Ancient Monuments

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Cross dyke on Steep Down, 700m north east of Beggars Bush

A Scheduled Monument in Sompting, West Sussex

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Latitude: 50.8559 / 50°51'21"N

Longitude: -0.344 / 0°20'38"W

OS Eastings: 516654.962445

OS Northings: 107569.309191

OS Grid: TQ166075

Mapcode National: GBR HM4.9TL

Mapcode Global: FRA B65V.1S7

Entry Name: Cross dyke on Steep Down, 700m north east of Beggars Bush

Scheduled Date: 21 January 1999

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1018566

English Heritage Legacy ID: 31215

County: West Sussex

Civil Parish: Sompting

Traditional County: Sussex

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): West Sussex

Church of England Parish: Sompting St Mary the Virgin

Church of England Diocese: Chichester


The monument includes the western portion of a cross dyke constructed across
the western slope of Steep Down, which forms part of the Sussex Downs. The
roughly east-west aligned cross dyke survives as an approximately 200m long
ditch up to about 6m wide and 1m deep, flanked to the north by slight traces
of a bank up to about 5m wide and 0.2m high. The earthworks have been partly
disturbed by rabbits, scrub growth and past modern ploughing. To the west the
earthworks fade out as the ground falls away. To the east, the cross dyke ends
abruptly at the modern field boundary fence, beyond which the dyke originally
continued across Steep Down, but the earthworks here have been completely
levelled by modern ploughing and are therefore not included in the scheduling.

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

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

Cross dykes are substantial linear earthworks typically between 0.2km and 1km
long and comprising one or more ditches arranged beside and parallel to one or
more banks. They generally occur in upland situations, running across ridges
and spurs. They are recognised as earthworks or as cropmarks on aerial
photographs, or as combinations of both. The evidence of excavation and
analogy with associated monuments demonstrates that their construction spans
the millennium from the Middle Bronze Age, although they may have been re-used
later. Current information favours the view that they were used as territorial
boundary markers, probably demarcating land allotment within communities,
although they may also have been used as trackways, cattle droveways or
defensive earthworks. Cross dykes are one of the few monument types which
illustrate how land was divided up in the prehistoric period. They are of
considerable importance for any analysis of settlement and land use in the
Bronze Age. Very few have survived to the present day and hence all well-
preserved examples are considered to be of national importance.

Despite some subesquent disturbance, the cross dyke 700m north east of Beggars
Bush survives well and will retain archaeological remains and environmental
evidence relating to the construction and original function of the monument.
The monument is one of a pair of cross dykes on Steep Down; the other is some
700m to the south and is the subject of a separate scheduling. These, and
other broadly contemporary monuments in this area of downland, provide
important information about the use of the landscape for settlement, burial
and agriculture during the later prehistoric period.

Source: Historic England

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