Sworn defenders of the Historic Environment

Nick Mason – Archaeology Officer

You might have seem our recent post on the beginning of our new Monuments for the Future project, caring for the Scheduled Monuments in the North York Moors. Over the nine previous years of the Historic England funded Monument Management Scheme we were able to reduce the ‘At  Risk’ status of 212 of our monuments. We are wanting to build on that success and move forward with Monuments for the Future which is being supported by another generous grant from Historic England.

Since July this year we’ve already had a fantastic response from our dedicated Historic Environment volunteers. With volunteers and staff working together, we’re confident that over the next few years we can monitor and maintain the 842 Scheduled Monuments that we have within our boundary, and continue to reduce their ‘At Risk’ statuses, or else remove them from the Heritage at Risk Register altogether.

From coastal industrial sites threatened by erosion and climate change, to grand prehistoric earthworks under attack by flora and fauna, there is a huge range of archaeology at risk. Our scheduled sites represent almost the whole of the human story in Britain, and the list is ever growing with a possible monastic grange site currently being considered for designation. We’re working to protect our historic assets and to tell everyone we can about our wonderful heritage.

Lilla Cross. Copyright NYMNPA.

Over the coming months, we’ll be posting themed blogs focusing on the types of monuments found in the North York Moors, the reasons they are considered nationally important, and why some are currently in trouble.

This month we thought we should start by introducing some of the National Park Authority’s Historic Environment staff and get them to explain themselves in their own words.

Mags Waughman, Head of Historic Environment
After nearly twelve years working for the Authority, first as Archaeological Conservation Officer and later as the Monument Management Scheme Officer, I was very pleased to become Head of Historic Environment at the beginning of the summer. This is an exciting time for the National Park’s Historic Environment work – with new funding to support our work with Scheduled Monuments, new archaeological staff and a new Building Conservation team we are in a very good position to develop our work and look for new directions and projects.

Emma and Jo focus on Monuments for the Future and Nick and I will be working with them on the project, as well as looking after the Park’s undesignated heritage. Suzanne Lilley works with Maria as a second Building Conservation Officer and one day a week they are joined by Clair Shields who has worked in the Building Conservation team for a number of years. Part of my role is to liaise with Maria, Suzanne and Clair to make sure the whole historic environment is cared for equally. I also liaise with the Land of Iron team where Maria has a second role as Cultural Heritage Officer, assisted by Kim Devereux-West. Behind the scenes, one day each week the team still has the benefit of the many years of experience of Graham Lee, a previous Senior Archaeological Conservation Officer. I’m really looking forward to working with the new teams, seeing our plans take shape and watching the different projects make new discoveries or have a positive effect on our fantastic cultural heritage.

Emma Trevarthen, Monuments for the Future Project Officer
I’m an archaeologist with a background in aerial survey and Historic Environment Record (HER) management. My role with the National Park is to look at the threats and vulnerabilities of some of the Scheduled Monuments which have been on the Heritage at Risk Register for some time, and to try to find ways to improve their condition and sustain those improvements in the long term. I’ve already had a really good, positive response from landowners and I look forward to seeing more monuments in the North York Moors removed from the ‘At Risk’ Register over the next three years.

Jo Collins, Monuments for the Future Volunteers and Community Officer
My role is Volunteers and Community Officer for Monuments for the Future. I coordinate a group of volunteers who survey the condition of Scheduled Monuments, monitor walkers’ cairns on Scheduled Monuments and carry out practical conservation tasks. In the near future I’ll also be focussing on helping community groups to care for their local heritage. I’m looking forward to seeing the difference volunteers and community groups can make as Monuments for the Future progresses.

Maria-Elena Calderon, Building Conservation and Land of Iron Cultural Heritage Officer
I have worked in in archaeology for almost ten years, specifically in Built Heritage since 2013 when I was awarded a training bursary by the Chartered Institute for Archaeologists hosted by ASWYAS in Leeds. My work has taken me as far afield as Qatar but the majority has been spent in the UK from Orkney to Pontypridd and Cambridge. I have worked for the National Park for nearly two years and I relish the opportunity it provides me to help protect, improve and impart knowledge of the historic environment to residents, tourists and fellow National Park staff. I work as a Building Conservation Officer which involves assessing Listed Building and Conservation Area consent applications. I am fairly new to this role but I enjoy it immensely and receive great support from my fellow officers. We work with homeowners, planners and developers to insure that any development is conducted in a manner that is sympathetic to the heritage assets. As an Authority we also offer grants for the above where the development will result in an enhancement which our team administers. In addition to that we regularly offer advice in regard to traditional buildings either subject to planning proposals or other project based work within the National Park. We also work with volunteers undertaking surveys of listed building as part of the nationwide ‘Buildings at Risk’ scheme.

Nick Mason, Archaeology Officer
I’ve only been with the National Park now for 3 months, but what a time it’s been so far. I have been lucky enough to be an archaeologist all my professional life, but having responsibility for the sheer breadth of archaeology in one place is a new, and very exciting, experience. My role as archaeology officer means that I am interested in protecting all the heritage assets of the North York Moors, including unscheduled archaeology, ancient plough marks, and even possible structures marked on old OS maps. Sometimes development means that these must be affected, and we find ways to mitigate the effect, learning as much as we can as we go. Scheduled Monuments often represent a massive potential for undiscovered archaeology, and their setting in the landscape, the possible finds within, and the stories they can tell mean it’s worth doing all we can to look after them for the future.

Historic Environment Team Nov 2018. Copyright NYMNPA.

If you’d like to be out and about more in the North York Moors and might be interested in volunteering opportunities at the same time, we’d love to hear from you. There are a range of tasks which need doing, from carrying out surveys and reporting on monuments to clearing patches of damaging bracken on wild moorlands.

Similarly, if you think you know of some material heritage currently under threat please don’t hesitate to get in touch, so we can see what can be done.

An exceptional bog

Last year the Land of Iron commissioned an eco-hydrological assessment of Fen Bog(s) by consultants (Sheffield Wetland Ecologists).  An eco-hydrological assessment examines the workings of a water system and its wider ecosystems. Sunday was International Bog Day so to celebrate the complexity and variety of bogs – here is a very very simplified overview of that assessment. Any misunderstanding or misinterpretation is all mine.

View over Fen Bog. Copyright NYMNPA.

Background

Fen Bog(s) is at the top end of the Newtondale glacial channel in the east of the North York Moors. It’s part of the Newtondale Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and the majority of it is also designated as a Special Area of Conservation (SAC). Most of the site is a Yorkshire Wildlife Trust nature reserve, other parts are owned by the National Park Authority, the North Yorkshire Moors Railway and the Duchy of Lancaster.

