Ancient Monuments

History on the Ground

This site is entirely user-supported. See how you can help.

Kidman's Dyke North and Middle: part of the Iron Age territorial oppidum of Camulodunum

A Scheduled Monument in Prettygate, Essex

We don't have any photos of this monument yet. Why don't you be the first to send us one?

Upload Photo »

Approximate Location Map
Large Map »

If Google Street View is available, the image is from the best available vantage point looking, if possible, towards the location of the monument. Where it is not available, the satellite view is shown instead.


Latitude: 51.873 / 51°52'22"N

Longitude: 0.8516 / 0°51'5"E

OS Eastings: 596402.1775

OS Northings: 223226.1113

OS Grid: TL964232

Mapcode National: GBR RLZ.D56

Mapcode Global: VHKG4.Q52Z

Entry Name: Kidman's Dyke North and Middle: part of the Iron Age territorial oppidum of Camulodunum

Scheduled Date: 10 August 1923

Last Amended: 2 September 2002

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1019991

English Heritage Legacy ID: 29453

County: Essex

Electoral Ward/Division: Prettygate

Built-Up Area: Colchester

Traditional County: Essex

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Essex

Church of England Parish: Shrub End All Saints

Church of England Diocese: Chelmsford


The monument includes buried and upstanding remains of parts of the middle and
northern segments of a late Iron Age linear boundary earthwork, or dyke, named
after Mr Kidman who owned part of the land along its route at the time of its
investigation in the 1950s. The division of the dyke into three parts
(Kidman's Dyke North, Middle and South) follows the terminology used in
archaeological publications.

This visible section of the dyke is located some 3.5km south west of
Colchester town centre and extends over a distance of about 280m between the
Wallis Court housing estate and the Shrub End landfill site. The dyke
follows a north-south alignment for 190m south of James Carter Road,
where it is known as the southern part of Kidman's Dyke North. It then
turns to the south west and runs for 90m towards the minor lane leading
to Brickwall Farm, this stretch being the northern part of Kidman's Dyke

The bank (or rampart) along the eastern side of the boundary was partly
denuded by gravel quarrying prior to the recent landfill operation. The
western scarp nonetheless survives fully intact, measuring some 10m in
width and rising 2.5m above the base of the partly infilled ditch. During
archaeological excavations, sections were cut across the earthwork in at
least six places between the 1950s and 1978. In each case, however, the
excavations were either extremely limited or the records incomplete. The most
recent excavation demonstrated that the ditch measured 10m across and allowed
the original depth to be estimated at 4m.

Kidman's Dyke is part of the western boundary of the territorial oppidum
of Camulodunum, positioned to surround the western side of the high status
farmstead and associated field systems at Gosbecks. The middle section of
Kidman's Dyke continues to the south of the lane leading to Brickwall Farm
(where it is scheduled as part of the Gosbecks complex) and combines with
Kidmans's Dyke South to enclose one phase in the settlement's development. The
earliest settlement at Gosbecks (dated to around 50-25 BC) is thought to
have been bounded by the Heath Farm Dyke; this followed a parallel course
inside Kidman's Dyke before extending towards Lexden Dyke and the Iron
Age industrial complex at Sheepen to the north east. Kidman's Dyke is
believed to have superseded or reinforced the southern part of this
boundary. The continuation of the dyke to the north west of the landfill
site (not included in the scheduling) was examined between 1973 and 1976
prior to housing development. These excavations indicated that the dyke
was constructed to enhance the oppidum's defences in the early first
century AD (perhaps in response to local unrest or the increasing threat
of Roman invasion). Lesser ditches found abutting the dyke suggest that
it also formed part of an irregular pattern of stock enclosures in the
late Iron Age or early Roman period, and it appears that the northern
spur may have been integrated into a system of additional defensive
boundaries (Dugard Dyke, Shrub End Dyke/Triple Dyke) created under
Roman administration. It is possible that the northern section of Kidman's
Dyke (which has only been recorded as far as Lexden Straight Road) curved
south again toward Heath Farm Dyke, perhaps even accounting for the
convergence of banks recorded as a `Roman Camp' by the Reverend Henry Jenkins
in 1843. The expansion of houses across this area in the earlier part of the
20th century has, however, removed all visible traces of these features.

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.

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 25sq 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 time 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 society's elite; a large number of less elaborate burials have been
discovered across the oppidum.

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 5th 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 surviving earthworks of Kidman's Dyke (Middle and North) are among the
best remaining examples of the linear earthworks which defined the perimeter
of the settlement. The bank remains a substantial and impressive earthwork
which will contain evidence for the date and manner of its construction and
use. Furthermore the ground surface sealed beneath the bank at the time of its
construction may retain evidence of pre-existing settlement activity which
will assist the process of ascribing a date to its construction. The line of
the attendant ditch survives well as a partly buried feature. The lower fills
of the ditch are unlikely to have been disturbed and will contain valuable
archaeological evidence related to the period over which it was maintained.
The silts may also contain environmental evidence illustrating the appearance
of the landscape in which the dyke was set.

Together with its continuation to the north and south, this section of
Kidman's Dyke forms part of a system of some 12 dykes constructed to define
and defend the territorial oppidum of Camulodunum and the later Roman colony.
It therefore forms part of the archaeological evidence for the development of
one of the earliest `proto-urban' settlements in Britain and, most
significantly, for its reorganisation in the years following the Roman

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Crummy, P, City of Victory: The story of Colchester, (1997)
Hawkes, C F C, Crummy, P, 'Colchester Archaeological Reports' in Camulodunum II, , Vol. 11, (1995), 116
Hawkes, C F C, Crummy, P, 'Colchester Archaeological Reports' in Camulodunum II, , Vol. 11, (1995)
Hawkes, C F C, Crummy, P, 'Colchester Archaeological Reports' in Camulodunum II, , Vol. 11, (1995), 120
Hawkes, C F C, Crummy, P, 'Colchester Archaeological Reports' in Camulodunum II, , Vol. 11, (1995), 161-178
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

Other nearby scheduled monuments is an independent online resource and is not associated with any government department. All government data published here is used under licence. Please do not contact for any queries related to any individual ancient or schedued monument, planning permission related to scheduled monuments or the scheduling process itself. is a Good Stuff website.