Battle of Byland: considering the evidence

Graham Lee, Senior Archaeological Conservation Officer and Ed Dennison, Ed Dennison Archaeological Services Ltd  

Roulston Scar Iron Age Hillfort is a scheduled site in the south west corner of the National Park. Previous investigations by the Landscape Research Centre (in 2013 and 2015) on the north-eastern rampart of the hillfort located a substantial palisade trench cut into the top of the back of this prehistoric rampart. The sharpness of the buried remains and the increased organic nature of the fills suggested a short period of re-use and a date within the historic period for this – it was clearly much later than the established prehistoric use of the site. But no material evidence was recovered which could provide even an approximate scientific date for this significant addition to the defences of the hillfort.

The known event in the locality that could best explain such a major re-fortification of the defences is the Battle of Byland, which took place on 14th October 1322 between the forces of Edward II and Robert the Bruce, resulting in a victory for the Scottish army.

So as a follow-up to these initial investigations, the National Park commissioned archaeological surveyors (Ed Dennison Archaeological Services Ltd), during the first part of 2016, to record the form of the supposed prehistoric earthworks in close proximity to Roulston Scar in the hope that further relevant information would be revealed. Both these earthwork dykes, the Casten Dyke South and the Casten Dyke North, have anomalous features which suggest that they have been remodelled since they were originally built. Parts of their ditch profiles are far too steep and sharp to be prehistoric since earthworks tend to slump and soften with age. It has also been previously suggested that the Casten Dyke South may have been mediaeval rather than prehistoric in origin and could have been specifically constructed for the battle.

Both the Roulston Scar Hillfort and Casten Dyke South have their defences facing north, protecting two large steep-sided promontories of land respectively 24 and 28 hectares in extent which could have served as seemingly strong positions for use as encampments for the English army. Facing south towards them, across a gap of between 880 to 1300 metres, is the Casten Dyke North. So might these earthworks mark the respective positions of the English and Scottish armies in October 1322, before a part of the Scottish army managed to outflank and rout the English forces? 

Casten Dyke North and South - survey areas. Copyright Ed Dennison Archaeological Services Ltd.

Putative plan of earthwork area - annotated. NYMNPA.The surveyors concluded that both dykes lack firm dating evidence but do show evidence of substantial later modifications. The Casten Dyke North more convincingly fits the pattern of a later prehistoric cross-ridge dyke, whilst the Casten Dyke South is clearly unconnected with the prehistoric defences at Roulston Scar and would work better as a medieval or post-medieval boundary, which could – perhaps – either have been first constructed or re-fortified in the early 14th century.

By sealing off the north side of a plateau, and with very steep slopes on all other sides, any English force encamped within would have felt they held a reasonably secure position, particularly if they were augmented by another force close by to the west behind the modified northern rampart of Roulston Scar. The plateau site overlooks Boar’s Gill and Hell Hole, both steep-sided small valleys which would have provided routes up the natural escarpment for the Scots forces seeking to outflank the English army which they ultimately did. If this was the case, then some re-assessment of the battle itself might be required. The traditional narrative suggests that the battle was a hastily organised action, but the use of earthworks would perhaps indicate that it involved more preparation on both sides.

Later warfare

One factor that all previous surveys have largely underestimated is the impact of Second World War activity affecting both earthwork dykes. The 2016 survey found evidence of significant amounts of re-cutting of the dyke ditches, in sections up to 70 metres in length, to provide a very steep (i.e. good defensive) profile together with breaks for access, slit trenches and weapons pits. This has obvious implications for the evidence of a mediaeval battle, as extensive WWII wartime alterations may have obscured earlier alterations undertaken in 1322, particularly if these were done somewhat hastily and piecemeal prior to the battle.

Casten Dyke North and South - areas of 2WW activity. Copyright Ed Dennison Archaeological Services Ltd.The recent survey has greatly increased our knowledge of local activity in the 1940s in addition to that revealed by previous surveys of slit trenches in the area of Kilburn Moor Plantation, around the perimeter of Roulston Scar gliding field owned by the Yorkshire Gliding Club, and those visible on RAF aerial photographs from May 1940 where the slit trenches are revealed by pale lines of upcast from the ditches that were dug or re-cut.

Casten Dyke North and South - 1940 aerial photography of Casten Dyke North. Ed Dennison Archaeological Services Ltd.

Taken together the evidence demonstrates that there is a significant area of WWII military earthworks in this area. They appear to be grouped and so are unlikely to all be exactly contemporary or to serve the same purpose. Some of these earthworks may relate to troop training, but those closer to the gliding field may be a defence against potential enemy landings. So far, only a proportion of the trenches visible on the old aerial photographs have been located and confirmed on the ground, whereas those within Kilburn Moor Plantation have already been subject to detailed survey (by Ed Dennison Archaeological Services Ltd).

Survey detail of Kilburn Moor Plantation trenches. Copyright Ed Dennison Archaeological Services Ltd.

Conclusion

Unfortunately it is still not yet possible to conclusively confirm the site of the Battle of Byland despite the tantalising information we’ve collected so far. Further work would be needed to acquire more information that could attest to this location. With the 700th anniversary of the Battle of Byland coming up in 6 years’ time it could be very timely.

End of an era

Our Senior Archaeologist is taking phased retirement, so before he goes he has been asked to reflect on his time with the North York Moors National Park.

Graham Lee – Senior Archaeological Conservation Officer

graham-leeHow do I sum up a career lasting over a quarter of a century in a few paragraphs? It is a strange feeling to have 26 years seemingly flash by so fast.

I started work for the North York Moors National Park in April 1990, having previously worked in the archaeology section of North Yorkshire County Council since the summer of 1983. I had decided many years before that I loved the north of England and had no desire to return to my southern ‘roots’.