Fen Bog(s) is a large peatland/wetland site, and according to the report “is of exceptional biological, palaeo-ecological and telmatological (to do with bogs) interest, especially as there are no comparable examples in the region or, indeed, in most of England”.

The bog happens to be within the boundary of the Land of Iron Landscape Partnership Scheme. The scheme focuses on the landscape area impacted on by the short but intense period of ironstone mining and railway development in the North York Moors. Intriguingly part of the Fen Bog(s) site has been subject to long-term modification since the Whitby–Pickering Railway line (now belonging to the North Yorkshire Moors Railway) was built alongside/across the site. The Partnership commissioned the report in order to get an holistic assessment of the existing data (of which there is a lot), and to identify the gaps and address these through additional field investigations, with the aim of increasing the understanding of the eco-hydrological functioning of Fen Bog(s) in order to help inform future management decisions. This management needs to conserve and restore its environmental value as well as allowing the continued functioning of the railway.

Historical Aspects

The Whitby & Pickering Railway was first opened in 1837, as a single-track, horse-drawn enterprise carrying freight between the two towns. Newtondale connects through the central moorland which largely separates the north and south of the North York Moros. Soon after the line was doubled and substantially rebuilt for steam propelled haulage with services starting in 1847.

Benham (An Illustrated History of the North Yorkshire Moors Railway, 2008) explains that Fen Bog(s) proved a “major headache” for the railway builders and that “Stephenson resorted to the same technique employed at Chat Moss when building the Liverpool & Manchester Railway. This involved stabilising the land by ‘pile-driving’ fir trees into the bog and overlaying them with sheaves of heather bound in sheep skin, together with more timber and moss.” In addition deep drains were dug alongside the railway through the mire to try and keep water off the track. The extensive drainage has tilted parts of the bog. It has also been suggested that it meant the bog turned from a topogenous system (source water mainly from the land) to an ombrogenous one (source water mainly from precipitation) – but the report considers this is unlikely. The railway’s embankments and sidings were built and maintained using railway ash, basic slag, limestone and basalt – all base rich materials imported onto the site which still have an impact.

The summit of the railway is a short distance north of Fen Bog(s), near the former location of the ‘Goathland Summit’ signal box. South of this the railway track skirts the western edge of the wetland, it is built mostly along the steeply-sloping edge so that its upslope side is on mineral ground or shallow peat whilst the mire side is over deeper peat. The railway line has therefore partly obliterated, truncated and drained much of the western edge of Fen Bog(s). Towards the southern end of Fen Bog(s), the glacial channel curves west and the railway here crosses the bog to the other side of the channel, thereby cutting across and separating parts of the Bog(s).

View of North Yorkshire Moors Railway crossing Fen Bog. Copyright NYMNPA.

Methodologies

Peatlands are strongly influenced by hydrology, chemistry, and vegetation.

The Fen Bog(s) report considers the hydrogeology including stratigraphy, surface profiles, and solid, wetland, and superficial (recent) deposits.

It also investigates the water supply in and the drainage out. All the different water features on the site are mapped – as pool, spring or seepage, stream/ditch with visible flow, water flow track, water filled ditch with no visible flow, damp channel, or seasonally wet channel. The main artificial drainage is associated with the railway including the drains on either side of the line, but there is also other historic drainage at the south end of Fen Bog(s) which was done to improve the land for agriculture.

Hydrochemical measurements were taken as part of the assessment to establish the current pH and also the electrical conductivity of the water at different points. There is a lot of variation across the site. It has been suggested that high pH readings i.e. alkaline are caused by leeching slag used in the construction of the railway track. Measurements from the recent assessment suggest that in terms of chemistry any effects of the trackway on the Bog(s) is either historic or localised. Because of the mix of chemistry Fen Bog(s) is classed as a Transition mire and this is reflected in its mix of vegetation (see below). The transition can be geographical or successional, or both.

There are a series of historic water table measurements at two specific points, from the 1970s to 1990s – one in ‘wet’ bog, rich in sphagnum, in the north, and one in relatively ‘dry’ bog, with a lot of heather, in the south. The report suggests the main reason for the more consistently higher water table at the northern monitoring point can be associated with the greater number and penetration of flow tracks across the mire, the number of groundwater outflows and a more consistent supply of telluric water (surface water and groundwater). Groundwater geology is always important in sustaining a high water table.

Looking into Fen Bog. Copyright Louise Cooke, NYMNPA.

Development and status

Much of the depth of peat at Fen Bog(s) is believed to sit in a hollow which decreases at its southern end. It has been suggested this hollow may have been a glacial or post-glacial lake. However it appears as if the mire developed on a dry surface, that is through paludification, and not by infilling a water body (terrestrialisation).

The lower layers of peat cores and sections collected contain the remains of tree species (Birch, Willow and Alder) and other plants (Reeds and Sphagnum) that suggest wet woodland. Then the higher up layers on top contain more plants and silt indicating the formation of swamp and a rise in the water level. This may be a consequence of wetter climatic conditions but also may partly be to do with human activity. There is an increase in non-tree pollen suggesting the removal of trees at the time, and the report postulates that the build-up of water on the site may have been due to it being artificially damned at the southern end. Sphagnum increases in the top level of peat, from c. 1100 AD atleat until the 19th century. The development of a Sphagnum-dominated surface on a reed-monocot swamp requires some isolation of the surface from more base-rich water sources which means the margins with inflow must have remained largely free of Sphagnum and a dome of peat therefore developed in the middle of the bog.

Fen Bog(s) can therefore be considered an embryonic raised bog, which has developed upon a protracted phase of reed–monocot peat that, because of the topography of the trough and the occurrence of marginal inflows, has been susceptible to flooding with telluric water until relatively recently. Because the system has developed across a shallow watershed, it can be regarded as an embryonic ‘sattelmoor’ (saddle bog). The report notes that this assessment is based on the centre and eastern margin of Fen Bog(s) – the western margin has been modified too much by the railway development and associated drainage to be useful as evidence. The modification led to a tilt of the mire’s surface towards the west.

