Section of the Car Dyke between Whitepost Road and Fen Bridge


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1021133

Date first listed: 18-Dec-1978

Date of most recent amendment: 15-Apr-2004


Ordnance survey map of Section of the Car Dyke between Whitepost Road and Fen Bridge
© Crown Copyright and database right 2018. All rights reserved. Ordnance Survey Licence number 100024900.
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This copy shows the entry on 19-Dec-2018 at 04:11:24.


The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

District: City of Peterborough (Unitary Authority)

District: City of Peterborough (Unitary Authority)

Parish: Newborough

National Grid Reference: TF 18152 03893, TF 19402 03180, TF 20714 03398


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 in 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, 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 AD, 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 would 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. One or more of the suggested functions may have been in use at any one time. The size and extent of the monument 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 Car Dyke was being used for transport in the 14th century. The section of the Car Dyke between Whitepost Road and Fen Bridge survives well as a series of earthwork and buried remains. Despite being maintained as part of the modern drainage system, deposits in the original, partly infilled, water channel will contain information on the construction and use of the waterway. Organic material, including both artefacts and evidence for the local environment during the Roman period, will be preserved in the waterlogged deposits. The bank is unusual in its state of preservation, and evidence of landuse prior to its construction will be contained in soils buried beneath the bank. As part of an extensive canal system, it will contribute to our understanding of its impact and influence on the development of the Roman and later landscape.


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


The monument, which is in three separate areas of protection, includes the remains of a section of the Roman artificial watercourse or canal known as the Car Dyke, part of a linear, north-south canal system which stretches from Lincoln to Peterborough. Located at the northern edge of modern day Peterborough, this section of the Car Dyke follows a south east-north west route from Whitepost Road to Fen Bridge, an overall distance of approximately 4.4km, most of which now forms the civil boundary between Newborough parish and Peterborough. The route follows the southern edge of the fen at about the 5m contour above sea level.

Between Whitepost Road and Fen Bridge, the Car Dyke is visible as a water- filled channel, with a parallel earthen bank on its northern side. Its course is interrupted by two roads, Guntons Road and Gunthorpe Road, which cross the route, bridging the channel; the roads and bridges are not included in the scheduling. The three areas of protection, from east to west, measure respectively 1.56km, 1.23km and 1.54km in length.

The course of the canal comprises a series of fairly straight sections with a number of oblique and sharp bends. From Whitepost Road the canal initially follows a line to the north west and then turns to the south west. Between Guntons Road and Gunthorpe Road two straight east-west sections are linked by a short north-south stretch turning through two sharp, almost right angled bends. From Gunthorpe Road the canal turns to the north west following a slightly curving line to Fen Bridge, a Listed Building Grade II.

The steep sided channel, which now serves as part of the modern drainage system, measures between 6m and 8m in width at the top, narrowing to between 3m and 4m at the present water level. A flat berm, measuring 4m to 5m in width, lies between the channel and the foot of the northern bank. The bank is flat-topped with a steep slope down to the berm and a gently sloping outer, north face. The bank measures between 20m and 30m in width at the base and 6m to 10m at the top. It stands between 1.5m and 2.5m in height along most of its length except for one section, west of Guntons Road. It stands 0.5m above the general ground level. A fairly steep scarp rises between 1m and 3m above the channel to the ground level to the south. In places a sloping berm, up to 3m in width, lies between the channel edge and the southern scarp.

The overall width of the channel, berms, and visible remains of the banks and scarps is between 40m and 70m.

All fence posts, stiles, water troughs, manholes and access chambers, drain outlets, sluices, modern surfaces, bridge abutments and revetments, as well as pipeline stanchions, 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: 35725

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
Cotswold Archaeological Trust, , Paston Reserve, Peterborough: archaeological evaluation, (1997)
Royal Commission on Historical Monuments, , Peterborough New Town: a survey of antiquities..., (1969)
Trollope, E, Sleaford and the Wapentakes of Flaxwell and Aswardhurn, (1872)
Hall, D, 'East Anglian Archaeology' in The Fenland Project No 2: Fenland Landscapes and Settlement, , Vol. 35, (1987)
Phillips, C W , 'Royal Geographical Society Research Series' in The Fenland in Roman Times, , Vol. 5, (1970)
Archaeological Project Services, (2002)
Nene Valley Research Committee, NVRC Annual Report, 1983-1984, 1984,
Peterborough SMR, 03010, (2002)
Peterborough SMR, 03155, (2002)
Peterborough SMR, 50529, (2002)
Simmons, B B and Cope-Faulkner, P, The Car Dyke: past work, current state and future possibilities, forthcoming

End of official listing