Aldwick and Tiscott deserted medieval earthworks

Aldwick and Tiscott deserted medieval village earthworks, Long Marston. The county contains the sites of several settlements which have been partly or completely abandoned in earlier periods. Many of these 'shrunken' or 'deserted' village sites date from the medieval period, and particularly from the 14th and 15th centuries, when the English population fell sharply as the climate deteriorated, and as epidemic diseases such as the 'Black Death' arrived from the Continent. Some deserted sites remain visible as earthworks, with the trackways through them showing as sunken ways and the buildings as slightly raised platforms. At Aldwick house platforms, a sunken way, ponds and a possible boundary ditch can be seen, and there are good examples of 'ridge and furrow' (medieval ploughing) in the fields surrounding the settlement. At Tiscott, earthworks consisting of a sunken way, house platforms, and ridge and furrow have survived, but they are difficult to see from the public footpath.

From Long Marston follow Station Road, and turn right into Alnwick Drive, which is just after Whitwell Farm. Park at this near end, and follow the public footpath which runs alongside the farm track. Tiscott 'DMV' is on the left, two fields (approximately 450 yards) before the farmhouse, grid reference SP 885 179. For Aldwick 'DMV', continue along the footpath and take the signposted footpath to the right just before Alnwick Farm. The earthworks occur throughout this field, and there are also others, and ponds, in the adjacent fields, grid reference SP 892 175.

Arbury Banks, Ashwell

Arbury Banks, Ashwell is a horseshoe-shaped hillfort. It was probably first constructed during the Late Bronze Age (1000-700 B.C.), and like Wilbury, forms one of a band of six similar hillforts along the northern Chilterns. Excavations in the 1850s traced the ramparts and identified two opposed North-north-west and South-south-east entrances. Evidence was also discovered for several enclosures or buildings inside the fort.

To reach the site, turn into Partridge Hill, at the junction of West End and Newnham Way, in Ashwell. Park near the farm, and walk up a track to the right. Its continuation as a public footpath is unclear, but it leads directly up the slope to the hillfort. The site is protected by a fence, and it is worthwhile continuing to the left, following the fence, to obtain a better appreciation of the fort and its hilltop location, and a good view of the surrounding area - grid reference TL 261 387.

Beech Bottom Dyke

Beech Bottom Dyke, St Albans, is a massive ditch flanked by banks on both sides. It is up to 30m wide, and 10m deep, and is visible for just under a mile along the northern edge of St Albans. It was constructed towards the end of the Iron Age, and most probably in the early 1st century A.D. This, and other similar earthworks in the district, were built by the powerful Celtic tribe established in this area, the Catuvellauni, to define areas of land around their tribal centre at Verlamion - the predecessor of the Roman city of Verulamium.

Take the A1081 from St Albans centre, turn right at The Ancient Briton Public House and follow Beech Road. Fork left along Firbank Road, and left at the T-junction into Valley Road, which crosses Beech Bottom dyke at grid reference TL 1556 0917. The dyke is visible on either side of the road.

Berkhamsted Castle

Berkhamsted Castle is one of the largest and best preserved sites in the county, and this is reflected in its status as a ‘Guardianship’ site (a site in the care of English Heritage). It is a ‘motte and bailey’ castle in origin - a type of castle design that was introduced by the Normans - and dates from the 11th century. A motte was a large defensive mound, which had a timber or stone tower on the top; the adjacent, enclosed bailey was the living area. The oval motte at Berkhamsted is crowned with a circular stone shell keep, from which flanking walls descend to meet the curtain wall of the bailey. Three half-round towers have been added to the curtain wall, and it is straddled by a large rectangular tower. Beyond the wall there is a large moat, and beyond that a countscap bank; beyond this a further bank on the north and east sides contains seven earthen bastions, perhaps the emplacements for medieval artillery.

The castle was originally owned by Robert of Mortain, William the Conqueror’s half-brother, and it eventually became part of the estates of the royal Duchy of Cornwall. Large sums were spent on the castle in the 12th, 13th and 14th centuries, but it was unoccupied after 1495.