Vegetation over time is the raw ingredients of a bog. The report reviews and updates current NVC vegetation classifications across the Fen Bog(s) site. It’s quite a mosaic. As well as non-mire vegetation such as dry grassland, bracken, dry heath and wet heath, there is also:

  • Weakly base-rich springs and soakways – base rich means a richness of chemical ions i.e. alkaline, a soakway is a narrow track of water flow where little or no water is normally visible. Supports plants such as Bog bean, Broad-leaved cotton grass*, Common butterwort*, and Black bog-rush*, as well as Sphagnum sp. and other bryophytes. Beyond the immediate Fen Bog(s) site there are base-rich springs and weakly base-rich soakways – where soils are acid rather than alkaline so it means the water ends up only weakly or not base-rich at all.
  • Acidic springs and soakways – supports plants such as Common sedge, Yorkshire fog and Marsh violet, as well Sphagnum sp.
  • Ombrotrophic bog – where the main source of water is precipitation. Supports plants such as Common cotton-grass, Cross-leaved heath and Bog myrtle.
  • Minerotrophic Bog – where the main source of water is watercourses and springs. Supports plants such as Purple moor-grass, Common yellow sedge and Carnation sedge.
  • Molinia mire – purple moor-grass dominated vegetation, also supports plants such as SundewsStar sedge and Bog asphodel
  • Nutrient-rich fen – these areas may be influenced hydrochemically either by base-rich springs, or by the base-rich material that make up the railway embankments/sidings. Supports plants such as Angelica, Tufted vetch and Water horse-tail
  • Carex rostrata fen – base-rich mire supporting plants such as Bottle sedge (this is the Carex rostrata), Marsh marigold and Ragged robin.
  • Pools and soakways with Carex limosa – supports plants such as Bog sedge* (this is the Carex limosa), Slender sedge*, and Bog pimpernel.
  • Wet woodland – these remaining woodlands are similar to that which began the formation of peat millions of years ago. Supports plants such as Grey willow, Downy Birch and Creeping buttercup.
  • Reeds and willow scrub – can also be classed as wet woodland. Supports plants such as Narrow buckler fern, Soft rush and Sphagnums.
  • Tall swamp and reedbeds – each at different stages of development with their own characteristics. One site which supports bulrush is presumably mineral enriched from the track ballast but this shows no sign of spreading out into adjacent vegetation without the enrichment. Another site, not yet colonised by willow scrub, supports plants such as Marsh pennywort, Water mint and Branched bur-reed.

* notable uncommon vascular plant species

Another view over Fen Bog. Copyright NYMNPA.

What next?

From the assessment the report goes on to outline the main management issues and to suggest restoration opportunities for the Fen Bog(s) site. These include vegetation control through gazing and fencing, monitoring the spread of reeds (Phragmites), clearing parts of the species poor scrub areas, retaining the wet woodland/scrub habitat, blocking and redirecting specific railway ditches, minimising the introduction of new embankment ballast material, and using engineered solutions to tackle subsidence problems. Interested parties will consider the recommendations and decide what is desirable as well as practically possible, in order to maintain this very important bog site that embodies a clash of natural and cultural heritage.

Postscript: There is a story that a steam locomotive sank into Fen Bog(s) at some point in the past, and remains there today. But this is just a story.

A New Kiln for Rosedale: a poetic perspective from 1865 – Part 1

David Mennear – Land of Iron Administration Assistant

A Brief Historical Note

The ironstone industrial sites of the North York Moors and the Cleveland Hills were of great national economic importance in their time (Historic England Listing – Rosedale East Mines calcining kilns and iron mines) and utilised a considerable workforce for this most gruelling of industries in the 19th and early 20th centuries. The massive structures, the sense of progress, the nobility of endeavour, inspired emotional and artistic responses.

Stone Kilns from Nab Scar - copyright Paddy Chambers

A unique contemporary insight into the industrial expansion in Rosedale comes from this wonderfully evocative anonymously-written narrative poem about the New Kiln’s design trialled here – as transcribed by the noted local historian Malcolm Bisby.

The kiln, built as an experiment in 1865 alongside the more traditional designs of the age, provided work for skilled individuals from across the region. Rosedale was productive in both mining quality ironstone and being able to calcine (or roast) it on site, before it was carried away by locomotives along the specially-constructed railways, which extended into the Durham and Tees areas from the heart of the North York Moors. As the poet recalls, the kilns roasted ‘by day as well as night’, a glow which lit the landscape in a way we can only imagine today in the peaceful and tranquil setting of Rosedale . . .

 ‘Discussion between two friends on the New Kiln while building, noting a few of its’ misfortunes, 1865’

 Transcribed by Malcolm Bisby

1. I long have looked for you,
‘Midst all I’ve had to do,
And many changes there has been
Since last I talked with you.

2. I’m glad once more your face to see –
Don’t think that I am joking,
While some say I am far too fast
My lines are provoking.

3. You long have wish’d to know
Our doings in this place,
And I am going to tell you
Although ‘tis a sad disgrace.

4. ‘Tis two full years at least
Since first I came this way,
Come listen and you soon will hear
What I have got to say.

5. At first I shall remind you
When here we sat alone,
And watch’d the men lay down
The first foundation stone.

6. We wondered what all this could mean
Until we saw that man
He said “They’re going to build a kiln
But ten to one she’ll stand.”

7. We did not take much notice then
To see them first begin,
But before they reach’d half the top,
Our fears they did begin,

8. Then people soon began to talk
As shortly you shall hear
Some of them spied a crack or two
And they began to fear.

9. The news soon spread from place to place
In country and in town,
And those who live to see the day
She’ll surely tumble down.

10. The mason work look’d strong and good
For which I shall allow
The master of them all you know
He came from Lastingham town.

11. The fitter came with screws and bolts
To finish and adorn,
It would be better perhaps for me.
To let these men alone.

12. Their work I’m sure it was admired
By all that came this way,
But sad to think as well as say
It shortly all gave way.

13. Then all the skill of man was tried
The kiln for to keep up
But they like all the rest you see
Had nothing but bad luck.

14. Up spoke a workman of this place –
A wild and wicked wretch
“This kiln will fall and that you’ll see,
And kill poor old Frank Petch.”

15. Up spoke another and he said
“Thou wants this kiln to fall,
But if she does thou may depend
It’s a bad job for us all.”

16. “Thou need not start to grunt and growl
About t’bad job, thou’ll see.
There’ll always be plenty of work
For either thee or me.”

17. “Thou doesn’t care for t’masters
When thou thy wage has got,
If’t kiln do fall in spite of us
And beggar all t’job lot.

18. “I don’t think it would beggar them
If she was down today,
Our gentlemen are very rich
As I’ve heard people say.”

19. “They’re very rich I must agree
But they’ve had heavy losses,
She has so many times given way
It’s sure to tax their purses.”

