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The Bar Dyke linear earthwork

A Scheduled Monument in Bradfield, Sheffield

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Latitude: 53.4479 / 53°26'52"N

Longitude: -1.6306 / 1°37'50"W

OS Eastings: 424631.414075

OS Northings: 394632.94833

OS Grid: SK246946

Mapcode National: GBR KX1K.SR

Mapcode Global: WHCC2.XLPM

Entry Name: The Bar Dyke linear earthwork

Scheduled Date: 4 August 1933

Last Amended: 22 December 1997

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1017508

English Heritage Legacy ID: 29808

County: Sheffield

Civil Parish: Bradfield

Traditional County: Yorkshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): South Yorkshire

Church of England Parish: Bradfield St Nicholas

Church of England Diocese: Sheffield


The monument includes a linear embankment and adjacent ditch to the north
west known as the Bar Dyke, which form a composite earthwork oriented north
east-south west. The monument is thought to belong to the Iron Age or post-
Roman period. It is located in a prominent position chiefly in open moorland
about 3km north west of, and overlooking, the village of Bradfield. The
earthwork forms a line of demarcation across a break in a minor Millstone Grit
scarp edge on the eastern side of Broomhead Moor. Part of the earthwork passes
through a small area of semi-improved and enclosed pasture, whereas the
remainder is located in unimproved moorland with a covering of heather.
The total length of the embankment is approximately 400m and it is crossed by
two narrow roads, leaving three sections of embankment of about 50m, 150m
and 180m in length respectively from the south west end. It is not known when
either of these roads came into existence, but it is possible that one of them
existed when the earthworks were constructed. The embankment varies in width
but is generally around 8m wide, with the ditch being about 7m wide at the
top. The base of the ditch is no more than a metre or so wide. The south
western section of the embankment stands to a maximum height of about 1.2m
and appears to terminate in open moorland overlooking a stream, the Agden
Dike, about 250m to the south. The adjacent ditch is faint in this section but
it may have been filled by debris from a small quarry located to the immediate
north west of this part of the embankment.
The central section of the earthwork is very pronounced for about 50m at its
south west end, where the embankment stands to a maximum height of 1.5m above
ground level and with a deep ditch to the north west. The rise from the base
of the ditch to the top of the embankment is in the region of 3.4m. This is
one of the better preserved sections of the monument. To the north east, the
earthwork is cut by a disused hollow way after which the embankment then
becomes shallow, no more than about 0.5m high with only a slight depression
for the ditch. At the north east end of this central section the embankment
survives to a height of approximately 1.3m for its last 9m.
The north east section of the monument is the longest at about 180m. To the
immediate north east of the road the earthwork passes through semi-improved
pasture for about 70m. Here the embankment survives but has been ploughed over
causing the bank to slump and the ditch to become less well defined. However,
the bank still survives to about 1m high in places. A drystone wall stands on
top of the embankment forming a boundary between two fields, and similar
enclosure walls cross the earthwork at right-angles at the south west and
north east. North east of the enclosure the earthwork passes again through
unimproved moorland where the embankment and ditch are well defined. The
former stands to a height of about 1.4m with the distance from base of ditch
to top of embankment approximately 2.7m. In this section it appears that the
ditch may have been recut at some time: spoil from the latter can be seen on
the north west side of the ditch. The earthwork ends abruptly at the edge of a
steep slope which may well have been created or enhanced by more recent
quarrying (now abandoned) to the north east of the monument.
The monument remains undated but it is usually associated with defences
erected during the post-Roman period. Several similar earthworks, often
called 'dykes', exist in south western Yorkshire which are believed to have
been built by native populations to curb the westerly advance of Anglo-Saxons
during the 5th-7th centuries. Alternatively it is possible that the earthworks
may have formed a demarcation or defensive measure between the Northumbrians
and the Mercians at a slightly later date, possibly during the 7th century.
However, there is the possibility that it dates from prehistoric times and may
be Iron Age or even earlier. Where all of the minor disused tracks and hollow
ways cross the earthwork, it is apparent that these post- date the monument.
Excluded from scheduling are all stone walls, gates and gateposts, and the
metalling of the roads, although the ground beneath is included.

The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.
It includes a 5 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 2.2km and 1km
long and comprising one or more ditches arranged beside or parallel to one or
more banks. They generally occur in upland situations, running across ridges
and spurs. They are recognised as earthworks, as cropmarks on aerial
photographs, or as combinations of both. The evidence of excavation and
analogy with associated monuments demonstrates that the period of construction
of many cross dykes spanned the millennium from the Middle Bronze Age. Others
are known to have had a function in the Middle Ages; without excavation it is
difficult to determine whether this indicates reuse of earlier dykes or the
construction of new ones during the medieval period. Current information
favours the view that they were used as boundary markers, probably demarcating
some form of land allotment, although they may also have been used as
trackways, cattle droveways or defensive earthworks. Cross dykes are one of
the few monument types which indicate how land was divided up, whether in the
prehistoric or medieval period. They are of considerable importance for the
analysis of contemporary settlement and land use patterns. Relatively few
examples have survived to the present day and hence all well preserved
examples will merit statutory protection.

The Bar Dyke is a well preserved example of an earthwork probably erected as a
frontier defence either during the prehistoric or post-Roman periods. Few
similar monuments, especially in the local region, survive in such good
condition with as well defined features. Although the monument is as yet
undated, it holds much potential archaeological evidence to increase
understanding of such defensive or demarcatory systems. These are especially
important to our knowledge of ancient boundary alignments in southern
Yorkshire and in the wider context.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Hey, D , The Making of South Yorkshire, (1979), 23
Michelmore, DJH, West Yorkshire: an Archaeological Survey to AD 1500, (1981), 172-5
Sidebottom, P (forthcoming), Stone Crosses of the Peak and the Sons of Eadwulf, 1997,

Source: Historic England

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