Graham had decided many years before that he loved the north of England, whatever the weather ... Copyright - NYMNPA.One of my first tasks with the National Park was the completion of a management survey of one of our large estates, encompassing moorland and large blocks of forestry. This quickly whetted my appetite for the excitement of making new archaeological discoveries – often very subtle earthworks, no more than a handful of centimetres in depth or relief – despite an exceptional tradition of previous high quality archaeological fieldwork in the region. Working solo in large blocks of conifers was a good test of dedication – crawling under the branches of dense stands of conifers searching for vague earthworks mapped in the 1890s – and the steadiness of nerve, when yet another wretched pheasant exploded out of the leafy vegetation where I was just about to step! In recent years the delights of discovery have been broadening thanks to new technology and techniques, especially LiDAR which provides an aerial view through tree and ground-cover vegetation of archaeological remains that were previously hidden or obscured.

If you have a passion for the past, the North York Moors have something for pretty much everyone – enigmatic Neolithic rock art; surviving prehistoric pitted boundaries and avenues; upstanding Bronze Age funerary monuments and field systems; Roman encampments; medieval castles and monasteries…

Human industry is also well represented – from the earliest iron industry through the search for alum into the full-blown “iron rush” of the mid 19th century, the exploitation of coal and jet, and the plentiful local rivers managed to provide motive power for a range of watermills. Research and conservation priorities relating to these local industries finally led to our new HLF Landscape Partnership Scheme, This Exploited Land of Iron. Some 15 or so years in gestation, it is very rewarding to see new generations captured by the excitement of the important remains of our 19th century ironstone industry and the associated development of early railways – although the original scheme for a canal link between Whitby and Pickering would have been a sight to behold and a major tourist attraction if it had ever been built.

Into the 20th century, remains survive here from both world wars – in the form of coastal defences, army camps as well as troop training and target practice areas. Finds are still occasionally made of 2nd World War unexploded ordnance in former training areas across the North York Moors, in particular after the wildfire on Fylingdales Moor in 2003 which affected two square kilometres of heather moorland.

Fylingdales Moor after teh wildfire in 2003. Copyright - NYMNPA.

Although an environmental disaster – the severity of the fire in reducing the shallow peat cover to ash, this event was an archaeological revelation. Virtually everywhere you looked, subtle archaeological remains became visible, including the drip gulleys around former prehistoric round houses, low stony prehistoric boundaries and cairns, large numbers of previously unrecorded examples of Neolithic rock art and occasional shallow trenches which resembled grave cuts with a subsiding infill. As numbers of the latter quickly increased their interpretation became clear – slit trenches from 2nd World War troop training. I remember my first visit to the site after the fire when the ground was reddened and blackened, covered in ash and still smouldering; few trees had survived and many had toppled after the peat holding their roots in place had been burnt away. Flashes of colour were very noticeable, such as an adder emerging from its underground refuge having survived the conflagration. A major project ensued, both to protect and restore the moorland habitat and to record and investigate the breath-taking remains of surviving archaeology.

Rosedale Calcining Kilns in a perilous state. Copyright - NYMNPA.There have always been new specialisms to get to grips with. A visit to the Scheduled Rosedale iron calcining kilns with the Park’s Conservation Director at the time revealed that a portion of one of the kilns’ firebrick linings had collapsed the previous winter. This led to a major conservation project to stabilise these huge monuments which ran for three years in the mid 1990s, a forerunner of This Exploited Land which will continue the efforts to conserve these monumental sites 20 years on.

Conservation project to stabalise the Calcining Kilns in the 1990s. Copyright - NYMNPA.

It has been such a pleasure working with like-minded and dedicated professionals, both in my own National Park, but also with colleagues throughout the family of British National Parks, and Historic England and Natural England. We’ve shared experiences and ideas to the betterment of our discipline from research to management, and also shared the excitement of attempting to bring our subject, which we love, to life for anyone who cares to see and to get involved.

Graham at work - examining finds at an archaeological excavation - Coxwold Creative Minds Project, March 2006. Copyright - NYMNPA.

The National Park Authority is currently looking for a new Senior Archaeologist to lead on archaeology in the North York Moors. The closing date for applications is 26 January 2017.

Historical curios and curious patterns

Beth Davies – Building Conservation Officer

We visit a huge number of sites throughout the North York Moors during the course of our work and occasionally we’re lucky enough to come across something on the more unusual side.

Like this stone noticed on a farm in Danby – we think it was used as an egg cooler.

Egg cooler? carved stone on farm in Danby - copyright NYMNPA.

This stone (below) is in a field in Glaisdale and the owner advised me it was an apple press. There certainly appears to be a drain on the near side which would suggest it was used to collect some form of liquid.

Apple press? Glaisdale - copyright NYMNPA.It’s noticeable that the cross shape is very similar to those found on ‘witches posts’ in vernacular long houses, especially those in recusant Catholic outposts like Glaisdale. Did the cross have a purely functional purpose in getting the juice to run out in channels? … did it help protect the juice from evil misdoings by witches? … did the cross shape signify covert faithfulness to the old religion after the Reformation?

'Witch post' - Ryedale Folk Museum, Hutton le Hole. From Hidden Teesside http://www.hidden-teesside.co.uk/2014/08/06/witch-post-hutton-le-hole/

This (above) is a picture of a ‘witch post’ trans-located along with the rest of Stang End Cottage from Danby to the Ryedale Folk Museum in Hutton le Hole. The post is supporting the bressumar beam above and there is the heck (draught proof screen) behind. It’s called a ‘witch post’ because of the pattern carved at the top which is thought to be there to protect the house and the hearth. Similar carved posts in houses seem to be a particular feature of the North York Moors, but it’s not clear when they were first associated with witches.