The site lies on the north-east side of Berkhamsted, adjacent to the railway station. Follow Castle Street or Lower Kings Road from the town centre, grid reference SP 9955 0825.

Cedars Park, Cheshunt

Cedars Park, Cheshunt is the site of Theobalds Palace, built by William Cecil, Lord Burghley, between c. 1560 and the early 1570s. In 1607 the Cecils exchanged Theobalds for Hatfield House, and the property became one of King James I's favourite homes. He enlarged the buildings and extended the park, and Theobalds remained in use as a royal palace until the Commonwealth, when it was almost totally destroyed on the orders of Parliament. Only fragments of the Palace now survive, and some small sections of park wall, but the recreational facilities of Cedars Park make it a site worth visiting in any case.

The park entrance is situated about 275 yards to the east of the junction between the modern A10 and Theobalds Lane, on the south side of the latter. Grid reference TL 3545 0115.

Chapel of St Mary Magdalane

Ruins of the Chapel of St Mary Magdalene, Northchurch (‘Marlin Chapel’). This chapel was probably built in the 13th century, for Sir Lawrence de Broc. Many similar chapels were built at this time due to a rapid increase in the population, and St Mary Magdalene is one of as many as 43 that served this part of the Chilterns. This and other private manorial chapels were often not granted the right to carry out baptism, marriage or burial rites, as the larger parish churches were unwilling to lose the income received by carrying out these ceremonies. The remains of a medieval moted site, and its associated fishpond, lie a few yards east of the chapel. These may well have been built at the same time as the chapel. Further information is available at the site.

From the High Street, Northchurch, turn left at Darr’s Lane. At the end turn left into Shootersway. The site can be reached by a footpath on the right hand side on the road, a short distance after the Bell’s Lane turn and before Durrants Lane (both turns on the left). Grid reference SP 9628 0712.

Chesfield Church, Near Gravely

Chesfield church, near Graveley, is one of several ruined medieval churches in the county. The ruins here date from the early 14th century, but documentary evidence indicates that a church dedicated to St Etheldreda existed by 1216, and it was almost certainly founded even earlier. In 1445 Chesfield parish was united with Graveley, and a licence to demolish the church was eventually granted in 1750. The simple rectangular nave and chancel, and a small later chapel at the south-east corner survive and the entire site has recently been cleared and consolidated after many years of neglect.

Take the B197 from Stevenage to Graveley, turn right at the garage into Church Lane and follow this for about 1¼ miles to the church. The site is on the north side of the road near Chesfield Park. It is on private property, but it can be easily viewed from the public highway, grid reference TL 2474 2792.

Chipperfield Barrows

Motte and bailey castle, and Romano-British or medieval earthworks, Great Wymondley. This motte and bailey is a small but well-preserved example of early post-Conquest castle design (see 6). It stands near the parish church of St Mary which dates to the early 12th century, and was probably built at about the same time. The motte is approximately 28m in diameter at the base and about 2.5m high, and the bailey measures approximately 25m x 28m. Both are enclosed by a bank, and a moat about 2m deep, which is now mainly dry.

An unusual feature of this castle is its close association with the large ditched rectangular enclosure, measuring about 175m x 100m, which lies immediately adjacent to it. The two appear to be linked by a ditch which extends from the motte and bailey. The enclosure is often referred to as a medieval manorial site, but its origins are unclear - excavations in 1822 retrieved large quantities of Roman pottery in addition to medieval pottery - and it may in fact be a Romano-British earthwork, which was re-used to become part of the castle layout when the motte and bailey was built.

Turn up the track next to St Mary’s Church. Park and walk along the footpath to the far end of the churchyard, where a stile gives access to the site. The motte, which is very overgrown is immediately on your left, and the footpath continues across the small bailey. The bank and moat of the bailey are clearly visible. The footpath then runs to the left across the rectangular earthworks of the large enclosure. Grid reference TL 2156 2850.

