Coordinates : 52°20′38″N 3°02′56″W / 52.344°N 3.049°W / 52.344; -3.049
OFFA\'S DYKE (Welsh : CLAWDD OFFA) is a large linear earthwork that
roughly follows the current border between
The Dyke, which was up to 65 feet (20 m) wide (including its flanking
ditch) and 8 feet (2.4 m) high, traversed low ground, hills and
rivers. Today the earthwork is protected as a scheduled monument .
Some of its route is followed by the Offa\'s Dyke Path ; a 176-mile
(283 km) long-distance footpath that runs between
Although the Dyke is conventionally dated to the Early Middle Ages of Anglo-Saxon England, research in recent decades – using techniques such as radioactive carbon dating – has challenged the conventional historiography and theories about the earthwork.
* 1 History
* 1.1 Background * 1.2 Early scholarship * 1.3 Later research * 1.4 Contrary evidence
* 2 Current
* 2.1 Statutory protection * 2.2 Candidate World Heritage Site * 2.3 The Offa\'s Dyke Centre * 2.4 Offa\'s Dyke Path
* 3 Cultural importance * 4 See also * 5 References * 6 Bibliography * 7 External links
The extent of
Mercia during the
The generally accepted theory about much of the earthwork attributes its construction to Offa , King of Mercia from 757 to 796. The structure did not represent a mutually agreed boundary between the Mercians and the Kingdom of Powys . It had a ditch on the Welsh (western) side, with the displaced soil piled into a bank on the Mercian (eastern) side. This suggests that Mercians constructed it as a defensive earthwork, or to demonstrate the power and intent of their kingdom.
Throughout its entire length, the Dyke constantly provides an uninterrupted view from Mercia into Wales. Where the earthwork encounters hills or high ground, it passes to the west of them.
Although historians often overlook Offa's reign due to limitations in source material, he ranks as one of the greatest Anglo-Saxon rulers – as evidenced in his ability to raise the workforce and resources required to construct Offa's Dyke. The construction of the earthwork probably involved a corvée system requiring vassals to build certain lengths of the earthwork for Offa in addition to the normal services that they provided to their king. The Tribal Hidage , a primary document, shows the distribution of land within 8th-century Britain; it shows that peoples were located within specified territories for administration.
The first historians and archaeologists to examine the Dyke seriously
compared their conclusions with the late 9th-century writer
who wrote: "there was in
Mercia in fairly recent time a certain
vigorous king called Offa, who terrified all the neighbouring kings
and provinces around him, and who had a great dyke built between Wales
Mercia from sea to sea". In 1955 Sir
Cyril Fox published the
first major survey of the Dyke. He concurred with
Asser that the
earthwork ran 'from sea to sea', theorising that the Dyke ran from the
River Dee estuary in the north to the
Frank Stenton , the UK's most eminent 20th-century scholar on
Anglo-Saxon England , accepted Fox's conclusions. He wrote the
introduction to Fox's account of the Dyke. Although Fox's work has now
been revised to some extent, it still remains a vital record of some
In 1978, Dr Frank Noble challenged some of Fox's conclusions,
stirring up new academic interest in Offa's Dyke. His
John Davies wrote of Fox's study: "In the planning of it, there was a
degree of consultation with the kings of
Powys and Gwent. On the Long
Mountain near Trelystan, the dyke veers to the east, leaving the
fertile slopes in the hands of the Welsh; near Rhiwabon , it was
designed to ensure that Cadell ap Brochwel retained possession of the
Fortress of Penygadden." And, for Gwent, Offa had the dyke built "on
the eastern crest of the gorge, clearly with the intention of
recognizing that the
Ongoing research and archaeology on
The Roman historian Eutropius in his book Historiae Romanae
Breviarium, written around 369, mentions the
Wall of Severus , a
structure built by
Novissimum bellum in Britannia habuit, utque receptas provincias omni securitate muniret, vallum per CXXXIII passuum milia a mari ad mare deduxit. Decessit Eboraci admodum senex, imperii anno sexto decimo, mense tertio. Historiae Romanae Breviarium, viii 19.1
He had his most recent war in Britain, and to fortify the conquered provinces with all security, he built a wall for 133 miles from sea to sea. He died at York, a reasonably old man, in the sixteenth year and third month of his reign.
