Nico Ditch

Looking west along Nico Ditch, near Levenshulme

Nico Ditch (occasionally Mickle Ditch or Nikker) is a six mile (9.7 km) long linear earthwork running between Ashton-under-Lyne and Stretford in Greater Manchester, England. It may have been dug as a defensive fortification, but more likely it was intended to be a boundary marker. It was constructed some time between the 5th and 11th centuries AD.

The ditch is still visible in short sections, such as a 300-metre stretch in Denton golf course. In the parts which survive, the ditch is 3–4 metres wide and up to 1.5 metres deep. Part of the earthwork is protected as a Scheduled Ancient Monument.

Contents

Course

Approximate course of Nico Ditch, shown in red. It may have extended further to the west than indicated, after a gap necessitated by mossland in its path.

Nico Ditch stretches six miles (9.7 km) from Ashton Moss (grid reference SJ909980) in Ashton-under-Lyne to Hough Moss (grid reference SJ82819491), just east of Stretford.[1] It passes through Denton, Reddish, Gorton, Levenshulme, Burnage, Rusholme, Platt Fields Park in Fallowfield, Withington, and Chorlton-cum-Hardy, crossing four metropolitan boroughs of present-day Greater Manchester. The ditch coincides with the boundaries between the boroughs of Stockport and Manchester, and between Tameside and Manchester as far as Denton golf course. A section is now beneath the Audenshaw Reservoirs, which were built towards the end of the 19th century.[2] The ditch may have extended west beyond Stretford, to Urmston (grid reference SJ78299504).[3]

History

Nico Ditch was constructed some time between the end of Roman rule in Britain in the early 5th century and the Norman Conquest in 1066. Its original purpose is unclear, but it may have been used as a defensive fortification or as an administrative boundary. It possibly marked a 7th-century boundary for the expansionist Anglo-Saxons, or it may have been a late 8th or early 9th-century boundary marker between the kingdoms of Mercia and Northumbria.[4] In the early medieval period, the kingdoms of Northumbria, Mercia, and Wessex struggled for control over North West England,[5] as did the Britons and Danes. Whatever its earlier use, the ditch has been used as a boundary since at least the Middle Ages.[6]

Legend has it that Nico Ditch was completed in a single night by the inhabitants of Manchester, as a protection against Viking invaders in 869–870; Manchester may have been sacked by the Danes in 870.[7] It was said that each man had an allocated area to construct, and was required to dig his section of the ditch and build a bank equal to his own height.[4] According to 19th-century folklore, the ditch was the site of a battle between Saxons and Danes; the battle was supposed to have given the nearby towns of Gorton and Reddish their names, from "Gore Town" and "Red-Ditch",[8][9] but the idea has been dismissed by historians as a "popular fancy".[10] The names derive from "dirty farmstead" and "reedy ditch" respectively.[11]

A map of Nico Ditch between Reddish and Slade Hall in Longsight, printed in 1895. This section of the ditch is still evident.

Antiquarians and historians have been interested in the ditch since the 19th century, but much of its course has been built over. Between 1990 and 1997, the University of Manchester Archaeological Unit excavated sections of the ditch in Denton, Reddish, Levenshulme, and Platt Fields, in an attempt to determine its age and purpose. Although no date was established for the ditch's construction, the investigations revealed that the bank to the north of the ditch is of 20th-century origin. Together with the ditch's profile, which is U-shaped rather than the V-shape typically used in military ditches and defences, this suggests that the purpose of the earthwork was to mark a territorial boundary.[1] The conclusion of the project was that the ditch was probably a boundary marker.[12]

Etymology

The earliest documented reference to the ditch is in a charter detailing the granting of land in Audenshaw to the monks of the Kersal Cell. In the document, dating from 1190 to 1212, the ditch is referred to as "Mykelldiche", and a magnum fossatum, Latin for "large ditch".[3]

The name Nico (sometimes Nikker) for the ditch became established in the 19th and 20th centuries. It may have been derived from the Anglo-Saxon Hnickar, a water spirit who seized and drowned unwary travellers, but the modern name is most likely a corruption of the name Mykelldiche and its variations, as the Anglo-Saxon word micel meant "big" or "great", harking back to the early 13th-century description of the ditch as magnum fossatum.[3] An alternative derivation is that Nico comes from nǽcan, an Anglo-Saxon verb meaning "kill".[13]

Current status

Despite heavy weathering, the ditch is still visible in short sections, which can be 3–4 metres wide and up to 1.5 metres deep. A 300-metre stretch through Denton golf course, and a section running through Platt Fields Park, are considered the best preserved remains.[14][15] In 1997, a 135-metre long stretch of the ditch in Platt Fields was protected as a Scheduled Ancient Monument. The rest of the ditch remains unprotected.[16]

