Update – “seven ditches” on the internet (part 1.5)

Long after writing my post explaining a bit more about the Dorset “Seven Ditches”, I came across this online-archived email (your browser will almost certainly warn you about the site’s out-of-date security certificate, but trust me in this instance it’s fine) by Jeremy Harte touching on the significance of the name. What is even more interesting is that he notes the occurrence of the name seuenestrete in the boundary clause of a charter of 944×46 (Sawyer 513 – a full analysis of it has yet to be added to LangScape). He interprets this to be the nearby Roman road known today as Ackling Dyke, a name I have yet to come across an etymology/early forms for, which is frustrating since it might be an apt analogue for Surrey’s Fullingadich. There is a natural temptation to connect the two, and what is more this may prove to be justifiable with further research, certainly more so than the notion of a “mythical Sevenna” apparently propounded by the pioneering charter-bound analyst G. B. Grundy (I could do with tracking down this reference, which doesn’t appear to be available online, if only for completism’s sake).

I exchanged a couple of emails with Jeremy Harte recently answering his call for help with the Surrey contribution to the ongoing Landscapes of Governance project. Coincidentally, I’ve been discovering his published research of late, which I’m sure he wouldn’t mind me saying takes a slightly “out-there”, folklore-driven approach which doubtless used to rile a lot of archaeologists and historians before reconsiderations of the ritual and symbolic context of sites, landscapes and texts belatedly came into vogue. Information on a number of Harte’s books is available via the publisher Heart of Albion Press‘ website, as are links to several of his contributions to the now-defunct journals Mercian Mysteries and At The Edge (one example being ‘The power of lonely places’ , which makes reference to a number of places in Surrey). Among his most recent published works is the chapter ‘Dragons, Elves and Giants’ in the extraordinarily diverse collection Antiquaries & Archaists: the Past in the Past, the Past in the Present. This caught my eye not least because of his delicious conjecture that the earliest recorded name of St Catherine’s Hill just outside Guildford, Drakehull or “Dragon hill”, stems from the equation of the golden sand of its steep eastern slope with a golden treasure guarded by a dragon. Harte’s observation that this exhibits “a more playful attitude to tradition” could just as easily be a comment upon his own distinctive oeuvre.


Jeremy Harte, ‘Dragons, Elves and Giants: Some Pre-archaeological Occupants of British Barrows’, in Antiquaries & Archaists: the Past in the Past, the Past in the Present, ed. by Megan Aldrich & Robert J. Wallis (Reading: Spire Books, 2009), 14-28

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