The Journal Of Antiquities

Ancient Sites In Great Britain & Southern Ireland


Stanwick Iron Age Hillfort, North Yorkshire

Plan of Stanwick Fortifications (after Wheeler)

Plan of the Stanwick Fortifications (after Wheeler)

   OS Grid Reference: NZ 1820 1161. The Stanwick “late” Iron Age hillfort, also known as Stanwick Camp, lies some 8 miles to the north of Richmond, north Yorkshire, covering a large area of more than 700 acres and up to 5 miles in length, north of the village of Stanwick St John, with the earthworks spreading out from the hillfort itself. The hillfort or oppidum was built by the Brigantes tribe of northern England in three different phases roughly between 47-72 AD, with the first phase of the fort being at Toft Hill. The Brigantian leader Venutius, husband of Queen Cartimandua, was “thought” to have been defeated and killed by Roman troops from York at Stanwick in 74 AD – at about the same time that parts of the fort were destroyed by fire, but the fire was ‘probably not started by the Romans’ – although Quintus Petillius Cerialis, who was Roman Governor of Britain (71–74 AD), might have had a hand in that destruction at some point. Cartimandua maybe settling in at her base of Castle Hill (Almondbury) after 69 AD? 

Mary Wild Beck and Stanwick Church by

Mary Wild Beck and Stanwick Church by Mick Garratt (Geograph).

   Stanwick hillfort and its associated earthworks officially start at the village of Forcett from where there are some well-defined footpaths taking in the ancient monument, traversing its impressive and quite formidable ramparts and ditches. But the medieval church of St John the Baptist at Stanwick St John is the place to head to, and just to the south-west lies the hillfort known as Toft Hill (the Tofts), although there are grassy earthworks all around here running for several miles. Locally these earthworks are called Jack-Dike Arches. And there are ancient burial mounds which perhaps date back the late Bronze Age and the late Iron Age. Stanwick hillfort and its associated earthworks were excavated by Sir Mortimer Wheeler in 1951-52. In more recent times 1981-86 excavations were carried out by Durham University. St John’s Church at Stanwick houses a number of antiquities including a 9th century Anglo Saxon cross-shaft.

   Harold Priestley in ‘The Observer’s Book of Ancient & Roman Britain’, says of the Stanwick site: “If not the most impressive to view, this fortified area is the largest and greatest engineering feat of the Iron Age tribes. It started as a 17-acre (6.9-ha) fort in the early 1st century AD, and was twice extended until the fortification enclosed no less than 747 acres (302 ha). It is believed to have been the rallying-point of the Brigantes under their king Venutius who revolted against the Emperor Vespasian in AD 69. His queen, Cartimandua, had taken the side of the Romans and may have set up her headquarters at the fort at Almondbury near Huddersfield.

   “In about AD 50-60 (after the Roman conquest of the S of Britain) another 130 acres (53 ha) to the N of the fort were enclosed by a bank and ditch except on the SE where a stream, the Mary Wild Beck, acted as a barrier. The fortifications between the old and new sections were demolished. Part of this bank and ditch have now been restored.

Horse's-head plaque, Stanwick, north Yorks.

Horse’s-head plaque, Stanwick

   “The final huge extension covering some 600 acres (243 ha) was made to the S of the Beck and brought into the fortified area a rough quadrilateral of land capable of accommodating an army and pasturing horses and cattle. It was enclosed within a bank and ditch with an in-turned entrance on the S. There are signs that the fortifications were attacked by the Roman commander Cerialis before this section was completed. Part of the ramparts then appear to have been deliberately destroyed. No account of this campaign has ever been found, but the fall of Stanwick opened the way to the N for the Roman armies.”

   Author Ian Longworth in his work ‘Regional Archaeologies – Yorkshire,’ says of the Stanwick fortifications: “The fortifications lie on a rolling piece of land between the modern villages of Aldburgh St John and Caldwell. The site was hardly chosen for its commanding position, for the ground here does not rise above 100 feet. Rather it was chosen as being near a good supply of water, the Mary Wild Beck. In their final form, discounting a later addition on the south side, the earthworks enclosed an area of over 700 acres, but the first fortification was a more modest affair enclosing 17. This more or less coincides with a rough field known  as ‘the Tofts’ south-west of Stanwick church. The defences were impressive, for a man standing on the bottom single ditch would look up to a rampart rising to a height of 24 feet. Naturally access had to be provided across the rampart and a gateway left at the western angle. To strengthen this point the flanks of the gateway were revetted with dry-stone walling.