Devil's Dyke

Devil’s Dyke, Wheathampstead is a massive ditch, perhaps made by deepening a natural valley, and measuring approximately 470m long, 12m deep and 40m wide at the top. It also was probably constructed during the latter part of the Iron Age, but although the Dyke is very similar in form to Beech Bottom Dyke there is no definite evidence of any physical connection between the two. Sir Mortimer Wheeler, who investigated Devil’s Dyke in 1932-3, related it to another similar feature known as ‘The Moat’, or ‘The Slad’, which runs parallel to the dyke about 500m to the east. He suggested that these two earthworks formed the principal defences of an ‘oppidum’ or tribal centre, which was perhaps the headquarters of the British chieftain Cassivellaunus and possibly the site of his defeat by Julius Caesar in 54 B.C.

The Devil’s Dyke is situated on the west side of Wheathampstead. Follow the B653 Welwyn Garden City road for about 900 yards from the town centre and turn right into Dyke Lane. Follow this for c.200 yards, and the dyke lies immediately adjacent to the road, on the east side. Grid reference TL 1830 1345.

Dicket Mead Roman Bath House

Dicket Mead Roman Bath-house, Welwyn is the well-preserved remains of the bath-house system of a large Roman villa, dating from the 3rd century A.D. The site was excavated in the early 1970s, before the A1(M) was built, and was uniquely preserved by enclosing it in a steel vault within the road embankment.

The bath-house is open to the public, and full details of opening times and directions to the site can be obtained by contacting Mill Green Museum, Mill Green, Hatfield, tel. Hatfield (01707) 271362. Grid reference TL 2354 1607.

Franciscan Friary, Priory Street Ware

This Friary of the Franciscan Order (the ‘Grey Friars’) was founded by Thomas Wake, Lord of the Manor of Ware, in 1338. The religious foundation survived until the suppression of the monasteries by Henry VIII, but was dissolved in 1538. The monastic buildings then suffered a long period of decay and decline, and the Church and much of the rest of the Friary was demolished. The remainder, which now provides offices for Ware Town Council, was altered considerably during its long term use as a private house. In World War I it was used as a hospital, and in 1920 its owner gave the building to Ware Urban District Council. However, the present ‘Priory’, contains part of the Friary’s south cloister range (covered walkway), and the guest hall, and recently, an extensive renovation programme uncovered previously unknown medieval architectural details, and also new evidence for the lay-out of the destroyed monastic buildings.

‘The Priory’ is at the end of High Street, Ware, at its junction with Priory Street and next to the river. Its attractive grounds are open to the public. Grid reference TL 3555 1432.

Grims Ditch

Grim’s Ditch, Hastoe. At Hastoe Grim’s Ditch may have originally been about 3.5m wide and 2m deep. It had a wider bank about 2m high, which made the earthwork about 13m wide in total. Although the ditch and bank have suffered considerably from erosion about a mile of it, in varying states of preservation, can still be easily seen here today.

Take the Chesham Road from Wigginton and park just past the left-hand turn to Wigginton Bottom (or turn and park there). To reach Grim’s Ditch, take a footpath to the right a short distance from the Wigginton Bottom turn and before the left hand turn into Crawley’s Lane. Use the stile at the roadside and follow the footpath straight across the field to a second stile. Get over, and follow the path as it bears to the right round the edge of the field. After a short distance the path turns sharp left, at a low grassy bank - Grim’s Ditch. The footpath and Grim’s Ditch run straight down the gradual slope for about a mile, to Longcroft Farm. Grid reference SP 9385 0938 to SP 9176 0870.

Hertford Castle

Hertford Castle, situated in the centre of the county town, is also of ‘motte and bailey’ type. This is not immediately obvious because the motte is left overgrown to encourage a habitat for wildlife and plants, and the bailey and outer defences are much remodelled. The rebuilt curtain wall and the remains of an angle tower survive on the east side, but the principal surviving structure is the brick-built gatehouse, now used as local council offices. This central block was built for Edward IV, between 1461-5, but much of the present building is the result of extensive additions made in the late 18th and the early 20th centuries. Further information is available at the site.

