Great Wolford Village Ditch

Has been described as a Questionable Urban Defence, and also as a Questionable Linear Defence or Dyke

There are earthwork remains

NameGreat Wolford Village Ditch
Alternative Names
Historic CountryWarwickshire
Modern AuthorityWarwickshire
1974 AuthorityWarwickshire
Civil ParishGreat Wolford

Village, well-placed on a triangle of land above the junction of two little streams, was formerly defended by entrenchments running all round it; these probably enclosed an area of about 9.1 ha. In the memory of people still living the ramparts virtually encircled the village, but they have now been practically levelled, except upon one side, to the E and SE. Here too they have been considerably mutilated in places. The extant defences show formidable double ramparts with intervening fosse, placed on top of a steep decline; they are perhaps best preserved in the SE corner, where water still lies in a ditch which is 4.6m wide. The vallum at this point is 7.6m high and the inner bank 6.5m high, the enclosed village being on a level with the top. There are no records of antiquities (VCH). The main feature is a large ditch, now 6-7.6m at the bottom; this was designed to be fed by a spring, and is still wet. Most of the upcast is on the outer side, making a bank 2.4m high above the ditch; the 'inner' bank is very slight. The field to the E has been ploughed with ridge and furrow. 1968: Possibly erected as a wolf defence (OS record card). (Warwickshire HER)

Great Wolford. The name is probably derived from 'wulf' (wolf) and 'weard'. The latter word must have its sense of 'watching protection' or possibly 'ambuscade'. The name would refer to a spot where a watch was kept for wolves --- In support of its use for watching purposes we note the existence of "relics of ancient entrenchments" at Great Wolford (EPNS). A defensive earthwork. In character the work resembles a late medieval although I do not know of a parallel. It was possibly erected either at the time of the Civil War (which was very active hereabouts) or earlier, as suggested by EPNS, as a wolf defence. There are no traces of further works to complete the village encirclement. (Field Investigators Comments–F1 FDC 20-OCT-68). (PastScape)

Gatehouse Comments

What this extraordinary and exceptional earthwork actually was is inadequately explained. The 'wolf defence' suggestion just seems incredible, is clearly a fantasy inspired by the village name (or, if the earthwork is pre-historic the village name is inspired by the fantasy supposed origin of the earthwork). The ditch does not now encircle the village, although it may have been more vulnerable to infilling and redevelopment on the flatter west side so may have enclosed the village. Equally it may have only ever have been on the east side. Dugdale description of village in the mid C17 is mainly tenurial history but he makes no mention of this notable feature. Seemingly post-Medieval and probably Civil War but may just possibly be pre-historic.

- Philip Davis

This site is a scheduled monument protected by law

Not Listed

Historic England (PastScape) Defra or Monument number(s)
County Historic Environment Record
OS Map Grid ReferenceSP251345
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  • Beresford, M.W. and Hurst J.G., 1971, DMVs of England p. 43
  • Gover, J.E.B., Mawer, A. and Stenton, F.M., 1936, The Place-Names of Warwickshire (English Place Name Society 13) p. 303
  • Willoughby Gardner, 1904, 'Ancient Defensive Earthworks' in Doubleday, H.A. and Page, Wm (eds), VCH Warwickshire Vol. 1 p. 404-6 (plan) online copy