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Castle Hedingham Town Ditch

In the civil parish of Castle Hedingham.
In the historic county of Essex.
Modern Authority of Essex.
1974 county of Essex.
Medieval County of Essex.

OS Map Grid Reference: TL787355
Latitude 51.98950° Longitude 0.60220°

Castle Hedingham Town Ditch has been described as a probable Urban Defence.

There are earthwork remains.


The town defences: There appears to have been two lines of town defences. An inner defence (TL 7852 3548) and an outer one (TL 7858 3540); it is not known whether they were contemporaneous in construction. Evidence for the innermost defence (ESMR 10676) consists of a length of ditch approximately 50m long by 14m wide by 3m deep, which survived until the 1980's in the garden of No.26 St James's Street. There are the remnants of a possible bank and ditch in the wasteground adjoining the Memorial Hall, Church Lane, which are probably part of the same monument. From this point it appears that the western side of the town defence probably ran along the western side of the fields which are immediately behind the properties fronting Church Lane. On crossing Nunnery Street it would have joined in with the arm of bank and ditch protruding out from the western side of the castle ringwork. The outer defence (ESMR 16077 ) is indicated on the 1592 map as the 'Dungyon Dytch' and is shown as running from halfway along the 'chapell yard' (now the playing field) boundary along a surviving property boundary to Sheepcot Road. It is still visible in places as a slight bank and two small ponds may also mark the line of its ditch. It must have turned a sharp corner on reaching Sheepcot Road as a ditch was observed during a watching-brief (ESMR 17211) at Trinity Cottage, Sheepcot Road, where it lay on a northwest-southeast axis, parallel to the road. Here it appears that the bank was formed by the cutting of a ditch along the base of a natural spur of land, in the same manner as the construction of the castle mound. The ditch was more than 2.5m wide, the building of Trinity Cottage having removed the southern side of it. Two sherds of pottery were recovered from the fill, and have been dated to the mid-thirteenth century. The western limits of the outer ditch is uncertain, though it may have joined in with the inner defensive ditch on this side. The eastern corners of both defences have been located by resitivity in the playing field by Peter Cott in 1995. The survey shows two substantial ditches in the western half of the field, and also indicates that they may be linked at the corner by a smaller ditch, possibly for drainage purposes. Between the ditches, running north-south, a high resistance anomaly may reflect the presence of a wall or a series of narrow buildings crammed into the gap. The survey information is supported by an aerial photograph (NMR AP: 58/308/5017-8) which also shows the corner of a ditch. What happens to the ditches once they cross the Sudbury Road is unclear, but they presumably linked into the outer bailey defences. The 1592 survey shows the eastern end of Bayley street as 'portway' and there is a small building sited in the middle of the road. It corresponds to the point where both the inner and outer town defensive ditches meet the Sudbury Road and may refer to a gate into the town. However, 'Portway' is also a local family name, and it may simply record the ownership of the building. There must have been some sort of gateway feature however where the town defences crossed the Sudbury Road and correspondingly on the western side where they crossed Nunnery Street. (Historic Town Assessment Report)
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This record last updated 26/07/2017 09:19:30

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