A cross-dyke from Toisland Wold to Vessey Pasture Dale incorporating a bowl barrow


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:


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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

North Yorkshire
Ryedale (District Authority)
North Yorkshire
Ryedale (District Authority)
National Grid Reference:
SE 83483 62531

Reasons for Designation

Cross dykes are substantial linear earthworks typically between 0.2km and 1km long and 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 combinations 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 re-used 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 dykes 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 have survived to the present day and hence all well- preserved examples are considered to be of national importance.

Although its northern course has been altered by road construction and agricultural activity, the cross-dyke from Toisland Wold to Vessey Pasture Dale is reasonably well-preserved over much of its length and adjoins another well-preserved dyke in Vessey Pasture Dale to form part of an extensive system of prehistoric dykes recorded on Birdsall Wold. The cross-dyke is directly associated with a bowl barrow, a type of funerary monument dating from the Late Neolithic to the Bronze Age. Bowl barrows were constructed as earthen or rubble mounds, sometimes ditched, which covered single or multiple burials. Although the barrow has been altered by agricultural activity, it was comparatively well documented during a campaign of fieldwork in the 19th century. It will retain further information on the form of the barrow mound and the burials placed within it. The monument is associated with other broadly contemporary monuments of similar type on Birdsall Wold. Parallels are also known from other parts of the Wolds and from the southern edge of the North York Moors. Such associations between monuments offer important scope for the study of the division of land for social, ritual and agricultural purposes in different geographical areas during the prehistoric period.


The monument includes the well-preserved southern part of a cross-dyke, running from the crest of Toisland Wold into Vessey Pasture Dale, and a round barrow incorporated into the cross-dyke. The cross-dyke comprises a 6m wide ditch with a 5m wide bank on each side. The course of the dyke was recorded by J R Mortimer in the 19th century but, while the southern part is still reasonably well-preserved, its northern part has since been considerably altered by the construction of the road to Wharram Percy House and is not included in the scheduling. South of the bend in the road the eastern bank survives to a height of 0.5m, forming the modern field and parish boundary. Although the ditch has been infilled and the western bank levelled for agricultural purposes, these are thought to survive as buried features running alongside the bank as far as the brow of the hill. Here the cross-dyke continues down a slack leading to Vessey Pasture Dale and is visible as an earthwork in uncultivated land. At the head of the slack the ditch is up to 1.5m deep and, while the western bank is only slight, the eastern bank is up to 1.5m high. Further down the slope the earthworks become less distinct before terminating at the bottom of the slack, where the ditch joins the ditch of another cross-dyke which runs along the floor of Vessey Pasture Dale and meets with two further cross-dykes. (Two of these cross-dykes are indentified for the purposes of scheduling as 20471 and 20474). All four cross-dykes abut, but for reasons of clarity, they are defined as four distinct cross-dykes, three of which are the subject of separate schedulings. The bowl barrow lies 180m south of the modern road at a point where there is a slight kink in the course of the dyke. Although altered by cultivation and no longer visible as an earthwork, the barrow was recorded and partially excavated by J R Mortimer in 1868. He noted that the dyke had cut through the centre of the barrow. All fences, including that running along the eastern bank of the dyke, are excluded from the scheduling, although the ground beneath them 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.


The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.

Legacy System number:
Legacy System:


Books and journals
Mortimer, J R , Forty Years Researches in British and Saxon Burial Mounds of East Yorkshire, (1905)


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

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