20. Some hundreds of pounds was paid –
Nay, thousand I may say,
But in spite of all that they could do
Part of this kiln gave way.

21. The workmen for awhile stood still
And looked sore amaz’d
And if we’d had the masters here
They might have gone quite craz’d..

Rosedale Kiln and rail wagons - Rosedale History Society Archive

22. It was a pity for to see
This noble kiln diminish’d
And worst of all she fell you know
Before she was quite finished.

23. The bricklayers too I’ve got to mention
Likewise their noble work,
I could not learn what were their names
They said they came from York.

24. And those were men of noble skill
They show’d their work was good
But it would have looked better
If only it had stood.

25. I wish you had been there to hear
The rumours on that day
Go where you will, you hear the cry
The kiln is giving way.

26. You that this kiln have never seen
You may believe my words
She was tied back you soon shall hear
With some large iron rods.

27. The rods began to crack and break
The workmen cried “Begum –
To the Blacksmith’s shop you must away
Tell Carter he’s to come.

28. “And while you thus to Carter go,
The Blacksmith for to tell,
Somebody else must run away,
And fetch Mr. Fell.”

29. And something else I now shall state
As clear as ever I can
And when you hear my story out
I think you’ll know the man.

30. It is not very long ago
They played the man a trick
I shall not state what is his name,
I’ll only say “Old Mick”.

31. This man was tired – There is no doubt
And he’d gone home to bed,
No doubt but this noble kiln
Was running in his head

32. But some one to his door came,
And in a haste did say,
“You must arise, a bad job’s up
The kiln is giving way.”

33. “And will she fall?” the inmate cried
“Yes that she will and soon,
You must be quick and come away
Or before you’re there she’s down”.

34. So without any more enquiring
This man did go to see
And the kiln was standing then alright,
How simple man must be!

35. But tricks like these are far too bad,
To either friend or foe
But what can you expect from those
Which do not better know?

36. I would have them for the future try
To do the best they can
And in their minds to always bear
That manners take the man,

37. But on this point I must not dwell
For they are leading the kiln away
And with the stones they’re mending t’road
I saw the other day.

38. And every body came to see
This kiln when she fell down
T’was such a crash! The news soon spread
In country and in town.

39. T’will be remembered there’s no doubt
As long as we’re alive,
And we’ll tell what passed in Rosedale
In eighteen sixty five.

40. And generations yet to come,
Will remember what I’ve said,
When the noble workmen of this kiln
Lie numbered with the dead

41. But a different plan they’ve tried at last,
And not a better one can be.
Instead of having her all in one,
They’ve made her into three

42. It’s thought she’ll stand and not disgrace
The last inventor’s plan,
But stone to calcine she will burn
Three times the age of man . . .

A view of the Rosedale East new mines as they were best known - Rosedale History Society Archive

We’re only half way through – the finale of this fascinating poem will follow shortly, with a unique commentary by Malcolm Bisby.

Land of Iron logos

A to Z: a rabble of Rs

R

RABBITS

Hares are native to Britain, but rabbits (Oryctolagus cuniculus) are not considered to be native at least not since the last Ice Age. Rabbits, also known as coneys, were introduced first by the Romans and then imported by the Normans in the early medieval period. Rabbits were valued for their meat, fur and skin. On southern facing slopes of the North York Moors, rabbits were farmed from the medieval period through to the 20th century using warrening structures. Warrens were artificially constructed with embankments, ditches and ‘pillow’ mounds. Particularly common were ‘Rabbit-types’ where rabbits were caught through trap doors which released into pits.  These artificial warrens allowed the rabbits to be managed (farmed) efficiently on a large scale.

In the late 18th and early 19th centuries felt from rabbit skins and fur was an important money making product for the south east corner of the North York Moors. Felt was in demand for hats and rabbit was an alternative to beaver. The industry slowly declined with the last warrener working up until the 1920s.  Many warrening sites have been lost as land has been re-used, but some large scale warrening complexes can still be traced in the Forestry Commission owned forests such as Dalby and Wykeham.

Rabbit, Westerdale. Copyright Ami Hudson, NYMNPA.

Wild/feral rabbits are now a particularly successful non-native invasive species, despite there being a number of native predator species.

Ranunculus sp.

As winter is losing its grip, hopefully the photo below will help brighten your day.

Grassland with buttercups. Copyright NYMNPA.

Ranunculus is the plant genus which includes our buttercup species and provides our countryside with vivid displays of yellow during the summer months.  There are lots of different species, and here are but a few found across Britain including the North York Moors, all with sunny yellow flowers.

Meadow buttercup R.acris: Look at a hay meadow in the summer and the chances are that it is this species that is predominant. It is an indicator of moist unimproved grassland, and although it grows in a wide range of soil types it is not tolerant of high nutrient levels. As it can survive cutting and is not palatable to grazing stock, old meadows and pastures are where it thrives best.

Creeping buttercup R.repens: This buttercup can, from a distance, give the impression that you are looking at a species rich hay meadow. The reality can be very different though as this plant is very tolerant of high nutrient levels and disturbed ground and is sometimes considered a problem weed. It is often found around field gateways where poaching and tramping make it difficult for other plants to survive, and in overgrazed fields where it remains untouched by stock and readily out competes less tolerant plants. One of the key differences between this species and meadow buttercup is the presence of rooting runners which allow this plant to spread very effectively and quickly cover bare ground. The species’ method of reproduction (cloning) meant it was used a few years ago for an interesting study into aging meadows. https://www.aber.ac.uk/en/news/archive/2009/june/title-77794-en.html

Bulbous buttercup R. bulbosus: This species prefers much drier conditions and, like meadow buttercup, is an indicator of unimproved grassland with a low tolerance to fertilisers. It is common on well drained neutral or calcareous soils and can be identified by its downturned sepals (when flowering) and a swollen stem base which can be identified by carefully scratching a small amount of soil away from the base of the plant.

But it’s not just buttercups. Also in the same Ranunculus genus, and providing a splash Lesser spearwort. Copyright NYMNPA.of colour in the early days of spring before the other Ranunculs is Lesser Celandine (R.ficaria). This is easily identified by its narrow, glossy yellow petals, low-growing form and heart-shaped mottled leaves. It’s usually noticeable as it is in abundance when other plants are still tentatively emerging from their overwintering.

Finally, brightening up bogs in the summer is Lesser spearwort (R.flammula) which thrives in wet places and can often be found growing with soft rush in unimproved habitats. The flowers look very similar to a buttercup, but it has spear-shaped leaves.