Stanwick Iron Age Fortifications by Mick Garatt (Geograph).

Stanwick Iron Age Fortifications by Mick Garratt (for Geograph).

   “Although only a small portion of the area was examined, a series of drainage ditches were found inside the enclosure together with the remains of a round timber hut with an entrance facing east. This was set within a circular drainage ditch, which would have taken the water dripping from the conical roof. An interesting feature which emerged from the excavations at Stanwick was that only a quarter of the pottery recovered was home-made and these were mainly rough cooking-pots. The remainder of the pottery had all been imported. These imported wares included Butt Beakers from south-east England and fine red Samian Ware made towards the end of the first century A.D. in Gaul. The builders of the fortifications then had wide trading contacts with other tribes living farther south. This first fortification was probably built as a centre for anti-Roman resistance in northern Brigantia, shortly after the Roman invasion of A.D. 43.

   “At a later date the fortifications were greatly enlarged. An enclosure of 130 acres was built to the north to supplement the first fortifications. This new enclosure cut off the northern end of the earlier work and, where this lay within the new  enclosure, the old ramparts were flattened. The new enclosure was deliberately built to include some 300 yards of the Mary Wild Beck and, along this stretch, the brook and its marshy borders formed the only defence. Towards the western angle the new rampart was side-stepped to provide an entrance. This new rampart, which had originally been marked out with a small bank and ditch, was revetted in front by vertical dry-stone walling to a height of about 15 feet. Between the rampart and the ditch lay a berm—a flat space about 1 foot wide. The vertical height from the bottom of the ditch to the top of the rampart when first erected must have been something like 28 feet.

   “Near the entrance a pool of muddy water had collected in the bottom of the ditch. This had helped to preserve the organic objects that had either fallen or been thrown in. An oak dish was found and fragments of basketry, as well as an iron sword in a bronze-bound scabbard made of ash wood. Near the sword lay a skull showing very definite signs that its owner had met with a violent death. The skull had been slashed twice across the eye and a third blow had sliced of a piece of frontal bone which lay nearby. The head had been severed from the body between the fourth and fifth vertebrae. The victim was perhaps a criminal or prisoner and may well have suffered the fate of having  his head stuck on a pole at the gate.

   “The final stage of the construction was marked by a huge extension to the enclosure with a bank-berm-and-ditch defensive system to the previous fortification. The new fortifications  enclosed some 600 acres and provided ample pasturage for horses and cattle. The entrance lay in the middle of the south rampart in the form of a Z-shaped breach, but no gates were found. This final reconstruction was never completed. The causeway across the ditch opposite the gate had been roughly hacked through and blocks lay where they had been hurriedly levered up. The occupants had clearly had no time to finish their work before being called upon to defend themselves.

   “It was probably Venutius who extended the fortifications at Stanwick and then extended them again in and after A.D. 69 when he was gathering his allies for a final stand against the Romans. The unfinished state of the last phase of the defences shows that the final battle came before the Brigantes were completely ready, and the deliberate destruction of part of the ramparts shows only too clearly the ultimate result of the conflict. The actual struggle is not documented by the historians, but the Roma victory must have been complete, for by A.D. 80 Agricola was campaigning in Scotland. A Scottish campaign would have been out of the question if the Brigantes were still menacing the supply routes to the south.”

   The great Mr Arthur Raistrick in his work ‘The Pennine Dales’, tells us more about Stanwick. He tells us that: “At Stanwick, a prominent point, Toft Hill, had been converted into a defensive hill-fort, and one of the leaders of the fort builders was buried there, his body accompanied by his chariot. Many ornaments of bronze, some with stylized horse-head motifs, buried with him, were from the harness and chariot trappings.” Could this burial mound have contained the remains of Venutius, leader of the Brigantes, whom it was believed was killed by the Romans in 74 AD?

Butt beaker and Samian bowl from Stanwick (After Wheeler).

