Section of Wansdyke and associated monuments from east of The Firs to the eastern side of Tan Hill


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1017288

Date first listed: 18-Apr-1955

Date of most recent amendment: 13-Oct-1999


Ordnance survey map of Section of Wansdyke and associated monuments from east of The Firs to the eastern side of Tan Hill
© Crown Copyright and database right 2018. 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.

District: Wiltshire (Unitary Authority)

Parish: Allcannings

District: Wiltshire (Unitary Authority)

Parish: Bishops Cannings

District: Wiltshire (Unitary Authority)

Parish: Calne Without

District: Wiltshire (Unitary Authority)

Parish: Heddington

District: Wiltshire (Unitary Authority)

Parish: Stanton St. Bernard

National Grid Reference: SU 02982 67010, SU 04145 66508, SU 04374 66344, SU 04645 66178, SU 05221 65903, SU 06112 65705, SU 06701 65592, SU 07019 65572, SU 07242 65553, SU 07766 65413, SU 08200 65159, SU 09074 64603


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

Reasons for Designation

The Downs south and west of Avebury contain a variety of well preserved archaeological remains, largely by virtue of the fact that the area has been unaffected by modern development or over-intensive agriculture. The variety, quantity, and quality of the site types represented and their proximity to the Avebury World Heritage Area monuments makes the area important in understanding past landscape management by our ancestors over a period of 4000 years. The Wansdyke dominates the monument. The section from east of The Firs to the eastern side of Tan Hill is the best preserved length of this linear earthwork which runs across Wessex from Bristol to Marlborough. It is believed to be a frontier defence work and boundary marker intended to prevent incursions into Wessex from Mercia, although at least some of the sections are probably much older boundary features. The section of the Roman road from Cunetio to Verlucio includes a number of rare engineering features increasing our understanding of technology in the period. It is well preserved and the west end has affected the location of the later dyke. The sections of prehistoric boundaries crossed by and adjacent to Wansdyke, as well as the enclosure and barrows, provide an unusual association for the dyke and will, in addition, have been protected by the dyke, giving an indication of how perception and use of the landscape changed and developed over at least four millenia.


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


The monument, which falls into 12 areas of protection, includes part of Wansdyke running from east of The Firs to the eastern side of Tan Hill,(a kite-shaped enclosure situated on the northern side of Wansdyke on Easton Down), a section of Roman road on Morgan's Hill, a Neolithic long barrow, five other linear earthwork sections crossed by or abutting the dyke and 11 Bronze Age bowl barrows adjoining Wansdyke or partially overlain by it. Elements of some of these monuments are the subject of separate schedulings. From the west, Wansdyke runs for roughly 72km ending just outside Marlborough at its east end. The approximately 8.5km long section from east of The Firs to the eastern side of Tan Hill runs across the Downs south west of Avebury and includes the best preserved continuous length of Wansdyke. The dyke includes a substantial earthwork bank which measures up to 30m wide and stands from 1m to 3m high. For the majority of its length the bank lies south and west of a substantial open ditch. This also varies in width but measures up to 36m wide and remains open to a depth of 2m in places. The majority of the bank and ditch sections in this area together measure from 30m to 40m across. A further, slighter, bank beyond the ditch to the north is also visible on several sections. The dyke was built in sections of varying length, with breaks which would have allowed controlled traffic to pass from east to west and for the movement of military patrols beyond the defences. The dyke is later in date than the Roman road but was already built by the mid-ninth century, when it is mentioned in a Charter. It is generally believed to be a military frontier work between Wessex and Mercia. It is designed to hold the edge of the high ground on the Downs and to protect the lower lying plains to the south west. The name derives from Woden's Dyke, after Woden, an important Anglo-Saxon god whose name survives in the word `Wednesday'. The earlier Roman road includes a 800m long section of the route from Cunetio (Mildenhall) to Verlucio (Sandy Lane). It runs east to west along the north slope of Morgan's Hill and includes a rare engineered bend at the head of a dry valley after which point the later dyke meets it and runs along its line. The road measures between 8m and 10m wide and its outer (north) edge comprises a well constructed embankment which stands up to 2m high. The road is terraced into the slope at this point and the dyke follows the line of the road for a distance of over 300m. South east of the wireless station on Morgan's Hill, a 50m long, slightly curved section of linear earthwork runs north from beneath Wansdyke to end in a terminal. It is part of a longer feature, the remainder of which starts about 20m north, runs to the edge of Horsecombe and is the subject of a separate scheduling (SM 21900). The south end of this feature is not known for certain but it appears to run beneath the Wansdyke for some distance to the east. Immediately south of the dyke on Roughridge Hill is a Neolithic long barrow. The barrow mound measures about 75m long and up to 32m wide. It stands up to about 1m high. Flanking the mound, but no longer visible at ground level due to the spreading of the mound caused by ploughing, are two quarry ditches which will survive as buried features. Although the only example in the scheduling, the barrow is one of a line of more than four Neolithic long barrows which are strung out east to west along the ridge of the Downs, all spaced roughly 1km from their nearest neighbour in either direction. The enclosure on Easton Down is roughly kite-shaped and has a 6m wide bank which survives up to 0.2m high. Beyond this is a 5m wide ditch which has become infilled due to cultivation but remains visible in places up to 0.5m deep. This ditch has a counterscarp bank 3m wide and up to 0.6m high in the north west corner. Although the western end has been levelled by cultivation, it is known from aerial photographs and partial excavation to survive as a buried feature. Previous records also show that the inner bank originally stood 1.5m or more in height while the counterscarp bank stood 1m high. The excavations showed that the southern boundary of the enclosure lies below the line of the later Wansdyke, which appears to change course slightly at this point. The excavations also produced Romano-British pottery sherds from the interior of the monument, indicating that it was a settlement during that period. The section of Wansdyke on Tan Hill crosses a series of four earlier linear boundary ditches which form part of an earlier prehistoric land division. Three of these run from north to south and the last runs east to west and is abutted by at least one of the others. These boundaries survive as buried features clearly visible on aerial photographs and, despite being levelled in places, remain visible at several points above ground. The ditches vary in width from 3m to 8m across and several have adjacent banks about 0.75m wide and up to 0.3m high. Together they form three sides of a rectilinear field within which is located a small Bronze Age barrow cemetery containing five bowl barrows. Two of these are partially overlain by the Wansdyke. The barrow mounds measure from 12m to 20m in diameter and stand between 0.2m and 1m high. All but one of these are surrounded by quarry ditches which vary from 1m to 2m in width and survive buried below the present ground level. There are six further bowl barrows along the length of Wansdyke from east of The Firs to the eastern side of Tan Hill which are partially overlain by the dyke. Some of these are outliers of groups of barrows or cemeteries, the remainder of which, where appropriate, are the subject of separate schedulings. These barrows vary from 10m to 20m in diameter and stand up to 3m high. Their surrounding quarry ditches measure from between 1m to 2m wide. Several barrows near to Old Shepherds' Shore were partially excavated in the 1850s and finds included burnt animal and human bone and fragments of Bronze Age pottery. All fences, the track surfaces east of Morgan's Hill wireless station and all information signs are excluded from the scheduling, although the ground beneath all 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: 28116

