Offa’s Dyke: ‘the Stuff that Dreams are Made of’

Ann Williams


Offa’s Dyke has been much discussed in the past, and will no doubt continue to fascinate future archaeologists and historians. This article summarises the few historical sources for the Dyke which are available. It also explores the archaeological investigations which have taken place up to the time of writing in 2009.


Asser, Mercia, Offa, Offa’s Dyke, Wales, Wat’s Dyke, Whitford Dyke

Full Text:



Manuscript sources

Alexander, M. 1966. The Earliest English Poems. Harmondsworth: Penguin Books.

Arnold, T. 1882. Symeonis Monachi Opera Omnia, ii. London: Rolls Series.

Attenborough, F.I. 1922. The Laws of the Earliest English Kings. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Campbell, A. 1962. The Chronicle of Æthelweard. London: Nelson’s Medieval Texts.

Colgrave, B. 1940. Two Lives of St Cuthbert. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Colgrave, B. 1956. Felix’s Life of Guthlac. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Colgrave, B. and Mynors, R.A.B. 1969. Bede’s Ecclesiastical History of the English People i. Oxford: Oxford Medieval Texts.

Davidson, H.E. 1979. Saxo Grammaticus: History of the Danes. 2 vols. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Dickinson, J. 1963. The Statesman’s Book of John of Salisbury. New York: A.A. Knopf.

Dimock J.F. 1868. Giraldi Cambrensis Opera vi: Itinerarium Kambriae et Descriptio Kambriae. London: Rolls Series.

Dummler, E. 1895. Alcuini Epistolae. Monumenta Germanica Historica, Epistolae Aevi Carolini 2.

Edwards, N. 2013. A Corpus of Early Medieval Inscribed Stones and Stone Sculpture in Wales, Volume III: North Wales. Cardiff: University of Wales Press.

Erskine, R.W.H. 1986. Great Domesday. A Facsimile. London: Alecto Historical Editions. [Cited by folio].

Finberg, H.P.R. 1961. The Early Charters of the West Midlands. Leicester: Leicester University Press.

Garmondsway, G. 1968. Beowulf and its Analogues. London: Everyman.

Hunter, J. 1912. The Great Roll of the Pipe for the Thirtieth Year of King Henry II, AD 1183-4. London: Pipe Roll Society 33.

James, M.R., Lloyd, J.E., and Hartland, E.S. 1923. Walter Map’s De Nugis Curialium. Cymmrodorion Record Series 9.

Jones, T. 1952. Brut y Tywysogyon or the Chronicle of the Princes. Peniarth MS 20 Version. Cardiff: University of Wales Press.

Jones, T. 1971. Brehinned y Saesson or The Kings of the Saxons. Cardiff: University of Wales Press.

Keynes, S. and Lapidge, M. 1983. Alfred the Great: Asser’s Life of King Alfred and other contemporary sources. Harmondsworth: Penguin Books.

Klaeber, F. 1950. Beowulf and the Fight at Finnsburg. 3rd edn. Boston (Mass): Boston University Press. [Cited by line].

Mynors, R.A.B. Thomson, R.M. and Winterbottom, M. 1998. William of Malmesbury Gesta Regum Anglorum i. Oxford: Clarendon Press.

Robertson, A.J. 1956. Anglo-Saxon Charters. 2nd edn. Cambridge: CUP.

Rumble, A.R. 1996. An edition and translation of the Burghal Hidage, together with Recension C of the Tribal Hidage, in D. Hill and A.R. Rumble (eds) The Defence of Wessex: the Burghal Hidage and Anglo-Saxon Fortifications. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 14–35.

Sawyer, P.H. 1968. Anglo-Saxon Charters: An Annotated List and Bibliography. London: Royal Historical Society. Revised edition, viewed 1 March 2019,

Swanton, M. 1996. The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle. London: Dent.