Butt beaker & Samian bowl, Stan-wick (After Wheeler).

   Author Jaquetta Hawkes writing in 1975 says that: ‘The history of the Stanwick earthworks are revealed by Sir Mortimer Wheeler’s digging leads into the Roman conquest of Britain at a point where the pro-tagonists are known by name, thanks largely to the writings of Tacitus. Having conquered the lowlands, the Roman army was now thrusting into the highland zone. At this point the [Brigantes], probably the largest of all the British tribes and occupying much of northern England, were ruled over by Venutius and his queen, Cartimandua. Friendly policy towards the Romans had brought them the status of a client kingdom. In 51 AD Caractacus, the heroic leader of British resistance, asked for asylum at the court of Queen Cartimandua. She then handed him to the Romans in chains. The Brigantes were now in turmoil, with the pro-Roman policy still maintained by the queen, but now opposed by her husband and the elite of his warriors. Venutius and Cartimandua separated in violent hostility. Venutius then succeeded Caractacus as leader of the resistance, while the queen took his squire Vellocatus as her consort for bed and throne.

   Hawkes goes on to say that: ‘With Roman support Cartimandua was able to hold out in the old Brigantian capital (possibly Almondbury), but the Brigantes and others rallied to Venutius. He later attacked Cartimandua with great success and she had to be rescued by Rome. As Tacitus put it on behalf of Rome ‘The Throne was left to Venutius, the war to us.’ But he was not allowed long to enjoy his victory. The Ninth legion came from York and ended the great Brigantian resistance for good.” 

I would like to thank the late John Dixon, and family, for their bringing about of this site page through books and literature greatly received.

Sources of information and related websites:-

Barringer, J. C., The Yorkshire Dales, The Dalesman Publishing Company Ltd., Clapham, 1982.

BBC Publication, Roman Britain, The British Broadcasting Corporation, London, 1966.

Hawkes, Jacquetta, A Guide To The Prehistoric And Roman Monuments In England And Wales, Cardinal (Sphere Books Ltd), London, 1975.

Longworth, Ian H.,  Regional Archaeologies: Yorkshire, Heinemann Educational Books  Ltd., London, 1969. 

Priestley, Harold, The Observer’s Book of Ancient & Roman Britain, Frederick Warne & Co Ltd., London, 1976.

Raistrick, Arthur, The Pennine Dales, Arrow Books Ltd., London, 1972.

Ramm, Herman, Roman York – From A.D. 71, Yorkshire Architectural and York Archaeological Society, York, 1979.

http://www.geograph.org.uk/photo/3685174

http://www.geograph.org.uk/photo/3685149

https://brigantesnation.com/stanwick-hill-fort-forcett-north-yorkshire

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stanwick_Iron_Age_Fortifications

https://megalithix.wordpress.com/2008/10/28/stanwick-fortifications/

http://www.academia.edu/4032642/New_Geophysics_Results_at_Stanwick_Oppidum_North_Yorkshire

http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/visit/places/stanwick-iron-age-fortifications/

                                                                           © Ray Spencer, The Journal Of Antiquities, 2017.


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Steeling Hill Earthwork, Near Coniston Cold, North Yorkshire

Steeling Hill Enclosure, near Coniston Cold, North Yorks.

Steeling Hill Enclosure, near Coniston Cold (north-side).

    OS grid reference: SD 8859 5515. A large earthwork or enclosure located on the crest of Steeling Hill above the A65 near Coniston Cold, North Yorkshire. This flat-topped hill on the opposite side of the lane from Kelber Farm was once the enclosure, settlement or camp of an ancient tribe, but unfortunately nothing much is known of its history. It was almost certainly a strategically placed encampment overlooking the valley below and in this sense it may have been a defensive site, although its low, almost non existent outer ditch, is barely visible today at ground level. At its centre there is a round-shaped feature but what this was is uncertain. It might actually be a more modern feature.

    To reach the earthwork from the A65 just to the south of Coniston Cold: go along the farm track/footpath nearly opposite The Coniston Hotel towards Kelber farm for 240m, then on the right-hand side go through the gate and head up the grassy hill-side for 220m to a second gate. You can reach the site from here. There is, however, no proper designated footpath up to the hill; and so please remember to ‘fasten the gates’ behind you.