READING ROOMS

In the 19th and early 20th century there was a trend for the better off in society, to provide the means to try and ‘improve’ their local workforce i.e. the not so well off. Rather than people gathering in public houses to drink, debauch and mutter – the idea instead was to provide an opportunity for social, moral, intellectual and spiritual improvement for the local community. ‘…the more he knows, the less hasty, the less violent, and the more correct will be his judgment and opinions’ (from the Manchester Spectator 1849).

The philanthropic benefactors would be local landowners, local business people on the rise, new industrial entrepreneurs, and often the local Church including non-conformists e.g. the Methodists. Individuals or local committees of bigwigs, would gift their local community a Reading Room, first in growing towns and then also in rural villages. Any local community who wanted to think themselves liberal and progressive needed a Reading Room. The provision of a building where men could read instructive newspapers, educational periodicals and improving books promoted the popular ideas of self-improvement and self-help. Reading Rooms were the forerunners of public libraries. It wasn’t all reading – they also hosted useful lectures and respectable entertainments as well.

There are a number of Reading Room buildings remaining in the North York Moors, some still used as community buildings and others converted. It is interesting that a number are clearly connected to industrial populations such as that in Rosedale, but others are located in more rural communities such as Boltby, Lastingham and Runswick Bay.

ROBERT HESELTINE HUDSON

“Rarely does a case, even of murder, excite such an intense interest as that which has been taken by the general public in the charge against Robert Heseltine Hudson, of the wilful murder of his wife and child on Roper Moor, near Helmsley, on the 8th of June last.”

 “Accused was accommodated with a chair and remained remarkably quiet throughout the trial. He certainly had not the look of a murderer. There was nothing dreadful in the dark sallow countenance, nor repulsive in the black hair, eyebrows, and bearded face, with cultivated moustache trimmed in imperial fashion. The eye was steady and the body restful, and an expression of ease and indifference seemed reflected in a faint smile upon the lips which looked more natural than feigned. Hudson, for some reason, had practically nothing to say. He sat throughout the evidence without manifesting any perceptible distress and it was impossible to judge of the man’s inner consciousness from his appearance…What did seem probably to many observers was that Hudson had quietly resigned himself to his fate…”

From the Yorkshire Gazetteer Saturday 27 July 1895

Robert Hudson’s family was from near Helmsley, he went to school at nearby East Moors. His parents then moved the family to Darlington and as an adult Robert Hudson worked in Liverpool, Sheffield and Nottingham. However in May 1895 Hudson, then a house furnisher’s assistant, brought his wife Kate and their son Heseltine who was not yet one, back to where he had started from. They lodged in a house on Bondgate, Helmsley.

Robert Hudson took his family out for walks and drives in the local countryside – it was reported that Mrs Hudson complained that the places they visited were lonely. On 8 June Mr Hudson returned but his wife and child did not. He told his landlady that they had gone to visit an aunt in Hovingham. Hudson then swiftly disappeared on the 3.39 train to York. Suspicions were aroused resulting in a search of the lonely local countryside. After a while a recently dug hole was found under a clump of trees on Roppa Moor. The bodies of Kate and Heseltine Hudson were found together in the hole covered by a thin layer of soil. Their throats had been cut with a carving knife; Mrs Hudson’s hands were terribly injured suggesting she had struggled to stay the knife.

Hudson was tracked down to Birmingham and arrested, he was brought back first to Helmsley to be committed for trial and then taken to York Crown Court. The evidence was pretty overwhelming. Hudson had bought a spade from a Helmsley ironmonger and was seen cycling about with the spade tied to his bicycle. The spade was later found on Roppa Moor. A local man had come across the hole on Roppa Moor a couple of days before it was used as a grave. Various other local people identified him as a man they had seen acting suspiciously on and around Roppa Moor. Soon after the ‘disappearance’ of his wife Robert Hudson was advertising for a new wife “Bachelor, tall, dark, age 27, wishes to meet with lady of some means, with a view to early marriage”. There was also a pocket book in which Mr Hudson had written on 15 June – “One week from the saddest event in my life, at ten to one o’clock, and I am living yet”. The jury considered their verdict for c. 6 minutes. Robert Hudson was found guilty.

Robert Hudson did not directly confess to the murders, but he did blame bad company for his predicament and expressed repentance. He was hanged at York Castle on 13 August 1895.

ROMANS (1st to 4th centuries AD)

Following on the heels of trading links the Roman invasion and then entrenchment across most of Britain  started with temporary military installations and infrastructure including connecting roads to maintain control. This was overtaken with more permanent military bases, as well as the establishment of towns, industrial centres and civilian farmsteads. Romanisation of society was backed up with military might, but at the same time the lure of Roman luxuries, the value of Roman technologies, and the promise of Roman advancement and power very much helped its spread.

Unlike the Iron Age native population, the Romans weren’t interested in living on the moors part of the North York Moors. Most Roman related remains are along the southern edge, close-ish to Malton and York which were major Roman towns. There are a number of minor “villa” complexes (Romano-British farmsteads) at Beadlam, Spaunton and Blandsby Park and the remains of two forts and a military camp at ‘Cawthorn Camps’.

Romans at Cawthorn, 2010. Copyright NYMNPA.

There is another early fort at Lease Rigg in the north of the North York Moors. This site includes ramparts, barracks, stables, a granary, a praetorium (Officer quarters), and a principia (main building for admin and religion). The forts at Cawthorn and at Lease Rigg are connected by Wheeldale Road/Wades Causeway, which is recorded as a Roman road. Because of the lack of quality it has been suggested it isn’t actually a Roman road at all.

The North York Moors Historic Environment Record includes a number of Roman finds including pottery, tessalie (mosaic tiles), coins, armilla (metal armband), beads, weights, pins, and altars.

There are also a number of Roman signal stations along the coastal cliffs from the 4th century. The best example in the North York Moors is at Goldsborough. There might also have been a signal station at Ravenscar – the evidence for this is an engraved dedication stone identified in the 18th century, but this might have been brought onto the site from somewhere else after the Roman period. The stone reads IVSTINIANVSPP VINDICIANVS MASSIERIV(RR)/(PR) MCASTRVMFECIT A….0. (JUSTINIANUS COMMANDER  VINDICIANUS…PRAEFECT OF SOLDIERS BUILT THIS TOWER AND FORT FROM GROUND LEVEL). Signal stations were built towards the end of the Roman period to guard against the growing threat of Angles and Saxons from the sea. By this time people on the edge of the Roman Empire were having to look after themselves because as the empire contracted it was clear no one was going to come and rescue them. The end of the Roman period fizzled out slowly. Often the new invaders would use the same sites, carefully chosen for their resources and setting. For example there is evidence that Cawthorn Camps was subsequently re-used as an Anglian settlement.