The North York Moors contains a number of ‘cup and ring’ stones (see below). These are usually in-situ rocks which have been engraved in prehistoric times with patterns – the ‘cup’ markings are concave shapes and the ‘ring’ markings are concentric circles. These types of engraving are found in a number of places in Europe and beyond and it is this similarity of the ‘cup and ring’ patterns in different places that makes them particularly significant. There are various explanations of how and why involving semiotics, cryptography and mythology, as well as archaeology.

Cup and Ring stone near Roxby - more cup than ring - copyright NYMNPA.

Cup and Ring Stone near Fylingdales - copyright Blaise Vyner.

Cup and Ring Stone near Goathland - copyright NYMNPA.People like to leave their mark. Below is an example of 19th century rock art (graffiti) at an ironstone industrial railway site in the North York Moors – it shows a man in a top hat, and a bird. I don’t suppose there is any meaning behind it other than someone passing the time and representing what they were seeing around them.

Carved picture stone - copyright NYMNPA.

We’re always keen to hear about odd cultural remnants in the North York Moors and different interpretations of their functions. Please let us know if you can help.

Large engraved stone within drystone wall - copyright Roy McGhie, NYMNPA.

 

Repair, reuse, re-roof

A couple of posts ago we mentioned the restoration of the roof space at The Crown in Helmsley. Our Building Conservation Team have a helpful Advice Note for re-roofing a Listed Building, like The Crown, the crux of which is explained below.

Looking over the roofs at Staithes. Copyright Fridge Productions Ltd.

When re-roofing listed and historic buildings it’s important that the work preserves the character, history and appearance of the roof and therefore the building. The roof structure should generally be repaired rather than replaced, and historic roofing materials should be re-used wherever condition allows, or otherwise replaced on a genuinely “like for like” basis.

In the North York Moors, vernacular building roofs may be constructed from local timber of chestnut, elm or ash, unprocessed, round or waney-edged and sometimes even with the bark still on. On more grander buildings, timbers may be of sawn oak, whereas on “polite” buildings dating from the 18th and 19th centuries roof timbers may be of high quality, planed Baltic pine. On buildings dating from the mid-19th century or later roof timbers are likely to be constructed from regular, machine sawn lengths. Roofs may incorporate timbers that were originally part of an earlier building, or which survive from an earlier period in the building’s history, such as upper crucks cut down from full (medieval) crucks when a cruck building was raised and reconfigured in the 18th century.

This historic truss incorporates a tie beam which has been re-used from an earlier roof structure. Copyright NYMNPA.

This barn retains its original chestnut roof structure which has a character that could not be replicated with new timbers. Copyright NYMNPA.

Whatever the timber in a historic roof, it tells the story of the building, is characteristic of its age and type and it should be preserved during re-roofing works IF the building as a whole is to retain its character.

Many old roof timbers will be curved and distorted; they may have been inserted as green timbers and distorted as they seasoned, or have bowed under the weight of the roof. However there is rarely a need to replace them for that reason. They may hold valuable evidence about the building such as peg holes, graffiti or jointing techniques, and they are irreplaceable because unsawn timbers are no longer readily available.

Severely infested timbers which have lost their structural integrity may require replacement, but this is rare especially in oak or chestnut, and usually it is possible to strengthen the roof without the removal of historic timbers. Where roof timbers have been subject to insect attack they should be treated with a suitable insecticide, but most old timbers will show signs of woodworm holes which may not be active and are unlikely to have penetrated beyond the sapwood and so should not mean the timbers need to be replaced.

An exception in regards to replacement are machine sawn square timbers in regular dimensions which can be replaced on a like for like basis because the style of roof can be replicated, with no intrinsic loss of character.

 In order to repair and strengthen historic roof structures several methods may be used to avoid replacement. For instance, traditional timber repairs which involve splicing new timber into the old where it has decayed can be achieved by means of scarf joints, in which the decayed timber is cut away and formed into a lap joint to connect with a new section of timber. The two timber sections are then pegged or bolted through, thereby restoring the integrity of the timber. Supplementary timbers can be added side by side with the existing timbers where these are undersize or in a weakened condition. Purlins or rafters can be supplemented with new timbers, whilst leaving the original in situ.

New timber spliced into the old timber beam. Copyright NYMNPA.

Metal plating can be used to reinforce joints that have become loose or have failed due to movement of the timber or decay over the years, or to bridge thin, weak, split or cracked lengths of timber. Such plates can be fabricated in mild steel (painted in a red oxide paint to inhibit rust) or stainless steel to suit the dimensions of the timber, and then fitted to the timber using nuts and bolts.

Mild steel plate to strengthen existing rafter. Copyright NYMNPA.

Metal brackets can be fabricated to strengthen supporting features like purlins where tenons (joints) may have failed, and steel “shoes” may be used to extend the base of rafters onto the wall plate where rafter ends have rotted away, or steel angles used to strengthen and stiffen the connection between rafter and wall plate. Where they will be visible in the roof space, these steel features can be attractively designed and painted to ensure a restrained appearance.

Most veteran roofs within the National Park are covered with pantiles or Welsh slates, although there are a small minority of buildings which retain stone slates, Westmorland slates or thatch. Whatever the historic material of the property, care should be taken to achieve a good match in sourcing replacement materials IF the original has perished. Imported slates can rarely match the purple and blue-black colours of Welsh slates, and also age differently and may have a shorter lifespan. Handmade pantiles are significantly different from modern machine made tiles, particularly those varieties which are “interlocking” or given an artificial patination. By contrast, handmade pantiles have a rougher surface which will weather faster and will acquire the patina of the original tiles in time, as well as exhibiting variation in tone and slight inconsistencies in shape and finish which give them a handmade appearance. New handmade tiles are still produced, but reclaimed tiles and slates are also available as a like for like replacement.