Hertford Castle and its grounds are now a public park, situated behind Castle Hall, the modern Civic Centre building.  

Highfield Barrow

The Highfield barrow, Hemel Hempstead is a large and well-preserved burial mound, which may date to the Roman period. Unfortunately the site is rather overgrown, which makes it difficult to see properly.

It lies on the west side of High Street Green in Hemel Hempstead, close to the junction with Queensway. Grid reference TL 0715 0845.

John Bunyan's Chimney

John Bunyan’s Chimney, Coleman Green, near Wheathampstead. This 17th century brick chimney is all that remains of a cottage where John Bunyan is said to have stayed and preached. Today, John Bunyan is best known as the author of ‘The Pilgrim’s Progress’, but in his day he was equally known for his non-conformist sermons. He was a frequent visitor to Hertfordshire and preached in many of its villages. The rest of the cottage, and the two buildings next to it, were demolished in 1877, when new cottages were built across the road. Further information is available at the site.

From High Street, Wheathampstead, turn left into Marford Road (B651), and then right into Coleman Green Lane. Follow this road for just over ½ a mile, and the chimney can be seen on the left, just before ‘The John Bunyan’ Public House. Grid reference TL 1905 1265.

Medieval Cultivation Terraces, Goldings Park

Medieval cultivation terraces, Goldingtons Park, Sarratt. These medieval cultivation terraces or ‘strip lynchets’ are some of the best examples in the county. They were probably created during the 13th and 14th centuries, and are clearly visible following the contour of the hill. They measure about 20-30m wide and the best preserved are about a metre high.

From Sarratt, take Church Lane to Church End. Take the footpath to the south-west past Goldingtons Park and follow it along the course of the River Chess. Alternatively, go through Church End, along New Road, and take a footpath on the right hand side a short distance before Sarrattmill Bridge. Grid reference TQ 0355 9830.

Puttenham medieval earthworks

Puttenham medieval village earthworks, Long Marston. Puttenham is technically ‘shrunken’, rather than ‘deserted’, since there are still a few buildings, and the medieval parish church of St Mary, at the site (see 13).

It was recorded as ‘Puteham’ in the Domesday Book and the earthworks of this formerly larger settlement lie behind the church. Two house platforms and a larger enclosure surrounded by several ditches are visible; the other earthworks are the remnants of the medieval ‘open-field’ system, and include traces of ridge and furrow cultivation. Another deserted village lies about half a mile towards Long Marston, at Astrope.

Puttenham lies a short distance from Long Marston. Follow the road from Wilstone/Wilstone Green, and turn left at Astrope, about ½ a mile before Long Marston. Park by the church, and follow the public footpath across the site.

Round Barrows, Graffridge Wood

The Round Barrows, Graffridge Wood, Knebworth are burial mounds which lie close together, but are not contemporary. One dates from the Early Bronze Age (c.2300-c.1400 B.C.) and the other from the Romano-British period (A.D. 43-c.410). Barrows such as these usually contain a single burial (see 1). Traces of the original ditches surrounding the barrows can still be seen, and it is also clear that both mounds have been dug into in the past. The Early Bronze Age barrow is about 16m in diameter and 3.5m high. The mound is covered in grass, birch trees and an oak, and a path on the south leads to the summit. The Roman barrow is covered with scrub vegetation, but stands in a slight clearing. It is about 32m in diameter and 3.5-4m high.

From Park Lane, Old Knebworth, bear left into Old Knebworth Lane. Turn right into Driver’s End Lane and then immediately right again. Follow this road to a T-junction and turn right to Langley (B656). Graffridge Wood is on the left, just after Three Houses Lane. Park in the lay-by a little further along and walk back to take the footpath into the wood. This right-angles to the left after 400 yards, and the Bronze Age barrow is about 30 yards further on, on the right hand side. To see the Roman barrow, continue along the main footpath for about 275 yards, and the barrow lies on the left, just after a ‘cross-roads’. Grid reference TL 215 206 and TL 217 209.