Previously on the North York Moors A to Z … A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H, I, J, K, L, M, N, O , P, Q

Last year’s top 6 posts

These were our top 6 posts during 2017, according to the number of views – in reverse order to make it more exciting.

North Yorksire Turtle Dove Project Logo6. Talking about Turtle Doves

The Turtle Doves are currently in western Africa. Work here is now focused on preparing for a new season of surveying starting in May when these migratory birds return to the UK. There is a meeting for volunteer surveyors in the Howardian Hills AONB area organised for 17 January, and another for volunteer surveyors in the National Park area on 4 April. If you’d be interested in becoming a volunteer surveyor – please contact us.

Rosedale Abbey - copyright Mike Kipling, NYMNPA

5. Etymological landscapes

Live Moor monument after remedial work. Copyright Solstice Heritage.

4. Deconstructing modern mounds

Our post set out the reasons for taking forward this work to help conserve nationally important historic monuments, through the Monument Management Scheme. It was followed up with a post updating on progress later on in the year – Deconstructing modern mounds: what happened next…

River Rye near Hawnby. Copyright NYMNPA.

3. Ryevitalising the Rye

Since stage one approval was achieved back in January 2017, the development of this Landscape Partnership Scheme has continued apace.

Anne-Louise and Alex (the Ryevitalise Team) are coordinating as fast as they can, working alongside partner organisations and the wider community. Following on from local community consultation exercises in November, a series of taster events are planned for this spring to enable people to experience the kind of events on offer should Ryevitalise move into it’s delivery phase. One such event will be marking World Fish Migration Day on 21 April.

Partners are labouring over the 22 complementary project elements which make up the partnership scheme, around the themes of water quality and environment, reconnecting people and water level management. Alex is liaising with local land managers to build up a mutual understanding of how Ryevitalise could help support practices that deliver specific objectives around water quality and habitat improvements.

The stage two application currently in development is due to be submitted to the Heritage Lottery Fund at the end of this October. If successful, the four year delivery phase will start in spring 2019.

We’re keen to incorporate as many ideas and aspirations as possible. If you want to get involved please complete our online survey form.

Casten Dyke North - wall to counterscarp bank looking north. Copyright Ed Dennison Archaeological Services Ltd.

2. Battle of Byland: considering the evidence

October 2022 will mark the 700th anniversary of the Battle of Byland. Clear evidence that the battle took place at Roulston Scar remains elusive.

Lidar survey - Holmes Alum Works. 1. Quest for knowledge

Quite a few readers of our Blog have asked for more on LiDAR survey results – so please look out for next week’s post…

Lost men of Goathland

Tom Stephenson – External Funding Officer

“Perhaps some day the sun will shine again,
And I shall see that still the skies are blue,
And feel once more I do not live in vain,
Although bereft of you.

Perhaps the golden meadows at my feet,
Will make the sunny hours of spring seem gay,
And I shall find the white May-blossoms sweet,
Though You have passed away.

Perhaps the summer woods will shimmer bright,
And crimson roses once again be fair,
And autumn harvest fields a rich delight,
Although You are not there.

But though kind Time may many joys renew,
There is one greatest joy I shall not know
Again, because my heart for loss of You
Was broken, long ago.”

Some of the most effecting, and so powerful, literature about war uses imagery that draws upon the natural world. The contrast between beauty, tranquillity and nostalgia, and the man made ugliness, pandemonium and pain of war is obvious.

The excerpt above, taken from Vera Brittain’s Testament of Youth (1933), considers whether she can once again take pleasure from the unceasing cycle of nature, and concludes that there will still always be the memory of what she has lost. Vera Brittain lost both her brother and her fiancé during the conflict.

Red poppies grow again on the battlefields. the natural world endures along with those left behind. In the aftermath of the First World War, a number of communities were moved to plant trees as living memorials to those who had died. As a symbol of longevity, continuity and regeneration, the trees would grow strong and tall for a hundred years in the place of the lost men.

A number of these memorial trees grew from acorns and chestnuts translocated from Verdun in north eastern France, having survived the devastation of the 10 month battle there in 1916*. Tree seeds offered the comforting idea of rebirth out of the ground full of the dead, a living link with a foreign land.

In the North York Moors, a lady called Kate Smailes of Goathland village had 12 English oak trees planted in 1922 to commemorate 12 men with connections to Goathland who had died as a result of the Great War. Her own son George had been killed during the Battle of the Somme and had no known grave. Mrs Smailes chose a location for the trees along the old incline railway line, where she could see them every day on her walk. The memories and memorials were honoured and valued, not forgotten even if that were possible for those left behind.

The 12 men of Goathland are…

Godfrey Bousfield Harrison, Private, Yorkshire Regiment – died 29 September, 1915, aged 38 – buried Alexandria (Chatby) Military and War Memorial Cemetery, Egypt.

John Ward, Private, Yorkshire Regiment – died 30 April 1916, aged 20 – remembered at La Neuville Communal Cemetery, Corbie, France.

Edward (or Edwin) Pennock, Private, Yorkshire Regiment – died 29 September 1916, aged ? – buried AIF Burial Ground, Fleurs, France.

George Smailes, Second Lieutenant, Prince of Wales’ own West Yorkshire Regiment – died 22 October 1916, aged 22 – remembered on the Thiepval Memorial, Amiens, France.

Thomas Readman – Lengthman, North-Eastern Temporary Special Construction Unit, Civilian Railway Companies – died 2 April 1917, aged 40 – buried Hazebrouck Communal Cemetery, France. Thomas Readman was one of a number of men from the Goathland area working for the Civilian Railway Companies in France to lay single railway tracks to enable better transportation of armaments and supplies which was vital for the war effort.

Frederick Cockerill, Private, Yorkshire Regiment – died 14 May 1917, aged 23 – remembered on the Arras Memorial, Pas de Calais, France.

Arthur Rymer, Private, Yorkshire Regiment – died 9 October 1917, aged 20 – remembered on the Tyne Cot Memorial, Belgium.

Robert Sleightholm, Apprentice, SS Dunrobin (cargo ship) – died 24 November 1917, aged 18 – remembered on the Tower Hill Memorial, London

Edwin Widdowson – Corporal, King’s Royal Rifle Corps – invalided out of the Army in 1917 – died 25 January 1918, aged 39.

