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Historic England Research Records

Repell Ditches.

Hob Uid: 373676
Location :
Essex
Uttlesford
Saffron Walden
Grid Ref : TL5354038140
Summary : The Medieval and perhaps earlier town defences of Saffron Walden partly survive as earthworks known as the Repell Ditches. They comprise two now separate linear ditches with an internal bank which combine to form the south-western corner of a probable rectangular enclosure. Excavations nearby in 1972 suggest a palisade ditch surrounded the late Early Medieval town and excavations in 1959 showed a single phase of construction between circa 1250 and 1350. Roman period pottery and a coin were also recovered.
More information : TL 535381) Repell Ditches (NR). (1)

The earliest historical reference to this earthwork was in 1305. It was excavated in 1959 and shown to be of simple bank and ditch construction without berm, revetting or palisade, and one period construction dated between 1250 and 1350. The enclosed area was shown to have been intensely occupied from c 1050 to c 1150, with a falling off in the 13th century. There is some evidence for a complete rectangular enclosure extending to the east (see plan). (2)

Excavations in 1972 at the Rose and Crown Inn (not located - there is a Rose and Crown Inn at TL 53903852 shown on the RCHM plan but it is not in the area of the enclosure) and at the road junction Elm Grove-Audley Road (TL 539382), produce evidence confirming the extension of an enclosure to the east. It was of different construction from Repell Ditches apparently being a palisade ditch. It is now suggested that a defensive perimeter earthwork enclosed the late Saxon town; the extant "Battle Ditch" possibly never completed (3).

Romano-British pottery was found in the enclosed areas. A coin of Elagabalus was found at the bottom of the Repell Ditches and is in Saffron Walden Museum (5).

Excavations at the corner of the High Street and Gold Street (TL 538382) in 1973 revealed a 26.0 metre length of the southern arm of the Battle Ditches to the east of the High Street. Only the lowest 2.0m of the ditch survived below very deep post-Medieval landscaping; it had a flat bottom 1.60m wide. A majority of the few pottery sherds recovered belonged to the later 11th and 12th centuries, and the latest to the 13th century. (6-7)

A cable-trench was dug in 1978 from Saxon Road along the west arm of the ditch system to Abbey Lane. The ditch fill was loose grey loam with 19th century pottery to the depth excavated. The two ends of the Battle Ditches were marked by tips of chalky loam. The path across the south-west angle was shown not to be an original break in the ditches. A 13th century sherd was the only Medieval find. (8)

TL 53543814: The line of the Repell Ditches remaining as earthworks are municipally maintained. They are weed covered which is periodically mown. A footpath on the inner line of the defences stands about 1m above the level of the surrounding gardens. The line of the ditches indicated by auth 2 was perambulated. At c TL 53963823, the garden of a former junior school, is now covered by a housing development. The Jubilee Gardens TL 53863840, the only other remaining open ground on the circuit of these ditches, no trace of the feature was seen. (9)

Additional bibliography (10-11)

The Repell Ditches are mostly covered by trees on the available aerial photographs but are visible as earthworks in lidar data. The ditches extend between 5352 3813 and TL 5367 3816 and between TL 5352 3814 and TL 5349 3828. (12-13)

Sources :
Source Number : 1
Source : Ordnance Survey Map (Scale / Date)
Source details : OS 1:10 000 1972
Page(s) :
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) :
Source Number : 2
Source : Essex archaeology and history : transactions of Essex Archaeological Society
Source details : (A Ravetz and G Spencer)
Page(s) : 141-159
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) : 1
Source Number : 11
Source : CBA research reports
Source details : Medieval Towns in England (ed) Barley
Page(s) : 58-9
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) : 14 - 1975
Source Number : 12
Source : Vertical aerial photograph reference number
Source details : NMR OS/81025 005-006 22-JUN-1981
Page(s) :
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) :
Source Number : 13
Source : Light detection and ranging (lidar) airborne survey
Source details : LIDAR TL5338 English Heritage DTM 05-APR-2009
Page(s) :
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) :
Source Number : 3
Source : Archaeological excavations
Source details : (S R Bassett)
Page(s) : 84-5
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) : 1972
Source Number : 4
Source : An inventory of the historical monuments in Essex. Volume I [north west]
Source details :
Page(s) : 259-60
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) : 1916
Source Number : 5
Source : A history of the county of Essex, vol 3 : Roman Essex
Source details :
Page(s) : 195
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) : 1963
Source Number : 6
Source : Archaeological excavations
Source details : (S R Bassett)
Page(s) : 77
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) : 1973
Source Number : 7
Source : Essex archaeology and history : transactions of Essex Archaeological Society
Source details : (S R Bassett)
Page(s) : 12
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) : 48 - 1974
Source Number : 8
Source : Essex archaeology and history : transactions of Essex Archaeological Society
Source details : (C R Couchman)
Page(s) : 57
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) : Nov-79
Source Number : 9
Source : Field Investigators Comments
Source details : F4 WDC 14-JUN-89
Page(s) :
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) :
Source Number : 10
Source : CBA research reports
Source details : (S R Bassett)
Page(s) : 67-80
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) : 45 -1982

