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Kidman's Dyke in Walk Wood: part of the Iron Age territorial oppidum of Camulodunum

A Scheduled Monument in Stanway, Essex

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Latitude: 51.8568 / 51°51'24"N

Longitude: 0.859 / 0°51'32"E

OS Eastings: 596977.915225

OS Northings: 221437.792209

OS Grid: TL969214

Mapcode National: GBR RM5.G0X

Mapcode Global: VHKG4.TLZG

Entry Name: Kidman's Dyke in Walk Wood: part of the Iron Age territorial oppidum of Camulodunum

Scheduled Date: 24 April 2002

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1019961

English Heritage Legacy ID: 29457

County: Essex

Civil Parish: Stanway

Traditional County: Essex

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Essex

Church of England Parish: Shrub End All Saints

Church of England Diocese: Chelmsford


The monument includes a section of a late Iron Age linear boundary earthwork,
or dyke, located within Walk Wood, to the east of Olivers and Little
Olivers (two private houses) and some 3.5km south west of Colchester town

The earthwork is aligned north west-south east and extends over a distance of
some 150m. The structure of the dyke is best preserved near the centre of the
earthwork where the bank measures approximately 11m in width and 1m high
(perhaps one quarter of its original height). The ditch, on the southern side
of the bank, is 7m wide and has been infilled to a depth of 0.5m. Excavations
elsewhere in the system of dykes around Colchester have shown that the dyke
ditches originally measured up to 4m in depth.

The section of dyke in Walk Wood is aligned with the course of Kidman's
Dyke, which has been recorded as a cropmark (enhanced crop growth caused
by moisture trapped in the buried ditch) crossing the fields to the east
of Olivers Lane. Kidman's Dyke forms part of the boundary of the
territorial oppidum of Camulodunum, positioned to surround the western
side of the high status farmstead and associated field systems located
between Olivers Lane and Stanway Green and generally known as `Gosbecks'.
The earliest settlement at Gosbecks dates to around 50-25 BC and is
thought to have been bounded by the Heath Farm Dyke, which followes a
parallel course inside Kidman's Dyke before extending towards Lexden Dyke
and the Iron Age industrial complex at Sheepen to the north east of
Colchester town centre. Kidman's Dyke is believed to have superceded or
reinforced the southern part of this boundary in the early years of the
first century AD, either as part of the consolidation of the settlement or
in response to the increasing threat of Roman invasion.

All fences and fence posts are excluded from the scheduling, although the
ground beneath 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 Latin term `oppidum' usually refers to a town, although in the context
of the Roman invasions of Britain, its use in the writings of Julius
Caesar and Suetonius encompassed a wider range of fortified settlements
and native strongholds. In archaeological terminology `territorial oppida'
is used to describe a settlement phenomenon of the later Iron Age - areas
of farmsteads, field systems and nucleated settlements of various kinds
covering wide areas bounded by substantial earthworks. Such sites are
considered to have been tribal capitals or focal places for communities
between the 1st century BC and the 1st century AD, serving as centres of
trade, manufacture and social prominence. Only a handful of sites in
England have been identified under this term (principally Colchester,
Bagendon, Silchester, St Albans, Chichester, Grims Ditch and Stanwick),
all of which lie in southern, central and western parts of the country.
They all share the common characteristic of boundaries defined by massive
linear banks and ditches, sometimes intermittent and positioned to include
natural barriers such as rivers and marshes. The enclosed areas vary from
between 30 sq km and 90 sq km, some marked out by curvilinear boundaries,
others by more rectilinear patterns. Activities within the enclosed areas
may vary considerably and, given that Iron Age society in southern England
was not homogeneous, there is no reason to suppose that all territorial
oppida exhibited the same status or served identical purposes. In addition
to farmsteads, areas of nucleated settlement and related field systems,
other known features of the enclosures include storage pits and wells,
areas set aside for burials (sometimes extremely elaborate), temple
complexes and areas of pottery manufacture, metal working and the minting
of coins. Some, particularly those positioned in coastal or estuarine
locations, provide evidence of widespread trade in the form of imported
goods, notably Gallo-Belgic pottery, from the continental mainland and the
western Roman Empire.
Territorial oppida reflect the development of complex social organisation and
increased permanence of settlement in the late Iron Age. They also provide
some of the most valuable evidence for the impact of Roman conquest and
government on native society. Given the rarity of this settlement form and its
importance for our understanding of the period, all territorial oppida are
viewed as being of national, if not international importance, and all
surviving elements are considered worthy of protection.

