Maiden Castle

I’ve visit Maiden Castle a number of times, every time I visit I come away a little more confused.

OS Map 1857

The site is cut into the side of High Harker Hill, above an old Corpse Road, if you weren’t aware of its location you would be unlikely to stumble across it.

Maiden Castle Lidar

There are two long barrows/cairns associated with the enclosure, one is located on high ground to the west of the site, the other is at the eastern end of a massive stone avenue. The barrows are thought to be late Neolithic/Bronze age in date

Two linear mounds of stone up to 1.5m high form a unique feature, an avenue which runs for over 100m from a large ruined barrow to the entrance of the enclosure.

The enclosure ditch is up to 4m deep in places with the bank rising between 4-5m above the ditch. The counterscarp on the south side of the enclosure rises above the rampart top. This means that it is possible to overlook the enclosure from the outside implying that the enclosure was not built for defence.

MC From Hillside s

Inside the enclosure there are two circular settings that are thought to be hut circles. A recent geophysical survey has revealed other possible hut circles within the enclosure. There is also small cist visible within the centre of the structure.

Cist s

Due to its uniqueness and the lack of any dateable material, Archaeologists are unable to suggest a definitive time period for the monument. A date range from the Bronze Age to Romano-British period has been suggested.

This monument should not be seen an an isolated site.  The location of the monument in the wider landscape may give some clues to its purpose.

  • Situated within a landscape that has rich evidence of occupation since the Neolithic period. On the moor above the monument there is a stone circle, ring cairns, cairnfields and linear dykes.
  • Good access to a number of trans-Pennine routes linking the Vale of York with northern & eastern Cumbria
  • Situated within the Pennine ore fields surrounded by deposits of lead, zinc, silver and copper. A pig of lead inscribed with the name of the Roman Emperor Hadrian (AD 117-138) was discovered at the Hurst mine at Marrick. Lead was a valuable and abundant metal in the Roman empire.
  • The road beneath the monument turns south into Wensleydale and leads directly to the Roman fort at Bainbridge (Virosidum) and the junction of up to five Roman roads.
  • Other resources – coal and large quantities of chert. Chert was important resource for making tools in prehistory.  Across the river at Fremington Edge there are sufficient quantities of chert for it to be exploited commercially up until the mid 20th century for use in the Staffordshire pottery industries.


Map reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland

LIDAR survey via
Reassessment of two late prehistoric sites: Maiden Castle and Greenber Edge in Archaeology and Historic Landscapes of the Yorkshire Dales, Yorkshire Archaeological Society Occasional Papers No.2. Mark Bowden and Keith Blood. 2004


Why did the Romans build a fort at Bainbridge?  Swaledale & Arkengarthdale Archaeological Group. 2009

A History of the County of York North Riding: Volume 1. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1914.


Maiden Castle and West Hagg Swaledale North Yorkshire geophysical surveys. Archaeological Surveys Durham University 2011 

Gainford Stones



Digging through some old files I came across these two pictures that I took a few years ago in the Monk’s Dormitory in Durham Cathedral.

The stones both originated in Gainford. The stone on the left is a cross shaft and depicting two beasts. The cross shaft on the right depicts two figures in knee-length tunics.

Image Source – The Sculptured Stones of Scotland Vol. 2 John Stuart. 1856

The Middlesbrough Meteorite

During the past year a very beautiful specimen of a meteorite fell near Middlesbrough, in Yorkshire. It struck the earth at a spot called Pennyman’s Siding* on the North-Eastern Railway Company’s branch line from Middlesbrough to Guisbrought about one mile and three-quarters from the former town. Its descent was witnessed by W. Ellinor and three platelayers, who heard a whizzing or rushing noise in the air followed in a second or two by a sudden blow of a body striking the ground not far from them the spot was found to be 48 yards from where they stood.


The fall took place on the 14th March, 1881, at 3:35 p.m. The wind was from the north-east, and it was a clear and bright but rather cold afternoon. At more distant places, as Northallerton and four miles to the eastward, the sound resembled the boom of a gun; no luminous or cloud-forming phenomena are reported.

The character of the hole, according to Professor Alexander Herschel, who at once visited the spot, points to the fall having been vertical or nearly so. The stone was “new milk warm” when found, and weighed 3 lbs. 8 oz. ; the dark surface is entirely fused and crusted, and has scarcely suffered by the fall. The stone forms a low pyramid, slightly scolloped, 6 inches in length, 5 inches wide, and 3 inches in height. The rounded summit and sloping sides are scored and grooved deeply with a polish like black lead, in waving furrows running to the base, showing that this side came foremost during the fusing action of the atmosphere which the meteorite underwent in its flight. The rear or base is equally fused or branded by heat, but is rough, dull brown in colour, and not scored or furrowed.

The meteorite penetrated the soil to a depth of 11 inches, and the penetration line apparently slopes about 10° from the vertical from the S.S.E. ; it passed through 7 or 8 inches of coke- ballast, and thereafter brick-earth or coarse clay to the remaining depth. From experiments made by Professor Herschel on the power of penetration of a cast-iron model of the meteorite, it is calculated that the actual velocity of fall with which the stone struck the ground must have been 412 feet per second, As it would acquire this velocity by falling freely through half-a-mile, it is clear how little of the original planetary speed with which it entered the atmosphere can have remained to affect its fall.Middlesbrough_meteorite_-_20080625

The interior of the stone has a greyish- white appearance, and is evidently for the most part composed of silicates : frequent bright metallic granules are to be seen, and they appear to be entirely or almost entirely granules of nickel-iron. The rocky portion varies from grey to pure white, of which there are patches, and while the greater part appears to be homogeneous in structure, there are many enclosed chondra of large size and of a darker grey than the body of the stone.

In the well-developed markings of the exterior of the stone it bears a close resemblance, as Professor Herschel points out, to the meteorite of Karakol (Kirgis Steppe, May 9th, 1840), of which Professor Goebel gives a figure in his paper of 1866 in the ‘ Melanges physiques et chimiques de academie Imperiale de St. Petersbourg/ vii., 318-324.

The railway company, who at the time this notice was written retained possession of the stone, kindly permitted a few fragments to be removed for examination. It has since been presented to the Yorkshire Philosophical Society, and is now preserved in the museum at York.

Proceedings of the Royal Society of London, Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society. 1882


Image via Wikimedia Commons

Map reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland