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Current Fieldwork

Raincliffe Woods 2016-2017

Brompton Castle Hill 2016

Hanging Grimston 2016

Raincliffe Woods 2016-2017

Survey of Raincliffe, Row Brow and Forge Valley Woods 2016-17

Over the winter months of 2016 and 2017 the Society has been working in Raincliffe, Forge Valley and Row Brow Woods making the first detailed record of their archaeology. The woods form a continuous  belt nearly five miles long extending from East Ayton to Stepney Hill and cover the steep west and north slopes of Seamer, Irton and East Ayton Moors. Using the Society’s newly-acquired GPS mapping receiver, members of the Society’s fieldwork team have been systematically mapping all features of archaeological interest visible among the trees and which potentially range in date from prehistoric times to the last century.

One of the most unexpected features of the survey has been the large number of disused tracks which survive among the woods, many of which have formed deep hollow ways where they cross the steepest parts of the slope. Many of the hollow ways are so deeply eroded they must have been in use for centuries and probably by livestock as well as people moving between the high moor tops and the valleys leading to Scalby and Hackness. In several places there are several hollow ways in close proximity suggesting that routes periodically changed alignments as existing tracks became impassable.

Also preserved in the woodland are around 20 small circular platforms made by cutting into the hillside at the back and piling up material on the front to create a level area. As yet the field team are not sure what these were used for and how old they are, but most likely is that some of them were created to form level areas for bonfires for making charcoal.  Selective burning of timber to make charcoal has been an important woodland industry for many centuries and in these woods may have been connected with the production of charcoal for the iron-making forge at the north end of Forge Valley which was in operation during the closing decades of the eighteenth century. It is also possible that other platforms mark the locations of small buildings or animal pens, but further work is needed before we can be certain what they were used for.

The fieldwork has also mapped extensive areas of quarrying, particularly on the slopes above Throxenby Mere where the rock face called Cock Hollow quarry is just part  of a much more extensive area of quarrying indicated by tree-covered pits and hollows. It is likely stone was taken from this area for building material whilst smaller quarries recorded elsewhere in the woods may have been for field walls or for lime burning.

As the project draws to a close, the Society is developing plans for a booklet so that the many visitors to the woods can explore the remains themselves. An Interim report has been published on the work carried out between December 2015 and April 2016 [Here is a link to the report]. The Society will publish a detailed report on all of  the discoveries which will hopefully be the catalyst for further research and will also help  in the management of the woodlands.


1. An example of one of the deep hollow ways found throughout the woods

2. The figure stands on a slight platform close to the Green Gate car park

3. Exposed rock face forming part of Cock Hollow quarry


Brompton Castle Hill 2016

Earthwork Survey at Castle Hill, Brompton by Sawdon 2016

In April 2016 members of the Scarborough Archaeological and Historical Society surveyed the earthworks surviving in a pasture field forming part of Castle Hill on the east side of the village of Brompton-by-Sawdon. The work followed on from a geophysical survey of the field undertaken in 2014.

Castle Hill is a natural spur formed by limestone bedrock and gravel which rises steeply on the south and west sides but on the north and east it is far less pronounced as it merges into the general south-facing dip slope of the Tabular Hills. The hill would probably have formed quite a distinctive landmark viewed from the lower ground to the west and south before the expansion of the village of Brompton. Castle Hill receives passing reference in several local guidebooks in the 19th and 20th centuries but these sources do not add any substantial information. However, large scale Ordnance survey mapping published in the late 19th and early 20th centuries show a series of linear and sub-rectangular earthworks in the field which broadly match those recorded in the present survey.

The earthwork survey mapped a small rectangular building with an associated yard to its south with a route leading into the yard from the west. The survey also recorded a possible second building  further to the south though this is not necessarily the same date as the complex to the north. A north-south bank overlying the yard suggests a later arrangement of field boundaries presumably after the yard had fallen into disuse. There is no evidence to securely date either of the two buildings though a medieval or early post-medieval date seem the most likely and they probably had an agricultural purpose with the yard used for livestock. However this is not to discount the possibility that more impressive buildings stood elsewhere on the hilltop and have now been lost explaining why this part of the village is called ‘Castle Hill’. A more detailed Interim Report is available on the work carried out so far [here is a link to the report].  The society is planning to return to the site to undertake test excavations to try and find evidence for medieval occupation on the hilltop.


1. General view across the field looking south

2. Earthwork survey plan


Hanging Grimston 2016

This year three trenches were excavated. Two trenches from last year, no. 2 on the eastern boundary of the manorial enclosure and no. 5 on the site of a large, post-medieval, C-shaped house, were re-opened and extended in order to excavate them fully down to natural deposits at the same time as investigating more of the features within. One new trench (Trench 6) was also dug to investigate the character of the western boundary of the manorial enclosure.

Trench 2

We now know that the earliest feature within Trench 2 is a deep ditch (its base lying circa 1.7m below the modern ground surface) aligned roughly north-south. This has a W-profile, presumably indicating it silted and was then recut. It is currently undated, but we believe it to be Roman or even prehistoric. In the 12th century, long after the ditch had completely silted and been forgotten, a pebble surface was laid over the natural chalk bedrock in the east end of the trench, extending over the ditch. This may have been a yard area, although if so, it was not in use for long before the eastern boundary wall of the manorial enclosure was constructed across it. We have also found a number of other walls within the enclosure, but at present their relationship to each other and the manorial boundary is unclear; one of these was also constructed across the silted ditch and must have begun to fall down for a buttress was subsequently added.

Trench 2 showing the large W-shaped ditch closest to the camera

Trench 5

Trench 5 was started in 2015 to investigate the remains of a large C-shaped building overlying, and therefore later than, the main medieval village earthworks. At the end of last year’s excavations we discovered documentary evidence that suggests the building is in fact the mansion house of John Bourchier, second son of Sir Ralph Bourchier of Beningborough Hall. Sir Ralph bought the Hanging Grimston estate in 1575 specifically for John and his wife. In 2016 Trench 5 was emptied of backfill, extended by a metre or so to the south to expose more of a (presumably medieval) stone wall  found last year below the robbed-out remains of the Bourchier mansion, and excavated down to natural across the whole area of the trench.

Trench 5 showing the medieval foundation wall


At the deepest levels in Trench 5, underlying both the Bourchier mansion and medieval wall, a number of features were found cut into natural which here is not chalk but a clayey solifluction deposit overlying Whitwell Oolite. Several of these cut features contained what looked to be Roman pottery and very likely relate to an Iron Age/Romano-British ‘ladder settlement’, which geophysical survey has suggested lies under the eastern edge of the medieval village. Later, in the medieval period, a stone building was constructed of which we have found a stretch of the southern wall: we know this because a doorway in the wall has rebates in its northern side marking the position of a former timber (internal) doorframe. This building was in turn succeeded by the Bourchier mansion whose basic plan is traceable on the surface as a series of earthwork banks. As the excavations progressed last year, it became apparent that the earthwork we were sampling within the trench was in fact an upcast bank of spoil from a robbed-out wall line that lay immediately to the west. The actual robber trench was only seen with difficulty last year, but was much more apparent in the southern extension to the trench this year. Unfortunately the robbing has been comprehensive and no floor levels survive. The form and quality of architectural stone fragments (door mouldings, window mullions, etc) and fragments of window cames (lead strips) recovered from the demolition rubble, however, are indicative of both a 16th/17th-century date for the building and it being of relatively high status, thus seeming to corroborate our identification of it as the documented Bourchier mansion.

Trench 6

Trench 6 was a new trench this year, positioned to sample a point on the western boundary of the manorial enclosure where earthwork evidence indicates it is met by an internal east-west scarp-cum-bank. Before excavation we took the scarp representing the manorial boundary to be the remains of a ruined wall. However, where sampled by Trench 6 the boundary was found to consist solely of an earthen bank overlain by a deposit of yellowish, more stony, material (probably upcast natural), and with a broad ditch or possible routeway on its western (outer) side. The bank is low and broad suggesting it may have originated as a plough ridge; if so, it indicates that the manorial enclosure is laid out over former cultivated fields and post-dates the founding of the village. The east-west scarp running away at right angles from the enclosure boundary proved to be the downhill edge of the upcast natural - seemingly a levelling deposit associated with terracing the hillside within the enclosure to create level platforms for buildings.

The north section of Trench 6


Text Marcus Jecock

Images Chris Hall


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