Buckinghamshire Grim's Ditch: two sections between Oaken Grove and Lanes End


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1021200

Date first listed: 31-May-1962

Date of most recent amendment: 24-Feb-2004


Ordnance survey map of Buckinghamshire Grim's Ditch: two sections between Oaken Grove and Lanes End
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

County: Buckinghamshire

District: Aylesbury Vale (District Authority)

Parish: Aston Clinton

County: Buckinghamshire

District: Aylesbury Vale (District Authority)

Parish: Wendover

County: Buckinghamshire

District: Chiltern (District Authority)

Parish: Cholesbury-cum-St. Leonards

National Grid Reference: SP 90200 07352, SP 90415 07546


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 bondary, 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 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 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 north eastern of the two sections of Grim's Ditch between Oaken Grove and Lanes End survives well as a visible earthwork along most of its length. The southernmost section is not clearly visible as an earthwork but it is known to survive as a buried feature. Both sections provide a fascinating insight into the nature of early territorial land division in the Chiltern Hills. They will contain archaeological evidence for the manner of their construction as well as environmental evidence for the appearance of the landscape in which the monument 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. The stretch of Grim's Ditch between Wendover and Berkhamstead follows an arc across high ground above the Aylesbury Vale and Bulbourne Valley. Prehistoric hillforts are located close by on Boddington Hill on the north west side of Grim's Ditch and at Cholesbury on the south side.


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


The monument includes two sections of a prehistoric boundary known as the Buckinghamshire Grim's Ditch, situated approximately 80m apart, extending broadly south west from Lanes End towards Oaken Grove. These sections of Grim's Ditch are situated on ground which slopes to the south west. The north eastern length survives as a clearly visible earthwork approximately 90m in length. The earthen bank measures up to 7.2m wide and 1m high in some places. To the south east of the bank lies a parallel ditch, which has been partially filled in and measures approximately 8m wide and up to 0.5m in depth. The south western length of Grim's Ditch to the north east of Oaken Grove measures about 318m in length and can be traced from the low surviving remains of the bank. The flanking ditch is now completely infilled, but survives as a buried feature visible from the air as a cropmark caused by a variation in the moisture content of the soil. An excavation carried out in 1973 along a section of Grim's Ditch 1.5km 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 these sections of Grim's Ditch. At the eastern end of the north eastern length of the monument, where it is sited in the garden of Jadewood, a garage has truncated part of the ditch and a large pond has cut into the bank. A section of the ditch is also partially overlain by the driveway. The boundary originally continued along the 80m length between these two sections, however later disturbance in this area appears to have removed evidence of the monument. Further sections of Grim's Ditch remain visible to the south west in Oaken Grove and to the north east near Coppice Farm. These sections and others along the entire known route of the boundary are the subject of separate schedulings. The garage, pond and surface of the driveway, together with all the fences, walls, gates, the greenhouse, oil tank and beehives 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. 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: 35342

Legacy System: RSM


Bucks County Museum, BCM 474/146, (1988)
Bucks County Museum, BCM 514/HD149, (1985)

End of official listing