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Encyclopedia > Offa's Dyke
Rough cross-section of Offa's Dyke, showing how it was designed to protect Mercia against attacks/raids from Powys.
Rough cross-section of Offa's Dyke, showing how it was designed to protect Mercia against attacks/raids from Powys.

Offa's Dyke (Welsh: Clawdd Offa) is a massive linear earthwork, roughly following some of the current border between England and Wales. In places, it is up to 65 feet (20 m) wide (including its surrounding ditch) and 8 feet (2.5m) high. In the 8th century it formed some kind of delineation between the Anglian kingdom of Mercia and the Welsh kingdom of Powys. It has been the subject of considerable research in recent years, dispelling many of the earlier understandings. Image File history File links No higher resolution available. ... Welsh redirects here, and this article describes the Welsh language. ... In archaeology, Earthworks are artificial changes in land level often known as lumps and bumps. ... For other uses, see England (disambiguation). ... This article is about the country. ... metre or meter, see meter (disambiguation) The metre is the basic unit of length in the International System of Units. ... Wikipedia does not yet have an article with this exact name. ... For the ice period see Anglian glaciation The Anglian was an English tricar manufactured in Beccles, Suffolk from 1905 to 1907. ... The Kingdom of Mercia at its greatest extent (7th to 9th centuries) is shown in green, with the original core area (6th century) given a darker tint. ... Look up Welsh, welsh in Wiktionary, the free dictionary. ... Medieval kingdoms of Wales. ...

Contents

Overview

A section of Offa's Dyke

It is still generally accepted that much of the earthwork can be attributed to Offa, King of Mercia from 757-796. Its structure is not that of a mutual boundary between the Mercians on the one side and the men of Powys on the other. The earthwork has been dug with the displaced soil piled into a bank on the Mercian (eastern) side. Where the earthwork encounters hills, it goes to the west of them, constantly providing an open view into Wales. The implication must be that this was an earthwork built by Mercia as a defence against attacks or raids from Powys. Image File history File links Metadata Size of this preview: 800 × 600 pixelsFull resolution (1280 × 960 pixel, file size: 322 KB, MIME type: image/jpeg) Offas Dyke. ... Image File history File links Metadata Size of this preview: 800 × 600 pixelsFull resolution (1280 × 960 pixel, file size: 322 KB, MIME type: image/jpeg) Offas Dyke. ... Offa (died July 26/29, 796) was the King of Mercia from 757 until his death. ... The Kingdom of Mercia at its greatest extent (7th to 9th centuries) is shown in green, with the original core area (6th century) given a darker tint. ... Powys is a local government principal area and a preserved county in Wales. ...


Offa was one of the great rulers of Anglo-Saxon times, though his reign is often overlooked due to a limitation in source material. That he was able to raise the manpower and resources to construct such an earthwork as Offa's Dyke is testament to his power. It is likely that some form of 'service' system was used to construct the Dyke, with men from certain areas of land being required to build a certain length of the wall. This can be seen alongside the normal services that had to be offered to kings. A document exists from around this period known as Tribal Hidage, which makes some assessment of how land was distributed in the 8th century. Though there is little evidence to associate the document with the Dyke, it is possible that both the Dyke and the document stem from a common practice. Offa (died July 26/29, 796) was the King of Mercia from 757 until his death. ... Wikipedia does not yet have an article with this exact name. ... The Tribal Hidage is a list of territorial assessments in Anglo-Saxon England which lists regions and the number of hides those regions contained. ...


Historical evidence

The late 9th- and early 10th-century writer Asser informed us that '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 and Mercia from sea to sea' (Asser, Life of Alfred, 14). The last four words are vital: historians and archaeologists coming to the Dyke have had Asser in their hand, looking for an earthwork 'from sea to sea'. Sir Cyril Fox completed the first major survey of the Dyke (Fox 1955), and, in agreement with Asser, saw the Dyke as running from the estuary of the River Dee in the north to the River Wye in the south (approximately 150 miles, or 240 km). It was understood by him that the dyke was not continuous, being built only in areas where natural barriers did not already exist. Asser (d. ... For other meanings, see Estuary (disambiguation) Río de la Plata estuary An estuary is a semi-enclosed coastal body of water with one or more rivers or streams flowing into it, and with a free connection to the open sea. ... For other Rivers Dee in the UK, see River Dee. ... River Wye and Lancat and Ban y Gore Nature Reserve The Wye at Hay-on-Wye The Wye at Tintern This article is about the river that flows along the Anglo-Welsh border. ... “km” redirects here. ... A dyke (or dike) is a stone or earthen wall constructed as a defence or as a boundary. ...