Steeling Hill Earthwork (viewed from the south)

Steeling Hill Earthwork (viewed from the south)

Steeling Hill Earthwork (from the south-west).

Steeling Hill Earthwork (from the south-west).

    This very large rectangular earthwork on the top of Steeling Hill covers a large area of the summit and measures roughly 280m x 138m (918 ft x 452 ft), whilst the smaller, circular feature in the middle measures 74m x 60m (242 ft x 196 ft). The inner part of the earthwork/enclosure is raised by a few feet above the outer ditch, if it was ‘ever’ meant to be a ditch, but at the S and E sides this is much less noticeable. And as to the circular, slightly raised feature at the centre, and its distinct ditch – could this have been an inner enclosure, or maybe a living area with a hearth? Or could this be a more recent feature?

    So was this an Iron Age enclosure, or was it a Brigantian settlement?, or maybe something else; it looks to be an unlikely candidate for a Roman camp. Perhaps it was ‘a plain and simple animal enclosure’. But as ever there is a lack of any information regarding this earthwork, only the words ‘earthwork’ or ‘enclosure’ are mentioned on Ordnance Survey maps. There are though one or two other, similar, earthworks in this area, one in particular being near Cobers Laithe at Swinden, near Nappa.

Other related websites:-

http://www.kirkbymalham.info/KMI/malhamdale/speight.html

http://www.skiptoncastle.co.uk/history-of-craven.asp?page=17

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coniston_Cold

http://www.geograph.org.uk/photo/2855812

                                                             © Ray Spencer, The Journal Of Antiquities.


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Cobers Laithe Earthwork, Swinden, Near Nappa, North Yorkshire

Cobers Laithe Earthwork, near Nappa (looking north-west).

Cobers Laithe Earthwork, south-side (looking north-west).

Cobers Laithe Earthwork, near Nappa (looking north-east).

Cobers Laithe Earthwork, south-side (looking north-east).

    OS grid reference: SD 8669 5340. Sadly next-to-nothing is known about the oval-shaped earth-work or enclosure near to Cobers Laithe farm on  Swinden Moor, which is also known as Swinden Earthwork and Swinden Roman Camp, just 1 mile east of Nappa, North Yorkshire. Was it a Roman camp, as a few have suggested, or was it perhaps a Brigantian settlement – at the time of the Roman invasion? Or was it a more typical Iron Age settlement or enclosure? We don’t know with any certainty. And also it is a bit of an odd sort of earthwork-enclosure as it is intersected through the middle by a stream, and there are a numble of circular pits (bell pits), especially at the N side. The earthwork lies on private land. It is located in a field close to Mill Lane at Swinden – between Bank Newton and Nappa, just 380m to the west of Swinden Moor Head farm. On the earthwork side of the lane Ash Tree Farm is about 530m up the fields to the east.

Cobers Laithe Earthwork, south-side (looking north-west).

Cobers Laithe Earthwork, south-side (looking north-west).

Cobers Laithe Earthwork, south-side (looking east)

Cobers Laithe Earthwork, south-side (looking east)

    It is quite a large earthwork measuring roughly 107m x 87m and it used to have a smaller inner earthwork with a circular bank but this seems to have disappeared altogether, maybe due to farming and the stream. At the time of my visit the outer bank and ditch of the earthwork were deep in grass and reeds in several places, but despite that they are quite pronounced at the SE and SW sides. And at the N, NW and NE sides the bank and its associated ditch are still quite well-defined, and there is a possible entrance at the NW. But as to whether they were ramparts designed for warfare or security, we don’t know, but in my opinion I would think they were non-defensive.

Cobers Laithe Earthwork (the enclosure south-side). (the inner enclosure).

(The enclosure at the  southern-side).

Cobers Laithe Earthwork (grassy bank and ditch)

Cobers Laithe Earthwork (grassy bank and ditch)

    The oval-shaped layout of the earthwork or camp does ‘not’ look particularly Roman to me. We know the Romans always built square-shaped fortifications. Although it could have been a ‘temporary’ Romano-British camp. However, there does not appear to have been much, if any, Roman activity in the area; and the theory that there was a temporary Roman fort or camp at Long Preston, in the field near St Mary’s church, seems to have all but died a death. In all probability the earthwork here at Swinden was a Brigantian camp, settlement, or enclosure. But another distinct possibility being that this was a more typical Romano-British farmstead.

