The mystery of Grim’s Ditch
Grim’s Ditch is a prehistoric earthwork which runs roughly north/south along the eastern end of the Temple Newsam Estate (Leeds, West Yorkshire, UK). On the early Ordnance Survey maps it seems to peter out just south of the village of Scholes near Barwick in Elmet. This would seem to make no sense it terms of either a boundary or defensive line. Therefore, people have theorized where it might go from there. Some people argue that it might, for instance, turn west and follow the line of that part of the Cock Beck known as the Grim’s Dyke. Others have argued that it might turn east and join up with Dark Lane at Barwick to lose itself in what used to be marshy ground around Potterton Beck. I’ve always argued that it went more or less due north, thus linking the Wharfe and the Aire. Two rivers and a connecting ditch would seem to me to make a very sturdy boundary indeed.
The Fairfax Demonologia
It was while reading the Demonologia by Edward Fairfax that I came across what might potentially be considered to be proof of my theory. The Demonologia is an early 17th century work in which Fairfax describes how his children claim they were being bewitched by a number of local women. Fairfax seems to accept this claim without question and, when the affair came to trial at York, he was clearly surprised to find the case dismissed. The account of his journey from York to his home at Fewston (North Yorkshire, UK) is quite detailed. When the travellers get near to the village of Collingham he describes:
a bank, which is cast up there for a great space together, (the remains, as I take it, of the intrenchment of the rebels in that place encamped 12th Elizabeth)
Willian Grainge who edited the work says that Fairfax is referring to the Rising of the North in 1569 but says of the rebels that we were not aware that they threw up any entrenchments here. Neither am I.
An ironic parallel
I’d suggest that what Fairfax saw (and misinterpreted) was not an Elizabethan entrenchment but the Northern termination of Grim’s Ditch where it ran into the River Wharfe. If so, there would be an irony in this since Thomas Fairfax, the civil war general and a relative of Edward’s, has given his name to a prehistoric earthwork on the St Ives Estate and Bingley.
Of course, it’s an issue not capable of poof. The Collingham earthwork, whatever it was, is long gone and, as far as I know, this is the only reference to it. But for what it’s worth, the idea that it was Grim’s Ditch seems right to me.