Thorpe, L. 1978. Gerald of Wales, The Journey through Wales and The Description of Wales. Harmondsworth: Penguin Books.

Webb, C.C.I. 1909. Ioannis Saresberiensis episcopi Carnotensis Policratici sive De Nugis Curialium ii. Oxford: Clarendon Press.

Whitelock, D. 1955. English Historical Documents, volume 1: c. 500–1042. 1st edn. London: Eyre and Spottiswood.

Whitelock, D., Douglas, D.C. and Tucker, S.I. 1965. The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle. A Revised Translation. London: Eyre and Spottiswood. [Cited by annal].

Williams Ab Ithel, J. 1860. Annales Cambriae. London: Rolls series. [Cited by annal].

Winterbottom, M, 1978. Gildas: The Ruin of Britain and other works. Chichester: Phillimore.

Published sources

Barney, S. A. 1985. Word-hoard. An Introduction to Old English Vocabulary. 2nd edn. New Haven and London: Yale University Press.

Bapty, I. 2004. The final word on Offa’s Dyke? Clwyd-Powys Archaeological Trust website (accessed March 29 2019).

Belford, P. 2017. Offa’s Dyke: a line in the landscape, in T. Jenkins and R. Abbiss (eds), Fortress Salopia, 60–81, Solihull: Helion.

Blair, J. 2005. The Church in Anglo-Saxon Society. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Blair, J. 2018. Building Anglo-Saxon England. Princeton and Woodstock: Princeton University Press.

Brooks, N. 1971. The development of military obligations in eighth- and ninth-century England, in P. Clemoes and K. Hughes (eds) England before the Conquest. Studies in Primary Sources presented to Dorothy Whitelock. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press: 69–84.

Brown, M.P. and Farr, C.A. (eds) 2001. Mercia: an Anglo-Saxon Kingdom in Europe. Leicester: Leicester University Press.

Bullough, D. 1993. What has Ingeld to do with Lindisfarne? Anglo-Saxon England 22: 93–125.

Chadwick, H.M. 1926. The Heroic Age. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Chambers, R.W. 1912. Widsith: a Study in Old English Heroic Legend. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Chambers, R.W. 1932. Beowulf: an Introduction to the Study of the Poem with a discussion of the Stories of Offa and Finn. 2nd edn. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press

Charles-Edwards, T.A.M. 2001. Wales and Mercia, in Brown and Farr 2001: 89–105.

Davies, W. 1982. Wales in the Early Middle Ages. Leicester: Leicester University Press.

Dumville, D.N. 1976. The Anglian collection of royal genealogies and regnal lists. Anglo-Saxon England 5: 22–50.

Dumville, D.N. 1977/8. Review of Hughes 1973. Studia Celtica 12/13: 461–67.

Earle, J. 1857. Offa’s Dyke in the neighbourhood of Knighton. Archaeologia Cambrensis 3rd ser. 3: 196–209.

Edwards, N. 2009. Re-thinking the Pillar of Eliseg. Antiquaries Journal 89: 143–77.

Eyton, R.W. 1860. Antiquities of Shropshire, xi. London: John Russel Smith.

Fox, C. 1955. Offa’s Dyke: a Field Survey of the Western Frontier Works of Mercia in the Seventh and Eighth centuries AD. London: The British Academy.

Fryde, N and Reitz, D. (eds) 2009. Walls, Ramparts and Lines of Demarcation: Selected Studies from Antiquity to Modern Times. Berlin: LIT Verlag.

Gelling, M. 1989. The place-names Burton and variants, in S.C. Hawkes (ed.) Weapons and Warfare in Anglo-Saxon England. Oxford: OUP: 145–53.

Gelling, M. 1992. The West Midlands in the Early Middle Ages. Leicester: Leicester University Press.

Hare, M. 2004. Review of Hill and Worthington 2003. Transactions of the Bristol and Gloucestershire Archaeological Society 122: 205–6.

