What on earth is going on?

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This Exploited Land of Iron is our HLF Landscape Partnership Scheme focused on the ‘blazing, booming, enterprising’* ironstone industry in and around the North York Moors in the 19th century, and its surviving legacy. The Scheme was officially launched in … Continue reading

Lest we forget

Beth Davies – Building Conservation Officer

A hundred years ago the First World War was into its fourth calendar year with no end in sight; Germany announced on 31 January 1917 that unrestricted submarine warfare would commence the following day and all ships in the war zone would become targets…

It is very difficult for us now to appreciate the full horror of what the servicemen who fought in the war experienced. Similarly we can only begin to imagine what it must have been like for those at home left behind without fathers, husbands, brothers and sons.

In the aftermath of the First World War thousands of built memorials to the dead were erected across Britain. These communal memorials acted as shared totems for society suffering devastating loss and in the face of the official policy of not repatriating the dead. They provided an embodiment of the common grief felt and the validation of sacrifice, and still today provide a tangible reminder of the real impact of war. Whereas the huge numbers of dead and injured are difficult to grasp, the individual names of the local people lost are poignant and tangible.

War Memorials draw particular public interest and warrant serious consideration for listing. Historic England is particularly keen during the centenary of the First World War to increase protection of unlisted memorials. Following on from the listing of the Commondale Shepherds’ Memorial last year, we are pleased that two further war memorials in the North York Moors have been afforded Grade II listed status as part Historic England’s drive to protect for posterity these meaningful and evocative structures.

Glaisdale War Memorial. Copyright Mel Gibbs.Glaisdale War Memorial was unveiled on 4 December 1920 by Major General Sir James K Trotter, FCB, CMG. It is an elegant example of a Latin cross set on a tapering octagonal section shaft and displays a high level of craftsmanship with carved decorative details and fine lettering. Its prominent location on a small green with expansive views north down Glaisdale contributes to its impact in recalling the memory of the dead and where they belonged. The plinth at the base of the shaft reads ‘TO THE MEMORY OF THE MEN OF GLAISDALE WHO FELL IN THE GREAT WAR 1914-1919 JESU BLEST GRANT THEM IN THY LOVE TO REST’. There are thirteen names: John Boas, William J M Child, James Jefferson, John Pearson, Ralph Scarth, Charles E Scanlon, John H Scarth, Frederick Scarth, Francis R Scarth, William Ward, Ernest Wilson, Pennock Winspear, Harry Winspear.

The Commondale War Memorial was unveiled by Lord Guisborough at an ecumenical ceremony held on 31 August 1921. It was designed by WH Earl of Danby and made by J Ford of Castleton. The memorial commemorates nine local servicemen who died during the First World War including the two shepherds commemorated by the aforementioned Grade II listed Shepherds’ Memorial.  The names are Thomas Monk, Samuel Lawson, Thomas Gibson, Robert H Leggott, William Hill, Frederick W Robinson, Charles E Foster, Alfred Cockerill, David Johnson. It comprises a stone Latin cross on a short Commondale War Memorial. Copyright Hidden Teesside.tapering square-sectioned shaft which rises from a plinth set on a four-stage square base. Set into the plinth are unusual, brown salt-glazed stoneware tablets probably made by the local London and Cleveland Fire Brick Co Ltd Brick and Pipe Works. On the main facing and rear tablets are stamped the words ‘IN HONOURED MEMORY OF THE MEN OF COMMONDALE WHO GAVE THEIR LIVES FOR GOD, KING AND COUNTRY, IN THE GREAT WAR 1914-1918. THEIR NAME SHALL LIVE FOR EVER AND THEIR GLORY SHALL NOT BE BLOTTED OUT. LEST WE FORGET’.

Commondale War Memorial. Copyright Hidden Teesside.

For anyone interested in finding out more about the war memorials in the North York Moors and the men commemorated please visit the Roll of Honour website.  For communities wishing to carry out repairs to their War Memorial it’s worth contacting the War Memorials Trust as grant aid and advice are often available. For further advice about how to apply to have a War Memorial listed please contact the National Park Authority’s Building Conservation team on 01439 772700.

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.

This Exploited Land – hitting the ground running

Tom Mutton – TEL Programme Manager

This Exploited Land (TEL), our HLF Landscape Partnership Scheme, is now building up steam with projects starting on the ground and the recruitment of new project staff underway. As well as myself we’ve got Elspeth Ingleby as our Natural Heritage Officer and Thelma Wingfield as our Administrative Assistant. The remaining two TEL vacancies for a Cultural Heritage Officer and a Volunteer Coordinator are expected to be filled by January. Special thanks to Louise Cooke for building and nurturing the Scheme to where it is today. We hope Louise will continue to be involved with TEL and will see all the project ideas become a reality over the next five years.

One of the first projects underway is the repair of the landslip at the East Kilns in Rosedale. The landslip is on the line of the old Rosedale Railway and is a popular route round the top end of the dale. The remedial engineering works will maintain safe access along the path, enable vital practical access to the two sets of kilns which will be subject to major consolidation during 2017/18, and help conserve into the future the distinctive landscape feature of the railway embankment as it carves its way along the hillside.

Rosedale East landslip - before start of works. Copyright NYMNPA.

