Summer Solstice – The Howardian Hills

Graham Vasey & I travelled across the fertile rolling ridges of the Howardian Hills to meet up with Graeme Chappell at the Dalby Turf Maze, the smallest turf maze in Europe. A passing cyclist smiled and shouted “crop circle” at us.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe left the maze and drove north to have a look around an earthwork enclosure on the edge of Ampleforth Moor known as Studfold Ring.studfoldVery little is known about the earthwork, this is from Historic England’s PastScape database

Small earthwork enclosure consisting of an inner ditch and outer bank with a single east-facing entrance. Possibly a hengiform monument or Late Bronze Age/Early Iron Age stock enclosure. The freshness of the earthworks indicate it has been restored in the Medieval period, probably as a horse coraal as suggested by the name Studfold. Scheduled. 

studfold mapThe earthwork is set in a landscape that shows evidence of occupation from at least the late Neolithic period.  The map above is an extract from the 1889 OS map showing the location of the earthworks, a number of late Neolithic / Early Bronze Age barrow groups and the large linear earthwork known as Double Dykes. The two mile long linear earthwork can be traced running over two ridges and could be classed a large cross ridge dyke enclosing an area of prehistoric activity.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAA footpath runs beside the earthwork, we crossed the field and entered the large grassy enclosure. There are no traces of the barrows that were recorded in the area.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe bank and internal ditch remain intact on all four sides and the bank is lined with trees on three sidesOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASmall erosion patches on the banks show that they are constructed of earth and stones.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis is a strange place and it is quite difficult to know what to make of it. It has been a few years since I was last here, it seems smaller that I remember it. Graeme, who had not seen the site before, remarked that it was larger than he thought it would be.

In the late 1970s Tinkler and Spratt excavated an Iron Age enclosure on Great Ayton Moor. This enclosure was a similar size to Studfold and also had a bank with an internal ditch.  In their discussion they cited Studfold as a similar earthwork.  I guess no one will know the true nature of this lovely site until a formal excavation is undertaken.

Sources

Heritage Gateway

A History of Helmsley Rievaulx and District by the Helmsley and Area Group of the Yorkshire Archaeological Society. 1968

An Iron Age Enclosure on Great Ayton Moor by B N Tinkler & D A Spratt The Yorkshire Archaeological Journal Vol.50 1978

Map and Aerial View Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland

 

Durham Dales – The Castles

Graham and I headed over to Hamsterley to have a look at a strange site called The Castles. Graham told me that despite modern archaeological investigations, including a visit by the Time Team Archaeologists, no one has been able to fully explained this strange site.

Mao

An archaeological evaluation was undertaken by Channel 4’s Time Team at The Castles, a Scheduled Monument at West Shipley Farm, Hamsterley, believed to be the remains of a fortified site of Late Iron Age, Romano-British or post-Roman date. The investigation included evaluation trenching and geophysical and standing remains surveys, the results of which are briefly summarised in this article. Although clearly constructed by a substantial workforce as a defensive fortification, there is little evidence to indicate what the site was used for or its date.

Abstract from McKinley, J. I., (2014). ‘The Castles’, West Shipley Farm, Hamsterley, Co. Durham. Durham Archaeological Journal (19). Vol 19, pp. 105-106.

——-

The monument remains enigmatic both in terms of date and function. Though clearly constructed by a substantial work force as a defensive fortification, there is little evidence to support by whom and for what it was used. It may have served as a demonstration of power, its use may have proved unnecessary by change of circumstances, or occupation may only have been temporary or seasonal. The date of  the original construction seems most likely to be Late Iron Age, with possibly post-Roman reuse of parts of the structure 

Summary detail from ‘The Castles’, West Shipley Farm, Hamsterley, Co. Durham
Archaeological Evaluation and Assessment Results. Wessex Archaeology. Report reference: 65303.01. May 2007

 

We drove along the narrow lanes to the farm entrance and walked along the public footpath to the farmyard. The friendly farmer was busy unloading a feed tanker but stopped to point out the right of way across his land. We walked down the extremely sodden fields towards the copse of woods that enclosed the site.

The site is located on a hillside midway between the ridge top and the valley bottom. It has views along the valley to wards to confluence of the Harthope and Bedburn Becks and then further east to the Wear Valley.

Lidar

Wessex Archaeology / Time Team report here

Map reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland

LIDAR  Image from here

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.

Sources

Map reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland

LIDAR survey via data.gov.uk
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 

In Moor

To celebrate the summer solstice I decided to head over to Purse Moor to try and find a carved rock that was discovered in 2000. After much searching I failed to find the rock so walked over to In Moor to have a look at a site that was first described in the late 1940’s after aerial survey of the area. I first came across a reference to it in Hayes & Rutter’s research report on Wade’s Causeway.

