Cock Hall, Whitworth – can we still see medieval features in the landscape?

Cock Hall today comprises a range of farm buildings with some dating back to the 17th C. This name appears to derive from ‘Cokgreues’ underlined in red in the Latin charter (number 59) transcribed below.


This charter describes land boundaries, which refer to features such as ditches, (fossatum) and streams such as Cowm Brook (Cumbebrok). The features are described in relation to compass points, so for example ‘occidentum‘ is west and ‘orientem‘ is east.

Land use

The charter also indicates the land use in the area, so there are references to meadows (pratem)and grassland (Campum). So the area was open in medieval times. With the aid of this and the dozens of charters in Whitworth we should be able to create a land use map and associated features in the landscape.

Who was involved?

The charter refers to “Andrew and Alan” of Whitworth and the Abbot of ‘Stanlawe‘ ( Stanlaw Abbey later relocated to Whalley).

What can be seen today?

Cock Hall is still surrounded by fields and aerial views show banks and ditches which may correspond to the features described in the charter shown above.

Cock Hall farm


This brief look at just one charter shows the wealth of historical and archaeological information for just Whitworth, which features in nearly 100 charters from the Coucher Book of Whalley Abbey. When you include all the charters for land in SE lancashire you see the wealth of information that is yet to be researched. How many other archaeological features can be gleaned from the study of this vast untapped archive? Indications from other sites mentioned in the charters would appear to show a huge number of surviving sites yet to be surveyed.

A systematic study of this area will surely challenge and change our view of the history and the landscape of SE Lancs.

Want to read more?

Download the Coucher Book of Whalley (in Latin) for free here.

Latin Dictionary

Download a free Latin dictionary here


Boundaries in the Landscape – Banks, Ditches and Walls

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