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Scheduled Monument: THE GREY DITCH (1017662)

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Authority Historic England
Other Ref SM Cat. No. 81
Date assigned Monday, March 15, 1948
Date last amended Thursday, January 29, 1998


REASONS FOR DESIGNATION A small number of substantial and defensible boundary features have been identified as frontier works marking territories in the early medieval period. Up to 50 examples are known with a fairly wide distribution across England, including examples in southern England, East Anglia, Yorkshire, Derbyshire and along the Welsh border. Identified remains extend over distances from as little as 300m up to as much as 240km in the case of Offa's Dyke. They survive in the form of earthworks and as buried features visible as cropmarks or soilmarks on aerial photographs. They appear often to have been constructed across the natural grain of the landscape and, although many examples consisted of a single bank and flanking ditch, to vary considerably in their form and dimensions, even along different stretches of the same boundary, depending upon local topography. Evidence from contemporary documentary sources, excavation and survey suggests that they were constructed in the early medieval period between the fifth and eighth centuries AD. Some were relatively ephemeral, perhaps in use for only a few years during periods of local strife; others, such as Offa's Dyke, constructed between Wales and Mercia, have formed long-lived territorial and/or military boundaries in use for several centuries. As a rare monument type of considerable importance to the study of early medieval territorial patterns, all surviving examples are identified as nationally important. The Grey Ditch is well preserved and is one of only three possible early medieval frontier works in the Peak District. It provides an important insight into activity in the area at this period. DETAILS The monument includes the linear embankment and adjacent ditch known as The Grey Ditch which is interprted as an early medieval boundary marker. It forms composite earthwork oriented WNW-ESE surviving as four distinct sections which, together, form a demarcation line or barrier across the valley of the Bradwell Brook. At its western end the earthwork extends to cross the head of a smaller valley overlooking the village of Hope. The earthwork stands at the northern edge of the limestone region of the Peak District. Within 1km to the south is the village of Bradwell, with the settlement of Brough-on-Noe a similar distance to the north. As well as forming a line of demarcation across the valleys, it also stands across a ridge at the eastern end of the earthwork and, to the west, incorporates a natural knoll known as Mich Low. The ditch, adjacent to the embankment lies on the north side. The western section of the monument spans the head of a dry valley overlooking the village of Hope. The earthwork in this section is approximately 150m long and forms a distinct lynchet to the edge of a field, about 1.7m high on the north side, but rising only approximately 0.7m on the south side. To the immediate north is a track, known as Michlow Lane, which may be located in the remains of the ditch, now resembling a slight hollow way. The earthwork in this section is truncated at its eastern end by a track from Bradwell to Hope, a small concreted area adjacent, and by part of Michlow Lane where it deviates, slightly, to the south. A trackway, entering from the north into land attached to Sunnyhill Farm, breaches the embankment close to the centre of this section. At its western end, the earthwork becomes indistinct but there are faint and intermittent traces of a slight ridge rising to the west on sloping ground, visible with low sunlight and extending beyond the area of protection. This may be a continuation of The Grey Ditch, in land which has been ploughed over in recent times. In view of the indistinct nature of these remains they are not included in the scheduling. Further eastwards, an outcrop known as Mich Low was utilised as the boundary marker, this forms a natural obstacle and is thus not included in the scheduling. A very slight and intermittent ditch crosses the outcrop, together with spoil to its south side. The ditch and spoil follow the line of the earthworks. They may have formed part of the monument but are more likely to be the result of later mineral extraction. To the east of Mich Low the earthwork resumes as a lynchet with a trackway running along the former embankment. To the north is a shallow ditch of varying depth to a maximum of about 0.7m. Close to the western end of this section, an excavation during the 1990s revealed that much of the linear earthwork survives in good condition below ground. Ceramic finds from this excavation enabled the earthwork to be dated to the post Roman period. At the eastern end of this section is the road between Bradwell and Brough-on-Noe which follows the line of Batham Gate, the Roman road to Buxton from the fort at Navio, located less than 1km to the north. The earthwork is absent for approximately 240m east of the road and extending as far as the Bradwell Brook where a small housing estate has been built. To the east of the brook, the embankment is traceable as a distinct field boundary lynchet, about 1m high, with a slight rise of a few centimetres in the ground level to the south. Part of the embankment here has a ruined drystone wall built on it. About 140m east of the brook, the earthwork survives as a ditch and embankment. The bank is about 1.3m high and 7m wide and the ditch about 0.8m deep and 5m wide. This is the longest section of the linear earthwork, running 470m eastwards from the Bradwell Brook. It is truncated in three places where tracks cross the embankment and where the ditch has been bridged with earth. At the eastern end of this section the embankment and ditch become less distinct as the landslope increases to the east. The final 40m of this section passes rough land with a covering of trees and then terminates as the land shelves steeply upwards to the east. Eastwards, the natural terrain and a minor valley to the north present a natural barrier to passage along the valley side. The most easterly of the four sections of earthwork is the best preserved where it demarks or defends the top of a ridge to the north of Rebellion Knoll. Here the bank and ditch are 170m long with both ends appearing to be original terminals. A track along the top of the ridge, known as Brough Lane, passes through this section. The embankment stands to a maximum height of 1.5m with a ditch to the north, up to 2.3m deep. The earthwork also defends or forms a line of demarcation across a Roman road from Navio to Buxton, known as Batham Gate. Several similar earthworks, often called `dykes', are also found in south western Yorkshire. These are believed to have been built by native populations to curb the westerly advance of Anglo-Saxons, during the 5th-7th centuries, or formed a demarcation between the kingdoms of Northumbria and Mercia during the 7th century or later. It is also possible that the Grey Ditch formed a defendable demarcation during the Viking period when Hope came under the control of the English during the early tenth century prior to the submission of the north. All drystone walls, gates and gateposts, the metalling of roads and pathways and the topsoil of grass verges, are excluded from the scheduling, although the ground beneath these features is included. SELECTED SOURCES Book Reference - Author: Faull, M and Moorhouse, A. (eds.) - Title: West Yorkshire: an Archaeological Survey to AD 1500 - Date: 1981 - Page References: 172-5 - Type: DESC TEXT Book Reference - Author: Guilbert, G and Taylor, C. - Title: Grey Ditch, Bradwell, Derbyshire: 1992 Excavation - Date: 1992 - Type: EXCAVATION REPORT Book Reference - Author: Hart, C R. - Title: The Kingdom of Mercia - Date: 1977 - Journal Title: Mercian Studies - Page References: 43-61 - Type: DESC TEXT

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Sources (1)

  • Scheduling record: English Heritage. 1948. Scheduling Notification: The Grey Ditch. List entry no. 1017662. SM Cat. No. 81.



Grid reference Centred SK 1753 8153 (1567m by 653m) (4 map features)
Map sheet SK18SE

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Record last edited

May 16 2023 3:09PM

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