Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Midsummer Hill and Shire Ditch - LexiLine Journal 387

I read the following at the English Heritage website in writing about the Malvern Hills:

"One of the most significant and exciting results of our research has been a complete re-assessment of the origins of the 'Shire Ditch', also known as 'Red Earl's Dyke', a boundary earthwork which runs along the crest of the hills. According to the history textbooks, the accepted story is that this earthwork was built by Gilbert de Clare, the 'Red Earl' of Gloucester, in about 1287, during a boundary dispute with the Bishop of Hereford. Careful examination and survey of the form of this earthwork and, more particularly, of its relationship with the defensive ramparts of the prehistoric hillfort on Midsummer Hill tells a very different story, however [emphasis added]. To the north of the hillfort, the Shire Ditch seems to have been built in two separate phases. While one phase overlies the ramparts, and must therefore post-date them (as expected), the other phase underlies them, and must therefore be of earlier origin. In other words, the Shire Ditch, or at least part of it, must be prehistoric - possibly dating to the late Bronze Age (about 1000 BC). The 'Red Earl', it seems, just refurbished an existing boundary earthwork, rather than starting from scratch....

The relationship of the Shire Ditch to the other hillfort on the Malverns, known as 'British Camp', is not so clear. There is no sign of an earlier phase to the Ditch here. Nevertheless, the discovery that the Shire Ditch may be of much earlier date than has previously been realised does have implications for understanding the story of the medieval 'ringwork' castle which crowns British Camp."

That passage confirms that it was Midsummer Hill that was the older of the ancient sites in the Malverns, and Midsummer Hill does in fact fit in better with the survey data as marking the center of Ancient Britain.

We refer in this connection to Moel-Bryn & the Eastnor Vale , a blog which is devoted to:
"The geology, history, folklore, superstitions, tales and images of the Malvern Hills and Eastnor vale." We refer particularly to the posting on "Midsummer Camp, Hollybush Hill & Dyn Mawr ".

On the English grid map, Midsummer Hill is found at SO760375 which can be accessed
at the wonderful geographic photographic site at

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