Cobers Laithe Earthwork (southern-side grassy earthworks.

Cobers Laithe Earthwork (southern-side grassy earthworks.

    The relatively flat part of the earthwork, nearest the lane and fence, is on the south-side of the little stream while the northern and, by far the largest part of the earthwork, lies just beyond the stream and up the slight slope of the field beyond. But unfortunately the stream in between the two sections has made for some very muddy and boggy conditions, and so it is not easy to reach that ‘northern’ section unless you have wellies! Its quite obvious that the steam is a ‘more recent’ feature, having gouged out the channel through the centre of the ancient earthwork. To put it another way: the stream was not here when the earthwork was constructed. It was formed from a spring further up the field over hundreds of years, but certainly ‘not’ thousands of years.

    The northern part of the earthwork is pock-marked by holes or depressions (bell pits) in the ground, which are probably the result of quarrying for coal a few hundred years or so back. This poor or cheap coal substitute being used by local farms. Some of the holes have now become ponds.

    The Pastscape website has the site of an alleged Roman camp (monument no. 45530) about a ¼ of a mile to the north-west at Swinden (OS grid ref: SD 8617 5440), though this is perhaps an error? See the website link below.

Sources and related websites:-

Click on this Geograph link for a good photo of the enclosure on Swinden Moor:-     http://www.geograph.org.uk/photo/2837370

http://www.pastscape.org.uk/hob.aspx?hob_id=45530

http://www.pastscape.org.uk/hob.aspx?hob_id=45517

http://www.megalithic.co.uk/article.php?sid=28080

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Swinden

http://www.gisburn.org.uk/nappa/

http://www.longpreston.info/history/history.html

http://mapio.net/o/1975548/

                                                        © Ray Spencer, The Journal Of Antiquities.


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Round Dikes Earthwork, Addingham Low Moor, West Yorkshire

Round Dikes on Addingham Low Moor (from above).

Round Dikes on Addingham Low Moor (from above).

    OS grid reference: SE 0551 5012. Quite a substantial Iron Age earth-work situated below Counter Hill on Addingham Low Moor, West Yorkshire, that is locally called ‘Round Dikes’, ‘Round Dikes Camp’ and ‘Round Dikes Settlement’. This enclosed and almost oval-shaped earthwork on the moors to the east of Crossbank Road also supports a Bronze Age burial mound, but unfortunately this is now badly muti-lated. There are traces of an associated linear earthwork to the south-east of the site, and another burial mound, although this is now hardly recognizable at ground level. Round Dikes Earthwork can be reached from Crossbank Road, where a footpath runs north-east towards Counter Hill, through a couple of fields and over a couple of wall stiles for 400m. Just before the earthwork there are some gates and a short muddy path. The grassy earthwork is now in front of you!

Round Dikes Earthwork, Addingham Low Moor (the north side).

Round Dikes Earthwork,  (the north side).

    Round Dikes Earthwork roughly measures 87m x 79m and is oval shaped. It has a well-defined ditch with banks running around an inner area which would have been the camp or settlement’s inner sanctum; the banking at the north-side is very prominent and is 4-5 feet high in parts, whereas the banking further around the site is slightly less at 3-4 feet high. However it is thought this was a non-defensive camp or “entrenchment” probably of the Iron Age, and not of the Roman period. The inner part of the site probably contained maybe nine hut circles and some hearths, according to John Dixon in his work ‘Journeys Through Brigantia’ – Volume One. At the south-east side there is what looks to be an entrance, and close to that and just inside the camp’s enclosure, a spring which is now almost lost in reed beds! The ditch and banking at the S side is almost lost in dense foliage and reed beds, and the spring makes for very boggy conditions here.

    It would seem that the people of the Iron Age kept their stock: cattle, sheep, goats, pigs and maybe horses close to them and always within the bounds of their settlements or enclosures.