Harris, B.E, and Thacker, A.T. 1987. The Victoria History of the County of Cheshire i. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Hill, D. 2000. Offa’s Dyke, pattern and purpose. Antiquaries Journal 80: 195–206.

Hill, D. and Worthington, M. 2003. Offa’s Dyke: History and Guide. Stroud: Tempus.

Hughes, K. 1973. The Welsh Latin Chronicles: Annales Cambriae and related texts. Proceedings of the British Academy 59: 233–58; reprinted Hughes, K. 1980. Celtic Britain in the Early Middle Ages. Woodbridge: Boydell Press: 67–85.

Hunter, M. 1974. Germanic and Roman antiquity and the sense of the past in Anglo-Saxon England. Anglo-Saxon England 3: 29–50.

Lapidge, M. 1982. Byrhtferth and the early sections of the Historia Regum attributed to Symeon of Durham. Anglo-Saxon England 10: 97–122.

Levison, W. 1946. England and the Continent in the Eighth Century. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Malim, T. and Hayes, L. 2008. The date and nature of Wat’s Dyke: a reassessment in the light of recent investigations at Gobowen, Shropshire, in S. Crawford and H. Hamerow (eds) Anglo-Saxon Studies in Archaeology and History 15. Oxford: Oxbow: 147–179.

Maund, K. 2000. The Welsh Kings: the Early Rulers of Wales. Stroud: Tempus.

Molyneaux, G. 2012. The Ordinance concerning the Dunsaete and the Anglo-Welsh frontier in the late tenth and eleventh centuries. Anglo-Saxon England 40: 249–72.

Nelson, J. 2001. Carolingian contacts, in Brown and Farr 2001: 126–43.

Newton, S. 1993. The Origins of Beowulf and the Pre-Viking kingdom of East Anglia. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Noble, F. 1978. Offa’s Dyke Reviewed. M.Phil dissertation, Open University. Microfilm version, Offa’s Dyke Association, Knighton, Powys.

Noble, F. 1983. Offa’s Dyke Reviewed. British Archaeological Reports British Series, 114.

Nurse, K. 2001. A famous thing ... that reacheth farre in length. New Welsh Review 52: 21–27, viewed 1 March 2019,

Nurse, K. n.d. Wat’s in a name? viewed 1 March 2019,

Ray, K. and Bapty, I. 2016. Offa’s Dyke: Landscape and Hegemony in Eighth-Century Britain. Oxford: Windgather Press.

Sims-Williams, P. 1990. Religion and Literature in Western England, 600-800. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Squatriti, P. 2004. Offa’s Dyke between nature and culture. Environmental History 9: 9–36.

Stenton, F.M. 1971. Anglo-Saxon England. 3rd edn. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Vaughan, R. 1958. Matthew Paris. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Whitelock, D. 1951. The Audience of Beowulf. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Wileman, J. 2003. The purpose of the Dykes: understanding the linear earthworks of early medieval Britain. Landscapes 2: 59–66.

Williams, A. 2009. Offa’s Dyke: a monument without a history, in Fryde and Reitz 2000: 31–56.

Wormald, P. 1978. Bede, ’Beowulf’ and the conversion of the Anglo-Saxon aristocracy, in R.T. Farrell (ed). Bede and Anglo-Saxon England. British Archaeological Reports British series 46: 32–90.

Wormald, P. 1996. BL Cotton MS. Otho B. xi: a supplementary note, in D. Hill and A.R. Rumble (eds). The Defence of Wessex: the Burghal Hidage and Anglo-Saxon Fortifications. Manchester: Manchester University Press: 59–68.

Wormald, P. 1999. The Making of English Law from Alfred to Henry I. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Yorke, B. 2001. The origins of Mercia, in Brown and Farr 2001: 13–22.



  • There are currently no refbacks.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

ISSN: 2695-625X

Follow us on:




Edited in Madrid by JAS Arqueología