An oval-shaped enclosure bounded by ruined stone walls and measuring 488 feet NE-SW and 230 feet NW-SE. Containing 25 small cairns usually 12-15 feet in diameter. Iron slag and flint flakes found on surface. Date and purpose unknown.

In late 2009 a large fire broke out on the moor revealing the site. I visited shortly after and took these photos.

On returning, the moor has regenerated and the site has once again has disappeared into the heather. It can still be seen on aerial photographs.

 

Sources

Wade’s Causeway by R.H. Hayes & J. G. Rutter. Scarborough & District Archaeological Society Research Report No. 4  1964

Pastscape

Yorkshire Rock Art

Percy Cross Rigg

The road on Percy Rigg runs from Rosedale Head to Guisborough. The section that runs over Percy Rigg is called Ernaldsti, after Ernald de Percy, Lord of Kildale. On a grim drizzly day I decided to walk the road from its junction with the Kildale – Commondale road to Percy Cross.

Percy Rigg Standing StoneThe surrounding moors are also dotted with standing stones, some are prehistoric, others are estate boundary stones. Ashbee MapThere are the remains of a large prehistoric settlement on the south west slope of Brown Hill. In 1953 Archaeologist Paul Ashbee excavated a number of small cairns and a large round barrow on Brown Hill.  He discovered a rock-cut burial pit beneath the barrow and very little in the cairns, concluding that they were probably clearance cairns.Percy Rigg bench markA number of the earthfast stones beside the road are marked with benchmarks.

Local Archaeologist Roland Close excavated a group of hut circles beside the road. He found two large huts with paved floors, two smaller huts with central hearths and one hut with drainage ditches cutting through the two smaller huts. The main finds were nine saddle querns and some poorly-fired pottery sherds.

R Close plan YAJ 44

Close published his excavation in the Yorkshire Archaeological Journal. In his report he mentioned a permanent spring to the north of the huts, probably the primary source of water for the settlement. 1953 Well Map

On looking through some old maps of the area I noticed that, on the 1950 OS map, a cluster of tumuli had been marked around the spring. If these tumuli were burial mounds it could mean that that spring held some significance, other than a source of water, to the people who lived there in the past.

The spring emerges from the hillside into a man-made stone-lined trough and then flows down to the Codhill Beck. There is a standing stone close to the well, the sides of the stone have been dressed, this is probably an estate boundary stone. Unfortunately the moor above the site is covered in deep heather, I was unable to find the mounds marked on the OS map.

Sources

Yorkshire Archaeological Journal Vol.39 1958 & Vol.44 1972

Old Roads & Pannier Ways in North East Yorkshire. Raymond H Hayes. 1988

Map reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland

Crown End

This morning I headed over to Westerdale Moor. I’ve been visiting this moor for many years and have always had the place to myself. As I walked up to the moor from Hob Hole I noticed a group of estate workers over on Little Hograh Moor, I made a small bet with myself that I’d be getting a visit from a gamekeeper within half an hour of setting foot on the moor.

The heather is in full bloom and the moors look stunning, after a few short minutes my boots were covered in a fine dusting of heather pollen. Later I encountered thousands of tiny bees congregating on a sandy bank at the side of the path, I presume these were Miner bees making the most of the pollen harvest.

My first landmark on the moor was the standing stone which can be seen from the footpath on the west end of the moor, this stone is below the crest of the ridge and is about 1.2m  tall

Due north of the stone and about 100m over the ridge of the moor is an alignment of standing stones and boulders that runs for about 70m towards the Baysdale Beck, also known as the Hob Hole Beck. This alignment has  been interpreted as a Bronze Age boundary and features in Blaise Vyner’s inventory of Cross Ridge Boundaries.

Returning to the path I noticed an object embedded in the dry mud at the side of the track. It was a Swiss Army knife, it had obviously been there for a while and had a name dymo-taped onto it, Roger Pybus. I pocketed the knife and a minute or two later noticed a large 4×4 pickup heading across the moor towards me, less than half and hour, I had won my bet.

Roger Pybus

I walked up to the pickup and had a chat with the keeper. He was friendly enough and told me that he was checking to ensure that I wasn’t going to have a barbecue or fly a drone over the moor. He told me about the sculpture that his boss had erected on the far horizon. I told him that I was more interested in standing stones and asked him if Roger Pybus was one of the blokes he worked with, he said he was so I gave him the knife to return to its’ owner.

Seated Man

On the skyline, Seated Man, a sculpture by Sean Henry commissioned by the estate owner David Ross and erected on Castleton Rigg. To the right of the sculpture are a group of visitors.

