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Buckinghamshire Grim's Ditch: 350m long section extending north east from Cottage Farm

A Scheduled Monument in Great Missenden, Buckinghamshire

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Coordinates

Latitude: 51.7231 / 51°43'23"N

Longitude: -0.7115 / 0°42'41"W

OS Eastings: 489096.111373

OS Northings: 203495.970117

OS Grid: SP890034

Mapcode National: GBR D41.T3D

Mapcode Global: VHDVL.MY6F

Entry Name: Buckinghamshire Grim's Ditch: 350m long section extending north east from Cottage Farm

Scheduled Date: 20 August 1936

Last Amended: 24 February 2004

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1021198

English Heritage Legacy ID: 35339

County: Buckinghamshire

Civil Parish: Great Missenden

Traditional County: Buckinghamshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Buckinghamshire

Church of England Parish: The Lee

Church of England Diocese: Oxford

Details

The monument includes a 350m curved length of the prehistoric boundary
known as the Buckinghamshire Grim's Ditch located on high ground to the
north of Great Missenden. Beginning to the north east of Cottage Farm the
boundary runs in a north easterly direction for some 100m through a narrow
stretch of woodland within the grounds of Cottage Farm; then, after a
gradual change in direction, NNE for 250m along the eastern edge of the
pasture field to the west of Three Bears Cottage, through a narrow stretch
of woodland flanked by cultivated fields, and into the cultivated field
NNE of the woodland.
This section of the Buckinghamshire Grim's Ditch survives as a substantial
earthwork along most of its length. The earthen bank measures up to 8m
wide and stands up to 0.6m high. To the east of the bank lies a parallel
ditch, up to 8m wide and up to 0.5m in depth. An excavation, carried out
in 1973 along a stretch of Grim's Ditch approximately 6km to the north
east, produced evidence of a level area, or berm, separating the bank and
ditch. Evidence for a palisade trench, which would have supported a
wooden fence, was also found along the outer edge of the ditch. Similar
components may survive as buried features along this particular section of
the Grim's Ditch.
A recent geophysical survey identified that the ditch and traces of the
bank continued for a further 22m at the NNE end of the visible earthwork
despite having been levelled by cultivation. This buried stretch is
included in the scheduling.
The geophysical survey was unable to provide conclusive evidence that
Grim's Ditch continued beyond the known 350m long section either to the
north or to the south west and it is possible that this section of the
boundary represents an isolated stretch with substantial breaks between it
and the sections at Great Hampden, 3.5km to the south west and Great
Widmoor Wood, 2.5km to the north, both of which are the subject of
separate schedulings.
All fences and fence posts, the garage, oil tank and the surface of the
driveway relating to Three Bears Cottage are excluded from the scheduling,
although the ground beneath these features is included.

MAP EXTRACT
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

Linear boundaries are substantial earthwork features comprising single or
multiple ditches and banks which may extend over distances varying between
less than 1km to over 10km. They survive as earthworks or as linear features
visible as cropmarks on aerial photographs or as a combination of both. The
evidence of excavation and study of associated monuments demonstrate that
their construction spans the millennium from the Middle Bronze Age, although
they may have been reused later.
The scale of many linear boundaries has been taken to indicate that they were
constructed by large social groups and were used to mark important boundaries
in the landscape; their impressive scale displaying the corporate prestige of
their builders. They would have been powerful symbols, often with religious
associations, used to define and order the territorial holdings of those
groups who constructed them. Linear earthworks are of considerable importance
for the analysis of settlement and land use in the Bronze Age; all well-
preserved examples will normally merit statutory protection.

The boundary known as the Buckinghamshire and Hertfordshire Grim's Ditch
includes numerous surviving sections from within three main linear earthworks
aligned along the Chiltern Hills between Bradenham and Berkhamsted and
spanning a total distance of 18km. It does not appear that these principal
sections were ever joined to form a continuous boundary. Current evidence
suggests that the sometimes quite sizeable gaps represent areas which were
formerly forested or in which natural features served to perpetuate a natural
division of the land. The same pattern has been discerned along the North
Oxfordshire Grim's Ditch, to the west of the Thames. A further comparable
linear boundary, the Moel Ditch, extends to the east across parts of
neighbouring Bedfordshire.
For the most part the visible sections of Grim's Ditch in the Chilterns
include a wide single ditch flanked by a bank of upcast earth, which is
always upslope of the ditch. Other features, discovered by limited
excavations include a turf core within the bank, a berm separating the
bank and ditch (concealed over time by the spread of the bank material)
and a trench for a fence or palisade along the outer rim of the ditch.
The Buckinghamshire and Hertfordshire Grim's Ditch is thought to have
served as a territorial boundary, separating, and perhaps enclosing,
organised groups of land and settlement. It may also have been an
agricultural boundary, denoting grazing areas and impeding the movement
(or theft) of stock. Excavations to date have provided only limited
dating evidence. Pottery recovered from the fill of the ditch indicates
that it was in existence in the Iron Age. As such, the boundary provides
important evidence for the management of the landscape in the centuries
preceding the Roman Conquest in AD 43, although it may have a considerably
earlier origin. It remained a notable feature in later centuries,
acquiring its present name (a variation on the name of the god, Odin) at
some point in the early medieval period, perhaps during the period of
pagan Saxon settlement in the 5th and 6th centuries. The earliest recorded
use of the term `Grim's Ditch' occurs in a charter granted by Edward, Earl
of Cornwall in 1291.
All sections of the Buckinghamshire and Hertfordshire Grim's Ditch which
survive in visible form or as well-preserved buried remains (identified by
aerial photography or ground survey) are considered integral to a general
understanding of monument and will normally merit statutory protection.
The 350m long section section of Grim's Ditch extending north east from
Cottage Farm survives well as a visible earthwork along most of its length
and provides a fascinating insight into the nature of early territorial
and division in the Chiltern Hills. It will contain archaeological
evidence for the manner of its construction as well as environmental
evidence for the appearance of the landscape in which it was built. The
archaeological evidence may also include artefacts or scientific dating
material from which to determine the period of its construction and the
duration of its maintenance as an active boundary.

Source: Historic England

Sources

Books and journals
BCMAS, , An Archaeological and Management Survey of Grim's Ditch, Bucks, (1997)
Network Archaeology, , Grim's Ditch: Archaeological and Management Survey Phase II, (1998)
Network Archaeology, , Grim's Ditch: Archaeological and Management Survey Phase III, (1999)

Source: Historic England

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