Dead Woman's Ditch cross-dyke, Robin Upright's Hill


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1008254

Date first listed: 22-Dec-1976

Date of most recent amendment: 25-Mar-1994


Ordnance survey map of Dead Woman's Ditch cross-dyke, Robin Upright's Hill
© Crown Copyright and database right 2019. All rights reserved. Ordnance Survey Licence number 100024900.
© British Crown and SeaZone Solutions Limited 2019. All rights reserved. Licence number 102006.006.
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The above map is for quick reference purposes only and may not be to scale. For a copy of the full scale map, please see the attached PDF - 1008254 .pdf

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

County: Somerset

District: Sedgemoor (District Authority)

Parish: Over Stowey

National Grid Reference: ST 16040 38477, ST 16198 37820

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.

Dead Woman's Ditch survives as a good example of its class, covering a notable distance of c.1km, and is associated with a hillfort and a number of other broadly contemporary settlement, ritual and territorial monuments in the hills.


The monument, which falls into two areas, includes a univallate cross-dyke, over a ridge in the Quantock Hills. The dyke is c.1km long, running from the head of a stream at Lady's Fountain on the north, over the ridge and down to a stream on the south. It consists of a bank up to 1m high with a ditch on its west side up to 1m deep. For a short stretch on the north the main bank is very shallow, and there is an outer counterscarp bank beyond the ditch. The dyke follows a slightly wandering, sinuous course, partly dictated by the topography. It has been cut through by later features in a number of places. Near the top of the ridge it is crossed by a road and a series of hollow ways (representing earlier lines of the road before it was formalised by tarmac). It is cut by a banked leat or track on the north side of the hill, and on the south by a 19th century enclosure bank and three forestry tracks, the lower two of which have completely destroyed the feature. The dyke is likely to be territorial rather than defensive, and together with the two streams it seems to demarcate an area of land on the north-east of the Quantocks. Dowsborough hillfort is situated above the north end and may relate to the same territory. The cross-dyke was in local folklore thought to have got its name from the discovery in it of a murdered woman in 1789, whose husband John Walford was hanged for the murder at Walford's Gibbet nearby. However, it has more recently been found that the name appears on a map of seven years earlier. Excluded from the scheduling is the road surface and a modern fence which crosses the monument, though the ground beneath 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: 24015

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
OSAD, , Dead Woman's Ditch, (1965)

End of official listing