The Colchester earthworks at Lexden and Bluebottle Grove are among the few surviving late Iron Age defences in Britain.
They defended the west side of pre-Roman Colchester, Camulodunum, which was occupied by the Iron Age Catuvellauni and their leader Cunobelin.
This great defensive system is thought to belong to the 1st century AD. Many pre-Roman graves have been found in the vicinity of Lexden Dyke, the best known of which lies within the ditch itself and is called the Lexden Tumulus.
Excavations in 1924 revealed the burial of an Iron Age nobleman – some say Cunobelin himself – surrounded by luxurious objects.
Lexden Earthworks bound the western side of the site and Bluebottle Grove the southern.
The outermost rampart, Gryme’s Dyke, is today the most impressive. It ran from the River Colne to the Roman River and can be traced for most of its length. South of the London Road it appears first as a hedge and then as a well-defined bank with a substantial ditch on its west side. This dyke is named after the Devil, ‘Gryme’, to whom Christians attributed many ancient earthworks whose origins were long forgotten. A footpath follows it for more than a mile.
The large gravel pit known as King Coel’s Kitchen probably marks the point where the Roman roads from Cambridge and London once converged to cross this dyke.
East of Gryme’s Dyke are the remnants of an earlier system: the Triple Dyke, west of Lexden; and the Lexden Dyke, which extends south to Bluebottle Grove and continues north of the Colne, where it is known as Moat Farm Dyke.
Hunter, J 1999. 'The Essex Landscape: a Study of its Form and History', 51–4, Essex Records Office: Chelmsford
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