    The author J. C. Barringer in his work ‘The Yorkshire Dales’, says of these Iron Age people and their enclosures: These complexes of small enclosures were bounded by stone banks and contained round huts of about fifteen feet in diameter. The inference to be drawn from the archaeological evidence is that Iron Age peoples occupied many of the limestone plateau above the main valley floors and that they were agriculturalists to the extent of growing crops of oats and perhaps rye in their small enclosures.”

    He goes on to say: ‘Their small enclosures near their huts may have been crop growing areas, but most of their territory must have been used for grazing stock. The grazing of hillsides, would of course, hold back tree growth and in the case of goats severely inhibit it, so maintaining the clearance of the woodlands and perhaps increasing it in some areas.”

Round Dikes Earthwork. Bronze Age Bowl Barrow (between the sheep!)

Round Dikes Earthwork. Bronze Age Bowl Barrow (between the sheep!)

    Near the south side of the site there is a small but very mutilated mound or bowl barrow which must be ascribed to the Bronze Age. This grassy mound is about 4 feet high but it is very damaged with a hollowed-out part at one side – due perhaps to robbery, or maybe from some illegal archaeological diggings in the past. So the site was obviously in use as a settlement long before the round dikes were built. And 200m further down hill to the south-east there are traces of a linear earthwork which was probably an extended part of the Round Dikes Camp. There is also another tumulus (bowl barrow) just below this earthwork at (grid ref: SE 0584 4993), although this has been largely lost due to plough-ing of the field.

    About ¾ of a mile to the west, at Woofa Bank, there is another large oval-shaped Iron Age enclosure with associated earthworks over to the north and east, and there is an interest-ing tumulus (bowl barrow) on the trackway (Millennium Way) to the south.

Sources and related websites:-

Barringer, J. C., The Yorkshire Dales, The Dalesman Publishing Company Ltd., Clapham, 1982.

Dixon, John & Phillip, Journeys Through Brigantia – Volume One – Walks in Craven, Airedale and Wharfedale, Aussteiger Publications, Barnoldswick, 1990.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Addingham

http://www.pastscape.org.uk/hob.aspx?hob_id=48311

http://www.ancientmonuments.info/en31498-late-prehistoric-enclosed-settlement-known

http://www.armadale.org.uk/rounddykes.htm


Ring Stones Earthwork, Worsthorne, Burnley, Lancashire

Ringstones Earthwork near Worsthorne, Lancashire.

Ring Stones Earthwork Worsthorne, Lancashire. South-eastern side.

    OS grid reference: SD 8863 3301. On Worsthorne Hill above the two Swinden reservoirs at the east side of Burnley, Lancashire, there is a rectangular-shaped earthwork which has often been considered to be Iron Age in date, but it appears to be Romano-British, and most probably mid to late 4th century AD. It is similar in design to the Bomber Camp Earthwork, near Gisburn, Lancashire. This quite large site is also called ‘Slipper Hill Earthwork’ and ‘Hameldon Pasture Earthwork’. It is conjectured to have been a Romano-British farmstead, or maybe a temporary camp, although without any “real” concrete information that is still ‘open to question’. The site can be reached from St John’s Church in Worsthorne. From here take the Gorple road going eastwards on what becomes a rough track for about ¾ of a mile. Take the track on the left just after Brown Edge Farm, climb over two stiles and continue along here for 600m, eventually climbing a 3rd and 4th wall stile. The site is in the field to the right. There is a stile but it’s on the wrong-side of the earthwork; so the two gates are in the way and the site seems to be on ‘private land’. You can probably reach the earthwork from a path at the the north-western side of the field.

Ring Stones Earthwork (western side)

Ring Stones Earthwork (western rampart looking south).

    This quite large rectangular earthwork measures 56m x 41m and has very well-defined outer banks (ramparts) that are curved at the corners, and there are also prominent ditches. The outer banks (ramparts) are 3 feet high in places, especially at the S, W and N sides – the bank at the E side is not quite as high. At the E and W sides the ditches are quite well-defined. The NE side has what could be an entrance with extended banks at either side running out from the earthwork for 15m – and a trackway or path traversing from east to north-west across the inside of the site, although these could be a more recent features? The NW side has a circular (banked) feature with large stones inside, which could perhaps have been a 17th century lime kiln? At the W and NW sides, in particular, the outer banks (ramparts) have large and small stones embedded into them at intervals – an indication of how these were built. At the NW side a second, smaller earthwork measuring 18 yards square can just be made out – although this is now very faint in the ground and only just visible.

