Section of the Car Dyke canal, fishponds and barrows 250m north west of the Old Rectory


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1021104

Date first listed: 26-May-1983

Date of most recent amendment: 24-Feb-2004


Ordnance survey map of Section of the Car Dyke canal, fishponds and barrows 250m north west of the Old Rectory
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

District: City of Peterborough (Unitary Authority)

Parish: Glinton

District: City of Peterborough (Unitary Authority)

Parish: Peakirk

National Grid Reference: TF 16623 06894


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

Reasons for Designation

Romano-British canals were used for inland transport and/or the control and diversion of water. Current understanding suggests that some may have been only partly navigable, their function as water control systems being at least as important as their transport role. Generally some canals appear to have been dug in straight sections, with angular bends at the junctions, while others were created by straightening and deepening existing natural watercourses. The upcast from digging was piled up to form banks on one or both sides of the channel. Causeways are known to have crossed the canals, some built as an integral part of the construction, others created by later filling-in of the channel. There is some uncertainty about the precise dates of Romano-British canals, but present evidence suggests that their construction and use mainly spanned the 2nd to 4th centuries. Some appear to have been filled or silted up at the end of this period, although there is evidence that some continued in use for transport during the medieval period. All known examples of Romano-British canals in England are located in similar topographic positions within the low-lying Fenland areas of eastern England. The canals vary greatly in length, from small examples around 6km in length, to the most famous system, known as the Car Dyke, which stretches some 92km between Lincoln and Peterborough. Although these canals can be traced over distances of many kilometres, few sections retain the full range of original construction features. They are recognizable as earthworks or as cropmarks on aerial photographs, or as a combination of both. All known lengths, where significant archaeological deposits are likely to survive, are considered worthy of protection.

The Car Dyke is the largest of the known Romano-British canals, stretching from the River Witham in the north to the River Nene in the south. First recognised by antiquaries in the early 18th century, it forms an important feature of the Roman landscape in the Fens. Although some sections are no longer visible and much of its length has been incorporated into modern drainage systems, sufficient evidence does exist for its route to be fairly accurately identified from Washingborough, 4km east of Lincoln, to 1.5km east of Peterborough, a distance of approximately 92km. It was originally thought to continue south of Peterborough to the Waterbeach canal, north east of Cambridge, but no link has been proven. The Car Dyke survives in a variety of conditions, at its most complete taking the form of a wide channel flanked by parallel banks. It is more often visible as low earthworks or as cropmarks, identified from aerial photographs. It is clearly influenced by the local topography, taking a sinuous route in the northern portion, at the boundary between the fens and the upland. The central portion, south of Billinghay to Market Deeping, the canal takes a more direct route across relatively flat land, at about the 4m to 5m contour. The southern part of the route generally follows the 5m contour, again skirting the upland, with the exception of a short section near Eye where it cuts through a ridge, rather than following the more circuitous contour line. It has been suggested that the angular bends along the route are evidence that it was excavated in sections, the bends occuring where separate lengths met.

Traditionally, the Car Dyke has been regarded as a means of transportation, created in the 2nd century, and more recently as a catchwater drain, although firm archaeological evidence for the construction date and use of the canal in its original form is sparse. It has been suggested that the presence of unexcavated causeways along its route make it impractical as a navigable waterway. However, the undug causeways may have served to maintain differing water levels in the separate channels and long stretches of the route would still have been navigable. As a catchwater drain, the channel could have collected and diverted water from the uplands to limit flooding of the Fenland, although no evidence of a wider drainage scheme has been identified. It has also been suggested that the Car Dyke formed a boundary delimiting an imperial estate centred on the Fens, although it is not clear how such a boundary would have functioned. It may have served one or more of these functions at any one time. The size and extent of the dyke implies considerable expenditure of labour and resources, whether military or civilian in origin. In places the canal appears to have silted up and fallen into disuse by the end of the Roman period, although its route, at the Fen edge, may have been subsequently utilised as a boundary. The Car Dyke is first mentioned in early medieval documents, when parts of it served as a boundary, and there is evidence that at least one section of the canal was being used for transport in the 14th century.