Cairn

The keeper, satisfied that I wasn’t a hungry drone pilot, went on his way and I continued  eastward across the moor. This side of the moor is dotted with low cairns and banks.

My next destination was the large embanked enclosure on eastern end of the moor. The enclosure is located on fairly level ground just before it dips down into the valley to where the River Esk meets the Baysdale Beck.

The Enclosure is about 40m square with fairly well defined walls. The walls are made of stones with the occasional large upright stone on the inner face. The walls stand at about 1.5m high and 2-3m wide. There is a 3m entrance on the east side. The general consensus is that the structure is Iron Age in date, but this is not certain.

I spent a little time walking around the enclosure and admiring the views along the Esk Valley to Castleton and then headed back to the road and Hob Hole via the Esk Valley Walk footpath.

Regarding the relationship between Hob Hole and the prehistoric remains, Stanhope White makes this observation

..the belief in a race of little men who lived under the earth may stem from the first interaction of the Celts with the indigenous Bronze Age people. When from time to time, a howe was opened for some purpose, possibly to win stone, if the so-called incense cups were found, they were regarded as proof of the presence of little men.

The North York Moors. An Introduction. Stanhope White. 1979

Urn Upleatham

Elgee Map

Frank Elgee’s map of Crown End.

maps

A lidar image and aerial view of the Crown End enclosure

Gerrick Moor

The rain has stopped, it’s time to get back onto the moors.

Gerrick Moor has a number of significant prehistoric monuments, a couple of good-sized barrows, a couple of hut circles, a late prehistoric enclosure and a cross dyke. All of this sounds very impressive but most of the features are quite subtle and take a little seeking out. There has also been a lot of  later disturbance on the moor, it is riddled with old trackways, drainage ditches and grouse butts. The moor was also used as a tank training site during World War II.

Herd Howe Lidar

 

The most prominent feature on the moor is Herd Howe, a large Bronze Age burial mound. The mound is situated on a ridge, best seen from the A174 heading east.  The barrow is intervisible with a number of prominent prehistoric sites, The Black Howes to the west, Warsett Hill and Street Houses to the North, Skelder Hill (thanks Chris) and Danby Beacon to the East and views into the central moors to the south.

Herd Howe

The mound was partially excavated by Atkinson in 1863. At the core was a pit which had then been covered with a stone cairn, the cairn was finally covered with a stone and earth mound.Herd Howe finds

In the pit Atkinson found the remains of eleven cremation deposits and fragments of seventeen vessels, one of which was accompanied by a stone battle axe.  Other finds included pottery vessels, flint tools, two bone pins and a bone needle.


Herd Howe g earth
On a gently sloping area just below the mound is a banked enclosure. This enclosure has been interpreted as a late prehistoric enclosed settlement similar to the settlement at Box Hall.

Raymond Hayes recorded thirty six examples of these small rectilinear enclosures across the North York Moors.  Once you located it’s not difficult to trace the boundary bank, it is mainly covered in Bilberry and stands out quite well against the background of heather. The bilberries are just coming out at the moment and are sweet and juicy, a welcome snack.

Herd Howe Bilberries

I headed off across the moor to check out the Cross Dyke that runs NW-SE for about three hundred meters. The dyke comprises a  It a pair of banks with a central ditch running from the Tank road to the where the land starts falling off into Gerrick Haw.

Cross dykes are thought to a prehistoric territorial boundary. There are a number of similar dykes across the North York Moors, Blaise Vyner records at least fifteen, many of which are associated with prominent burial mounds. It is not unreasonable to speculate that these monuments had a ritual function.

Gerrick Dykei

The heather has just come into bloom on the south facing bank.

Gerrick Dyke

Looking down to the northern end of the dyke into Gerrick Haw towards Dimmingdale with Moorsholm Moor and the Black Howes in the distance.

Sources

Bronze Age Burial Mounds in Cleveland. G M Crawford 1980

North east Yorkshire Studies: Archaeological Papers. Raymond H Hayes 1988

Moorland Monuments CBA Research Report 101. Blaise Vyner 1995

 

Cartimandua

stanwick-horsePrehistory ends with the Romans and the introduction of the written word into our islands. We only know the names of a dozen or so 1st century Britons from the time of the Roman occupation of Britain, two of them are women, Boudicca and Cartimandua.

