Linear earthworks east of Callow Hill Roman villa forming part of the north Oxfordshire Grim's Ditch


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1014751

Date first listed: 17-Apr-1936

Date of most recent amendment: 02-Jan-1997


Ordnance survey map of Linear earthworks east of Callow Hill Roman villa forming part of the north Oxfordshire Grim's Ditch
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

County: Oxfordshire

District: West Oxfordshire (District Authority)

Parish: Glympton

County: Oxfordshire

District: West Oxfordshire (District Authority)

Parish: Stonesfield

County: Oxfordshire

District: West Oxfordshire (District Authority)

Parish: Wootton

National Grid Reference: SP 41029 19301, SP 41225 19416, SP 41360 18987


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

Reasons for Designation

The north Oxfordshire Grim's Ditch is a series of discrete linear earthworks of Iron Age date which together make up at least one segmented circuit, situated between the valleys of the Rivers Evenlode, Glyme and Windrush in an area of the eastern Cotswolds. In recent years evidence for an outer concentric circuit has come to light, largely from the study of cropmarks visible on aerial photographs. The area enclosed by the inner circuit is 12 sq km and the outer circuit encloses between 60 and 70 sq km. The earthworks which define this area were only built in open country leaving apparent gaps in the areas previously forested. Where visible, the Grim's Ditch always includes a rampart of dumped earth and stone, a berm and outer ditch and, in places, a narrow palisade trench beyond. It is believed that, together, these components served to enclose and divide an area of land and provide control over access through the open country which existed between heavily forested areas. The ditch is Iron Age in date and provides evidence of how the landscape was managed and divided in the period immediately prior to the Roman Conquest. The high concentration of sites representing Iron Age ritual and agricultural activity which occur within the area defined by the ditch confirms the view that it served to define an area which was of particular significance to its builders. All sections surviving as visible earthworks, and sections identified by aerial photography which are integral to a general understanding of the nature and extent of Grim's Ditch, will normally merit statutory protection.

The three sections of the north Oxfordshire Grim's Ditch system, situated east of Callow Hill Roman villa are known to survive well despite having been partly levelled by cultivation. Evidence from aerial photographs and part excavation show that they contain archaeological evidence relating to their construction, function and the landscape in which they were built. In addition they form the best known group of internal land boundary features within the Grim's Ditch complex and as such will provide important evidence of land division in the Iron Age period and subsequent changes associated with the development of the nearby villa in the Roman period.


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


The monument includes three separate lengths of linear earthwork situated east of Callow Hill Roman villa. The earthworks formed internal land divisions within the north Oxfordshire Grim's Ditch system which was built in several phases. Part excavation of the earthwork nearest to the villa has provided a pre-Roman Iron Age date for its construction. Two of the three earthworks run principally north-south while the third and shortest length is aligned roughly NNE-SSW. The westernmost of the two roughly parallel lengths originally ran south for a total distance of c.860m from a point immediately west of Callow Hill Brake to a point just north of Wootton Wood. The north end lies on the slope of a well defined valley running east-west probably wooded in the Iron Age. At the south end, the final 214m turns slightly south east. The earthwork was originally continuous, today however a 60m long section has been levelled at Starveall Farm, breaking the earthwork into two sections. This earthwork had deliberate terminals marking both north and south ends. Although the monument has been partly levelled as a result of cultivation, it remains visible at ground level for much of its length as a low bank 8m wide and varying in height from 0.3m in the south to nearly 1m in the north. To the east of the bank lies a ditch which is largely infilled but which can clearly be seen on aerial photographs. This ditch varies slightly in width but is 21m across at its widest point. Although, at the southern end, 150m of the bank is no longer visible at ground level, it is known from aerial photographs to survive as a partly levelled feature buried below the present ploughsoil. The eastern earthwork consists of a rampart bank which lies c.300m east of the first, with its north end lying in Callow Hill Brake on the same valley slope. It runs south in a gentle curve to the south west for a distance of 1,196m to a point where it passes 8m south of the end of the first section, creating an access gap between the areas divided by two earthworks. The final section is only c.100m long and appears never to have been any more extensive. It consists of a partly levelled rampart measuring 8m across and now standing c.0.3m high. To the north west there is a 10m wide ditch which is no longer visible at ground level but which survives buried below the modern ground level as an-infilled feature clearly visible on aerial photographs. All three sections lie close to the later Roman villa enclosure of Callow Hill which is the subject of a separate scheduling. Excluded from the scheduling are all post and wire fence boundaries which cross the monument and the road surface although the land beneath these features 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: 28127

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
Thomas, N, Hunter, A, 'Oxoniensia' in Notes and News 10, , Vol. XV 1950, (1952), 108
1226 Plot of A.P. evidence by O.S., C.A.O., EARTHWORKS VISIBLE FROM THE AIR, (1930)
Title: Ordnance Survey 1:10000 Series Source Date: 1970 Author: Publisher: Surveyor: SP 41 NW
Title: Ordnance Survey 1:10000 Series Source Date: 1970 Author: Publisher: Surveyor: SP 41 NW Quarter Sheet
Title: Sites and Monuments Overlay for Ordnance Survey 1:10,000 Source Date: 1994 Author: Publisher: Surveyor: Sheet SP 41 NW
Various entries, C.A.O., North Oxfordshire Grim's Ditch, (1989)
Various, CRAWFORD, O.G.S., Photographs, (1930)

End of official listing