Royston cave

Royston Cave is one of the most interesting and enigmatic sites in the county. Discovered in 1742, it is a large bell-shaped artificial cave cut into the bedrock near the crossroads in Royston town centre. Its walls are covered with numerous shallow carvings depicting various religious figures and scenes. These are thought to be of medieval date, and it has been suggested that the Cave was dug on the command of the semi-military Order of the Knights Templar, who owned land in this area in the 13th century.

The cave is open to the public at prescribed times. Full details may be obtained from Royston Town Council (The Town Hall, Royston, tel. Royston (01763) 245484). Grid reference TL 3563 4075.

Rye House Gatehouse

A licence to build a castle here was granted to Sir Andrew Ogard, a Dane, in 1440. Today, all that remains is the partially restored 15th century gatehouse that lies within a large, and much re-modelled, moated site. Rye House is well-known as the home of the failed but scandalous ‘Rye House Plot’; in 1683 conspirators met there to plot the assassination of King Charles II and his brother, the Duke of York. The gatehouse is one of the finest surviving examples of early English brickwork in the country, and it now forms one of the attractions of the Lee Valley Park.

Rye House is situated on the north side of Rye Road, about ¾ of a mile from its junction with the B180 Stanstead Road and opposite Rye Park Station.

Six Hills Barrow

The Six Hills barrows at Stevenage are probably the finest surviving complete group of Roman burial mounds in the whole country. They date from the 1st century A.D., and once contained the cremated remains of wealthy Romans - but all of them have been dug into at some time in the past. Their close, ordered, grouping alongside the Old North Road probably indicates that they are the graves of a single local aristocratic family. Further information is available at the site.

The barrows lie on the west side of London Road, in Stevenage, next to the road and just to the west of the roundabout at the junction of London Road and Six Hills Way. Grid reference TL 2374 2369.

Sopwell Nunnery

Sopwell Nunnery, so-called, is the remains of Sopwell House, a Tudor mansion. In 1537 the medieval nunnery was dissolved by Henry VIII, who granted the site to Sir Richard Lee, one of his military architects. Lee demolished the old buildings and between 1540-70 built a magnificent house on the site. Partly demolished in the 17th century, it is the ruins of Lee’s house that are visible today. Further information is available at the site.

From the centre of St Albans follow Holywell Hill South, turn left into Prospect Road and left again into Cottonmill Lane. The site lies.

St Albans Abbey

St Albans Abbey. Although the Abbey Church (traditionally founded by King Offa in the 8th century) and the gatehouse form the principal remains that are visible today, the entire Abbey site, stretching down the hill towards the River Ver, forms one of the principal archaeological sites of the county. Parts of the Abbey site have been excavated, most notably the areas of the former Chapter House, (now the new Visitor Centre), and within the claustral area on the south side of the Abbey Church. These excavations have revealed that the abbey was built on the site of a late Roman cemetery, and it is therefore likely, as tradition had it, to be on the site of St Alban’s martyrdom and burial. Well-preserved remains of the massive Norman and later religious house, which became the premier abbey of medieval England, have also been recovered from the excavations and it is likely that further extensive remains may exist over the whole site.

The abbey and cathedral church of St Albans is situated in the centre of the city. Grid reference TL 1450 0705.

The Aubreys

'The Aubreys', Redbourn. This prehistoric defended enclosure is one of the finest sites in the county. The enclosure covers about 8 hectares and was first occupied during the Neolithic period (the New Stone Age, about 6000 years ago). Defended sites such as this were probably built for the local population to retreat to in times of trouble, but they undoubtably had other functions as well. 'The Aubreys' was also occupied in the Iron Age period, and the remains now visible probably date from the Middle Iron Age, about 2300 years ago. The site was abandoned in the Roman period. Further information is available next to the site.

'The Aubreys' can be found just west of Redbourn and immediately adjacent to The Aubrey Park Hotel, on the Hemel Hempstead road (B487). A public footpath passes near the site.

