Buckinghamshire Grim's Ditch: 350m long section extending north east from Cottage Farm


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1021198

Date first listed: 20-Aug-1936

Date of most recent amendment: 24-Feb-2004


Ordnance survey map of Buckinghamshire Grim's Ditch: 350m long section extending north east from Cottage Farm
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This copy shows the entry on 20-Jan-2019 at 11:36:46.


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

County: Buckinghamshire

District: Chiltern (District Authority)

Parish: Great Missenden

County: Buckinghamshire

District: Chiltern (District Authority)

Parish: The Lee

National Grid Reference: SP 89089 03463


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 natural 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 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 the bank material) and a 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 monument and will normally merit statutory protection. The 350m long section section of Grim's Ditch extending north east from Cottage Farm survives well as a visible earthwork along most of its length and provides a fascinating insight into the nature of early territorial and 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 350m curved length of the prehistoric boundary known as the Buckinghamshire Grim's Ditch located on high ground to the north of Great Missenden. Beginning to the north east of Cottage Farm the boundary runs in a north easterly direction for some 100m through a narrow stretch of woodland within the grounds of Cottage Farm; then, after a gradual change in direction, NNE for 250m along the eastern edge of the pasture field to the west of Three Bears Cottage, through a narrow stretch of woodland flanked by cultivated fields, and into the cultivated field NNE of the woodland. This section of the Buckinghamshire Grim's Ditch survives as a substantial earthwork along most of its length. The earthen bank measures up to 8m wide and stands up to 0.6m high. To the east of the bank lies a parallel ditch, up to 8m wide and up to 0.5m in depth. An excavation, carried out in 1973 along a stretch of Grim's Ditch approximately 6km to the north east, 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. A recent geophysical survey identified that the ditch and traces of the bank continued for a further 22m at the NNE end of the visible earthwork despite having been levelled by cultivation. This buried stretch is included in the scheduling. The geophysical survey was unable to provide conclusive evidence that Grim's Ditch continued beyond the known 350m long section either to the north or to the south west and it is possible that this section of the boundary represents an isolated stretch with substantial breaks between it and the sections at Great Hampden, 3.5km to the south west and Great Widmoor Wood, 2.5km to the north, both of which are the subject of separate schedulings. All fences and fence posts, the garage, oil tank and the surface of the driveway relating to Three Bears Cottage 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: 35339

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
BCMAS, , An Archaeological and Management Survey of Grim's Ditch, Bucks, (1997)
Network Archaeology, , Grim's Ditch: Archaeological and Management Survey Phase II, (1998)
Network Archaeology, , Grim's Ditch: Archaeological and Management Survey Phase III, (1999)

End of official listing