The need to mark boundaries between landholdings has left an extensive variety of features in the SE Lancashire landscape: from moorland enclosures, boundary ditches to walls and banks.

The longest boundary and one of the earliest in SE Lancashire is the Nico ditch, also called Mickle Ditch. Read more about it here.

When I met an inspector from the former Ancient Monuments, based in London, he was surprised that parts of survived, a section was scheduled in the 1990s. You can see the ditch running the a golf course in Audenshaw.


Ditches were often refered to in Parish boundaries, for example “The White Ditch” near Knowl hill, near Rochdale , was mentioned in medieval records and manor surveys, such as the 1610 “Inquisition” of Rochdale parish summarised here.

Medieval Dyke in Didsbury, Manchester

In the 13th. Century a dyke was judged to have prevented access to common land, The Assize court rolls state the length of the dyke (40 perches, about 800 feet) and the date of its construction.

See the transcription at British History Online.

Assize Roll 1238. Divers Counties.

6 Edward I.
Date accessed: 13 May 2012

Dykes were evidently quite a common feature in the area around Manchester, the Assize Rolls also mentions a dyke in Urmston and one in Denton (near the Nico Ditch).

Tandle Hill

Tandle Hill was in Thornham township, Middleton parish.

Tandle Hill Park
Bank in Tandle Hill Park

Tandle Hill Park was a deer park and this bank may be associated with the deer park.

Alkrington Park

Alkrington was orinally in Prestwich Parish, though close to Middleton. This park  also has banks associated with a deer park.

Deer Park, bank

Sometimes streams and rivers were used as boundaries and ditches and banks were used to extend or subdivide natural boundaries.

The name Mersey, means boundary river according to Ekwall. While the Nico Ditch, which runs through Audenshaw near Manchester is a man-made boundary thought to date from the early medieval period.

Types of Boundary

Township Boundaries

Banks and ditches were used to define the border between parish townships, like the one shown below between the townships of  Great and Little Heaton, in Prestwich parish west of Bowlee.

Township Boundary, Great and Little Heaton
Township Boundary – Great and Little Heaton


Here is an old grass covered wall between Naden Head and Naden Dean, it even has a tree growing on it.

Old wall between Naden Head and Naden Dean


There were several preaching crosses in towns and by trackways, here is an amazing example.

The Ultimate “Portable” Antiquity

Doffcocker Cross

Until I reported its existence in 2001 this cross, at Doffcocker near Bolton, was not on the Sites and Monuments Record. The cross is currently in the grounds of the Catholic Church in Doffcocker, having been moved from its previous location, where it was used as a bridge over a stream. So this really is one of the largest antiquities to have been moved around in the area and it shows how incomplete the records have been.

Mystery Ditch – Man Road Ditch

You can see it clearly even from aerial photographs, it’s big, but what was it for? How old is it? Why has it not been recorded or protected? Man Road Ditch – even the name is a mystery.

Where is it?

It runs NNW from Knowl Hill, it was not for drainage, because of the profile of the ditch (more details will be added about this).

Here is a Lidar view

Man Road Ditch – Lidar Image

The wind farm access road can be seen crossing the ditch at the the bottom of the illustration.

Under Construction…

(C) 2010, 2011  S. Mendelsohn


5 thoughts on “Boundaries in the Landscape – Banks, Ditches and Walls

  1. I read about this very cross today and it amazed me! I was born and raised in Doffcocker in the early 80’s, but I had never heard of, or seen this stone cross before!! It is a travesty that truly local history is not taught in schools!

    I have done some research and it appears that this cross originally stood somewhere near Elgin Street and Shepherd Cross Street in Bolton (indeed, it was know as the “Shepherd’s Cross” – probably in its dual function as being used as a ‘cross’-ing over a river in later life, as well as being carved to resemble a ‘cross’, probably as a result of a Christianisation-purge of Pagan relics.

    Do you know anything about its original location? I am currently researching the prehistoric landmarks of Winter Hill and have identified a particularly significant Ley-Line that runs close to the North of Elgin Street – see my blog:

    1. There was an article about the cross in the Bolton Evening News, I got an email from the editor. The cross was found being used as a bridge over a stream on some farmland! The priest saw this and took the cross to the Catholic Church in Doffcocker, where it now stands in the garden, in front of the church.

    1. I think it was a preaching cross, but I do not know any more than that. You could always try contacting the BEN, the archaeologists in Greater Manchester did not know of the cross when I first contacted them over 10 years ago!

  2. This is an ancient stone that was probably part of a larger monument, such as a stone row or stone circle. On one side of the stone are cupmarks. The shape of the cross carved into the stone is described as ‘Maltese’, which was the signifier of the Knights Hospitaller of St John, who were active in Halliwell in the medieval period. This suggests that it was they who placed it in the Shepherds Cross Street area. It was a little bridge over the Doffcocker Burn a little downstream from where Ivy Road is now. It’s progress has been covered in old editions of the Bolton Evening News. Why has nobody noticed the cupmarks?

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