Wat's Dyke:80m long section and adjacent cultivation terraces 540m east of Oswestry Castle


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1020564

Date first listed: 14-Apr-1977

Date of most recent amendment: 24-Apr-2002


Ordnance survey map of Wat's Dyke:80m long section and adjacent cultivation terraces 540m east of Oswestry Castle
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

District: Shropshire (Unitary Authority)

Parish: Oswestry

National Grid Reference: SJ 29600 29875


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

Reasons for Designation

Wat's Dyke is a linear earthwork boundary and defensive rampart. It runs for about 60km from Basingwerk, on the Dee estuary, southwards to Maesbury Marsh, near Oswestry. It consists of a large ditch, 5m wide and 2m deep, with a bank on the eastern side. The bank is 10m wide at the base, on average, and its original height was about 2.5m. Wat's Dyke runs roughly parallel to Offa's Dyke which lies to the west, sometimes only 500m away. Both dykes run along the border between England and Wales, and it is clear that both dykes were constructed to defend land on the eastern side from incursions coming from the west.

The earthwork bank and ditch ran without interruption except where the course of a stream or river cut through it. The date of construction has not been accurately determined, but it is considered that it was built at an earlier date than the parallel Offa's Dyke, although it fulfilled the same function. The Dyke forms a boundary between lands firmly in control of the Anglo-Saxon overlords and lands more recently taken from the native Britains by the English. Subsequently land to the west of the Dyke became part of what is now known as Wales. The line of the Dyke has been shown to mark a division between hidated (assessed for taxation on the basis of the Anglo-Saxon units known as `hides') and unhidated lands (land under a different system of government) at the time of the Domesday records. This suggests that the Dyke was constructed before the `hide' system was put into practice during the reign of King Offa of Mercia. The Dyke was probably built during the period of expansion of the kingdom of Mercia, before the accession of Offa, possibly during the reign of Aethelbald (AD 716-757).

All known lengths of Wat's Dyke where significant archaeological deposits are known to survive are considered to be nationally important. This stretch of Wat's Dyke is reasonably well-preserved and has a high public profile on a well-used public footpath. It will provide a source for recreational enjoyment and educational interest for the community. Soils buried beneath the bank and in the bottom of the infilled ditch will contain evidence for the management and character of the landscape at the time of its construction. Further information on the cultivation terraces and their relationship to the Dyke will be preserved.


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


The monument includes the earthwork and buried remains of a part of the boundary known as Wat's Dyke. This section runs from the southern edge of the area of the former railway marshalling yard which lies to the west of the former warehouses, southwards to the northern garden hedge of the housing complex to the south of Shelf Bank. Adjacent to this section, on the eastern side, there are two terraces formed out of the northern slopes of the hill which appear to be broad lynchets or cultivation terraces. These are 110m long, running east to west, and about 30m-50m apart. The date of their formation is not certain. Also associated is an earthwork hollow way running down from the crest of the hill about 30m west of the triangulation point westwards to meet, but not break, the line of the Dyke.

The bank of Wat's Dyke in this section survives as a low mound, 0.4m high and spreads to 12m wide at the base. To the west are traces of a ditch 4m wide which has been used as a trackway after it was infilled by erosion in past centuries. The remains have been truncated by a drainage ditch and the levelling for the railway yards at the northern end. They have also been truncated by hedge building and the creation of a footpath to access the rear of the houses whose gardens occupy the area to the south.

All fence posts are excluded from the scheduling, although the ground beneath them is included.

MAP EXTRACT The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.


The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.

Legacy System number: 33877

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
Worthington, M, Wat's Dyke, (1993)

End of official listing