The Journal Of Antiquities

Ancient Sites In Great Britain & Southern Ireland

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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.

Portfield Hillfort, Whalley, Lancashire

Portfield Hillfort, Whalley, Lancashire.

Portfield Hillfort, Whalley, Lancashire.

OS grid reference SD 7460 3553. About three-quarters of a mile east of Whalley in the Ribble Valley, Lancashire, beside Portfield Lane stands the prehistoric site known as Portfield hillfort or Planes Wood Settlement, a promontory-type fort. Just half a mile to the west is the busy A680 Accrington Road and Spring Woods, with carparks and a number of woodland paths for the visitor to explore at leisure – all far removed from the Iron-Age hillfort-cum-settlement that lies  just beyond. The hillfort with it’s man-made defensive ramparts can be found just behind Portfield farm and the splendid 14th century tithe barn, a timber construction that was associated with Whalley Abbey. Close by is Leck beck and down in the valley at Whalley the river Calder winds it’s way southwards beneath Whalley Nab towards Great Harwood. In 1966 a hoard of Bronze-Age artefacts was dug up in the middle of the hillfort.

Portfield Hillfort (south-east rampart).

Portfield Hillfort (south-east rampart).

The fort covers an area of about three-and-a-half acres (roughly 152,460 square feet) and, although it is accepted that it dates from the Iron-Age, there was almost certainly a much earlier settlement or enclosure on this site that was inhabited in the Mesolithic, Neolithic and Bronze-Age periods of prehistory, which would be 4,000 years BC or more. There were two main phases of construction in the case of the Iron-Age fort’s defensive ramparts, as is now known from the archaeological excavations that took place in the late 1950s.

The first phase sometime between 1,000-750 BC? was a stone rampart (with no ditch) about 13 feet across with stone kerbs on their sides at the back of the inside defense, while the second phase involved the levelling of the first rampart to construct bigger but ‘unusually’ low defensive bivallate ramparts, which were stone-revetted and upto 20 feet in width surrounding the enclosure area of the fort – being especially well-defined at the north-west side but, less so at the south-eastern and east sides. Beyond this there was a 20 foot wide berm and a ditch measuring 15-18 feet across. The excavations of 1958 and 1959 revealed a cobbled pavement at the main entrance to the fort, and over this another layer of stones. It was here that a fragment of Romano-British Roman pottery was discovered dating from the 5th century AD. A couple of the back gardens of the houses on Portfield lane have rather intruded onto what’s left of the eastern rampart, although this does not ‘in any way’ spoil the situation of the prehistoric site.

Portfield Hillfort (Eastern Rampart).

Portfield Hillfort (eastern rampart).

In 1966 while workmen were laying new pipes near the centre of the fort a hoard of Bronze-Age artefacts was uncovered – among the items found were two axes, a tanged knife and blade, a tanged stud, a gauge, part of a hilt, but much more of interest was the discovery of a gold penannular bracelet (possibly of Irish craftsmanship) and a gold tress-ring dating from the mid to late Bronze-Age. Then, in excavations during 1970-71, post holes were found as well as body sherds, flints and pottery sherds from a biconical vessel. There have also recently been a few finds dating back to the Mesolithic and the Neolithic ages, including flints and pottery. Many replicas of these artefacts can be viewed in The Blackburn museum and also The Ribchester Roman museum.


Dixon, John & Dixon, Phillip., Journeys Through Brigantia (Vol 9) The Ribble Valley, Aussteiger Publications, Barnoldswick, 1993.

Werneth Low and Hangingbank, Greater Manchester

SJ9709 9315. Werneth Low is a hill 279 metres high located just west of Uplands farm near Hyde in Tameside, Greater Manchester. It was the site of an Iron-Age settlement or enclosure on the south-west facing side of the hill, dating from the 1st century BC. A flint knife and a stone mace were excavated here. The Brigantes tribe who held the territory just before the Roman army arrived would have come here to the hill to celebrate both the winter and summer soltices. And what a wonderful sight that must have been!

Werneth Low near Hyde, Greater Manchester, on ...

Werneth Low near Hyde, Greater Manchester (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

SJ9647 9352. Some 2 miles to the north-east of Werneth Low is another ancient settlement or farmstead called ‘Hangingbank’ just south of the A660. It is a low hill covering 3 acres that was inhabited from the middle to late Bronze-Age through to the Iron-Age. A number of Bronze-Age artefacts were found at the site. The earthworks at Hangingbank consist of a double-ditched enclosure with numerous crop-marks indicating where ancient field boundaries were. There may have been a Roman camp here in the 1st-2nd century AD as a shard of pottery was dug up from one of the ditches and a post hole was excavated. The course of the Roman road from Melandra Castle to Astbury supposedly crossed the site. Today a modern-day war memorial stands in the centre of the earthworks of the prehistoric settlement.