John Yeoman Light, Lance Corporal, Royal Engineers – died 14 April 1918, aged 31 – remembered on the Tyne Cot Memorial, Belgium.

George Pybus, Private, Duke of Wellington’s West Riding Regiment – died 29 September 1918, aged 18 – buried Vieille-Chapelle New Military Cemetery, Lacouture, France.

Sidney Whiteley, Private, Yorkshire Regiment – died 11 November 1919, aged 22 – buried St Mary’s, Birdsall, Malton. (Wilfred W Whiteley?)

The men’s graves were in a foreign field, or they had no grave at all. Back in their damaged community of family, friends and neighbours they were commemorated on the stone War Memorial which stands on the village green and a marble tablet in St Mary’s Church, and memorialised by the 12 trees.

Now, 100 years later, a community project is underway led by the Goathland Community Hub & Sports Pavilion with support through the National Lottery and the North York Moors National Park Trust. The project will plant 12 new oak saplings close to the surviving original trees to ensure the memorial remains as the older trees naturally die. The young trees will be planted by the children of Goathland Primary School, helping to connect a new generation with past generations and with their place in history.

*The Woodland Trust is keen to trace and record as many of these Verdun memorial trees as possible.

Quest for knowledge

Graham Lee – Archaeological Officer

We recently commissioned additional high resolution LiDAR data (Light Detection and Ranging) for several areas of the North York Moors in partnership with Durham University who are currently involved in a long term research project on the coast. The data is collected by scanning the ground with beams of laser light. LiDAR data sees through vegetation and tree canopies which otherwise can obscure the view of the ground level to conventional air photography. For this commission we were particularly interested in areas of heather moorland.

Most publically available georeferenced LiDAR data in England comes from the Environment Agency. It is relatively low resolution, with data points collected at 1 metre or 50 centimetre intervals. The collected points enable the ground surface to be accurately mapped – the more points that are collected, the greater amount of detail that is recorded and revealed through 3-D representation. The newly collected data we now have is at 10 centimetre resolution which equates to about 90 data points per square metre. The amount of data means the ground topography can be perceived through relatively dense stands of vegetation, such as gorse.  For large expanses of the North York Moors which are covered in thick protective heather the idea is that this new data will help us to artificially see the archaeological earthworks beneath. It was this upland moorland plateau where prehistoric people lived and farmed and buried their dead.

As an archaeologist I am looking for human-made patterns in the landscape which represent different forms of earthworks created by human activity – either upstanding banks or ditches/hollows –which are visible in the data. Once noted, experience with data collected from aerial photographic survey allows these features to be interpreted. The interpretation is not necessarily conclusive – some more complex features will require a ground visit to collect further information before an interpretation can be firmed up. The features identified can then be incorporated within the National Park Authority’s Historic Environment Record (HER) which is the catalogue of our current archaeological knowledge. New and enhanced information which increases our understanding of archaeological landscapes is also very important for the protection and future management of archaeological sites.

Gallows Dyke, Levisham Moor. Copyright NYMNPA.

Initial examination of the LiDAR data for Levisham Moor has greatly increased our knowledge of the complexity and extent of the prehistoric and medieval field systems as well as other sites that survive here. This means that individual sites – such as possible prehistoric hut circles, as well as the extent of field system remains – can be precisely located and mapped rather than just using a general area. This is a considerable advance in our knowledge which greatly simplifies the locating of sites on the ground within extensive areas of what can seem like featureless heather moorland.

Fig 1: Dundale Rigg, Levisham Moor – The LiDAR imagery shows up the subtle remains of earthwork banks of an earlier (?Prehistoric or ?Medieval) field system overlain by later ridge and furrow cultivation. Also visible is a Bronze Age round barrow (mapped as a tumulus) with a central disturbance from the 1930s and a trial excavation from 1962, and the faint curvilinear traces of what is thought to be a prehistoric hut circle towards the top left of the photo.

Fig 2: Horness Rigg, Levisham Moor – Remains of a probable Prehistoric field system. The enclosed platform at the southern end, which sits within rather than being overlain by the fields, has been dated by excavation to the Late Iron Age or Roman periods.

In the future new information supplied by the LiDAR survey will be used to aid and stimulate research into the history and development of Levisham Moor and other areas in the North York Moors, as well as informing management, presentation and interpretation. LiDAR does not remove the need to confirm details on the ground and there is always work to do to look for associated features that may not be visible on the LiDAR, but it is enormously helpful in the quest for increased archaeological knowledge.

Etymological landscapes

Many place names survive from the early middle ages and from even earlier. The spelling may have changed but the roots are still identifiable.

In a lot of cases the names of settlements include a personal name, presumably the most important person – mostly male, but sometimes female*. Other place names describe the location using the visible landscape topography and identifiable natural environment features, and also indicate the worth of the land being described i.e. whether it is fertile or not, whether it has been cleared for agriculture. People and personal names have changed but where a settlement or location is named after its topography or a nearby habitat it can still be possible to see why today where these features still exist a thousand years later.

Old Celtic/British
These kind of place names are rare on the eastern side of England because this is where the Anglo-Saxon and Viking forays and then annexations began, securing their footholds and establishing new settlements before entrenching. So it is more often features, in particular rivers, rather than settlements that have an Old British name.

North York Moors examples:
Glais(dale) – small stream, or grey/blue/green
River Esk – water
River Derwent – river where oaks are common
River Dove – black, dark
River Rye – hill, ascent

Upper reaches of the River Rye. Copyright NYMNPA.

Roman
The Roman Empire in the British Isles reached the North York Moors and beyond. Roman features like forts and roads which were few and far between are described in subsequent Old English place names elsewhere, but not so much in the North York Moors.

Old English (Anglo-Saxon, Anglian)
North York Moors examples:
Personal names such as Beage* (Byland), Broc (Broxa), Ecga (Egton), Helm (Helmsley), Poca (Pockley).
Ampleforth – a ford where sorrel grows
Cawthorn – a cold place with hawthorn trees
Goathland – good land (surrounded by the barren moorland)
Hackness – a hook shaped headland around which a river flows
Lealholm – small island where willows grow
River Riccal, tributary of the River Rye – calf of the River Rye or little Rye
Ruswarp – silted land where brushwood grows

River Esk at Lealholm. COPYRIGHT CHRIS CEASER.

