White Sheet Hill ditch
Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number: 1005596
Date first listed: 01-Jan-1900
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.
District: Wiltshire (Unitary Authority)
District: Wiltshire (Unitary Authority)
Parish: Stourton with Gasper
National Grid Reference: ST 80259 34975, ST 80372 35054
Part of a cross ridge dyke 1385m north east of Search Farm.
Reasons for Designation
Cranborne Chase is an area of chalkland well known for its high number, density and diversity of archaeological remains. These include a rare combination of Neolithic and Early Bronze Age sites, comprising one of the largest concentrations of burial monuments in England, the largest known cursus (a linear ritual monument) and a significant number and range of henge monuments (Late Neolithic ceremonial centres). Other important remains include a variety of enclosures, settlements, field systems and linear boundaries which date throughout prehistory and into the Romano-British and medieval periods. This high level of survival of archaeological remains is due largely to the later history of the Chase. Cranborne Chase formed a Royal Hunting Ground from at least Norman times, and much of the archaeological survival within the area resulted from associated laws controlling land-use which applied until 1830. The unique archaeological character of the Chase has attracted much attention over the years, notably during the later 19th century, by the pioneering work on the Chase of General Pitt-Rivers, Sir Richard Colt Hoare and Edward Cunnington, often regarded as the fathers of British archaeology. Archaeological investigations have continued throughout the 20th century and to the present day. Cross ridge dykes are substantial linear earthworks typically between 0.2km long and 1km long, comprising one or more ditches arranged beside and parallel to one or more banks. They generally occur in upland situations, running across ridges and spurs. They are recognised as earthworks or as cropmarks on aerial photographs, or as a combination of both. The evidence of excavation and analogy with associated monuments demonstrates that their construction spans the millennium from the Middle Bronze Age, although they may have been reused later. Current information favours the view that they were used as territorial boundary markers, probably demarcating land allotment within communities, although they may also have been used as trackways, cattle droveways or defensive earthworks. Cross ridge dykes occur across Cranborne Chase and are one of the few monument types which illustrate how land was divided up in the prehistoric period. They are of considerable importance for any analysis of settlement and land use in the Bronze Age. Very few examples have survived to the present day nationally and all well-preserved examples are considered to be of national importance. The number of well-preserved examples within Cranborne Chase is particularly notable. The part of a cross ridge dyke 1385m north east of Search Farm survives well and will contain further archaeological and environmental evidence relating to its construction, development, longevity, maintenance, territorial and social significance, function, date and overall landscape context.
This record was the subject of a minor enhancement on 17 September 2015. This record has been generated from an "old county number" (OCN) scheduling record. These are monuments that were not reviewed under the Monuments Protection Programme and are some of our oldest designation records.
This monument, which falls into two separate areas, includes part of a cross ridge dyke situated at the summit and across the narrowest part of an extremely prominent and steeply sloping ridge called White Sheet Hill with far reaching views across the Wylye Valley. The cross ridge dyke survives as a double bank with medial ditch aligned roughly north east to south west and cut by an ancient track way which forms the by way across the downs and the earthworks are preserved differentially throughout the overall length of approximately 300m. The north eastern bank is up to 5m wide and 0.8m high, the southern bank is 5m wide and 0.5m high and the medial ditch is up to 7m wide and 1m deep. A partial excavation in 1989-90 revealed that the ditch was up to 0.7m deep with an irregular V-shaped profile where it was largely invisible as a surface feature and it was steeper on the eastern side. There was a small step at the foot of the ditch the result of a re-cut, and the upper ditch fills revealed a second shallower re-cut which was only 0.2m deep and of V-shaped profile. Fragments of worked flint including flakes and a scraper were discovered along with a single piece of sheep or goat bone. The presence of land snails indicated the cross dyke was built over open countryside.
Further archaeological remains survive in the vicinity, some are scheduled separately but others are not included because they have not been formally assessed.
The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.
Legacy System number: WI 442
Legacy System: RSM - OCN
PastScape 206978; Wiltshire HER ST83NW650
This monument is scheduled under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979 as amended as it appears to the Secretary of State to be of national importance. This entry is a copy, the original is held by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.
End of official listing