Monument Types:
Monument Period Name : Roman
Display Date : Roman
Monument End Date : 410
Monument Start Date : 43
Monument Type : Findspot
Evidence : Find
Monument Period Name : Early Medieval
Display Date : Early Medieval
Monument End Date : 1066
Monument Start Date : 410
Monument Type : Rectangular Enclosure, Bank (Earthwork), Ditch, Town Defences
Evidence : Earthwork
Monument Period Name : Medieval
Display Date : Medieval
Monument End Date : 1540
Monument Start Date : 1066
Monument Type : Bank (Earthwork), Ditch, Town Defences, Rectangular Enclosure
Evidence : Earthwork

Components and Objects:
Period : Roman
Component Monument Type : Findspot
Object Type : COIN, VESSEL
Object Material : Pottery

Related Records from other datasets:
External Cross Reference Source : Scheduled Monument Legacy (County No.)
External Cross Reference Number : EX 54
External Cross Reference Notes :
External Cross Reference Source : SMR Number (Essex)
External Cross Reference Number : 443
External Cross Reference Notes :
External Cross Reference Source : National Monuments Record Number
External Cross Reference Number : TL 53 NW 10
External Cross Reference Notes :

Related Warden Records :
Related Activities :
Associated Activities : Primary, REPELL DITCHES
Activity type : EXCAVATION
Start Date : 1959-01-01
End Date : 1959-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, FIELD OBSERVATION ON TL 53 NW 10
Activity type : FIELD OBSERVATION (VISUAL ASSESSMENT)
Start Date : 1968-05-14
End Date : 1968-05-14
Associated Activities : Primary, ROSE AND CROWN HOTEL, MARKET PLACE
Activity type : EXCAVATION
Start Date : 1972-01-01
End Date : 1972-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, GOLD STREET MALTINGS
Activity type : EXCAVATION
Start Date : 1973-01-01
End Date : 1973-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, CINEMA MALTINGS, HIGH STREET/GOLD STREET
Activity type : EXCAVATION
Start Date : 1973-01-01
End Date : 1973-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, RCHME: OS SWEEPS
Activity type : FIELD OBSERVATION (VISUAL ASSESSMENT)
Start Date : 1983-01-01
End Date : 1994-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, FAIRYCROFT HOUSE
Activity type : EXCAVATION
Start Date : 1990-01-01
End Date : 1990-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, SWAN MEADOW
Activity type : WATCHING BRIEF
Start Date : 1992-01-01
End Date : 1992-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, 39 CASTLE STREET
Activity type : WATCHING BRIEF
Start Date : 1998-01-01
End Date : 1998-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, LAND AT ELM GROVE, OFF GOUL LANE
Activity type : EXCAVATION
Start Date : 2001-01-01
End Date : 2001-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, AUDLEY END ENVIRONS: AERIAL PHOTOGRAPH AND LIDAR SURVEY AND ANALYSIS
Activity type : AERIAL PHOTOGRAPH INTERPRETATION
Start Date : 2009-10-01
End Date : 2010-04-01
Associated Activities : Primary, FORMER SUN PH, GOLD STREET
Activity type : EVALUATION
Start Date : 2012-01-01
End Date : 2012-12-31