Excavation at Castle Hill, Brompton by Sawdon
In early May 2017 the fieldwork team excavated two trenches in a garden next to the pasture field surveyed in 2016 as part of its continuing research to discover more about the archaeology of Castle Hill in Brompton by Sawdon. The excavation revealed that buried below the garden are the remains of a medieval building. We found what we think is one corner of the building which seems to have had stone foundations suggesting it may have been more than one storey high. On the inside of the building we found where sandy mortar has been laid to provide a level surface for a floor though none of the actual floor survived. On the outside of the building we discovered a yard surface composed of a spread of small pebbles and some larger stones rammed into the ground. We did not have time to investigate the building or the yard in too much detail but the pottery we found indicated these features date back to the medieval period, around six or seven hundred years ago. The finds also included fragments of glazed roof tile which is a very rare find and suggests whatever the building was it must have been roofed with expensive ceramic tiles rather than stone slates or thatch.
It is too early yet to say that we have found the actual castle commemorated by the name ‘Castle Hill’ but as a result of the excavation we can be sure that at least one important building stood on the hilltop in the middle ages. We dug a second small trench in another part of the garden to see if we could find more of the yard or the building but all we found was stone rubble presumably spread from the demolition of the building. An unexpected discovery by one of the eagle-eyed archaeologists was a tiny piece of worked flint called a microlith which dates to the Mesolithic or Middle Stone Age period around 9,000 years ago. We also found a flint core in the same trench which is the raw material from which pieces of flint were struck to make tools.
The archaeology team hopes to return to Brompton in the near future to resume its search for the medieval castle by digging elsewhere on Castle Hill though there is no guarantee that any future dig will find such spectacular remains as we unearthed on this site.
The following photographs show the excavation in progress...
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