Monument record MCC2116 - Berechurch Dyke, Colchester


Berechurch Dyke, aligned approx. NNE to SSW from the western end of Barnhall Dyke (S. of Colchester Cemetery) to the Roman River Colne for c.3km. South of Berechurch Hall Camp, the dyke turns NNW to SSE, for c.560m, before turning N to S for a further 560m to the Roman River. In 2016, the dyke was also encountered c.1km to the north, within the area of the former Meeanee & Hyderabad Barracks.


Grid reference Centred TL 99919 22274 (845m by 4039m)
Map sheet TL92SE
County ESSEX


Type and Period (2)

Full Description

An undated linear dyke with eastern ditch. Despite the work carried out on this dyke it is still poorly understood. An Iron Age origin is suggested by the fact that it appears to respect the Iron Age enclosures at TL9960 2070.

The Dyke is marked (roughly) on Chapman & Andre's 1777 map as 'Ancient Intrenchments'.

During the 2nd World War (1944), a tank trap (?MCC5336 or MCC8706) was cut through the dyke (now within, or just to the north, of the grounds of The Thomas Audley School and Language College) and observed by A.F. Hall. This showed an old surface below the rampart which he took to be a turf layer.<1>

A.F. Hall undertook an auguring survey in Colchester Cemetery to trace the alignment of the Monkwick-Barnhall rampart or dyke (MCC8079). He surmises that the line must have run from the top of Berechurch Dyke towards the Colne where Salary Brook joins it.<2><3> Hall may have also undertaken some trenching, as indicated by the large trenches reproduced in the plan of his work. However, the text is not clear.

In 1945-6, A.F. Hall cut a section across the dyke at Charlottes Grove, exact location unknown (MCC10066).<4>

The profile of the dyke was recorded in 1972.<5>

In 1984, a watching brief was undertaken on a trench being laid across the dyke at TL 9957 2156 (MCC8071). The section showed that below the modern road the rampart survives to a height of 1m. Tree roots had caused much disturbance to the upper 1-1.5m of the bank and ditch sides. Only the top of the ditch was visible but it seemed comparable in size to the dykes to the west of Colchester. The flattened rampart was approximately 13.5m wide and the ditch was approximately 5.5m wide.<6>

During trial-trenching in 2004, two large ditches were observed in two of the three trenches excavated and a single large ditch representing the remains of a rampart was observed in the third trench. This indicates that the course of Berechurch Dyke changes angle in Area S of the Garrison Urban Village (ECC2552).<7> Excavations were carried out in 2012 (Area K of Colchester Garrison redevelopment)(ECC3627).<8> This work located the dyke ditch over its full width, 5.8m wide. The base of the ditch was not reached, and is projected to be c.1.5-1.7m deep (2.1-2.4m below the ground level). Part of the dyke bank, or an area of natural sand beneath the former bank, was also located on the western edge of the excavation (i.e. on the west sideof the ditch). A line of five post-holes on the western side may represent part of a timber revetment fronting the dyke bank (although a later date for the post-holes could not be excluded). There was also some evidence that a large post-medieval ditch or hollow way may have followed the line of the dyke ditch here.

In 2011, excavations within the area of the former Meeanee & Hyderabad Barracks (Area A1, site J of Colchester Garrison redevelopment) defined a late Iron Age to early Roman dyke (ditch JF02), interpreted as a new part of the late Iron Age Berechurch Dyke (and referred to as the ‘Hyderabad Sector’ of the Berechurch Dyke)(MCC10093). The section of dyke extends the Berechurch Dyke by c.1.0km north of its previously known extent at Colchester Cemetery. The dyke-sized ditch was 2.7m deep and 7-9m wide, aligned north-east-east/ south-south-west for over 60m from the direction of the River Colne to the east, before turning a c.125 degree corner at its western extent, and continuing south-south-west for over 25m towards the southern boundary of the former Hyderabad Barracks. There was no physical evidence for the dyke bank. Two sections hand excavated through the ditch revealed finds supportive of the conclusion that the ditch was probably a late Iron Age, rather than an early Roman, creation; the report states, the lower fills almost certainly predate the Boudican Revolt and are most likely to belong to the period from the late 1st century BC to mid 1st century AD. The ditch then gradually silted up from the early Roman period up to and including the medieval period. Some of the fill seems to have been dumped from an adjacent occupation site on the southern side of the dyke. This material may imply the abandonment, or deliberate removal, of this settlement, with clearance debris tipped into the adjacent ditch. Nevertheless, the dyke was clearly contemporary with the settlement to begin with. Inserted into the Roman period central fills was a hoard of 1244 antoniniani, the latest being an antoninianus of Tetricus I, AD 271-4.<9>

Sources/Archives (9)

  • <1> Serial: Hawkes, Christopher, F. C. & Crummy, Philip. 1995. CAR 11: Camulodunum II. 11. pp.159-160, No. 85.
  • <2> Serial: Colchester Archaeological Group. 1960. Vol. 3 No 1 Colchester Archaeological Group Bulletin. Vol. 3 No1. Vol 3 No 1.
  • <3> Serial: Hawkes, Christopher, F. C. & Crummy, Philip. 1995. CAR 11: Camulodunum II. 11. pp.24-25.
  • <4> Serial: Hawkes, Christopher, F. C. & Crummy, Philip. 1995. CAR 11: Camulodunum II. 11. p.159, No. 79.
  • <5> Unpublished document: Brooks, Howard (CAT). 1972. The Earthworks Around Colchester (The Colchester Dykes).
  • <6> Serial: Hawkes, Christopher, F. C. & Crummy, Philip. 1995. CAR 11: Camulodunum II. 11. p.159, No. 78.
  • <7> Evaluation Report: Holloway, Ben (CAT). 2004. Archaeological trial-trenching at Area S of the Garrison Urban Village, Colchester, Essex. CAT Report 273.
  • <8> EXCAV REPORT: Benfield, S. and Masefield, R.. 2013. Interim assessment report on Stage 2 archaeological excavations, Alienated Land S2 cross-over, Area S2 (north) Site K, Berechurch Dyke, Colchester Garrison, Colchester, Essex September-October 2012. CAT Report 672.
  • <9> EXCAV REPORT: Brooks, Howard. 2016. A Late Iron Age dyke, Roman and Anglo-Saxon burials, a Roman coin hoard, and a Civil War fort: Stage 1b archaeological evaluation and Stage 2 excavation at Colchester Garrison Alienated Land Area A1. CAT Report 628.

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Record last edited

Dec 16 2016 3:33PM

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