This source is conventionally thought to be referring, in error, to either Hadrian\'s Wall , 73 miles (117 km), or the Antonine Wall , 37 miles (60 km), which were both shorter and built in the 2nd century. Recently, some writers have suggested that Eutropius may have been referring to the earthwork later called Offa's Dyke. Most archaeologists reject this theory.
Evidence has been found that challenges the accepted date of the
Dyke's construction. In December 1999,
Shropshire County Council
archaeologists uncovered the remains of a hearth or fire on the
original ground surface beneath Wat\'s Dyke near
Oswestry , England.
In 2014, excavations by the Clwyd– Powys Archaeological Trust focused on nine samples of the Dyke near Chirk. Radio carbon dating of redeposited turf placed the construction between the years 541 and 651, and lower layers of construction are dated to as early as 430. This evidence suggests that the Dyke may have been a long-term project by several Mercian kings.
All sections of
In August 2013, a 45-metre (148 ft) section of Dyke, between Chirk
CANDIDATE WORLD HERITAGE SITE
Offa’s Dyke is a victim of its very scale, nature, meaning and
historical success. It is located in two countries, six local
authority areas, multiple ownerships and multiple land-use contexts.
The main professional stakeholders – such as the English and Welsh
path and heritage management agencies – are organisationally and
functionally separate. The ancient monument is now often seen as
secondary to the modern path, and heritage advice about individual
dyke sections is not generally coordinated via any connected overview
of the values of the whole monument. Moreover, despite the lasting
THE OFFA\'S DYKE CENTRE
OFFA\'S DYKE PATH
Main article: Offa\'s Dyke Path
Offa's Dyke Path
The dyke has a cultural significance symbolising the separation
was customary for the English to cut off the ears of every Welshman who was found to the east of the dyke, and for the Welsh to hang every Englishman whom they found to the west of it.
* ^ Asser, Life of Alfred, p. .14 * ^ Fox 1955 * ^ Davies, John (2007) . A History of Wales. London: Penguin. pp. 65–66. * ^ Ian Bapty review of Hill and Worthington, Offa\'s Dyke: History and Guide, 2003
* ^ Smith, William (1875). Dictionary of Greek and Roman
Antiquities. London: John Murray. p. 762.
Eutropius uses the figure cxxxii (132) milia passuum. As a Roman mile
≈1,479 metres (4,852 ft), 132 Roman miles = 195 km (or 121 statute
* ^ Hannaford, H.R (1999).
Archaeological Investigation on Wat's
Dyke at Maes-y-Clawdd, Oswestry. Archaeology Service, Shropshire
"The excavation produced some residual deposits of worn sherds of
Roman Samian ware and coarseware pottery. The report suggests that the
dyke should be 'regarded as being contemporary with the other great
5th century linear earthwork, the Wansdyke in Wiltshire . . . an
achievement of the post-Roman kingdom of the northern Cornovii, rather
than a work of 7th–8th century Mercia.' However, Dr David Hill,
senior research fellow, Centre for Angio-Saxon Studies, University of
Manchester ('Offa Versus The Welsh' – British Archaeoiogy, December
2000) has argued for a date later than the 6th century for Wat's Dyke
– that it was constructed as Gwynedd and North
Powys briefly became
a unified state. Evidence from both dykes suggests, he says, that
people were not settling or spending much time in these 'wild zones'."
* ^ "Offa's Dyke: built by multiple kings?". Current Archaeology.
XXV, No. 3 (291): 6. June 2014.
* ^ A B C "UK Tentative List of Potential Sites for World Heritage
Nomination: Application form: Offa\'s Dyke", Department for Culture,
Media and Sport. Retrieved 3 August 2014
* ^ "Allowed to bulldoze Offa\'s Dyke... because he claimed didn\'t
know it was there!".
* Cyril Fox, Offa's Dyke: a Field Survey of the Western Frontier
Mercia in the Seventh and Eighth Centuries AD (London, 1955)
* David Hill and Margaret Worthington, Offa's Dyke: History and
Guide (Stroud, 2003)
* Frank Noble,
Wikimedia Commons has media