Cross dyke on Whiteleaf Hill, 165m south east of the Whiteleaf Cross


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1014598

Date first listed: 25-Jul-1996


Ordnance survey map of Cross dyke on Whiteleaf Hill, 165m south east of the Whiteleaf Cross
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

County: Buckinghamshire

District: Wycombe (District Authority)

Parish: Princes Risborough

National Grid Reference: SP 82256 03860


Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.

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.

The cross dyke on Whiteleaf Hill survives as a well preserved earthwork, clearly subdividing the local topography into distinct zones. The earthworks will retain evidence for the date and method of construction, which may include buried artefacts within the silts of the ditch and perhaps traces of timber palisades on the better preserved sections of the banks. The earlier ground surface buried beneath the bank is particularly significant since it has been sealed and may therefore preserve environmental evidence illustrating the appearance of the landscape in which the monument was set. The cross dyke is an important indication of the manner in which the Chiltern escarpment was sub-divided and utilised in the prehistoric period, all the more significant in the light of its association with the other prehistoric monuments on the spur. The cross dyke is accessible to the public and, although less readily identifiable than the barrows or the famous Whiteleaf Cross, nonetheless contributes to the palimpsest of archaeological sites which reflect the prolonged use of the spur.


Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.


The monument includes a prehistoric cross dyke located on an elevated spur which extends northwards from the Chiltern escarpment, approximately 165m to the south east of the head of the Whiteleaf Cross which is a large hill figure (the subject of a separate scheduling) cut into the chalk on the north facing slope overlooking Princes Risborough and the Vale of Aylesbury.

The dyke is orientated south west to north east and extends for approximately 170m, crossing the narrow plateau between the upper slopes to either side of the neck of the spur, and effectively separating the spur from the high ground to the south east. The ditch is partly filled with accumulated silt and averages 2m in width, varying between c.0.4m and 0.8m in depth. It is best preserved as a visible earthwork towards the south western end, where the accompanying bank on the northern side is about 8m wide and 0.8m high. A second bank flanks the southern side of the ditch. This is most clearly visible near the centre of the earthwork where it measures c.3m across and 0.4m high. The south western end of the dyke merges gently with the natural slope, whereas the north eastern end has been truncated by a small quarry. The earthwork is cut in two other places.

Footpath erosion has created a narrow gap some 12m from the south western end, while a wider and deeper break towards the centre forms part of a hollow way which extends along the spur from north to south. This latter feature is thought to be medieval in origin.

Three prehistoric barrows (burial mounds) lie to the north of the cross dyke, constructed on descending natural terraces along the spur and separated by intervals of approximately 110m. The southern example (a long barrow), which stands some 120m to the north of the dyke, was excavated in the 1930s and shown to have been constructed in the Neolithic period. The two circular mounds (bowl barrows) to the north are unexcavated, but can be dated by their appearance to the Late Neolithic or Bronze Age. A Bronze Age spear head found near the south western end of the dyke may indicate that the dyke was related to the construction of the later barrows (which are the subject of separate schedulings) and perhaps served as a boundary to the burial area.

The post and wire fence which crosses the centre of the dyke is excluded from the scheduling although 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: 27148

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
Wise, J, 'Records of Bucks' in A Survey of Prehistoric and Later Earthworks on Whiteleaf Hill, (1991), 108-113
Wise, J, 'Records of Bucks' in A Survey of Prehistoric and Later Earthworks on Whiteleaf Hill, (1991), 108-133
MPP Single Monument Class Description, Bowman, A, Cross-Dykes, (1990)
report of find, Pike, A & Farley, M, 5772: Linear earthwork, (1993)
Schedule Entry Copy SM: 19047, Barrett, G, A Bowl Barrow on Whiteleaf Hill, 200m north of Whiteleaf Cross, (1992)
Schedule Entry Copy SM: 19048, Barrett, G, A Bowl Barrow on Whiteleaf Hill, 90m north of Whiteleaf Cross, (1992)
Schedule Entry Copy SM: 19053, Barrett, G, A Neolithic Barrow on Whiteleaf Hill, 50m E. of Whiteleaf Cross, (1992)

End of official listing