Barrows are funerary monuments dating from the Late Neolithic period to the Late Bronze Age. They were constructed as earthen or rubble mounds, sometimes ditched, which covered single or multiple burials. They occur in isolation or grouped as cemeteries and provide information on the diversity of beliefs and social organisation amongst early prehistoric communities.

A fishpond is an artificially created pool of slow moving freshwater constructed for the purpose of cultivating, breeding and storing fish to provide a constant and sustainable food supply. They may be dug into the ground, embanked above ground level, or formed by placing a dam across a narrow valley. Fishponds were maintained by a water management system which included inlet and outlet channels carrying water from a river or stream, a series of sluices and an overflow leat which controlled fluctuations in the water flow. The tradition of constructing and using fishponds in England began during the medieval period and peaked in the 12th century. They were largely built by the wealthy sectors of society with monastic institutions and royal residences often having large and complex fishponds.

The section of the Car Dyke canal, barrows and fishponds 250m north west of the Old Rectory survive well as a series of earthwork and buried remains. Deposits in the barrow ditches, the Car Dyke water channel and fishponds will contain information on their construction and use and evidence for the local environment during their period of use. Soils buried beneath the banks will preserve evidence of landuse prior to their construction. The barrows, Car Dyke and fishponds will contribute to our understanding of the development of the prehistoric, Roman and medieval landscapes.


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


The monument includes the remains of a section of the Roman artificial watercourse or canal known as the Car Dyke, together with two fishponds and two ring ditches, or barrows, 250m north west of the Old Rectory. The Car Dyke is part of a linear, north-south canal system which stretches from Lincoln to Peterborough. This section of the Car Dyke follows a slightly sinuous course, from east to west, at the southern edge of the fen. It is visible as a channel, flanked by a parallel earthen bank on its north side, for a distance of approximately 580m. To the south east the course of the Car Dyke is overlain by modern development and is not included in the scheduling.

The eastern portion of the channel is visible as a broad, dry hollow measuring approximately 15m in width crossing open ground. About 200m from the east end the channel forms part of the drainage system and is visible as a fairly steep sided channel which measures 12m in width and up to 1.5m deep, narrowing to 7m in width at the western end. The bank flanking the north side of the channel measures between 20m and 30m in width and stands up to 1.5m high along part of its length. To the west the bank is no longer visible and is not included in the scheduling.

The southern edge of the channel is marked by a counterscarp, cutting the higher ground to the south, rising up to 1.75m above the base of the channel. Earlier descriptions note a low bank surviving in places along the south side of the channel, although it is no longer visible.

Two circular cropmarks, or ring ditches, visible on aerial photographs are located at the western end of, and immediately adjacent to, the south side of the Car Dyke. The cropmarks, measuring approximately 35m and 20m in diameter, are thought to indicate the buried remains of Bronze Age round barrows and are included in the scheduling.

Two embanked enclosures, believed to represent medieval fishponds, are located on low-lying ground immediately adjacent to the north bank of the Car Dyke and bounded to the north by an eastward flowing stream. The ponds, aligned east- west, are subrectangular in plan, measuring 50m by 30m and 70m by 30m. The ponds are surrounded by low banks raised above the general ground level, measuring between 2m and 6m in width. A shallow channel, part of the former water management system, separates the two ponds and follows a course on the south side of the eastern pond, at the foot of the Car Dyke bank.

All fence posts and water troughs 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: 35726

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
Archaeological Project Services, , Archaeological evaluation at Chestnut Close, Peakirk, (2002)
Air Photo Services, Car Dyke, Deeping Gate to Staneground: AP interpretation, (2000)
Air Photo Services, Car Dyke, Deeping Gate to Staneground: AP interpretation, (2000)
FMW, Long internal report, (1980)
Peterborough City SMR, 02198, (2002)
Peterborough City SMR, 50079, (2002)
Peterborough City SMR, 50080, (2002)
Peterborough City SMR, 50084, (2002)
Roberts, P, (2002)

End of official listing