Buckinghamshire Grim's Ditch: 520m long section between Lanes End and Bottom Road


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1021201

Date first listed: 24-Feb-2004


Ordnance survey map of Buckinghamshire Grim's Ditch: 520m long section between Lanes End and Bottom Road
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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: Buckland

County: Buckinghamshire

District: Chiltern (District Authority)

Parish: Cholesbury-cum-St. Leonards

National Grid Reference: SP 90651 07790


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 sometime 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 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 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 have also 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 of 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 between Lanes End and Bottom Road survives as a visible earthwork along most of its length. 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. The monument, which is largely accessible by a public path, provides a fascinating insight into early territorial land division in the Chiltern landscape.


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


The monument includes a 520m long section of a prehistoric boundary known as the Buckinghamshire Grim's Ditch, running broadly south west to north east between Lanes End and Leylands Farm. It is situated on high ground, following a similar course to the modern Ridgeway path, less than one kilometre to the north west, which is in itself a reflection of a prehistoric route along the line of the Chiltern Hills. This section of Grim's Ditch, between Lanes End and Bottom Road, survives as a substantial bank and ditch along most of its length. The earthen bank measures up to 12m wide and stands up to 1m high in some places. To the south east of the bank the parallel ditch measures up to 10m wide and 0.75m deep although it has been partly infilled in places. An excavation, carried out in 1973 along a section of Grim's Ditch approximately 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 also survive as buried features along this section of Grim's Ditch. Further sections of Grim's Ditch exist to the south west beyond Lanes End, and north east beyond Bottom Road. These sections and others along the known route of the boundary are the subject of separate schedulings. The corner of the house at Coppice Farm lies outside, but close to, the boundary of the scheduling. The following features are excluded from the scheduling: a large pond, truncating the ditch at the south west end of the monument; the outbuildings to the north of Coppice Farm, which partly overlie the buried line of the ditch, together with all fences and stiles, although the ground beneath these items 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: 35343

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
Network Archaeology, , Grim's Ditch: Archaeological and Management Survey Phase III, (1999)

End of official listing