Hertfordshire Grim's Ditch: 1350m long section between Kiln Road and Chesham Road


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1021204

Date first listed: 26-Nov-1928

Date of most recent amendment: 24-Feb-2004


Ordnance survey map of Hertfordshire Grim's Ditch: 1350m long section between Kiln Road and Chesham Road
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

County: Hertfordshire

District: Dacorum (District Authority)

Parish: Tring

County: Hertfordshire

District: Dacorum (District Authority)

Parish: Wigginton

National Grid Reference: SP 93308 09264


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 some 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 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 parcels of land and settlement. It may also have been used as 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 proceding the Roman Conquest in AD43, 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. This section of Grim's Ditch between Kiln Road and Chesham Road survives well as a visible earthwork along most of its length and provides a fascinating insight into the nature of 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. This section forms part of a larger stretch of the Grim's Ditch which extends from Wendover to Berkhamsted following an arc across the high ground above the Aylesbury Vale and Bulbourne Valley following a similar course to the modern Ridgeway path less than one kilometre to the north, which is itself a reflection of a prehistoric route along the line of the Chiltern Hills. Prehistoric hillforts are located close by on Boddington Hill, 5km to the SSW and Cholesbury Hillfort 2km to the south.


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


The monument includes a 1350m length of a prehistoric boundary known as the Hertfordshire Grim's Ditch, running west to east from Kiln Road south of Wick Wood, to Chesham Road, Wigginton Bottom. This section of the Hertfordshire Grim's Ditch is marked by a substantial bank and ditch along most of its course eastwards from Kiln Road. For a distance of nearly one kilometre the bank measures up to 1.4m high and 13m wide. The accompanying ditch, parallel and to the south, measures some 11m across and, although partly infilled, averages 0.9m in depth. At Wick Spring, approximately in the centre of this section, the earthwork has been disturbed by a large extraction pit of uncertain date which is included in the scheduling. To the east, over the last 400m length approaching Chesham Road, the boundary earthwork has been considerably reduced by cultivation; but its course remains clearly visible to within 95m of the road and is still detectable across this final length. In 1973 excavations on a nearby section of Grim's Ditch produced evidence of a level area, or berm, separating the bank and ditch and a trench which would have supported a fence or palisade along the outer edge of the ditch. Similar components may also survive as buried features along this section of the boundary. Further sections of Grim's Ditch exist to the west, north of High Scrubs and some 700m to the east, east of Crawleys Lane. These sections and others along the entire known route of the boundary are the subject of separate schedulings. All fences, gates and stiles 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: 35346

Legacy System: RSM


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

End of official listing