Pre-coloured machine made pantiles (left) have an artificial manufactured appearance. Copyright NYMNPA.

Handmade tiles, in contrast to machine made tiles, with colour variation, surface texture and more irregular appearance. Copyright NYMNPA.

Any necessary modern ventilation requirements (Building Regulations) can be achieved discreetly, avoiding vents in the roof slope. It may be possible to used concealed ventilation on the eaves or ridge instead.

If you need further information, sources of materials or any clarification regarding the need for listed building consent or planning permission before re-roofing your listed building, get in touch with our Building Conservation Team.

DON’T FORGET the bats. Bats are legally protected. Some bat species roost in roofs and so any building work which is likely to disturb bats needs to be planned carefully starting with a survey. The Bat Conservation Trust has useful advice available on their website.

A to Z – a deluge of Ds

D

DAFFODILS

The true wild daffodil, Narcissus pseudonarcissus, is the only species of wild daffodil that is native to the UK. Wild daffodils thrive in partially shaded areas such as woodlands, on river banks and in fields with clay or loam soils that are not too acidic. It Wild daffodil, Rosedale - copyright NYMNPAis locally abundant in the North York Moors, with Farndale being a well-known location.

The wild daffodil differs from the varieties we are so used to seeing in our gardens; the plants are smaller and the flowers are a pale yellow. Despite their diminutive size, there is always an impressive display each spring at locations across the National Park. We aim to promote the importance of the wild daffodil and there are guided walks each spring led by our Voluntary Rangers to explain the wild flowers to visitors and to present them in all their glory.

The National Park Authority’s Species Action Wild daffodils - copyright NYMNPAPlan for the daffodil also includes a target to monitor the population of wild daffodils within the National Park. Monitoring takes place each spring time in Farndale and Rosedale to record the size and extent of the population. Dedicated volunteers take photos from a fixed point each year when the daffodils are at their best; this is a great way to compare populations year by year. The daffodils in Farndale have been monitored for many years and a baseline survey was undertaken in Rosedale in 2013 so that monitoring can take place in subsequent years. Threats to the wild daffodil include invasive non-native plant species, incompatible grazing regimes and trampling by stock and people; we work closely with land owners and managers to make sure that the daffodils can be conserved and encouraged.

DEER PARKS

Deer Parks were essentially mediaeval game reserves, enclosed by an internal ditch and outer bank to make escape for the animals more difficult, the latter often topped with a wooden fence or even – as time went on – a wall. The boundaries would generally also include deer leaps which made it easy for deer to jump into an emparked area but very difficult to jump out again – thus increasing the size of the ‘trapped’ herd. Some early parks are thought to date from the Anglo-Saxon period but the number increased greatly under the Normans, where they were used as hunting preserves principally for sport. The name ‘park’ and also ‘hay’, a term also used, refer to the fence or hedge which enclosed the parks, and thus came to also mean the area enclosed. Initially largely a royal prerogative, members of the nobility and landed gentry also came to be allowed to hold and maintain Deer Parks which would also be valued as additional sources of winter food from a self-supporting herd of deer. These exclusive game reserves meant that an important potential food supply was legally denied to the local common people.

Creation of a Deer Park generally seems to have required a royal licence (for which payment would, of course, be due) but many examples are known for which no licences have yet been found. It is thought that if your land was remote from the monarch’s deer parks and forests, you might chance your arm and create your own prestigious park without seeking royal permission. Although more exotic animals are recorded at times within certain royal parks, the ‘beasts’ within would normally be fallow and red deer.

In the North York Moors we have records of at least 20 Deer Parks, varying in size from c.51 acres at Danby Old Park up to c.2,240 acres at Duncombe Park, considered at one time to be the 6th largest Deer Park in England. The parks are likely to have varied in size over time – both shrinking and enlarging as their boundaries were moved to better fit the landscape, using valleys and rivers, and to reflect changes in land ownership, wealth and taste. The post-medieval representation of Deer Parks on maps is likely to portray their later function as prestige structures within managed landscapes alongside great houses. They were considered to be of sufficient importance in the early days of national surveying in the 16/17th centuries to be mapped by Christopher Saxton, John Speed and others – a good indication of their viability and continued existence – although Saxton’s survey did miss out a number of important local Deer Parks in this area which were almost certainly still in existence at the time (such as Carlton, Fylingdales, Ingleby Greenhow, Kildale).

DIALECT

Some local dialect words tend to hang on in some way despite of or because of the universality of modern communication, and new words are always being invented and adapted, whilst others just seem to disappear.

From a Dialect Glossary of words and idioms in use in the North Riding of Yorkshire by Richard Blakeborough published in Saltburn by the Sea in 1912, here are some past (?) examples:

A Pig is a Dakky, a Swift is a Devil-screamer, and a Ladybird is a Doody or Dundy-cow.

A Donnot is a dirty-bottomed (untrustworthy in every way) immoral female and is no doubt a daudle (a slovenly idle person) as well, probably bedecked in danglements (superfluous trinkets) and all set on an evening of dilldrum (boisterous merry making).

At darkening, dal’d oot ‘n dowly Daytalman mayk’s ‘is way ‘oam down’t road through drazzle, ‘n feels t’ deeath-smear as ‘ee stumbles on’t dozzen’d deear-stan ‘n lays deeazment ‘n deafly.

DOORS

The North York Moors provide a variety of architectural characteristics and influences which add to the special qualities of our built heritage which can be seen today. Whilst there are many distinguishing features to talk about, for the purposes of this particular blog post (i.e. things starting with D) we are looking at doors and the array of different styles throughout the National Park.

