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 was in Thornham township, Middleton parish.
Tandle Hill Park was a deer park and this bank may be associated with the deer park.
Alkrington was orinally in Prestwich Parish, though close to Middleton. This park also has banks associated with a deer park.
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
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.
Here is an old grass covered wall between Naden Head and Naden Dean, it even has a tree growing on it.
There were several preaching crosses in towns and by trackways, here is an amazing example.
The Ultimate “Portable” Antiquity
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
The wind farm access road can be seen crossing the ditch at the the bottom of the illustration.
(C) 2010, 2011 S. Mendelsohn