Ancient Monuments

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Two cross dykes on Fontmell Down, 850m and 880m south east of Gourd's Farm

A Scheduled Monument in Compton Abbas, Dorset

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Latitude: 50.9621 / 50°57'43"N

Longitude: -2.1711 / 2°10'16"W

OS Eastings: 388077.7685

OS Northings: 118089.3814

OS Grid: ST880180

Mapcode National: GBR 1Y3.PWK

Mapcode Global: FRA 66BK.PZ5

Entry Name: Two cross dykes on Fontmell Down, 850m and 880m south east of Gourd's Farm

Scheduled Date: 12 July 1961

Last Amended: 24 September 1999

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1020361

English Heritage Legacy ID: 31069

County: Dorset

Civil Parish: Compton Abbas

Traditional County: Dorset

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Dorset

Church of England Parish: Fontmell Magna St Andrew

Church of England Diocese: Salisbury


The monument includes, in two separate areas, two cross dykes on Fontmell Down
aligned broadly north west-south east across the crest of the spur, 250m
apart. They are two of five similar monuments at the end of the escarpment,
the remainder of which are the subject of separated schedulings.
The northern cross dyke has a bank, 8m wide and up to 1.2m high, curving more
towards the north at its western end, with a ditch, 5m wide and up to 1m deep,
to the north east of it and another bank beyond, 6m wide and 0.5m high. The
earthworks fade out at each end on the steeper slopes. There are two gaps in
the earthwork, one at the centre and the other where the parish boundary
crosses it, neither of which are original. In 1997 during the relaying of a
water pipe through the central gap, part of the ditch fill was exposed.
Environmental evidence from the archaeological levels indicated that the ditch
was created in cleared woodland, but grassland subsequently predominated and
was grazed intensively. The change in land use to a more managed landscape
suggests that the cross dyke may have been part of local land allotment and
animal containment.
The southern cross dyke runs in a straight line obliquely across the spur and
has a bank 8m wide and up to 1m high with a ditch on its northern side, 5m
wide and 0.5m deep. A vehicle track has breached the bank near the centre,
adjacent to the wood, and to the west of this the bank has been partly or
totally reduced in height in two stretches, 17m and 35m long. It is understood
that this was done by a previous owner to create a golf course. Another track
has truncated the bank near the western end adjacent to the parish boundary.
The earthwork fades out at each end just above the steep slopes.
Both these cross dykes lie within a prehistoric field system which has been
largely reduced in height by ploughing over the years, although some banks are
still visible on the steep north east facing slopes of the spur. Two Bronze
Age burial mounds 50m to the north of the northern cross dyke have been
similarly levelled by ploughing. The field system is not considered well
enough preserved, on the basis of current understanding, and are not included
in the scheduling.
All fence and gate 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

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.

The cross dykes on Fontmell Down, 850m and 880m west of Gourd's Farm are
comparatively well preserved examples of their class and will contain
archaeological remains providing information about later prehistoric land use
and environment. Two cross dykes in close proximity on one ridge is very
unusual. They are also two of five cross dykes at the end of the escarpment
providing an unusual and significant association.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Sumner, H, The Ancient Earthworks of Cranborne Chase, (1988), 66-67
Manuscript report, Allen, M, Fontmell Down, land-use, landscape and land management; snails, (1997)

Source: Historic England

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