Buckinghamshire Grim's Ditch: section extending from Redland End through Barnes's Grove to Hampden Park
Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number: 1021195
Date first listed: 19-Aug-1936
Date of most recent amendment: 24-Feb-2004
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.
District: Wycombe (District Authority)
Parish: Great and Little Hampden
National Grid Reference: SP 83974 02883
Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.
Reasons for Designation
Linear boundaries are substantial earthwork features comprising single or
multiple ditches and banks which may extend over distances varying between
less than 1km to over 10km. They survive as earthworks or as linear features
visible as cropmarks on aerial photographs or as a combination of both. The
evidence of excavation and study of associated monuments demonstrate that
their construction spans the millennium from the Middle Bronze Age, although
they may have been reused later.
The scale of many linear boundaries has been taken to indicate that they were
constructed by large social groups and were used to mark important boundaries
in the landscape; their impressive scale displaying the corporate prestige of
their builders. They would have been powerful symbols, often with religious
associations, used to define and order the territorial holdings of those
groups who constructed them. Linear earthworks are of considerable importance
for the analysis of settlement and land use in the Bronze Age; all well-
preserved examples will normally merit statutory protection.
The boundary known as the Buckinghamshire and Hertfordshire Grim's Ditch includes numerous surviving sections from within three main linear earthworks aligned along the Chiltern Hills between Bradenham and Berkhamsted and spanning a total distance of 18km. It does not appear that these principal sections were ever joined to form a continuous boundary. Current evidence suggests that the sometimes quite sizeable gaps represent areas which were formerly forested or in which natural features served to perpetuate a division of the land. The same pattern has been discerned along the North Oxfordshire Grim's Ditch to the west of the Thames. A further comparable linear boundary, the Moel Ditch, extends to the east across parts of neighbouring Bedfordshire. For the most part the visible sections of Grim's Ditch in the Chilterns include a wide single ditch, flanked on the north side by a bank of upcast earth, which is always upslope of the ditch. Other features, discovered by limited excavations include a turf core within the bank, a berm separating the bank and ditch (concealed over time by the spread of bank material) and a narrow trench for a fence or palisade along the outer rim of the ditch. The Buckinghamshire and Hertfordshire Grim's Ditch is thought to have served as a territorial boundary separating, and perhaps enclosing, organised groups of land and settlement. It may also have been an agricultural boundary, denoting grazing areas and impeding the movement (or theft) of stock. Excavations to date have provided only limited dating evidence. Pottery recovered from the fill of the ditch indicates that it was in existence in the Iron Age. As such, the boundary provides important evidence for the management of the landscape in the centuries preceding the Roman Conquest, in AD 43, although it may have a considerably earlier origin. It remained a notable feature in later centuries, acquiring its present name (a variation on the name of the god, Odin) at some point in the early medieval period, perhaps during the period of pagan Saxon settlement in the 5th and 6th centuries. The earliest recorded use of the term `Grim's Ditch' occurs in a charter granted by Edward, Earl of Cornwall in 1291. All sections of the Buckinghamshire and Hertfordshire Grim's Ditch which survive in visible form or as well-preserved buried remains (identified by aerial photography or ground survey) are considered integral to a general understanding of the monument and will normally merit statutory protection. The section of Grim's Ditch on the Great Hampden Estate, extending from Redland End through Barnes's Grove to Hampden Park, survives extremely well along most of its length, and represents one of the most important lengths of the monument as it includes a unique 90 degree change in direction. Visually this section provides a fascinating insight into early territorial land division in the Chiltern Hills. It will contain archaeological evidence for the manner of its construction as well as environmental evidence for the appearance of the landscape in which it was built. The archaeological evidence may also include artefacts or scientific dating material from which to determine the period of its construction and the duration of its maintenance as an active boundary.
Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.
The monument includes a length of the prehistoric boundary known as the
Buckinghamshire Grim's Ditch located in woodland on high ground to the
east of Princes Risborough. The section of Grim's Ditch follows two
distinct alignments. Beginning at Redlands End the boundary runs in a
north easterly direction for some 830m through Barnes's Grove; then, after
a pronounced turn eastwards for about 760m along a wooded belt leading
towards Hampden House. Early Ordnance Survey maps show the right-angled
bend between the two alignments as a largely uninterrupted earthwork. In
subsequent years the bend was cut through by a trackway destroying
sections of the bank, although a recent geophysical survey has identified
buried segments of the accompanying ditch.
To either side of the bend the boundary survives as a substantial bank and
ditch along most of its length. The earthen bank, measures up to 9m wide
and stands up to 0.9m high. The ditch, running parallel along the south
and east sides of the bank measures 8m across and, although partly filled
by centuries of erosion, is 0.8m in depth. Excavations along other
sections of Grim's Ditch, carried out in 1973 and 1991, produced evidence
of a level area, or berm, separating the bank and ditch. Evidence for a
palisade trench, which would have supported a wooden fence was also found
along the outer edge of the ditch. Similar components may survive as
buried features along this particular section of the Grim's Ditch.
Further sections of Grim's Ditch remain visible to the south near Redlands
End and to the east beyond Hampden House. These sections and others along
the entire known route of the boundary are the subject of separate
schedulings. It is thought that the earthwork originally continued between
this section and Hampden House; although landscaping of Hampden Park in
the 18th and 19th centuries appears to have removed all evidence of the
monument in this area.
All fences and fenceposts 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: 35336
Legacy System: RSM
Books and journals
Network Archaeology, , Grim's Ditch: Archaeological and Management Survey Phase II, (1998)
Network Archaeology, , Grim's Ditch: Archaeological and Management Survey Phase III, (1999)
This monument is scheduled under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979 as amended as it appears to the Secretary of State to be of national importance. This entry is a copy, the original is held by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.
End of official listing