Panel Door, notice the unequal width of the planks. Copyright NYMNPA.Planked doors – The earliest timber doors were of a simple planked construction consisting of vertical planks, sometimes up to 12 inches wide and unequal in width, with a simple pencil mould detail fixed to horizontal timber ledges. These types of doors are characteristic of the small moorland farmsteads and cottages where buildings were simple and functional. The more modern equivalents are often made up of narrower boards (around 6 inches) with a plain v-groove (rather than a traditional pencil mould detail) surrounded by a frame and lack the character, detail and interest found with the older doors.

This door shows a typical bolection mould, where the moulding projects beyond the face of the frame. Copyright NYMNPA.A typical Georgian period door with raised and fielded panels. Copyright NYMNPA.Panelled doors – These styles of doors are a feature within our villages and towns as home owners often remodelled their properties to keep up with the then current architectural style. Panelled doors are used to describe the doors from the Georgian, Victorian and Edwardian eras and are usually divided into four or six sections with some panels filled with glass. Unlike the modern off the peg doors of today, a joiner made door can incorporate traditional details such as ‘raised and fielded’ panels or the use of a ‘bolection mould’ which are distinctive features of good quality historic door.

1930s style doors in Staithes - copyright NYMNPANon-vernacular style doors – The coastal villages of the North York Moors such as Staithes and Robin Hood’s Bay are perhaps where you find the greatest variety of styles. It is clear to see in Staithes that the village underwent somewhat of a 1930’s re-vamp as these styles of doors are common throughout the village and now add to its architectural character and interest.

Robin Hood’s Bay is perhaps more unique with a host of different styles incorporating elaborate panelling, frames and canopies.

Robin Hood's Bay house door - copyright NYMNPARobin Hood's Bay house door - copyright NYMNPARobin Hood's Bay house door - copyright NYMNPARobin Hood's Bay house door - copyright NYMNPA

 

Robin Hood's Bay house doors - copyright NYMNPA

In order to help protect these features, many of the designated Conservation Areas within the North York Moors are covered by an Article 4 Direction which means that planning permission is required for the alteration or replacement of doors and other features such as windows and boundary treatments. If you are thinking on carrying out alterations to your property it is always best to seek advice first from the Local Planning Authority.

DRACULA

Needing a local celebrity starting with D, and it being around Halloween, and although Whitby isn’t actually within the National Park it is an iconic town in the North York Moors, and although he is a fictional rather than a real character …Bram Stoker was real, and he definitely visited the environs of the North York Moors.

“(PASTED IN MINA MURRAY’S JOURNAL)

From a correspondent.

Whitby.

One of the greatest and suddenest storms on record has just been experienced here, with results both strange and unique. The weather had been somewhat sultry, but not to any degree uncommon in the month of August. Saturday evening was as fine as was ever known, and the great body of holiday-makers laid out yesterday for visits to Mulgrave Woods, Robin Hood’s Bay, Rig Mill, Runswick, Staithes, and the various trips in the neighborhood of Whitby…

…Shortly before ten o’clock the stillness of the air grew quite oppressive, and the silence was so marked that the bleating of a sheep inland or the barking of a dog in the town was distinctly heard, and the band on the pier, with its lively French air, was like a dischord in the great harmony of nature’s silence. A little after midnight came a strange sound from over the sea, and high overhead the air began to carry a strange, faint, hollow booming…

…Then without warning the tempest broke. With a rapidity which, at the time, seemed incredible, and even afterwards is impossible to realize, the whole aspect of nature at once became convulsed. The waves rose in growing fury, each overtopping its fellow, till in a very few minutes the lately glassy sea was like a roaring and devouring monster. Whitecrested waves beat madly on the level sands and rushed up the shelving cliffs. Others broke over the piers, and with their spume swept the lanthorns of the lighthouses which rise from the end of either pier of Whitby Harbour.

… The wind suddenly shifted to the northeast, and the remnant of the sea fog melted in the blast. And then, mirabile dictu, between the piers, leaping from wave to wave as it rushed at headlong speed, swept the strange schooner before the blast, with all sail set, and gained the safety of the harbour. The searchlight followed her, and a shudder ran through all who saw her, for lashed to the helm was a corpse, with drooping head, which swung horribly to and fro at each motion of the ship. No other form could be seen on the deck at all.

A great awe came on all as they realised that the ship, as if by a miracle, had found the harbour, unsteered save by the hand of a dead man! However, all took place more quickly than it takes to write these words. The schooner paused not, but rushing across the harbour, pitched herself on that accumulation of sand and gravel washed by many tides and many storms into the southeast corner of the pier jutting under the East Cliff, known locally as Tate Hill Pier.

There was of course a considerable concussion as the vessel drove up on the sand heap. Every spar, rope, and stay was strained, and some of the `top-hammer’ came crashing down. But, strangest of all, the very instant the shore was touched, an immense dog sprang up on deck from below, as if shot up by the concussion, and running forward, jumped from the bow on the sand.

Making straight for the steep cliff, where the churchyard hangs over the laneway to the East Pier so steeply that some of the flat tombstones, thruffsteans or through-stones, as they call them in Whitby vernacular, actually project over where the sustaining cliff has fallen away, it disappeared in the darkness, which seemed intensified just beyond the focus of the searchlight.

…Already the sudden storm is passing, and its fierceness is abating. Crowds are scattering backward, and the sky is beginning to redden over the Yorkshire wolds…”

From Dracula by Bram Stoker, 1897.

DROVE ROAD

Along the western edge of the North York Moors are the Hambleton Hills which form an escarpment edge to the plateau of the Moors. Running along this edge is the Hambleton Drove Road part of a long distance north-south route used by Drovers moving herds of cattle down from Scotland and through England to market towns, the biggest destination being Smithfield Market in London.

