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Bedford Town Bank and The Kings Ditch

Also known as, or recorded in historical documents as;
Kings Dyke

In the civil parish of Bedford.
In the historic county of Bedfordshire.
Modern Authority of Bedfordshire.
1974 county of Bedfordshire.
Medieval County of Bedfordshire.

OS Map Grid Reference: TL050496
Latitude 52.13075° Longitude -0.46425°

Bedford Town Bank and The Kings Ditch has been described as a certain Urban Defence.

There are cropmark/slight earthwork remains.


A battle is said to have taken place at Bedford in 571. Bedford's position on the Saxon/Norse frontier meant that it was frequently involved in conflict between the English and Danes in the 10th and 11th centuries. In 919, Edward the Elder recaptured the burh from the Danes and ordered the construction of a second burh on the south side of the river. The fortifications are still to be seen as a water filled ditch, known as the King's Ditch, although the western part has now been built over. The town was captured and burned by the Danes in 1010. Excavations have revealed evidence for late Saxon and early medieval occupation. (PastScape)

A section across the bank inside the Kings Ditch in the south-east part of the town indicated a primary Norman date rather than the traditional early 10th century context of Edward the Elder's burh construction. It may have functioned as a flood-prevention earthwork, and was heightened several times in the Medieval period. (Kennett, 1972)

Loop of ditch and trace of bank, prob. C10 origin, to south of river, no traces remain of Anglo-Saxon defences north of the river. Does not seem to have lasted as a defence very long into post-Conquest period and Bond puts the defences in his 'of no post-Conquest significance' list.


Edgeworth (2011) makes the point the King's ditch was multifunctional, including being a sewer, flood defence and transport route. The weir needed to make the King's ditch a flowing stream was across the River Ouse at the castle and can be seen on the air photo as a slight band of green diagonally crossing the river between the castle and a small isle on the south bank. If the King's Ditch was constructed by the Saxon's in the early C11 and if the weir was part of the works built to make the King's Ditch a flowing waterway then the castle may have been sited to control this weir.
Links to archaeological and architectural databases, mapping and other online resources

Data >
PastScape   County HER            
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This record last updated 26/07/2017 09:21:01

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