Ancient Monuments

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Buckinghamshire Grim's Ditch: 875m long section between Leylands Farm and Shire Lane

A Scheduled Monument in Cholesbury-cum-St Leonards, Buckinghamshire

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Latitude: 51.766 / 51°45'57"N

Longitude: -0.6788 / 0°40'43"W

OS Eastings: 491271.610908

OS Northings: 208301.494276

OS Grid: SP912083

Mapcode National: GBR F50.96T

Mapcode Global: VHFRW.6W02

Entry Name: Buckinghamshire Grim's Ditch: 875m long section between Leylands Farm and Shire Lane

Scheduled Date: 12 March 1962

Last Amended: 24 February 2004

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1021202

English Heritage Legacy ID: 35344

County: Buckinghamshire

Civil Parish: Cholesbury-cum-St Leonards

Traditional County: Buckinghamshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Buckinghamshire

Church of England Parish: St Leonards

Church of England Diocese: Oxford


The monument includes a 875m long section of a prehistoric boundary known as
the Buckinghamshire Grim's Ditch, running broadly south west to north east
between Bottom Road and Shire Lane. It is situated on high ground following a
similar course to the modern Ridgeway path less than one kilometre to the
north, which is itself a reflection of a prehistoric route along the line of
the Chiltern Hills.
This section of Grim's Ditch, between Leylands Farm and Shire Lane, is
marked by the visible remains of the bank along most of its length. The
earthen bank measures up to 11m wide and over 1m high in some places. The
ditch lies parallel to the south east side of the bank, visible as a
shallow depression to the north east, near Shire Lane, where it measures
12m wide and 0.8m deep, but otherwise now largely buried by accumulated
soil and silt. An excavation, carried out in 1973 along a section of
Grim's Ditch approximately 350m 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 also survive as
buried features along this section of Grim's Ditch.
Further sections of Grim's Ditch exist to the south west around Lanes End,
and to the north east beyond Longcroft. These sections and others along
the entire known route of the boundary are the subject of separate
Concrete hard standings in some of the fields overlie small areas of the
monument and much of the ditch is overlain by a private driveway. These modern
surfaces are excluded from the scheduling together with all gates, stiles and
fences, although the ground beneath them 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

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 principle
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 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 bank and ditch
(concealed over time by the spread of 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 territoral boundary separating, and perhaps enclosing, organised parcels
of land and settlement. It may also have been used as 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 for the
management of the landscape in the centuries proceding 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' occurrs 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 photographs or ground survey), are considered integral to a
general understanding of the monument and will normally merit statutory
protection. The section of Grim's Ditch between Leyland's Farm and Shire
Lane survives well as a visible and partly buried earthwork along much of
its length. 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. This section represents part of a larger
stretch of Grim's Ditch extending between Wendover and Berkhamstead which
follows an arc across high ground above the Aylesbury Vale and the
Bulbourne Valley. Prehistoric hillforts are located close by: on
Boddington Hill on the north west side of Grim's Ditch and at Cholesbury
to the south.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Network Archaeology, , Grim's Ditch: Archaeological and Management Survey Phase III, (1999)

Source: Historic England

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