south and west of Avebury contain a variety of well preserved
archaeological remains, largely by virtue of the fact that the area has been
unaffected by modern development or over-intensive agriculture. The variety,
quantity, and quality of the site types represented and their proximity to
the Avebury World Heritage Area monuments makes the area important in
understanding past landscape management by our ancestors over a period of 4000
The Wansdyke dominates the monument. The section from east of The Firs to the
eastern side of Tan Hill is the best preserved length of this linear earthwork
which runs across Wessex from Bristol to Marlborough. It is believed to be a
frontier defence work and boundary marker intended to prevent incursions into
Wessex from Mercia, although at least some of the sections are probably much
older boundary features.
The section of the Roman road from Cunetio to Verlucio includes a number of
rare engineering features increasing our understanding of technology in the
period. It is well preserved and the west end has affected the location of the
later dyke.
The sections of prehistoric boundaries crossed by and adjacent to Wansdyke, as
well as the enclosure and barrows, provide an unusual association for the dyke
and will, in addition, have been protected by the dyke, giving an indication
of how perception and use of the landscape changed and developed over at least
four millenia.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Pitt-Rivers, , 'Excavations in Cranborne Chase' in Excavations in Cranborne Chase 3, , Vol. 3, (1892), 26-8
1 &2 4.8.67, R.C.H.M.(E), NMR SU 0665/1, (1967)
SU 06 NE 011 Paragraph 1, R.C.H.M.(E), Part of a kite-shaped enclosure, (1973)
SU 06 NE 011 Paragraph 2, R.C.H.M.(E), Part of a kite-shaped enclosure, (1973)
SU 06 NE 104, C.A.O., Long barrow, (1990)
SU 06 NE 601, C.A.O., BOWL BARROW, (1990)
SU 06 NE 708, C.A.O., BOWL BARROW, (1990)
SU 06 NW 611, C.A.O., Round Barrow, (1990)
SU 06 NW 613, C.A.O., Round Barrow, (1990)
SU 06 NW 614, C.A.O., Bowl barrow, (1990)
SU 06 NW 616, C.A.O., Bowl barrow, (1990)
SU 06 NW 617, C.A.O., Round Barrow, (1990)
SU 06 NW 618, C.A.O., Round Barrow, (1990)
SU 06 NW 629, C.A.O., BOWL BARROW, (1990)
SU 06 NW 630, C.A.O., BOWL BARROW, (1990)
SU 06 NW 650, C.A.O., Round Barrow, (1990)
SU 06 NW 659, C.A.O., Linear boundary bank, (1990)
SU 06 NW 741, C.A.O., Roman Road, (1990)
SU 06 SE 603, C.A.O., BOWL BARROW, (1990)
SU 06 SE 604, C.A.O., BOWL BARROW, (1990)
SU 06 SE 605, C.A.O., BOWL BARROW, (1990)
SU 06 SE 606, C.A.O., Bowl barrow, (1990)
SU 06 SE 618 and others, C.A.O., Wansdyke, (1990)
SU 06 Se 619, C.A.O., Boundary bank and ditch, (1990)
SU 06 SE 627, C.A.O., Boundary ditch, (1990)
SU 06 SE 628, C.A.O., Boundary ditch, (1990)
SU 06 SE 629, C.A.O., Boundary ditch, (1990)
SU06NE 315, C.A.O., Enclosure excavated by Pitt-Rivers, (1982)
SU06NE 612, C.A.O., Bowl barrow, (1990)
Title: Ordnance Survey 6" Series
Source Date: 1924

Source: Historic England

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