The Charter Tower, Hemel Hempstead

The Charter Tower, Hemel Hempstead is all that remains of the 16th century manor house of Sir Richard Combe. It stands two storeys high, and has a porch on the ground floor. Sir Richard was both its owner and builder, between 1557 and 1595, and the panel below the first floor window is carved with his coat-of-arms. The tower is protected, both as a ‘Scheduled Ancient Monument’ and as a ‘Listed Building’. The remains of the manor house’s garden walls can also be seen - these were also first built in the second half of the 16th century, but were partly rebuilt in the 19th century.

The site is near to the centre of Hemel Hempstead, on Queensway, close to the junction with the High Street. Grid reference TL 0549 0773.

The Eleanor Cross, Waltham Cross

The Eleanor Cross, Waltham Cross, is one of only three surviving of the original twelve crosses erected between 1291-5, on the order of Edward I, to mark the places at which his wife, Queen Eleanor’s body rested when it was brought from Nottingham to London in December 1290. The Cross comprises three stages; the first bears Eleanor’s coats-of-arms, the second three statues of the Queen, and the last is the base for the delicate spire and cross which completes the monument. The Cross has been must restored in recent times (when the statues were replaced with replicas), but it is still one of the most important examples of English Gothic monumental sculpture in the country.

It is situated at the junction of High Street and Eleanor Cross Road, Waltham Cross. Grid reference TL 3608 0038.

Therfield Heath Barrow Cemetry

Therfield Heath barrow cemetery comprises one long barrow and twelve round barrows. The long barrow is of Neolithic (New Stone Age) date - c.4000-c.2300 B.C. - and the round barrows of Bronze Age date - c.2300-c.750 B.C. These burial mounds usually contain the ashes of a single cremation, often in a pottery vessel, and sometimes accompanied by objects intended for use in the next world. Many of the Therfield barrows have been excavated, and burials of this type were found. Some also contained evidence that the mounds were re-used for pagan burial in the early to middle Anglo-Saxon period (A.D. c.410-870). Further information is available at the site.

Follow Baldock St/Baldock Rd (old A505) west out of Royston for about 1¼ miles, and turn south along Therfield Rd for about 225 yards. The barrows can be seen on the skyline on the east side of the road, and lie about 450 yards from it. TL 341 402.

Thundridgebury Manorial Site

Thundridgebury manorial site, Thundridgebury, near Ware. This site includes a very large dry D-shaped moated enclosure which measures about 195m x 200m, and contains the ruins of the 15th century church of St Mary and All Saints, and the remains of Thundridgebury House and its outbuildings. This building, first mentioned in 1535, may have succeeded an earlier manor house on the site, and its location is indicated by a series of brick foundations and part of a brick buttress. In 1811 the property was sold to Daniel Giles, the MP for St Albans, and he demolished the house except for a hearth and chimney stack. This apparent omission was in fact calculated, for the retention of the hearth meant he kept the right to a pew in the adjacent parish church, just west of the house. The church was demolished in 1853 and all that remains is the ruined west tower, which contains a re-used Norman doorway and a 14th century window - evidence that the 15th century building succeeded an earlier one on the site. The ruins are surrounded by the disused graveyard, which contains many burials dating to the medieval and later periods.

From the A10 at Thundridge/Wadesmill, turn right into Old Church Lane. The lane becomes a track after about 1/3 of a mile, at its junction with the road to Cold Christmas; either park here, and walk along to the church, or drive up the track. The site lies on the left hand side, between the road and the River Rib. A footpath down to the river from the church crosses some of the site. TL 3682 1734.

Toothill Motte and Bailey Castle

Toot Hill motte and bailey was built early in the 12th century. It is situated a few miles to the north of the Icknield Way and may have been built to control this important routeway. The large oval motte is surrounded by a ditch, and measures 90m x 60m, and the adjacent bailey, a large ditched enclosure located in an area now known as ‘The Bury’, contains the 12th century parish church of St Mary. The combination of castle and church on the same site shows the controlling influence of the local lord. It is possible that the castle had a second bailey, a very rare feature, which extended to the west, and therefore now encloses ‘The Motte and Bailey’ Public House. Medieval and later settlement was centred on ‘The Bury’, and the area also contains earthworks which are the remains of these buildings; the latest survived until early this century.

