Section of an early medieval boundary ditch known as the Nico Ditch on Denton golf course 320m south west of Lodge Farm


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1016197

Date first listed: 08-Apr-1997


Ordnance survey map of Section of an early medieval boundary ditch known as the Nico Ditch on Denton golf course 320m south west of Lodge Farm
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

District: Tameside (Metropolitan Authority)

National Grid Reference: SJ 90443 96054


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

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 linear earthwork on Denton golf course survives well in this 205m long section. Such survival is remarkable in this urban and extensively built-up area. Other sections can still be traced as township boundaries and as footpaths in the city. The ditch still retains its `U' shaped profile and the bank stands proud of the surrounding landscape and will have traces of the original ground surface beneath it. In this section where the ditch has been partly infilled and the bank degraded by ploughing the remains will nonetheless retain deposits in the bottom of the ditch and original soil under the bank.


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


The monument includes a 205m section of a linear earthwork known as the Nico Ditch. The earthwork is a bank and ditch which lies to the south and east of the present city of Manchester. It has been traced as upstanding remains and field boundaries for 5km between the Hough Moss in the west and the Ashton Moss on the east side of the city. It cuts through the low-lying land between these mosslands and defends the land to the north including the site of the Roman fort and Anglo-Saxon burgh of Manchester. Its name has had 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 surviving section of the Nico Ditch on Denton Golf Course runs from a point 50m north of the eastern spur of Gorton Rears for around 300m to the north east diagonally across the course, however only a 205m section is included in the scheduling. The ditch is `U'shaped in section and about 1.5m 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 no longer carries water even though it is referred to as the Nico Brook by local people. A well-preserved section runs eastwards for 105m from the western end of the area of the scheduling. Beyond this to the east there is a 100m long section of ditch which has been partly destroyed by agriculture and the formation of the golf fairways and is visible as a rise in the mown grass representing the degraded bank on the north west side and a slight depression where the ditch has been infilled by agricultural activity. This section is included in the scheduling. For about a further 100m to the east the ditch is only traceable as a darker mark in the grass during dry weather conditions; this section is not included in the scheduling. The ditch has been excavated in various places in the past 20 years at other locations and these investigations have established the consistent form of the bank and ditch. Its date and function have been variously 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 as 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.

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: 27601

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
Farrer, , Early Charters, (1902), 329
Nevell, M, Tameside before 1066, (1992), 82
Nevell, M, Tameside before 1066, (1992), 78
Nevell, M, Tameside before 1066, (1992), 83
Tindall, A, A Survey of the Nico Ditch, (1982), 6-7
McNeil , R, 'GMAU report' in The Nico Ditch, (1992)

End of official listing