Norse (Viking, Scandinavian)
North York Moors examples:
Personal names such as Asulfr (Aislaby), Bolti (Boltby), Rudda* (Rudland), Thymill (Thimbleby), Uggi (Ugthorpe).
Ellerbeck – a stream next to alder trees or woodland
Fangdale – valley with a river for fishing
Hesketh – a race course
Laskill – the location of a hut, possibly with abundant lichen
Lythe – a hillside, a slope
Sleights – a level field
Upsall – a high homestead or hall

The basic rule of thumb is that if a settlement name ends in –by (farmstead, village) it is from the Norse, and if it ends in –ton or –ham (enclosure, farmstead, village, manor, estate) it is from the Old English. Another frequent Old English place name ending is –ley or –ly meaning a clearing and then later, when more established, a pasture.

Sometimes there is no question about the origin of a place name, for example Danby is very clearly connected to the Vikings – it means a settlement of Danes. But there were often Norse settlements alongside Anglo-Saxon settlements as the populations fluctuated, adjusted and integrated over time. Many places names were hybridized, adapted and amalgamated e.g.
Kirby Knowle – village with a church (Norse), below a knoll/small round hill (Old English)
Ingleby Greenhow – village on a hill (Norse) which is green and belongs to the Angles/English (Old English)
Scugdale – valley with Goblins (Scandinavianized Old English)

There are common words still used in the north of England such as beck (Norse) for a stream, rig or rigg (Norse) for a ridge, mire (Norse) for a bog, and dale (Old English) for a valley. Moor is an Old English word for an unproductive marsh or barren upland area.

Old French (Norman) – unlike the Anglo-Saxons and Vikings who came with populations that were then settled and absorbed, the Norman invasion was more of a baronial take over so Norman names mainly occur around seats of power demarcating property and patronage.

North York Moors examples:
Rievaulx – valley of the River Rye, is close by Helmsley Castle which belonged to the De Roos family.
Grosmont – big hill, an off shoot monastery named after the mother house at Grosmont in France.

Where settlements now include ‘le’ in their names, this is sometimes a modern addition and doesn’t necessarily indicate a Norman/French connection.

Rievaulx Abbey and Village. Copyright NYMNPA.

Then there are newer, more obvious names with recognisable descriptive (Middle and then Modern English) words and connotations like Black Moor, Cold Moor, Littlebeck, Sandsend, Church Houses, Low Mill. Sometimes however what seems obvious is not necessarily so. The name Rosedale probably isn’t to do with roses at all, it’s more likely to be about horses (hross is the Old Norse word for horse). Robin Hood is a generic name for a thief, so Robin Hood’s Bay might be more to do with its excellent location for smuggling, rather than a connection to THE Robin Hood.

Roof tops at Robin Hood's Bay. COPYRIGHT MIKE KIPLING.

With thanks to the Concise Oxford  Dictionary of English Place-Names

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.

Last year’s top 5 posts

Whether by accident or design these were our top 5 posts in 2016, according to the number of views.

Woodland to be thinned - copyright NYMNPA

1.The aesthetics of trees

If you’re a land manager and you’re interested in grant to help you create, manage or improve your own woodland masterpiece – here’s a link to the national funding that’s available. Watch out for the set application windows because they’re often quite short.

The current adaptation of The Crown, Helmsley - copyright NYMNPA.

2.Historic Pub Culture

As part of the renovation of The Crown Hotel in Helmsley the building was subject to a re-assessment of the development of its historic fabric by Colin Briden, an Historic Buildings Archaeologist who reported in April 2016. His report concluded…

Although partly demolished in the 18th century to bring it ‘up to date’, and extensively refurbished in the 20th century to make it look ‘olde worlde’, the building retains considerable evidence for a high-status late mediaeval timber framed house of two jettied storeys (where upper storeys project beyond the lower storey) and attics in a prominent position. The house is of an unusually large scale. Other comparable size houses in the wider area are from much later dates.

Now that the building is free from the unfortunate results of the 20th century remodelling it is possible to see it as it really is – ‘the battered remnant of late mediaeval construction work on the grand scale carried out by an unusually wealthy owner’.

In 1478 Helmsley was sold to Richard, Duke of Gloucester, later Richard III; it reverted to the de Roos family on his death. The name of the subsequent hotel is suggestive of a reference to this short lived but significant royal ownership.

In its latest adaptation, the building is now a shop.

capture

3.Face to face with the past

Raven - the Watcher by JestePhotography. http://jestephotography.deviantart.com/art/Raven-The-Watcher-532656250.

4.A ‘Gothic’ icon

Historic England survey of earthworks at Stoupe Brow alum works - copyright Historic England

5.Cliff edge archaeology

Following our work in 2014-15 (reported in early 2016), we were pleased that Historic England were able to remove one of the coastal alum working Scheduled Monuments from the Heritage at Risk register because we had fully recorded those parts of the monument which were under threat. However, four other Scheduled alum working sites remain on Historic England’s Heritage at Risk Register despite our efforts to record some of their most vulnerable features. So what next?

Working with Whitby Museum and specialists from Historic England, we held a seminar last spring bringing together a group of dedicated people with a strong interest or connection to the coastal alum working sites – landowners, archaeologists, academics and private researchers – to review what we know about the alum industry, to decide what we don’t understand and to look for a way forward to manage the risk to the sites under threat and ensure that we do not lose the valuable information held within them. One of the ideas emerging from the seminar was a further excavation project with an emphasis on engagement and interpretation as well as research.

Archaeological excavations take considerable planning and funds to ensure that they are carried out to a high standard and achieve objectives without causing accidental damage, so it can be a slow process getting started. We are now working towards setting up a project to investigate one of the sites which we didn’t include in the investigations in 2014-15 – the alum works at Stoupe Brow, near Ravenscar. An extensive system of reservoirs and water leats (dug channels) was revealed on the nearby Fylingdales Moor after the 2003 wildfire and we know that this water management system supplied the needs of the alum processing at Stoupe Brow, but other than that we currently know very little about this site. Historic England recently completed a topographic survey of the earthworks so we can now see how the site was laid out, but not how it operated. The site still includes its alum house (where the final processing to produce alum crystals was carried out) and there is still a general gap in knowledge when it comes to how alum houses functioned. As well as trying to discover more about the practical operations at the site the project will record the structures which are currently being gradually lost over the cliff edge. A big advantage of this particular site is that it is more accessible and less dangerous compared to some of the other coastal alum working sites – providing great opportunities for volunteers and visitors.

The first stage of the project is producing a project proposal which will outline what we want to do and how much it will cost, and this is expected by the end of this winter. The next step will be using the proposal to generate partnership support and seek funding. It is early days yet, but we hope this will develop into an exciting project – watch out for further posts as our plans progress.

Mags Waughman, Monument Management Scheme Officer