From Hitchin Road, Pirton, turn right into Crab Tree Lane, and then right into Bury End. From here a footpath crosses the site. Grid reference TL 148 316.

Turlhangers Wood and Albury Nowers

Turlhanger’s Wood and Aldbury Nowers, Aldbury: two sections of Grim’s Ditch and two prehistoric barrows. The long series of banks and ditches known as Grim’s Ditch can be traced throughout most of the Chilterns, and often follows the line of the valleys. They were constructed over many centuries, and their overall date range runs from the Later Bronze Age to the Late Iron Age (c.1200 B.C. - cA.D.50). The precise purpose of this impressive series of earthworks is not known, but they probably served to mark the boundaries of territories or farming estates. They may also have had a ceremonial or religious function. The section of ditch in Turlhanger’s Wood is the best surviving portion. It is up to 3m high and c.10m wide, and is visible for about 500m alongside the Ridgeway Path. The Aldbury Nowers section of the ditch is about 175m long, 6m wide and 80cm high. The two prehistoric round barrows (see 2) probably date to the Early Bronze Age (c.2300 0 c.1400 B.C.), and it is possible that their existence was a later influence on the precise route followed by Grim’s Ditch in this area. The first of these barrows is about 17m in diameter and c.1.2m high, and the second 12.5m in diameter and 0.8m high. Long-term erosion has reduced the height of these mounds, and they are not easily spotted.

From Aldbury take Station Road towards Tring, and take the first right, to Pitstone and Ivinghoe. The public footpath is visible a short way along on the right, and parking is available about 50 yards further on. Walk up through the wood until you reach a crossroads with a track running east-west. An information board has been erected here. Turn right onto this track, and Grim’s Ditch is clearly visible on your left, and runs for about 500m. SP 9507 1324. To see the other sites, return to the crossroads and rejoin the footpath. As you ascend the slope the first barrow, a grassy mound, is on the far side of the fenced area on your left (SP 9507 1324). Continue upwards to a second set of information boards, where the path bears to the right. The second barrow is about 10m along, and a short distance from the path in the woodland on the right (SP 9515 1335). To reach the second portion of Grim’s Ditch follow the footpath, ignoring the wide waymarked path on the left. When you reach a second set of waymarkers continue straight on, and Grim’s Ditch is immediately on your left (SP 9513 1381).


Verulamium Roman City, St Albans is arguably the most important archaeological site in the county. Founded soon after the Roman conquest in A.D. 43, the settlement developed into one of the most important towns of Roman Britain, and the only one granted the self-governing status of 'municipium'. Eventually the defences enclosed some 81 hectares, about half of which is accessible today.

There are considerable remains to be seen, including parts of the defences and town walls, the foundations of the south-east (London) gate, the remains of a hypocausted building, and the theatre.

An extensive collection of excavated material, including some particularly fine mosaics, is displayed at Verulamium Museum.

Verulamium park is situated on the south-west side of St Albans, and is amply signposted from the city centre.

Follow the link called 'Verulamium Museum' to find more information about the museum, including opening hours and entrance fees.

Waytemore Castle

Waytemore Castle, Bishop’s Stortford is the remains of a substantial ‘motte and bailey’ castle built for the Bishop of London in the 11th century, soon after this type of castle design was introduced by the Normans. A motte was a large earthen mound, which had a timber or stone built tower on the top. It formed the defensive strongpoint of a castle, while the bailey formed an enclosed living area. Most of the bailey now forms part of a public park, but the 9m high motte, which is of an unusual rectangular plan, still stands. Massive stone foundations, a gravelled causeway, worked stone, pottery, and human and animal bones have been found within the bailey, and the top of the motte is crowned with the remains of a flint-built shell keep, and two sunken chambers, perhaps the bases for timber towers.