Moving cattle (i.e. wealth) around  has gone on for 1000s of years. Where more animals could be raised than were needed for subsistence a value could be realised and hence a trade developed and it was only sensible to move the cattle alive under their own steam to where they would raise the best price. Large scale droving reached its peak in Britain in the 16th to 18th centuries before changes in agriculture and transportation negated the need.

The Hambleton Drove Road route itself is known to be a prehistoric ridgeway valued for its panoramic views by subsequent Drovers as well as the original Iron Age farmers. The Drovers appreciated the same higher ground for security from wild animals and dangerous people. The uplands also provided wide verges and free grazing, and to some extent softer ground for the cattle’s feet. In the 18th century when toll roads were built, the green trackways of the uplands remained unobstructed and free of charge.

Section of the Hambleton Drove Road now surfaced - copyright NYMNPA

The Hambleton Drove Road survives as a trackway route worn by feet, hooves and cart wheels over centuries of droving.

DRYSTONE WALLS

Drystone walls (or dykes in Scotland) are walls built without any mortar to bind the stones together. The skill in their construction comes from interlocking stones and using compressional forces to construct a solid boundary (hence why if building a wall on a slope you start at the bottom and work your way to the top). They are typically seen in areas where there is abundant stone in the landscape or where the weather conditions are unfavourable for supporting a hedge boundary. Drystone walls are part of the heritage of the North York Moors, having crisscrossed the landscape for generations.

Farmed landscape - Rosedale - copyright Ami Walker, NYMNPA

Drystone walls vary from location to location. Even within one area such as this National Park there are many different building styles. Most walls consist of a layer of foundation stones at the bottom, with stone then built up in layers and finished off with coping stones at the top. Every join on the wall should be bridged by a stone above. Double skinned walls have two outside ‘skins’ of stone which are filled with hearting stones. The two skins should taper from bottom to top (this is known as the batter) and throughstones should be used which help bind the wall together. Single skinned walls on the other hand consist of only one skin of stone, and therefore don’t use heartings.

Side view of rebuilt drystone wall - copyright NYMNPA

Coping stone style varies from wall to wall as well. Some walls use large upright coping stones, whilst others use thinner pieces laid at an angle. Some even use coping stones laid face down.

There are many features of interest often built into drystone walls. Smoots (or bolt-holes) are used to give water and small animals passage through the wall. Sheep-creeps (or lunkys) on the other hand allow larger animals like sheep to pass through the wall, and in historic times would be blocked off or opened up with a large stone as and when needed.

Gap built into drystone wall for beck - copyright NYMNPA

Something there is that doesn’t love a wall,

That sends the frozen-ground-swell under it

And spills the upper boulders in the sun,

And makes gaps even two can pass abreast…

Robert Frost’s words in Mending Wall strike a chord for many of our drystone walls in the North York Moors. Although a well-built drystone wall will usually stand for at least 20 years, the sheer number of walls in our National Park means that at any one time many are in a state of disrepair. The National Park Authority’s Traditional Boundary Scheme aims to help land managers conserve some of the most visible walls in the North York Moors.

Broken down wall - copyright NYMNPA

It is common practice when building a wall that will be used as a stock-proof boundary to also use either top wire or top netting. This helps ensure that cattle or sheep don’t cause unnecessary damage.

There are miles of drystone walls across the North York Moors, with some believed to demarcate boundaries going back to the Iron Age. It is certain that they are of historic and cultural importance to the area so here’s hoping that they will still be standing in another thousand years!

Drystone wall - Farndale - copyright NYMNPA

DUKE OF BURGUNDY (Hamearis lucina)

The Duke of Burgundy butterfly is found in scattered colonies in central southern England, but isolated colonies also remain in the south of Cumbria and the southern edge of the North York Moors.The species is in decline nationally; at sites monitored by transect, numbers have decreased by 49% between 1979 and 2012 (source: www.ukbms.org.uk). It is now one of the rarest butterflies in Britain.

Duke of Burgundy female - www.britishbutterflies.co.ukThe Duke of Burgundy likes a habitat mosaic either scrubby grasslands or sunny woodland clearings, and requires large lush cowslip or primrose plants where the female can lay her eggs on the undersides of the leaves and which the larvae eat when they hatch. The sun can make a real difference – following warm spring weather the butterfly can emerge 2 to 3 weeks earlier on south facing slopes compared to north facing slopes and so extend the season.

The butterfly faces a series of threats, in particular inappropriate habitat management (e.g. too much/not enough scrub control, too much/not enough grazing), habitat fragmentation and population isolation. Habitat stepping stones and corridor connections between sites are important to improve gene transfer between the small populations and to enable recolonization within the local range.

Butterfly Conservation has been leading a project in the south of the North York Moors aimed at stabalising the existing Duke of Burgundy colonies, re-colonising extinct sites and establishing new colonies through re-introduction. Work undertaken has included an extensive programme of habitat management to open up sites and establish the conditions best suited to the species.

Previously on the North York Moors A to Z … A, B, C

Understanding the past in the present

Graham Lee – Senior Archaeological Conservation Officer

Working in archaeology probably consists of a lot more desk work than most people imagine. There are site visits which are necessary from time to time in order to gain specific or detailed knowledge about a site – required for the provision of information or advice. Excavations are actually quite rare and generally undertaken by outside contractors since they are immensely time-consuming both in terms of the time on-site but more so in writing up the final report. Excavation also tends to destroy the features that are being investigated – so it tends to be an option of last resort.

So in terms of desk work one of the most important activities that we carry out is the maintenance and development of the archaeological index for the National Park area, on which we base most of our decisions and which we use to provide information and advice. Known as the Historic Environment Record (HER), this database contains summary information on all the archaeological knowledge that we hold. Presented graphically against a digital Ordnance Survey map background, this allows a very rapid assessment of the archaeological resource or potential of an area. Coupled with historic mapping and modern aerial photography, we have a very powerful tool to help us to understand the development and uses to which the North York Moors landscape has been put.