Frank Stenton, the Anglo-Saxon historian of his day, accepted Fox's description, and wrote the introduction to Fox's account of the Dyke. Though Fox's work has now been to some extent revised, it remains a vital record of how areas of the Dyke, now destroyed, existed in 1931. Sir Frank Merry Stenton (1880–September 15, 1967) was a noted 20th century historian of Anglo-Saxon England. ... The Anglo-Saxons refers collectively to the groups of Germanic tribes who achieved dominance in southern Britain from the mid-5th century, forming the basis for the modern English nation. ...


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The Offa's Dyke Centre

The Offa's Dyke Centre is purpose built information centre based in the town of Knighton which is situated on the Offa's Dyke as well as the border between England (Shropshire) and Wales (Powys). Some of the best remains of the 8th century earthworks can be seen just a two minute walk from the centre. For other places with the same name, see Knighton (disambiguation). ... For other uses, see England (disambiguation). ... Shropshire (pronounced /, -/), alternatively known as Salop[6] or abbreviated Shrops[7], is a county in the West Midlands of England. ... This article is about the country. ... Powys is a local government principal area and a preserved county in Wales. ...


Cultural references

The Dyke has in some cases been brought into common folklore, though this should not be seen as historical evidence for the purpose behind the Dyke.

"[I]t 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." George Borrow, Wild Wales [from folklore].

Today, the England-Wales border still mostly follows the dyke through the Welsh Marches. It has a cultural significance, symbolising the separation between the two, similar to the symbolism of Hadrian's Wall between England and Scotland in the Scottish Marches. George Borrow George Henry Borrow (1803-1881) was an English author who wrote novels and travelogues based on his own experiences around Europe. ... Wild Wales is a travel book by the English Victorian gentleman writer George Borrow, (1803 - 1881), first published in 1862. ... The Welsh Marches is an area along the border of England and Wales in the island of Great Britain. ... // Hadrians Wall is a stone and turf fortification built by the Roman Empire across the width of modern-day England. ... For other uses, see England (disambiguation). ... This article is about the country. ... Scottish can refer to: Look up Scottish in Wiktionary, the free dictionary (as an adjective) things to do with Scotland (see also Scots and Scotch) (as a noun) the Scottish people. ... Mark or march (or various plural forms of these words) are derived from the Frankish word marka (boundary) and refer to a border region, e. ...


Bibliography

  • Cyril Fox, Offa's Dyke: a Field Survey of the Western Frontier Works of Mercia in the Seventh and Eighth Centuries AD, (London, 1955)
  • Frank Noble, Offa's Dyke Reviewed, MPhil thesis Open University, (1978). Partly published in Offa's Dyke Reviewed, ed. Margaret Gelling, (Oxford, 1983)
  • David Hill and Margaret Worthington, Offa's Dyke: History and Guide, (Stroud, 2003)

On-line

  • Offa's Dyke Association website
  • Rambers' Association: Offa's Dyke Path National Trail
  • Clwyd-Powys Archaeological Trust: Introducing Offa's Dyke
  • How Offa's Dyke created a genetic barrier between the English and the Welsh BBC Gene Stories article

See also


  Results from FactBites:
 
Virtual Prestatyn: Offa's Dyke National Trail (724 words)
Offa's Dyke is one of the most varied of our National Trails, passing through valleys, woods and patchworks of fields, and crossing remote uplands, bare hill tops and wind-swept ridges.
Located alongside the Offa's Dyke Path at one point on the hillside are the remains of an old cottage called Pant-y-Fachwen.
During his reign, Offa introduced a penny coin on which he styled himself as King of the English, and this is celebrated in the Prestatyn logo.
RUABON - LoveToKnow Article on RUABON (213 words)
Anciently the residence of Madoc ab Gruffyd Maelor (founder of Valle Crucis Abbey), it was called Wattstay, from Watts Dyke, an old rampart on the estate.
Offas Dyke, near here,is 10 ft.high, and broad enough for two carriages abreast.
Not far is Chirk Castle (supposed to have been built in 1013), besieged by Cromwells artillery: near it, in the Ceiriog valley, the defeat of Henry II.
  More results at FactBites »

 
 

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