The site is on the east side of Bishop’s Stortford town centre, in ‘Castle Gardens’, a public park which lies between ‘The Causeway’ and the railway. Grid reference TL 4900 2145.

Whormerley Wood

Medieval moated site, Whomerley Wood, Stevenage. This site contains the well preserved earthworks of a typical medieval moated site. These sites, which are fairly common in the county, were often the centres of substantial land holdings, and frequently contain the remains of houses and other buildings. Small-scale archaeological excavations were carried out in 1924 and 1953, and they revealed clear evidence of medieval occupation on the site. Further information is available at the site.

The site is in Whomerley Wood, which is on the north-west side of Fairlands Valley Park, about ½ mile to the south-east of Stevenage town centre. Grid reference TL 247 237.

Wilbury Hill Fort

Wilbury Hill hillfort, Letchworth was probably the first constructed during the Late Bronze Age (1000-750 B.C.). Archaeological evidence suggests that the fort was probably occupied throughout the Iron Age, and also at various times during the Roman period. Its defences consist of a single ditch and an internal rampart surrounding two enclosures, and it covers an area of about 5.5 hectares. Several excavations have been carried out, and most of the finds are held in Letchworth Museum. Wilbury hillfort is on a prominent site, high on the ridge along the eastern side of the modern road to Stotfold. It is one of six similar hillforts sited at regular intervals along the northern Chilterns.

The site is alongside the Stotfold Road, from Letchworth, and lies near the junction with Icknield Way and Wilbury Hills Road. Car parking is available on the other side of the road where there is also a picnic area, and access to public footpaths. Grid reference TL 202 324.

Willian Deserted Earthworks

Deserted village earthworks, Willian. The medieval village at Willian was larger than its present day successor, and, as at Pirton , there are surviving earthwork remains which show where some of these earlier houses and enclosures stood. In the 14th and 15th centuries the English population fell sharply as the climate deteriorated, and as epidemic diseases, such as the ‘Black Death’, arrived from the Continent. Many village settlements ‘shrank’ or were even totally deserted as a result; Willian evidently declined, but was not abandoned. The clearest evidence is in the form of some impressive earthworks near the village pond, on the northern side of the road. These show the line of a large hollow way (track), and several enclosures and raised house platforms. Further buildings are known to have stood south of the church, but these are not visible above-ground.

From the A1(M) take the A6141 to Letchworth, turn left down Baldock Lane to Willian. Park in the village and take the footpath on the right at The Green (opposite the Public House, and near the junction with Willian Church Road). Keeping the pond on your left, follow the path up a gradual slope. The earthworks, which are bordered by woodland, can be seen all around you. Grid reference TL 223 308.

Wymondley Motte and Bailey

Motte and bailey castle, and Romano-British or medieval earthworks, Great Wymondley. This motte and bailey is a small but well-preserved example of early post-Conquest castle design (see 6). It stands near the parish church of St Mary which dates to the early 12th century, and was probably built at about the same time. The motte is approximately 28m in diameter at the base and about 2.5m high, and the bailey measures approximately 25m x 28m. Both are enclosed by a bank, and a moat about 2m deep, which is now mainly dry.

An unusual feature of this castle is its close association with the large ditched rectangular enclosure, measuring about 175m x 100m, which lies immediately adjacent to it. The two appear to be linked by a ditch which extends from the motte and bailey. The enclosure is often referred to as a medieval manorial site, but its origins are unclear - excavations in 1822 retrieved large quantities of Roman pottery in addition to medieval pottery - and it may in fact be a Romano-British earthwork, which was re-used to become part of the castle layout when the motte and bailey was built.

Turn up the track next to St Mary’s Church. Park and walk along the footpath to the far end of the churchyard, where a stile gives access to the site. The motte, which is very overgrown is immediately on your left, and the footpath continues across the small bailey. The bank and moat of the bailey are clearly visible. The footpath then runs to the left across the rectangular earthworks of the large enclosure. Grid reference TL 2156 2850.