English Place-name Society

Survey of English Place-Names

A county-by-county guide to the linguistic origins of England’s place-names – a project of the English Place-Name Society, founded 1923.

Gryme's Dyke olim Hayditch

Early-attested site in the Parish of Colchester

Historical Forms

  • Haidich 1204 ChR
  • Haydich 1316 Cl
  • Haydych 1468 Pat
  • Wildenheye 1276,1291 For 13th WalthamA
  • Wildehaye 1316 Cl
  • Wyldenhey 1277 Oath t.Hy8 MC


In a perambulation of 1563 (Oath 258) the bounds run from Chestenfelde (i.e. Cheshunt Field infra 399) by Parkefeilde to Grymes Dyche , to Grymes Dyche by Pedders Crosse , and then to Grimes Wrosen and Lambs Cross . Here again Grimes Wrose (n ) seems to be applied to the stretch of dyke running almost due north to Lamb's Cross, while Grymes Dyche would seem to be used of some earthwork running towards Pedders Cross, near Bottle End. No further mention of Grimes Wrose (n ) has been found. Grymes Ditch is used again in a perambulation of 1637 (MC 95–6) of the stretch from Parkefeild to Pedders Cross, while the more northerly stretch is simply called Ditch . In a perambulation of 1671 (ib. 97) we have mention of a lane or way leading by Gosbecks to Lexden heath , all along by the side of the hedge, under which there is a Ditch called Grymes Ditch to Pedders Crosse . Here the name Grymes Ditch seems to be used of a dyke which can still be traced running north-west from Gosbecks Fm to Bottle End, but as this dyke is also called “the Ramper that parts Lexden-heath from Staneway heath” the name seems to have been extended to the straight stretch running north to Lamb's Cross which was previously known as Grimeswrosen .

The probability is therefore that Grimeswrose (n ) is an older name than Grymes Dyche , though no certainty is possible. The name Grimeswrosen is found twice elsewhere. It is the old form of the name for Grimsworth Hundred (He), for which we have Grimeswrosen (1193 P) and other similar early forms, and it is also found in Grimeswrosne (1201 FF), Grimeswrose (13thCombe ) in Wolvey (Wa). Baddeley (Trans. Bristol and Gl . Arch. Soc. xxxix, 139) rightly connected the Herefordshire name with OE  wrāsn , 'chain, band, tie, knot,' an element found again in Wrens Nest Hill (PN Wo 290). The site of Grimsworth is uncertain, but there is good reason for associating it with Credenhill, in the neighbourhood of which there was a hundred-pit (cf. Anderson, English Hundred -Names 168). Just under Credenhill runs the ancient Roman road variously known as Stony Street or Watling Street (one of the secondary examples of the use of this name) (cf. Hereford, HM iii, xlix–lii).

The site of the Warwickshire Grimeswrose (n ) can be fixed fairly closely for in the Fine of 1201 we have mention of “all the land between Sanford and Grimeswrosene ” and we are told it stretches “to Watlingesstrete where Sandford and Grimeswrosene come together.” Wolvey parish is just to the west of Watling Street. We cannot at present identify San (d )ford beyond saying that it was on or in the immediate neighbourhood of Watling Street.

We thus have three examples of Grimeswrosen , with the connecting link that they are all associated with ancient roads or earthworks. The Essex one was on the site of the present Gryme 's Dyke , the Herefordshire one must have been by a Roman road and an ancient hill-camp (that on Credenhill), the Warwickshire one was on or near Watling Street. There is a well-marked hill on the west side of Watling Street, but it has none of the abruptness of Credenhill or of Wren's nest.There can be little doubt that Grim here must be taken as a parallel to Devil in Devil's Dyke and the like, i.e. as a name given by our English forefathers to ancient remains for which they suspected demonic origin (cf. IPN 161). The exact significance of wrosen it is difficult to determine. It may be used in the sense of 'chain.' That would fit the line of Gryme's Dyke, and that of the Roman road by Credenhill. It may be used in the sense of nodus or hill-knot of the prominent Credenhill or of some smaller hill by the lost hundred-pit, and of the hill by Watling Street, but such an application seems very difficult in Essex, for though there is a whole complex of earthworks in the neighbourhood, it is difficult to find anything which would justify the idea of a nodus just at the part to which we know the term wrosen to have been applied. In Essex it is probable that when the sense of wrosen was forgotten the word ditch was substituted, perhaps by Tudor antiquaries who were well aware of other Grime's Dykes and Ditches elsewhere. Cf. PN D 482, PN Sr 358, IPN 161, and Ekwall in Studia Germanica 41–4.