Ring Stones Earthwork. The western rampart.

Ring Stones Earthwork. (Western rampart looking north).

    The author Walter Bennett in his acclaimed work ‘History of Burnley’ did a survey of the earthworks in 1946. In this he called the site: “an enclosure that is 50 yards square with ramparts 2 yards wide and 1 yard high with an outer ditch 2 yards wide.” He says of the smaller enclosure: “It is 18 yards square.” He goes on to say: “the site was excavated in 1925 at which time a gateway 7 yards wide at the SW side was paved with boulders laid in a gravel foundation. At the S side there was a drain. A regular course of large stones flanked the gateway entrance at either side, and a floor of gravel and flat stones or cobbles. The rampart was built of earth and stones. There was a well-constructed road 7 feet wide which ran towards Bottin Farm on the Worsthorne to Roggerham road.” This is ½ a mile to the west. Could this have been the ancient straight trackway which runs back down to Gorple Road, or another track that heads north-west from the site to Swinden?

Ring Stones Earthwork (from the south-east).

Ring Stones Earthwork (from the south-east).

    But what makes this site interesting is the fact that a smaller, square-shaped earthwork feature joins onto the larger one at the north-western side, although this is fainter and more difficult to make out at ground level. So was this also a Romano-British farmstead, or was it something else? Almost certainly it was linked to, or was part of, the larger farmstead. It may be that this structure, and the larger one, only lasted for a short period of time because at that ‘time’ in Late Roman Britain, especially in the northern parts of the empire, daily life was becoming difficult with warring factions and tribal infighting on the increase – the Roman army now almost incapable of holding these rebellious northern, British tribes back. And soon the Roman army would retreat back to Gaul. Britanniae would then be left to its own devices! But the question must be asked: what was this Late Roman farmstead or camp doing here at the east side of Burnley?

Sources and related web-sites:-

Bennett, Walter, History Of Burnley – Vol I, Burnley Corporation, 1946.

Hall, Brian, Burnley (A Short History), Burnley and District Historical Society, 1977.

http://www.pastscape.org.uk/hob.aspx?hob_id=45317

https://historicengland.org.uk/listing/the-list/list-entry/1009488

https://megalithix.wordpress.com/2009/09/09/ring-stones-lancashire/


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Primrose Hill Earthwork, Gisburn, Lancashire

Primrose Hill Earthwork, near Gisburn, Lancashire

Primrose Hill Earthwork, near Gisburn, Lancashire

    OS grid reference: SD 8476 4725. Near Coal Pit Lane – about 1 mile to the south-east of Gisburn, Lancashire, there is a small, square-shaped earthwork that sits upon the north-side of Primrose Hill. But unfor-tunately hardly anything is known about this solitary earthwork apart from the probability that it dates from the Roman period. This earth-work is located beside a footpath close to Hesketh Farm. There are other Roman features in this area: 600m to the north-west is the well-defined earthwork known as Bomber Camp, and 500m to the south-east there are faint traces of the Roman road that runs from Elslack to Ribchester. The Primrose Hill earthwork can be reached from the A682 out of Gisburn, turning onto Coal Pit Lane for maybe ½ a mile, then walk along the footpath/track towards Hesketh House Farm. Via off to the north before the farm, then north-east along footpath (following tree line) for 160m to reach the low hill (Primrose Hill) on the right.

Primrose Hill Earthwork near Gisburn, Lancashire,

Primrose Hill Earthwork (in the foreground) near Gisburn, Lancashire,

    This roughly square-shaped earthwork or earthen platform on Primrose Hill is about 1m (3 feet) high and 10m (nearly 33 foot) square. It is quite prominent when viewed close-up from just below the hill itself, but from further afield it is not particularly visible and would be easily walked passed. There is a dearth of information with regard to this site – although it is conjectured to have been a Roman watchtower or signal station – the later being more unlikely due to the smallness of the earthwork. A watchtower seems more plausible due to the feature being situated on a hill with lower ground on the N side and its nearness to a Roman road on the S. If this “were” a watchtower of the late Roman period, it would have been garrisoned by only ten soldiers at any one time. The thinking being that this particular watchtower never even saw the light of day, it was quickly abandoned and never begun, leaving just an earthen platform. The nearby Roman earthwork ‘Bomber Camp’ ended its days in a similar vane – only surviving for a short period of time towards the end of the 4th century AD.