See also

References

Notes
  1. ^ a b Nevell (1998), p. 40.
  2. ^ Nevell (1992), p. 81.
  3. ^ a b c Nevell (1992), p. 78.
  4. ^ a b Nevell (1992), p. 83.
  5. ^ Hylton (2003), p. 7.
  6. ^ Nevell (1992), pp. 82–83.
  7. ^ Hylton (2003), p. 8.
  8. ^ Booker (1857), p. 197.
  9. ^ Harland & Wilkinson (1993), pp. 26–29.
  10. ^ Farrer & Brownbill (1911), pp. 275–279.
  11. ^ "A ditch in time". BBC Online. 1 August 2008. http://www.bbc.co.uk/manchester/content/articles/2008/08/01/010808_nico_ditch_feature.shtml.  Retrieved on 5 January 2009.
  12. ^ Nevell (1998), p. 41.
  13. ^ Based on the manuscript collections of the late Joseph Bosworth, D.D. F.R.S (1998). "Online Anglo-Saxon dictionary.". Clarendon Press. http://bosworthandtoller.com/read.htm?page_nr=706. Retrieved 25 August 2007. 
  14. ^ Nevell (1992), p. 79.
  15. ^ Nevell (2008), p. 39.
  16. ^ "Nico Ditch". Pastscape.org.uk. http://www.pastscape.org.uk/hob.aspx?hob_id=1033812. Retrieved 30 December 2007. 
Bibliography
  • Booker, John (1857). A history of the ancient chapels of Didsbury and Chorlton. Manchester: Chethams. 
  • Farrer, W; Brownbill, J (editors) (1911). "Townships: Gorton". A History of the County of Lancaster 4: 275–279. http://www.british-history.ac.uk/report.aspx?compid=41420. Retrieved 5 January 2009. 
  • Harland, John; Wilkinson, Thomas Turner (1993) [1873]. Lancashire Legends, Traditions. Llanerch Press. ISBN 1-897853-06-8. 
  • Hylton, Stuart (2003). A History of Manchester. Chichester: Phillimore and co. Ltd.. ISBN 1-86077-240-4. 
  • Nevell, Mike (1992). Tameside Before 1066. Tameside Metropolitan Borough Council. ISBN 1-871324-07-6. 
  • Nevell, Mike (1998). Lands and Lordships in Tameside. Tameside Metropolitan Borough Council with the University of Manchester Archaeological Unit. ISBN 1-871324-18-1. 
  • Nevell, Mike (2008). Manchester: The Hidden History. The History Press. ISBN 978-0-7524-4704-9. 

Coordinates: 53°27′03″N 2°10′37″W / 53.450803°N 2.176881°W / 53.450803; -2.176881


Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Nico Ditch — Der Nico Ditch bei Levenshulme Ungefährer Verlauf des Nico Di …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • History of Reddish — There is evidence of activity around Reddish ndash; a settlement in Greater Manchester, England ndash; before the Norman conquest in the presence of Nico Ditch and some Saxon coins. The recorded history of Reddish begins at the turn of the 13th… …   Wikipedia

  • Tameside — Metropolitan Borough of Tameside   Metropolitan borough   Tameside Council Offices, in Ashton under Lyne …   Wikipedia

  • History of Manchester — The history of Manchester is one of change from a minor Lancastrian township into the pre eminent industrial metropolis of the United Kingdom and the world. Manchester began expanding at an astonishing rate around the turn of the 19th century as… …   Wikipedia

  • Scheduled Monuments in Greater Manchester — ManchestertockportWigan| Notes:note label|Grid reference|A|ASometimes known as OSGB36, the grid reference is based on the British national grid reference system, and is the system used by the Ordnance Survey. [cite web|title=Guide to National… …   Wikipedia

  • Denton, Greater Manchester — Coordinates: 53°27′19″N 2°06′44″W / 53.4554°N 2.1122°W / 53.4554; 2.1122 …   Wikipedia

  • Ashton-under-Lyne — infobox UK place country = England latitude = 53.4941 longitude = 2.1032 population= 43,236 (2001 Census) population density=12,374 per mi² (4,777 per km²) official name= Ashton under Lyne metropolitan borough= Tameside region = North West… …   Wikipedia

  • Fallowfield — For other uses, see Fallowfield (disambiguation). For the village in Canada, see Fallowfield, Ottawa. Coordinates: 53°26′33″N 2°13′07″W / 53.4425°N 2.2 …   Wikipedia

  • Aldfrith of Northumbria — Infobox Monarch name =Aldfrith title =King of Northumbria caption =The beast symbol used on Aldfrith s coinage. reign =685 ndash;704/705 predecessor =Ecgfrith successor =Disputed between Osred and Eadwulf queen =Cuthburh father =Oswiu mother =Fín …   Wikipedia

  • Stretford — infobox UK place country = England map type= Greater Manchester latitude= 53.4466 longitude= 2.3086 official name= Stretford population= 37,455 (2001 Census) population density=Pop density mi2 to km2|9158|abbr=yes|precision=0|wiki=yes… …   Wikipedia

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”

We are using cookies for the best presentation of our site. Continuing to use this site, you agree with this.