Below are a few examples to help demonstrate the range of information that exists within our HER.

Levisham Estate - boundary dyke

The first map (below) shows part of the Levisham Estate, which is owned and managed by the National Park Authority. The pink outline defines the area of the Scheduled Monument, the largest within the National Park, which has been designated (a process which confers legal protection) due to the archaeological importance of the range and survival of the archaeological sites it contains.

The National Park contains many moorland areas which have not been disturbed by recent agricultural activity and are consequently rich in prehistoric, and later, remains. The surviving sites on Levisham Moor illustrate the range of uses the land has been put to over thousands of years.

Areas on the map outlined in red or marked with the crossed-hammers icons represent records within the HER. Features plotted in black, with the exception of the mapped field boundaries, are earthworks recorded by the National Mapping Programme (NMP), undertaken for sections of the National Park area by Archaeological Research Services Ltd in partnership with English Heritage. The NMP pulls together existing aerial data and through analysis identifies features of interest. Activity over thousands of years is often clearer when viewed from the air rather than on the ground. On Levisham Moor particular attention has been drawn to the Bercary earthworks, a monastic sheep-farm dating from the 13th century, and the remains of a field system to their north-north-east which may be related. Away to the east of the central track there are a further series of enclosures and field systems – the enclosures which have been dated belong to the Romano-British period.

Levisham HER Blog

By adding our 2009 Geoperspectives aerial photographs as a backdrop (the most up to date aerial photos we currently have for the National Park), the way the archaeology fits within the landscape becomes much clearer.

Levisham HER Blog2

The third map (below) shows Rievaulx village and Abbey. As well as showing the data types mentioned above the map also includes designated Listed Buildings and designated Registered Parks and Gardens in blue, which indicate part of Rievaulx Terrace. The latter was laid out in c.1758 for Thomas Duncombe and linked to Duncombe Park by a picturesque carriage drive. The NMP plotted earthworks reveal evidence of the water management system around the mediaeval Abbey, as well as agricultural terraces, quarrying and even the faint outline of the monastery garden at the bottom centre of the image, just to the west of the pond.

Rievaulx HER Blog

Like I said, in the discipline of archaeology there is a lot of desk work to be done. The results – a better understanding of the impacts that people have left on the landscape over millennia and therefore a better understanding of the people themselves – are always going to be worthwhile.

Rievaulx Abbey by Jen Smith (NYMNPA)

The North York Moors HER is available to be viewed – but at the moment to see everything together, you’ll need to make an appointment and come along in person to the National Park Office because it’s not all accessible on-line. The information can also be supplied for an area on request, for a charge. However the national designations – Scheduled Monuments, Listed Buildings, Register of Parks and Gardens – are available to download from English Heritage.

Telling the TEL story

Louise Cooke – This Exploited Land Heritage Officer

A personal book review of ‘The Moor’

I have an immense soft spot for travel writing and nature writing, with my book shelves over piled with more discursive and anecdotal tales of places and things. I find these more informal and less academic accounts really helpful in piecing together what it is about a place or a landscape that makes it special. In the UK Richard Mabey, Robert Macfarlane the late Roger Deakin are all part of a long-line of storytelling about natural places and natural things that stretch back to the eighteenth century and Gilbert White in Selborne, Hampshire. Robert Macfarlane is perhaps responsible for the very recent “explosion” of new nature writing (or writing more broadly about places) that has tried to capture everything from geology to local traditions and everything in between. The products of that explosion in nature writing is quite mixed: some is fantastic, and some doesn’t quite hit the mark. The idea has even been hotly debated – extract from The Guardian 18.7.13.

Front cover from www.faber.co.ukThe Moor – Lives Landscape Literature’ by William Atkins (published 2014) fits within this outburst of ‘nature writing’. The book is an ambitious attempt to tell the story of some of the upland areas in England. Atkins looks at the different areas* and presents on the lives and literature that are associated with them, whilst also reflecting more personally on his own visits and the people he meets.

* Bodmin Moor, Exmoor, Dartmoor, Saddleworth Moor, the Calder Valley, the Haworth Moors, Alston Moor, Otterburn and our own North York Moors. 

Atkin’s chapter on the North York Moors highlights the work of Canon Atkinson (Forty years in a Moorland Parish published 1891) and Frank Elgee (Early Man in North-East Yorkshire published 1930). He also discusses the presence and impact of RAF Fylingdales. More than anything he reflects on the practices, tensions and benefits associated with management of the moors for grouse shooting which have such a large effect on the landscape.

I think that there are some obvious “could have done with an edit” moments; perhaps featuring fewer areas would have helped Atkins do more with ‘The Moor’, especially as at times the balance between detail (e.g. the colour of his bath water) and more sweeping issues (e.g. the impacts of tourism on fragile upland areas) is a little perplexing. But overall ‘The Moor’ is an easy way to get into some of the less well known upland areas of England (like the North York Moors) and I would recommend it.

Significance

One of the tasks I am undertaking at the moment in the development stage of This Exploited Land (HLF Landscape Partnership) is writing a Statement of Significance to articulate what it is about the programme area that makes it distinctive. It was partly to get a popular understanding of the landscape (or at least understanding its ‘aesthetic values’) that encouraged me to pick up ‘The Moor’ earlier in the year. I suppose I wish William Atkins had talked to us about the very intimate connections between geology, and past and present uses of the land that are so integral to our This Exploited Land story. These connections are shown not just on the moor tops but in the bottom of the interjecting dales too – for instance at Beck Hole where the former mineral workings are virtually ‘lost’ within the woodland there.

