Two cross dykes on Fontmell Down, 850m and 880m south east of Gourd's Farm


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1020361

Date first listed: 12-Jul-1961

Date of most recent amendment: 24-Sep-1999


Ordnance survey map of Two cross dykes on Fontmell Down, 850m and 880m south east of Gourd's Farm
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

County: Dorset

District: North Dorset (District Authority)

Parish: Compton Abbas

County: Dorset

District: North Dorset (District Authority)

Parish: Fontmell Magna

National Grid Reference: ST 88078 18089, ST 88289 18244


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

Reasons for Designation

Cross dykes are substantial linear earthworks typically between 0.2km and 1km long and comprising one or more ditches arranged beside and parallel to one or more banks. They generally occur in upland situations, running across ridges and spurs. They are recognised as earthworks or as cropmarks on aerial photographs, or as combinations of both. The evidence of excavation and analogy with associated monuments demonstrates that their construction spans the millennium from the Middle Bronze Age, although they may have been re-used later. Current information favours the view that they were used as territorial boundary markers, probably demarcating land allotment within communities, although they may also have been used as trackways, cattle droveways or defensive earthworks. Cross dykes are one of the few monument types which illustrate how land was divided up in the prehistoric period. They are of considerable importance for any analysis of settlement and land use in the Bronze Age. Very few have survived to the present day and hence all well- preserved examples are considered to be of national importance.

The cross dykes on Fontmell Down, 850m and 880m west of Gourd's Farm are comparatively well preserved examples of their class and will contain archaeological remains providing information about later prehistoric land use and environment. Two cross dykes in close proximity on one ridge is very unusual. They are also two of five cross dykes at the end of the escarpment providing an unusual and significant association.


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


The monument includes, in two separate areas, two cross dykes on Fontmell Down aligned broadly north west-south east across the crest of the spur, 250m apart. They are two of five similar monuments at the end of the escarpment, the remainder of which are the subject of separated schedulings. The northern cross dyke has a bank, 8m wide and up to 1.2m high, curving more towards the north at its western end, with a ditch, 5m wide and up to 1m deep, to the north east of it and another bank beyond, 6m wide and 0.5m high. The earthworks fade out at each end on the steeper slopes. There are two gaps in the earthwork, one at the centre and the other where the parish boundary crosses it, neither of which are original. In 1997 during the relaying of a water pipe through the central gap, part of the ditch fill was exposed. Environmental evidence from the archaeological levels indicated that the ditch was created in cleared woodland, but grassland subsequently predominated and was grazed intensively. The change in land use to a more managed landscape suggests that the cross dyke may have been part of local land allotment and animal containment. The southern cross dyke runs in a straight line obliquely across the spur and has a bank 8m wide and up to 1m high with a ditch on its northern side, 5m wide and 0.5m deep. A vehicle track has breached the bank near the centre, adjacent to the wood, and to the west of this the bank has been partly or totally reduced in height in two stretches, 17m and 35m long. It is understood that this was done by a previous owner to create a golf course. Another track has truncated the bank near the western end adjacent to the parish boundary. The earthwork fades out at each end just above the steep slopes. Both these cross dykes lie within a prehistoric field system which has been largely reduced in height by ploughing over the years, although some banks are still visible on the steep north east facing slopes of the spur. Two Bronze Age burial mounds 50m to the north of the northern cross dyke have been similarly levelled by ploughing. The field system is not considered well enough preserved, on the basis of current understanding, and are not included in the scheduling. All fence and gate posts 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: 31069

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
Sumner, H, The Ancient Earthworks of Cranborne Chase, (1988), 66-67
Manuscript report, Allen, M, Fontmell Down, land-use, landscape and land management; snails, (1997)

End of official listing