I’ve visit Maiden Castle a number of times, every time I visit I come away a little more confused.
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.
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.
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.
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
Why did the Romans build a fort at Bainbridge? Swaledale & Arkengarthdale Archaeological Group. 2009