Linear earthworks known as Woodhouse Moor Rein and South Dyke, part of the Aberford Dyke system


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Scheduled Monument
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Ordnance survey map of Linear earthworks known as Woodhouse Moor Rein and South Dyke, part of the Aberford Dyke system
© Crown Copyright and database right 2019. All rights reserved. Ordnance Survey Licence number 100024900.
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

Leeds (Metropolitan Authority)
Lotherton cum Aberford
North Yorkshire
Selby (District Authority)
Saxton with Scarthingwell
National Grid Reference:
SE 44490 37171

Reasons for Designation

The Aberford Dykes are substantial linear earthworks situated in North and West Yorkshire, east of Leeds. They lie north and south of Cock Beck with the modern village of Aberford at their approximate centre. They are visible as rock-cut ditches and banks. Most of the earthworks run approximately east-west. The ditch is on the south side of the bank and some parts of the earthworks have an additional counterscarp bank on the same side. The earthworks north of Cock Beck (including sections known as The Ridge, Becca Banks and the earthwork at Field Lane) mostly occupy commanding positions at the top of the scarp and may once have formed a single boundary. The earthworks south of Cock Beck include the South Dyke which occupies the top of the scarp above the beck and, crossing it, Woodhouse Moor Rein, running north east-south west along a low rounded ridge. The Aberford Dykes have been identified as defences of the British kingdom of Elmet against the Anglo-Saxons in the late sixth and early seventh centuries, or as boundaries to defend the Anglo-Saxon kingdom of Deira against the Mercians in the seventh century AD. They have also been interpreted as dykes built to defend the territories of the Brigantes against the advance of the Roman Empire in the first century AD. There is no documentary evidence for the date of the Dykes, however, and firm archaeological dating evidence is sparse. They may not all belong to one period but relate to a number of different events. The style of construction has parallels in both the Roman and the early post-Roman periods. Excavation at Field Lane retrieved Roman period pottery from deposits associated with the silting up of the ditch. It is therefore likely that, here at least, the ditch was open during the Roman period. The size and extent of the Aberford Dykes imply a considerable expenditure of time and labour, suggesting a degree of social organisation at the time of their construction and a strong concern for territorial control, whether military, organisational or symbolic. All known lengths of the Aberford Dykes where significant archaeological deposits are likely to survive are considered to be nationally important.

The linear earthworks known as Woodhouse Moor Rein and South Dyke, part of the Aberford Dyke system survive well, and will preserve significant archaeological information about the Roman and post-Roman periods in this region.


The monument includes two intersecting earthworks known as Woodhouse Moor Rein and South Dyke, which form part of the Aberford Dyke system. South Dyke comprises three sections of earthworks of differing character; the western part, west of the intersection with Woodhouse Moor Rein, has a substantial bank with a ditch at its south side. For most of this section the bank and ditch are at the top of the scarp south of Cock Beck: the ditch is 1m deep and 10m wide and the bank 12m wide and 2m high. At the extreme western end, however, the bank turns north, with the ditch now on its west side, down the scarp towards Cock Beck. Excavation and geophysical survey in advance of construction works for the A1 Aberford By-pass, have shown that the monument survived below ground further west, beyond where it is visible as a surface feature, up to the edge of the culvert carrying Cock Beck under the Aberford By-pass. Evidence for two major ditches was found, one aligned south east to north west, probably continuing the line of the known north west aligned section of the South Dyke, the other a probable palaeo-channel running roughly parallel to the present course of the Cock Beck. Both these ditches were destroyed by construction works for the Aberford By-pass and are not included in the scheduling. In the central part of South Dyke, east of Woodhouse Moor Rein, the earthwork survives only as a cropmark, but significant archaeological deposits will remain below ground. At the eastern end of South Dyke the ditch has been filled in with material from the bank, with the result that the ditch appears as a level area with a slight scarp to its south. The bank appears as a stony break of slope on the north side of the ditch. Under trees growing in the bank, the bank survives as an upstanding feature. Woodhouse Moor Rein is visible as a substantial earthwork with a ditch at its south west side, running south east from Cock Beck to Lotherton Cottages. At its northern end, approximately 25m south of Cock Beck, the bank is about 0.5m high and the ditch 0.5m deep. South of Stocking Lane the bank is very substantial, some 16m wide and 5m high, with a ditch 9m wide and 2m deep. South of Collier Lane, the bank and ditch are again substantial, the bank being 13m wide and 1.5m in height and the ditch about 7m wide and 1.7m deep. While those parts of the Aberford Dykes lying north of the Cock Beck are well positioned to have repelled invasion from the south, South Dyke appears not to have been as well located as it has a steep slope to the north down to the Cock Beck and higher ground to the south. Despite this poor defensive position, the earthwork does appear to face south. South Dyke appears to have been superceded by the Woodhouse Moor Rein, which is in a stronger position. All walls, fences, septic tanks and road surfaces are excluded from the scheduling, although the ground 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:
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Books and journals
WYAS, , A1-M1 Link Road, (1997)


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

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