As with many sites in Southern England, intensive agriculture has taken its toll on the archaic monuments. The Boxted Cross henge is no exception and hardly any elements of it remains today. But it seems that it was an impressive fella in our more ancient heathen past.
The site was only rediscovered in the 1970s and was first described in Mrs Ida McMaster’s (1975) survey of crop-marks that had been revealed by aerial surveying in Essex and Suffolk counties. Her brief account of the monument told it to be,
“A Class II henge with a wide somewhat ploughed out ditch. Various linear ditches are near, together with prolific variegated ‘field outlines’ of glacial subsoil cracking which extends into the next field southwards. The ditch terminals of the southwest entrance to the henge appear to be wider than the general run of the ditch, say 4-5 metres.”
When Harding & Lee (1987) examined the site, they were a little more cautious in their interpretation of it being a definite henge, citing that there was “insufficient information, but cannot be ruled out as henge-related,” adding that it “could also be a mill.” This latter element seems unlikely, though a windmill may have been built onto the site at a later date.
More recently however the site has been categorized by Historic England as “a Late Neolithic henge.” The monument itself was defined by a broad circular ditch with two large opposing entrances to the north and south. The total diameter of the enclosure is 44 yards (40m) across; but with the surrounding ditch measuring 5½ yards (5m) across all around, the inner level of the henge was about 33 yards (30m) in diameter. Plenty of room for partying old-style!
Harding, A.F. & Lee, G.E., Henge Monuments and Related Sites of Great Britain, BAR 175: Oxford 1987.
Troublesome to get to if you don’t know the area. You can get here rom Halifax, up through Highroad Well towards Wainstalls, keeping to the road that leads to the Oxenhope windmills. A short distance before the windmills, as the road levels out, keep your eye out on the right where the valley drops down (east) to the Halifax golf-course. If you’re coming from Oxenhope, walk up past the windmills at Nab End until the road starts going back downhill. As you look down and walk past the valley with the golf course in it, a footpath is on your left running diagonally over a field. Cross the stile and walk alongside the wall for about 200 yards until you reach a gate on your left. Go through this and walk along until you see the ditched earthworks that make up this little-known monument…
Archaeology & History
Not to be confused with the large circular enclosure that once crowned the nearby Hunter Hill, the nature and age of this large D-shaped earthwork has long been a source of speculation, with the majority of it centring around a Roman origin — and for good reason, it has to be said!
More than 280 yards (260m) in circumference, its north-south axis measures 82 yards (75m) at the greatest and 88 yards (81m) east-west. Its main feature is a decent ditch that averages 8-10 feet across round most of the D-shaped feature, and between 2-3 feet deep. It would obviously have been deeper than this when the ditches were first dug, but it’s now very overgrown across the entire site with Juncus grasses and tribbles (tussocks). A small internal ditch runs into the enclosure from the northern side. Its function is unknown. A small mound near the centre of the site has been posited by Calderdale archaeologists to be modern remains.
Although the main feature is the D-shaped earthwork, other features are apparent. For example, what looks like another man-made dyke cutting into the site on the southwestern side is in fact a natural stream channel. This natural feature may have been an integral part of the enclosure when it was first built. Above the northwestern edge of the ditch (as can be seen on the aerial photo) are other earthworks that run around the western edge of the main feature. This is probably what F.A. Leyland (1867) meant when he described there to be “the remains of several lines of intrenchments” here. Also coming into the southwestern side are what are thought to be the remains of a Roman Road. Early OS-maps (above) show the road running within yards of this enclosure — and it was this which, logically, led many earlier researchers to posit the notion that this site was in fact Roman. However, a dig here in 1951 recovered prehistoric pottery, which knocked the date back to the Iron Age.
On the south and east sides, parts of the ditch and embankment have been removed by quarrying and farm-workings, with the walling on the eastern side completely ruining that part of the monument. A great number of flints have been found on the hills above here. I’m unable to give a more detailed exposition on the archaeological finds at this site as I don’t have a copy of Mr Varley’s (1997) essay that he wrote for the Transactions of the Hunter Archaeological Society, which apparently gives more info. When I manage to get a copy of the journal/essay, I’ll add the relevant data to this profile.
A note must also be made of another, previously unrecognized enclosure on the same hilltop a couple of hundred yards to the west from here. Very little trace of it is still visible at ground level, but the outline of the curvaceous quadrilateral ditch form can be seen from the air. It would appear from its form to be consistent with an Iron Age enclosure, though without further research this has to be proclaimed as hypothetical. No excavations are planned here in the near future.
In F.A. Leyland’s (1867) superb commentary to Mr Watson’s History of Halifax, he told us:
“There is a well-preserved tradition amongst the inhabitants that a battle in which numbers fell was fought at a place called the Slaughters or Slaughter Gap, in the hollow between the Carrs and Hunter-hill. Fragments of gun-barrels and locks, with human bones, have been found about the place…”
But Leyland deemed the armoury finds here — that appeared to substantiate the folklore — were from a much later period in history than the enclosure. But I must draw attention to the remarkable Mixenden Finds, as they’ve become known: a collection of finely polished prehistoric axes and other stone remains a few hundred yards below The Carrs and which may relate to such folklore.
Leyland, F.A., The History and Antiquities of the Parish of Halifax, by the Reverend John Watson, M.A., R.Leyland: Halifax n.d. (c.1867)
Varley, Raymond, “The Excavation of Castle Stead at Manywells Height, near Cullingworth, West Yorkshire,” in Transactions of the Hunter Archaeological Society, volume 19, 1997.
Varley, Raymond A., “Lost Neolithic and Bronze Age Finds from Mixenden, near Halifax, West Yorkshire,” in Yorkshire Archaeological Journal 70, 1998.
A 2½-mile long earthwork can obviously be reached from all sorts of ways, but coming out of Flamborough towards Bridlington (B1255 road) you can go down the Home Farm road and park up; and from here walk up the pleasant woodland walk, literally from coast to coast, where you’ll see good portions of the earthwork intact.
Archaeology & History
An impressive site by any means. Running from Dykes End on its southern edge for 2½ mile, roughly north, until hitting the North Sea again at the other Dykes End, this great earthwork had little to do with the Danes. It seems to have been originally started around 3000 years ago in the early Iron Age. As Mr Gower (1975) told:
“Excavations carried out at the end of the (19th) century revealed traces of a flint workshop and many arroheads were found… The earthwork is about 18 feet high and on the western side is a ditch 60 feet wide. Several openings are to be seen, but these are probably comparatively recent.”