Primrose Hill Earthwork, near Gisburn, Lancs.

Primrose Hill Earthwork, near Gisburn, Lancashire.

    The author John Dixon in his work ‘Journeys Through Brigantia’, (Volume One), says of this earthwork that: “During June 1971 the site was excavated by Alan King and the Chorley College of Education. No post-holes or masonry were found, nor any finds. There was no ditch around the earthwork, but the boulder clay of the mound contained sand-stone while the drift below was more calcareous, and so it was given to be man-made.” And so with the lack of any ‘good’ credible information this Roman earthwork, if that’s what it was, shall have to remain just a miscella-neous earthwork of uncertain date – at least until further information arises.

Sources:

Dixon, John & Phillip, Journeys Through Brigantia (Volume One), Walks in Craven, Airedale and Wharfedale, Aussteiger Publications, Barnoldswick, 1990.

https://thejournalofantiquities.com/2012/06/27/bomber-camp-gisburn-lancashire/


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Babyhouse Lane Ancient Settlement, Cononley, North Yorkshire

Babyhouse Lane Settlement from the south-west.

Babyhouse Lane Settlement from the south-west.

    OS grid reference: SD 9719 4628. On the hills a mile or so to the south-west of Cononley, north Yorkshire, near the top end of Babyhouse Lane there is an Iron Age settlement or camp. This is thought to have been a Brigantian outpost that was still in use in the late 1st century AD when Roman soldiers marched along the Roman road to the south-west and set up their fort at Elslack. For a time the Brigantes got on to some extent with the Romans, but that was not to last for long and their settlements were soon to be abandoned, forever. Babyhouse Lane can be reached from Colne Road (A6068) near the Dog & Gun public house at Glusburn. Take the lane up onto Leys Lane, turning left at the top onto Babyhouse Lane, and then just after the junction of four lanes and the wooded area on the right, go through the second farm-gate and into the large walled field – here before you are the faint and grassy earthworks of the ancient settlement.

Babyhouse Lane Settle-ment viewed from SE.

Babyhouse Lane Settle-ment viewed from SE.

    At ground level there isn’t a great deal to see apart from a few raised areas (low ramparts) in the middle of the field and, what are probably ditches around the edges; and the earthworks continue just beyond the wall at the N side. This pentagonal-shaped settlement measures approx. 91m x 85m and covers an area of just over 1 acre. At the W and S sides the ditch is more prominent – just before the land rises forming the bank (which seems not to be part of the earthwork), while over at the E side there is what could be an entrance. The settlement appears to be strategically placed to overlook the Aire Gap to the north-west. And the modern-day walls surrounding the earthworks give this former Brigantian, possible Romano-British settle-ment, the look of “still” being an enclosed site, even if today it is only to keep the sheep in! Sadly nothing much else is known about this site.

Babyhouse Lane Settlement viewed from the East.

Babyhouse Lane Settlement viewed from the East.

    The late John Dixon in his work ‘Journeys Through Brigantia’ , Volume One, says of the settlement here: “Just down Babyhouse Lane, over on the left, are the earthwork remains of an Iron Age/Romano-British settlement site, the earliest home of man in the area, being a pentagonal dtched earthwork with an entrance on the east and covering just over one acre.” While the author and antiquarian Harry Speight considered the ancient settlement on Babyhouse Lane to be of Danish origins. There are indeed some Scandinavian place-names around this area. Cononley is named after King Canute, according to Mr Speight. But it would seem that this is a late Iron Age-Romano-British site; and there are similar earthworks at Higher Scarcliff and Catlow Gill near Carleton Lane Head, a couple of miles to the north.

Sources:

Dixon, John & Philip., Journeys Through Brigantia, Volume One, Walks in Craven, Airedale and Wharfedale, Aussteiger Publications, Barnoldswick, 1990.

Check out this web blog by Jim Jarratt:  http://www.jimjarratt.co.uk/walks/beaconsway/section2.html