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
Pitt-Rivers, , 'Excavations in Cranborne Chase' in Excavations in Cranborne Chase 3, , Vol. 3, (1892), 26-8
1 &2 4.8.67, R.C.H.M.(E), NMR SU 0665/1, (1967)
SU 06 NE 011 Paragraph 1, R.C.H.M.(E), Part of a kite-shaped enclosure, (1973)
SU 06 NE 011 Paragraph 2, R.C.H.M.(E), Part of a kite-shaped enclosure, (1973)
SU 06 NE 104, C.A.O., Long barrow, (1990)
SU 06 NE 601, C.A.O., BOWL BARROW, (1990)
SU 06 NE 708, C.A.O., BOWL BARROW, (1990)
SU 06 NW 611, C.A.O., Round Barrow, (1990)
SU 06 NW 613, C.A.O., Round Barrow, (1990)
SU 06 NW 614, C.A.O., Bowl barrow, (1990)
SU 06 NW 616, C.A.O., Bowl barrow, (1990)
SU 06 NW 617, C.A.O., Round Barrow, (1990)
SU 06 NW 618, C.A.O., Round Barrow, (1990)
SU 06 NW 629, C.A.O., BOWL BARROW, (1990)
SU 06 NW 630, C.A.O., BOWL BARROW, (1990)
SU 06 NW 650, C.A.O., Round Barrow, (1990)
SU 06 NW 659, C.A.O., Linear boundary bank, (1990)
SU 06 NW 741, C.A.O., Roman Road, (1990)
SU 06 SE 603, C.A.O., BOWL BARROW, (1990)
SU 06 SE 604, C.A.O., BOWL BARROW, (1990)
SU 06 SE 605, C.A.O., BOWL BARROW, (1990)
SU 06 SE 606, C.A.O., Bowl barrow, (1990)
SU 06 SE 618 and others, C.A.O., Wansdyke, (1990)
SU 06 Se 619, C.A.O., Boundary bank and ditch, (1990)
SU 06 SE 627, C.A.O., Boundary ditch, (1990)
SU 06 SE 628, C.A.O., Boundary ditch, (1990)
SU 06 SE 629, C.A.O., Boundary ditch, (1990)
SU06NE 315, C.A.O., Enclosure excavated by Pitt-Rivers, (1982)
SU06NE 612, C.A.O., Bowl barrow, (1990)
Title: Ordnance Survey 6" Series Source Date: 1924 Author: Publisher: Surveyor:

End of official listing