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NICO DITCH

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A linear earthwork known as the Nico Ditch which lies to the south and east of the present city of Manchester. It has been traced as upstanding earthwork remains and field boundaries for 5km between Hough Moss in the west and Ashton Moss on the east side of the city. It cuts through the low-lying land between these mosslands and defends the land to the north including the site of the Roman fort and Anglo-Saxon burh of Manchester. Its name has had various forms in the past including `mykelldiche' and `magnum fossatum' in AD 1190-1212. These names point to an Anglo-Saxon origin and mean the `great ditch'. The ditch has been excavated in various places in the past 20 years and these investigations have established the consitent form of a bank and ditch. Its date and function have been variously described as a boundary for Roman centuriation, as an early medieval administrative boundary to separate early estates and later parishes and as a defence of the burgh of Manchester reported in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle under the date AD 919. The latter suggested function would have cut off the access to the town by three Roman roads from the south side. Since the ditch effectively forms a barrier to traffic between the rivers Irwell and Medlock it may have formed a boundary of the kingdom of Rheged in the sixth century or it may have been the limit of the kingdom of Mercia in the eighth century.

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