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Hertfordshire Grim's Ditch: 990m long section between Crawley's Lane and Rossway Lane

A Scheduled Monument in Wigginton, Hertfordshire

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Latitude: 51.7733 / 51°46'23"N

Longitude: -0.6222 / 0°37'19"W

OS Eastings: 495163.227605

OS Northings: 209188.25986

OS Grid: SP951091

Mapcode National: GBR F4W.ZDX

Mapcode Global: VHFRX.5PFG

Entry Name: Hertfordshire Grim's Ditch: 990m long section between Crawley's Lane and Rossway Lane

Scheduled Date: 20 February 1929

Last Amended: 24 February 2004

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1021205

English Heritage Legacy ID: 35347

County: Hertfordshire

Civil Parish: Wigginton

Built-Up Area: Champneys College

Traditional County: Hertfordshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Hertfordshire

Church of England Parish: Wigginton

Church of England Diocese: St.Albans


The monument includes a 990m long section of a prehistoric boundary known
as the Hertfordshire Grim's Ditch running broadly north west to south east
between Crawley's Lane and Rossway Lane, south of Smart's Wood.
The 1st edition Ordnance Survey map of 1896 shows this entire length of
the Hertfordshire Grim's Ditch as an extant earthwork. In subsequent years
the central section was denuded by ploughing and only slight intermittent
traces of the bank and ditch indicate the presence of buried
archaeological remains. Substantial earthworks survive in woodland at
either end of this section, spanning distances of some 150m to the north
west and 200m to the south east. In these areas the bank measures up to
1.8m high and 14m across. The accompanying sections of the ditch, to the
south of the bank, measure some 12m across and, although partly infilled
1.5m deep. At the north west end part of the ditch has been cut away by a
large extraction pit of uncertain date, which is not included in the
In 1973 excavations on a section of Grim's Ditch some 2.4km to the west
produced evidence of a level area, or berm, separating the bank and ditch
and a trench which would have supported a palisade along the outer edge of
the ditch. Similar components may also survive as buried features along
this section of the boundary.
Further sections of Grim's Ditch exist 700m to the west, west of Chesham
Road and 160m to the south east in Hamberlin's Wood. These sections and
others along the entire known route of the boundary are the subject of
separate schedulings.
All fences and fence posts, gates and telegraph poles 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

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 some 18km. It does not
appear that these principal sections were ever joined to form a continuous
boundary. Current evidence suggests that the sometime 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 territorial boundary division 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 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 the monument and will normally merit statutory
protection. The section of Grim's Ditch between Crawley's Lane and
Rossway Lane survives well as a visible earthwork in the woodland at
either end and as a partly buried feature along the central length and
will provide a fascinating insight into the nature of early territorial
land 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. This section of Grim's
Ditch is part of a larger stretch of Grim's Ditch between Wendover and
Berkhamstead which follows an arc across the high ground above the
Aylesbury Vale and Bulbourne Valley and following a similar course to the
modern Ridgeway path less than one kilometre to the north west, which is
itself a reflection of a prehistoric route along the line of the Chiltern
Hills. Prehistoric hillforts are located close by, on Boddington Hill up
to 6.5km to the west, Ivinghoe Beacon, 7.7km to the north and Cholesbury
Hillfort 3km to the south west.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Network Archaeology, , Grim's Ditch: Archaeological and Management Survey Phase III, (1999)
Title: Ordnance Survey 1st Edition Map
Source Date: 1896

Source: Historic England

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