Yesterday I embarked on a road trip with my brand-new doctoral student – Abigail – to explore parts of the Vale of Llangollen. More on that later. En route, we stopped at Hope, Flintshire, to inspect a section of the Mercian frontier work known as Wat’s Dyke. On the outskirts of the village to the north-north-west, the dyke is well preserved beneath modern property boundaries beside the Wrexham Road (A550). Subsequently it is open to view on open and well-maintained grounds in front of a modern housing estate. Further north-north-west, the dyke has a just-built bungalow sitting on top of it: I trust they had planning permission for that one…
In the photographs you can see the much-denuded but still-discernible traces of Wat’s Dyke – a bank and a ditch.
We were just taking photographs and talking about the significance and date of this monument – now regarded as likely dating to the early 9th century as discussed here – when a resident engaged us in conversation and discussed the monument. As well as working at a nearby university and being extremely interested in the monument.
Significant for this post, she kindly pointed out that, part-hidden within foliage beside the earthwork is a memorial stone, erected to coincide with the building of the new estate, marking the supposed significance of Britain’s second-longest linear earthwork. I hadn’t noticed or realised that the earthwork was actually ‘commemorated’ in this fashion with a large stone! I’d visited this spot before, even viewing a house within the estate, and never noticed the stone! Indeed, to see it, you have to approach on foot from the houses themselves; this isn’t for tourists or anyone else to see.
I have talked about the barely visible heritage signs for Offa’s Dyke and Wat’s Dyke at Ruabon, but this represents another dimension: a monumental commemorative stone for one of the dykes; in plain view and yet still part-concealed. Given this spatial and semi-public dynamic, might this a new form of monument/memorial that might be called a ‘residential monument’?