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The Mere Bank and flanking ditches

A Scheduled Monument in Avonmouth and Lawrence Weston, Bristol

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Latitude: 51.5112 / 51°30'40"N

Longitude: -2.6758 / 2°40'32"W

OS Eastings: 353198.307498

OS Northings: 179352.700437

OS Grid: ST531793

Mapcode National: GBR JM.J1MW

Mapcode Global: VH88D.K8SW

Entry Name: The Mere Bank and flanking ditches

Scheduled Date: 13 June 1996

Last Amended: 24 April 2002

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1020664

English Heritage Legacy ID: 27988

County: Bristol

Electoral Ward/Division: Avonmouth and Lawrence Weston

Traditional County: Gloucestershire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Bristol

Church of England Parish: Lawrence Weston St Peter

Church of England Diocese: Bristol


The monument comprises a 1.15km length of the Mere Bank, a linear flood
defence of probable medieval date, and its flanking ditches. It is located
within an industrial area of Avonmouth, to the north west of the M5
Although it may have Roman origins the present Mere Bank relates to
medieval (probably 12th or 13th century) attempts to protect an area of
land from sea and river inundation. To the south west of the bank, the
present estuary of the River Avon is 2.5km away, and to the north west,
the Severn Estuary is within 1.25km of the northern end of the monument.
The monument comprises a low bank (the Mere Bank) with two flanking
ditches. The ditch on the north eastern side of the bank, the Mere Bank
Rhine, measures between 1m-3m wide. To the south west, the bank is flanked
by a narrower field ditch boundary. The Bank itself is 3m-5m wide and the
whole monument is approximately 9m in width. The top of the Mere Bank is
only about 0.25m above the natural ground level on its south western side,
but it stands about 1.3m above the base of the flanking south west ditch
and 1.9m above the base of the Mere Bank Rhine on its north east side.
The Mere Bank, noted from a 19th century map, extended in a straight line
from the foot of the 10m contour north west of Lawrence Weston to the
former Hoar Gout at ST52468017. From here the bank is not traceable, but the
rhine and ditch both flank a road heading northwards to the Salt Rhine at
Mitchell's Gout at ST52648105. This coastal lane is probably a
continuation of the course of the bank. This boundary would have served to
protect the open fields of Great Madam and Little Madam, which were a
large expanse of common ground until their enclosure in 1811. Much of the
northern extent of the flood defence has been lost to industrial
The bank is known from a partial excavation to have been constructed of a
series of layers of clay loam and silty clay, below which lie regular silt
deposits from flooding episodes. Pottery of the 12th-13th centuries has
been found beneath the bank, but the origins of the bank may date to the
period of a land reclamation process started during the Romano-British
All modern fences, posts and road surfaces are excluded from the
scheduling although the ground beneath all these features is included.

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

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

Roman and medieval flood defences were barriers designed to prevent the
inundation of land by salt or freshwater floods, and to assist in the
reclamation and drainage of large areas of low lying land. They normally
survive as a low elongated earth bank with a ditch on the landward side. The
banks were made of local clay or turf and were sometimes strengthened by
internal wooden frameworks, wattling or stone facing. Regular repair of flood
defences meant they often had a long life span of many hundred years with some
medieval embankments still in use today. Unaltered examples, ie surviving
medieval defences not subsequently reused in the post-medieval period, are
comparatively rare, and Roman examples rarer still. Flood defences are one of
a small number of Roman and medieval monuments to show the effects of man on
water control. Their longevity and their influence on the layout and pattern
of large areas of low lying land all contribute to their importance.

The Mere Bank and its flanking ditches exists as an identified medieval
flood defence which may have earlier, Roman, origins. It acted as a
barrier to reclaim part of the wetlands of the Avon levels, a landscape
which was subject to increased industrial development in the 19th century.
The present Mere Bank has been provisionally dated to the 12th-13th
century by partial excavation. Documentary sources would appear to support
this date. Part of its length survives as a recognisable feature within
the landscape, which is rare nationally and particularly within the Avon
and North Somerset Levels.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Glamorgan Gwent Archaeological Trust Ltd, , Archaeology of the Second Severn Crossing, (1992), 84-86
Avon County Council Planning Dept., County Series 1:2500,

Source: Historic England

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