Lovely spider web in Beck Hole woodland (forgotten part of the NYM upland)

Our This Exploited Land (TEL) story is very much about challenging the artificial divide between ‘natural’ and ‘cultural’ heritage. The landscape today is the result of past exploitation, and active current management (or ‘curation’). Perhaps in a few years times when our story of pioneering early railways and ironstone mining is better known (thanks to the efforts of our TEL programme), a follow up to ‘The Moor’ might focus on the This Exploited Land story as an elemental part of what makes the North York Moors distinctive as an example of a human-made and human-maintained landscape.

Beck Hole Woodlands - NYMNPA

View across Rosedale from moorland edge - NYMNPARosedale farmland - NYMNPA

HLFNL_2747

Battle of Byland: have a look at this…

Following on from our last post – if you’ve got access to Google Chrome or something similar, you can click on the image below to see a really interesting model from the Roulston Scar investigations (2013) constructed by Professor Powlesland of the Landscape Research Centre.

Capture

Battle of Byland: building up the evidence

Graham Lee – Senior Archaeological Conservation Officer

Sutton Bank areaThis story of mounting evidence starts in 1996 when a survey was commissioned of the east end of a boundary earthwork known as the Casten Dyke North, to the east of the Hambleton Inn at the top of Sutton Bank. Long thought to be prehistoric, probably Iron Age, in date, the Casten Dyke North runs from the escarpment edge above Sutton Bank (north east) into the head of Flassen Gill, a classic cross-ridge type boundary well known for dividing up areas of prehistoric landscape.

The survey results show that the line of the dyke at the eastern end appears to be marked by two shallow ditches and a relatively gentle north-facing break of slope, cut by numerous later hollow-ways. However, running into the steep sides of Flassen Gill itself, is recorded a much more prominent ditch c.4m wide and about 1m deep, flanked by a pair of banks. This latter earthwork boundary, some 100m in length, appears too sharply defined to be prehistoric in origin – it seems much more likely to be historic in date. Defensively, if defence was its purpose, this eastern end of the dyke appears to be facing north, but why had it been added to the line of the earlier boundary?

It was subsequently recorded that the ditch of the main section of the Casten Dyke North (between the escarpment edge and the Hambleton Inn) is also noticeably steep-sided (c.3.5m wide and c.1m deep – with a bank to the north c.6m wide and 1m high – and with a shallow counter-scarp bank to the south). This suggests it was recut in the historic period. The position of the banks and ditch suggest that this south-western half of the dyke faces south.

This raises the question of what could be the reason for adding to or reinforcing this (presumed) prehistoric boundary during the historic period?

The main historic event recorded in this vicinity is the Battle of Byland between the English and Scottish forces on 14 October 1322. Local historian, John McDonnell summarised that Edward II‘s English forces, pursued by the Scottish army, took up a defensive position ‘on a nearby hilltop’, awaiting reinforcements while King Edward rested at the closeby Byland or Rievaulx Abbey. This English force was then routed when the Scots found a way onto the escarpment behind the English, the suggested route still being known today as Scotch Corner.

Could the opposing armies have used existing but presumably modified prehistoric defences to secure their positions, before the English force was eventually routed by a surprise Scottish attack from the rear from the area of Oldstead Bank/Scotch Corner?

The next piece of the puzzle was defined in 2001 by an English Heritage survey of Roulston Scar hillfort, which included part of the Casten Dyke South. This latter earthwork boundary runs from Boar’s Gill in the west to Hell Hole in the east, defining the northern side of a steep-sided promontory of land, c. 28ha in area and with a perimeter of over 2km. The boundary is a flat-topped bank up to 0.9m high with a steep-sided ditch to the north, c.6m wide and up to 1.1m deep. Long thought to be prehistoric in origin, the survey of the adjacent Roulston Scar hillfort recorded the form of the Casten Dyke South as relatively crisp in appearance, suggestive of an origin of historic date, and very similar to the Casten Dyke North – but in this case facing to the north.

Then, in autumn 2013 there was a small-scale research excavation of the defences of 2013 Roulston Scar hillfort excavations
Roulston Scar hillfort. The excavation was looking for environmental and other dating evidence to help identify a putative relationship with the small nearby promontory fort at Boltby Scar, 4km to the north, where excavations had taken place between 2009 and 2012. The trench across the defences of the Roulston Scar hillfort, carried out by the Landscape Research Centre, indicated that the latest phase of activity represented was a linear trench cut into and along the back of the Iron Age (prehistoric) rampart with associated postholes, probably representing some form of palisade.

Unfortunately, no dating evidence was secured from the trench or postholes but the position of the trench cut (high up at the back of the rampart), the sharpness of remains, and the increased organic nature of the fills, again suggest a short period of use and an historic rather than prehistoric date.

2013 Roulston Scar hillfort excavations2013 Roulston Scar hillfort excavations2013 Roulston Scar hillfort excavations

Further work is clearly required to attempt to secure additional dating evidence from all the potential parts of this battlefield landscape but, at present, we have:

  • the northern rampart of Roulston Scar hillfort, reinforced with a sizeable palisade;
  • the Casten Dyke South, perhaps specifically constructed for this encounter;,
  • both these features with their defensive faces to the north, protecting two promontories of land respectively 24 and 28 hectares in extent;
  • and facing south across a gap of between 880 to 1300 metres we have the Casten Dyke North.

Annotated version of map from English Heritage Archaeological Investigations Report AI/11/2001 An Iron Age promontory fort at Roulston Scar, North Yorkshire by Alastair Oswald & Trevor Pearson

Are these the respective positions of the English and Scottish armies in October 1322, before a part of the Scottish army managed to outflank and rout the English forces?

Only further research will be able to tell.