At the time of the Roman invasion Cartimandua was a ruler in her own right, she was the living symbol of Brigantia and ruled a tribal alliance that covered much of northern England. She is the first recorded British Queen and her royal palace is thought to have been at Stanwick, four miles south of the River Tees.

stanwick-earthworksWe do not know a great deal about Cartimandua but the Romans must have considered her a very important figure as they chose to maintain good relations with her. She ruled The Brigantes for twenty six years during a time of massive social upheaval and military occupation.

stanwick-tofts-rampartTacitus’s account of Cartimandua is brief and not very complimentary but it does give us a glimpse into the life of an extraordinary northern British woman in 1st Century Britain. The fact that she managed to keep her throne, and maintain a relative peace for more than a quarter of a century during a time of war and rebellion, is a testament to a powerful leader in a society that was rapidly changing

stanwick-sign

Apart from an account in Tacitus’s Histories there is no archaeological evidence that Cartimandua ever existed.  There is a possibility that her life passed into oral history as the legend of King Arthur and his wife Gwenhwyfar and was recorded by Geoffrey of Monmouth in his work The History of the Kings of Britain.

Eston Nab – A Response to Craig Hornby

The background to this post is a proposal by Craig Hornby to build a new monument on Eston Nab. Craig had posted his plan on the Friends of the Eston Hills (FOEH) Facebook page and invited comments. I recently posted a link to a blog on the page which prompted Craig to directly address me on the FOEH facebook page. My response to him is rather long-winded so I thought a blog post would be an appropriate reply.

Craig’s proposal can be see here 

Hi Craig,

the linked blog isn’t mine, it belongs to Mick Garratt. I posted it as I thought it would be of interest to the group.

Regarding your comments

As the proposed developer I’m sure you have read the schedule for this area and understand the level of protection that has been placed on this National Monument, but for those who haven’t, here’s an excerpt

Eston Nab is the only surviving hillfort of any date in the county of Cleveland; it is very well preserved and, although it has been subject to partial excavation, the extent of disturbance is limited and its archaeological deposits remain largely intact. Evidence relating to its construction and to the complex history of the entire hilltop as well as the nature and duration of its use will be preserved within the archaeological deposits. Evidence relating to the Bronze Age environment around the monument and of the wider landscape will also survive. The importance of this monument is enhanced by the survival of contemporary settlements and funerary monuments in the vicinity; such evidence provides a clear indication of the extent of Bronze Age settlement and activity in the area and has the potential to increase greatly our knowledge of Bronze Age society. 

NATIONAL MONUMENT NUMBER: 20870

NAME: Eston Nab hill fort, palisaded settlement and beacon

SCHEDULING REVISED ON 16th February 1993

You are proposing the construction of a structure with a footprint , I’m guessing here because it is not fully detailed on your plans, of approximately 4 x 11m. The structure, railings and footpaths will all require foundations, that is an area of destruction covering approximately 44+ square meters on a regionally important, archaeologically sensitive, National Monument. That to me is a far worse case of vandalism than anything that currently happens on the moor. Litter & burned-out cars can be removed, the moor regenerates after a fire but the deliberate and irreversible destruction of our archaeological heritage is unforgivable.

Previous excavation has shown that the land below your proposed development was occupied by people in the Bronze Age, the first Teessiders. They lived, farmed and buried their dead on this land. These were our ancestors and the moor not only carries archaeological value, it carries spiritual value, your plan you will be deliberately desecrating this ground for what? Their monument is the moor.

You’ve stated that a ‘new dig’ will be undertaken, will this dig cover the whole site? who has agreed to undertake it?

Any excavation may well reveal new findings but the process of excavation involves the destruction of the materials you are excavating, what will be left for future generations? some old dig reports and a box of finds? Over Five thousand years of intact archaeological deposits will be lost for the sake of a monument that commemorates a period of a hundred years. You talk about legacy, if your development were to go ahead, I believe it will be viewed by future generations as an act of vanity at best, ignorant and wilful vandalism at worse.

So what else can be done?

  • Situate the monument in a more appropriate place, i.e. amongst the community whose dead it commemorates.
  • A monument already exists on the site, unlike the proposed monument, this one is built of local stone by local people and is already a well-loved Teesside landmark. The existing monument is not included in the schedule and could therefore be altered, plaques erected and the whole thing rededicated to the miners.
  • Use the monies raised to create an FOEH Endowment fund to train one or two full time local wardens. As well as keeping an eye on the moor they could work with local groups and landowners on the history, ecology and archaeology of the moor much in the same way National Park wardens do.
  • Create a volunteer group to support the wardens and engage with other local groups, schools, young offenders etc.
  • Your film, A Century of Stone, successfully told the story of the mines and is a fitting legacy to the community of mining families who lived in Eston, it has massively raised awareness of our local mining legacy. What about the FOEH fundraising to commission a similar film to tell the full story of the hills? This will reach far more people than some words and pictures on a foreign, black granite monolith ever could. Any profits from the film can be ploughed back into FOEH.

Ultimately Craig, this is all talk, the decision whether this development should go ahead does not lie with you, me or FOEH, it lies with the people who are charged with protecting our finite, irreplaceable, fragile national monuments.