The publication of Keith Ray and Ian Bapty’s book Offa’s Dyke: Landscape and Hegemony in Eighth-Century Britain (Windgather, 2016) provided a valuable impetus for fostering new collaborative projects on the linear earthworks of the modern Anglo-Welsh border. Following discussions during 2015 and 2016, the convenors established the ‘Offa’s Dyke Collaboratory’ to support a network of individuals, groups and organisations working to promote awareness and appreciation of, and to manage and investigate, Offa’s Dyke and Wat’s Dyke, as well as related monuments and their wider landscapes.
Offa’s Dyke is interpreted as an intermittent linear earthwork stretching from the Wye Valley to Flintshire, associated with the Mercian Frontier of the late 8th century AD and traditionally ascribed to be work of King Offa.
Wat’s Dyke is a linear earthwork running from Maesbury Marsh (Shropshire) to Basingwerk (Flintshire) and runs broadly parallel to Offa’s Dyke in its southern stretches. It is again regarded as a Mercian frontier work, perhaps of Offa’s successor Coenwulf, and dated to the early 9th century AD.
In addition, the ODC encourages research on the ‘short dykes’ of the English-Welsh border, and the still-undated Whitford Dykes, sometimes associated with Offa’s Dyke.
The ODC hopes to see future research projects investigating the dates, compositions, design and functions of these linear earthworks, as well as their biographies, landscape settings, associations with other ancient sites, monuments, routes and rivers.
A key focus of the Offa’s Dyke Collaboratory will be exploring the relationships of the dykes to the creation and fluctuation of Mercia’s western frontier. In doing so, the relationships with the broader tapestry of early medieval communities and polities in western Britain during the Early Middle Ages is essential. Moreover, the Collaboratory is interested in research exploring the ‘prehistory’ of the dykes and communities living in and around the landscapes of the English-Welsh border prior to their construction in the Early Middle Ages. Likewise, the life-histories of these monuments down to the present day is also a focus of future enquiry supported by the Collaboratory.
Furthermore, the Offa’s Dyke Collaboratory aims to focus on the future of these monuments: their conservation, management, interpretation for local communities and visitors from across these islands and from around the globe. We aim to educate and innovate in terms of both research and public understandings of early medieval linear earthworks.