The works to stabilise the embankment and rebuild the path involve digging away all the loose material down to firm foundations and constructing four tiers of stone-filled gabion baskets topped with a new stone path. The front of the baskets that will be visible after the works have been faced with soil filled bags containing a specially selected moorland grass seed mix. Despite the cool autumn weather this seed is already germinating.

The works are due to be completed and the path reopened by mid-November.

During the works archaeologists have been keeping a watching brief to help identify and understand the construction of the railway. A couple of original sleepers were salvaged, one with the track shoe still in place. The profile of how the track was built up using waste from the calcining kilns (red/brown) and cinders from engines (black) can be clearly seen in the photograph below taken during the excavation.

Rosedale landslip repairs autumn 2016 - section through the railway track bed showing original materials used. Copyright NYMNPA.

Rosedale landslip repairs autumn 2016 - original sleepers from railway track. Copyright NYMNPA.

Regular monitoring of the landslip by local residents reported on the Rosedale Abbey Blog had showed the slip getting progressively worse so time was of the essence for these repairs at the beginning of TEL. Now the same residents have been reporting on the works underway and will continue to monitor the site as it recovers.

To sign up for the mailing list for This Exploited Land and find out more about our exciting Landscape Partnership Scheme – see here.

This Exploited Land: the trailblazing story of ironstone and railways in the
North York Moors

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Face to face with the past

The British Film Institute’s Britain on Film Archive holds a number of amateur and professional films that feature the North York Moors and provide a treasure trove of 20th century cultural heritage. Each film is of its time – the sensibilities, the landscapes, the cars (or lack of them), the clothes – from a 1927 mediaeval pageant performed at Mount Grace and starring Sir Hugh and Lady Bell; to the Yorkshire Television documentary from 1985, The Unsleeping Eye, which went inside the RAF Fylingdales early warning station and couldn’t be more Cold War centric.

But many of the elements are also familiar – children playing on the beach, boys not wanting to dance, moorland sheep wandering across the road, the appeal of steam locomotives, and the unending desire to record moments in time.

The Yorkshire Moors 1950 features a mother and daughter, and two small dogs, exploring the moors and dales and ending up in Whitby where inevitably they count the 199 steps up to the church. There is presumably a husband/father behind the scenes taking charge as Director and Camera Operator. The North York Moors National Park was designated two years later and the landscape as seen was one of the main reasons for the designation. But its not all pretty scenery; for a few seconds there is a view of ‘disused iron ore mines’, which are probably near Skelton to the north of the present day National Park.

http://player.bfi.org.uk/film/watch-yorkshire-moors-1950/

Staithes 1959 heavily features the village of Staithes and its cobble fishing as well as recording the wider countryside round about including the eroding alum industry remains along the cliff edges and shore line which have eroded a whole lot more since.

Without any sound or any intertitle cards the film maker’s motivation is left to the viewer’s imagination.

http://player.bfi.org.uk/film/watch-staithes-1959/

And then there is The Children of Eskdale made by Yorkshire Television in 1973. It’s a fly on the wall documentary about two generations of a farming family – the Raw family of Fryup Dale.  It’s about ordinary life in the early 1970s that happens to be on a farm in the North York Moors with all that entails. It comes with the low key reflection by John Raw on the dispatching of a couple of bantams “they come but they’ve got to go – that’s farming for you”.

The coldness of the winter landscape contrasts with the warmth and care that the family members have for each other. It ends with a understated act of familial kindness.

http://player.bfi.org.uk/film/watch-the-children-of-eskdale-1973/

Not so distant

To mark the centenary of the start of the Battle of the Somme on 1 July 1916 fifteen war memorials across the country have received new or upgraded listings from Historic England.

The Battle of the Somme in northern France was made up of a series of offensives and counter offensives which lasted 141 days, and the aftermath was an approximate one million dead and wounded.

One of the newly protected memorials is on Commondale Moor – the Commondale Shepherds’ Memorial. It is a simple and short stone pillar which commemorates two men out of a million – Alf Cockerill and Robbie Leggott. They were young shepherds who worked for the local Guisborough Estate and had been friends since childhood. They went together to London and enlisted in the Grenadier Guards at the outbreak of
World War I in 1914. It must have been an exciting adventure.

Alf was shot in the head in the first month of the Battle of the Somme; he did not die immediately but was declared unfit for further duty. He eventually died back in England in August 1920 at the age of 31(?) as a result of his brain injuries having never escaped from the consequences of the Battle. It is wishfully suggested his ashes are scattered close by the site of the memorial.

Robbie was killed in September 1916 aged 19, during another assault on German lines. His body was not identified and so wasn’t returned to the North York Moors.

There is a war memorial in Commondale village and both men are also recorded there. This specific memorial purposefully placed on the moorland above the village was commissioned by the daughter of the first Baron Guisborough in 1920. In the years immediately following the end of World War I recording and remembering the loss endured became a national preoccupation. The Historic England listing cites the historic interest of the memorial as ‘eloquent witness to the tragic impact of world events on the local community, and the sacrifice it made in the First World War’.

FOR REMEMBRANCE.

GUARDSMEN ROBBIE LEGGOTT KILLED IN ACTION 1916. ALF COCKERILL DIED OF WOUNDS 1920.

DUTY 1914. Poppies - copyright NYMNPA.

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