The territorial oppidum surrounding Colchester (`Camulodunum' in
antiquity) encompassed an area of about 25 sq km mainly located between
the converging courses of the River Colne and the Roman River to the west
of the Colne estuary. In addition to the rivers, the settlement was
defined and protected by the largest group of linear earthworks of the
period in Britain. These developed over a period of about one hundred
years from the foundation of the settlement in the early first century BC
and mostly take the form of large V-shaped ditches with banks constructed
from upcast on the sides facing the settled area. The dykes may have been
made still more formidable by the addition of timber palisades and
gateways, and they have been interpreted as an expression of the
settlement's status, as a means to control and protect grazing stock and
as an effective defence against chariots - one of the principal features
of later Iron Age warfare. If placed end to end, the dykes would extend
over a total distance of about 25km. Some 6km now survive as extant
earthworks, and many other sections are known to survive as buried

The interior of the oppidum is thought to have been largely agricultural -
a mixture of enclosed fields, pasture and woodland - with small occupation
sites scattered throughout and two particularly large and complex areas of
activity located to the west and to the north. At Gosbecks, to the west,
an extensive farmstead has been identified. This has been associated with
Cunobelin (one of the most famous British kings prior to the Roman
Conquest) and interpreted as a centre of political authority and religious
practice. Further north, at Sheepen, excavations in the 1930s and 1970
revealed widespread evidence of industrial processes, the minting of coins
and continental trade. Associated with the settlement sites are burial
grounds, the three most prominent of which are the Lexden Tumulus, a group
of excavated burial enclosures at Stanway (beyond the western dykes) and a
similar (unexcavated) enclosure at Gosbecks. These sites reflect the
beliefs and complex burial rituals afforded to the the society's elite; a
large number of less elaborate burials have been discovered across the

The rulers and occupants may have fluctuated according to the relative
fortunes of two rival tribal polities - the Trinovantes centred on modern
Essex and the Catuvellauni based in modern Hertfordshire. An alternative
suggestion is that the oppidum served as a Catuvellaunian colony within
Trinovantian territory, maintained through political agreements or the
warlike ascendancy of the former in order to provide this otherwise
landlocked tribe with access to coastal trade. In either case, the oppidum
was clearly of central importance to the region in AD 43 when it formed
the primary military objective for the invading Roman army. After the
collapse of local resistance, the Emperor Claudius personally led his
victorious forces into the oppidum, which was subsequently reorganised to
provide a centre of provincial government and bridgehead for the further
conquest of Britain. A small Roman fort was constructed within the
Gosbecks complex, and a larger legionary fortress was established on the
hill to the east (now the centre of modern Colchester). As the focus of
military activity shifted towards the north and west of Britain the
fortress was redesignated as a `colonia', a chartered town for a colony of
retired soldiers. `Colonia Victricensis' (City of Victory) was the first
Roman town established in Britain and thus the earliest truly urban
settlement in the country. The burgeoning town was destroyed in AD 60-61 -
the first major casualty of the tribal revolt led by Boudicca, queen of
the Iceni. In the aftermath of the revolt the town was rebuilt with a
protective wall (based on the perimeter of the earlier fortress) and, with
the return of order, the colonia developed in a manner apparently
calculated to integrate the old and new social orders. Native settlement
and burial practices continued within the territorial oppidum (now
probably a `civitas' or self governing town) which was protected with
additional dykes. A temple and a theatre were constructed at the Gosbecks
site, and the Sheepen industrial zone was maintained, enlarged and
extended to include a further religious complex. The collapse of Roman
government in the early fifth century signalled the end of Colonia
Victricensis. Medieval Colchester emerged within the walls of the former
Roman town, leaving the greater part of the extended settlement and
oppidum to disappear beneath its rural hinterland. As a consequence the
archaeological remains in this area are remarkable for the lack of later
disturbance and present a unique opportunity for the study of the Iron Age
and Roman past.

The section of dyke in Walk Wood ranks amongst the best surviving examples of
the linear earthworks which defined the perimeter of the oppidum. Substantial
sections of the bank remain standing and will contain valuable evidence for
the date and manner of its construction. Furthermore the ground surface sealed
beneath the bank at the time of its construction may retain evidence of
pre-existing settlement activity and land use. The line of the attendant ditch
survives well as both a visible and buried feature. The lower fills of the
ditch are unlikely to have been disturbed and will contain important
archaeological evidence related to the period over which the boundary was
maintained. The silts may also contain environmental evidence illustrating the
appearance of the landscape in which the dyke was set.

The Walk Wood earthworks (together with the other known sections of Kidman's
Dyke) form part of a system of some 12 dykes constructed to define and defend
the territorial oppidum of Camulodunum and the later Roman colony. It is
therefore an integral part of the archaeological evidence for the development
of one of the earliest `proto-urban' settlements in Britain and for its
reorganisation into Britain's earliest true town in the years following the
Roman conquest.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Hawkes, C F C, Crummy, P, 'Colchester Archaeological Reports' in Camulodunum II, , Vol. 11, (1995)
Radford, D and Gascoigne, A, The Colchester Iron Age Dykes: Archaeological summary, 1997, Colchester Museums Internal Report
Radford, D and Gascoigne, A, The Colchester Iron Age Dykes: Archaeological summary, 1997, Colchester Museums Internal Report
Radford, D and Gascoigne, A, The Colchester Iron Age Dykes: Archaeological summary, 1997, Colchester Museums Internal Report
Radford, D and Gascoigne, A., The Colchester Iron Age Dyke System: Integrated Management Plan, 1997, Colchester Museum internal report

Source: Historic England

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