In a series of previous posts I’ve explored Offa’s Dyke and Wat’s Dyke as well as their late-modern (19th-21st-century) heritage interpretation, footpath signs and monuments:
- A Victorian obelisk on Hawthorn Hill;
- Signs on Rushock and Herrock hills;
- Wat’s Dyke at Hope
- Nant Mill
- Chirk signs
- Chirk signs again
- Panpunton to Cwmsanahan
- Herrock Hill
- Wye Valley
- Wye Valley again
In this post, I wish to return to my visit last year to Hawthorn Hill, south of Knighton, to consider the diversity of signs and monuments marking the Offa’s Dyke path at this spot. In doing so, we encounter many layers in how visitors and walkers are directly along and around Offa’s Dyke: they are the material culture of the Dyke’s recent and contemporary past.
Victorian Roadside Memorial
I begin with a 19th-century memorial to the line of Offa’s Dyke beside the Knighton-Presteigne road. The squat stone monument is akin to a modest gravestone but more like a milestone. It faces the road with the emphatic statement:
IN THE YEAR
(A. 757. .D.)
I’ve never encountered such a strange way of denoting the date before and the decisive dating is of course spurious: it is simply the accepted date of his inauguration as King of Mercia.
Today, the monument bears graffiti as well as a concrete backing slab to help support it.
It has now been joined by a bilingual heritage sign that seeks to explain the monument in 4 easy steps.
- Offa is described as building this ‘symbolic border’ earthwork between Mercia and the ‘Princes of Wales’;
- Offa is described as a ‘powerful king and statesman’. The question is posed: did he build the dyke for defence, to control trade or to mark the edge of his kingdom? It is stated to be a monument to his wealth and power regardless of the precise motives of its construction.
- It is then described as an ‘engineering marvel’ and that it may have joined up earlier monuments along its 80-mile course. It is stated that it had a legacy that endured to help create the modern border: ‘changing the landscape and the culture of its people forever’.
- The local context of the monument is then described, including the monument to Sir Richard Green Price. A circular walk is described.
There are striking photographic images of the monument, two by Jim Saunders of the Offa’s Dyke Association. There is also a reconstruction of Offa, hands on hips, presiding over the dyke’s construction. There is also a map, also visible in the Offa’s Dyke Centre, showing the line of the dyke in relation to the modern border and the National Trail from Sedbury to Prestatyn.
Then, there are a series of footpath signs. These interact with the 19th-century stone, the Price monument, and the heritage sign, marking the route over the hill following the dyke. As noticed elsewhere, one can read stages in the 40-year history of the National Trail in its historic signposts with concrete, wood and plastic deployed. None of the metal signs found elsewhere on the trail were present here.