Section of an early medieval boundary ditch known as the Nico Ditch in Platt Fields 480m SSE of Platt Hall


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


© Crown Copyright and database right 2021. All rights reserved. Ordnance Survey Licence number 100024900.
© British Crown and SeaZone Solutions Limited 2021. All rights reserved. Licence number 102006.006.
Use of this data is subject to Terms and Conditions.

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 - 1015132.pdf

The PDF will be generated from our live systems and may take a few minutes to download depending on how busy our servers are. We apologise for this delay.

This copy shows the entry on 17-Jun-2021 at 08:34:54.


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

Manchester (Metropolitan Authority)
Non Civil Parish
National Grid Reference:
SJ 85527 94439

Reasons for Designation

A small number of substantial and defensible boundary features have been identified as frontier works marking territories in the early medieval period. Up to 50 examples are known with a fairly wide distribution across England, including examples in southern England, East Anglia, Yorkshire, Derbyshire and along the Welsh border. Identified remains extend over distances from as little as 300m up to as much as 240km in the case of Offa's Dyke. They survive in the form of earthworks and as buried features visible as cropmarks or soilmarks on aerial photographs. They appear often to have been constructed across the natural grain of the landscape and, although many examples consisted of a single bank and flanking ditch, to vary considerably in their form and dimensions, even along different stretches of the same boundary, depending upon local topography. Evidence from contemporary documentary sources, excavation and survey suggests that they were constructed in the early medieval period between the fifth and eighth centuries AD. Some were relatively ephemeral, perhaps in use for only a few years during periods of local strife; others, such as Offa's Dyke, constructed between Wales and Mercia, have formed long-lived territorial and/or military boundaries in use for several centuries. As a rare monument type of considerable importance to the study of early medieval territorial patterns, all surviving examples are identified as nationally important.

The Nico Ditch is a linear boundary of the Anglo-Saxon period. The section of the linear earthwork in Platt Fields survives well and is one of very few sections of the Nico Ditch which remains identifiable. It has been destroyed by urban developments in all but a few locations elsewhere in Manchester. The original profile of the ditch is still evident and the bank is still proud of the surrounding ground surface. The original ground surface will survive beneath the bank.


The monument includes a 135m long section of a linear earthwork known as the Nico Ditch. The earthwork is a bank and ditch which lies to the south of the present city of Manchester. It has been traced as upstanding earthwork remains and field boundaries for 5km between the Hough Moss in the west and the Ashton Moss on the east side of the city. Its name has been recorded in various forms in the past including `mykelldiche' and `magnum fossatum' in AD 1190-1212. These names point to an Anglo-Saxon origin and mean the `great ditch'. The section surviving in Platt Fields runs from a point on the north of the Shakespeare Garden where an iron rail fence cuts across the ditch and separates part of the grounds of the school, and eastwards to the Oxford Road wall. At a point 30m from the road it is intersected by another rail fence defining the burial ground of the Unitarian Chapel. The part of the ditch in the burial ground is also included in the scheduling. On the south side of the ditch an iron rail fence has been built along the lip of the ditch to prevent access to the grounds of the school and mark the limits of the park. The ditch is `U' shaped in section and about 2m deep at this point and about 4m wide. The bank is on the north side and stands 0.5m high and 5m wide at the base. The ditch still carries water through to the lake on the west side of the park. To the west of the area of the scheduling the ditch has been re-cut to allow this water to flow more freely and this has destroyed the profile of the original work. To the east the ditch has been destroyed by development. The ditch has been investigated by excavation in various places in the past 20 years and this has confirmed the consistent form of the monument throughout its length. Its date and function have been previously described as a boundary for Roman centuriation (a division of allocated land for cultivation), as an early medieval administrative boundary to separate early estates and later parishes and a defence of the burgh of Manchester reported in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle under the date AD 919. The latter suggested function would have cut off the access to the town by three Roman roads from the south side. Since the ditch effectively forms a barrier to traffic between the Irwell and the Medlock it may have formed part of the boundary of the kingdom of Rheged in the sixth century or it may have been the limit of the kingdom of Mercia in the eigth century. The facts are that it forms a demarcation between an area of low-lying ground between two mosslands to the east and west of the site of the Anglo-Saxon town of Manchester, that it forms a boundary between several medieval townships along its length and that its name is firmly Anglo-Saxon in origin. This means that it was constructed during the administration of the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms between AD 600 and the tenth century. The gravestones in the yard of the chapel and the iron railings on the southern lip of the ditch and running across the ditch at the western end and at a point 30m from the Oxford road, are not included in the scheduling but 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
Farrer, , Early Charters, (1902), 329
Mcneil, R, Excavation at Park Grove, (1992)
Nevell, M, Tameside before 1066, (1992), 82
Nevell, M, Tameside before 1066, (1992), 83
Nevell, M, Tameside before 1066, (1992), 83
Nevell, M, Tameside before 1066, (1992), 78
Tindall, A, A Survey of the Nico Ditch, (1982)


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

Your Contributions

Do you know more about this entry?

The following information has been contributed by users volunteering for our Enriching The List project. For small corrections to the List Entry please see our Minor Amendments procedure.

The information and images below are the opinion of the contributor, are not part of the official entry and do not represent the official position of Historic England. We have not checked that the contributions below are factually accurate. Please see our terms and conditions. If you wish to report an issue with a contribution or have a question please email [email protected].