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Aldro earthworks: a linear boundary, two cross-dykes and nine round barrows on Birdsall Wold

A Scheduled Monument in Birdsall, North Yorkshire

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Latitude: 54.0589 / 54°3'32"N

Longitude: -0.7728 / 0°46'21"W

OS Eastings: 480428.9155

OS Northings: 463250.0605

OS Grid: SE804632

Mapcode National: GBR RP1H.HQ

Mapcode Global: WHFBW.379P

Entry Name: Aldro earthworks: a linear boundary, two cross-dykes and nine round barrows on Birdsall Wold

Scheduled Date: 15 January 1931

Last Amended: 27 January 1994

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1007500

English Heritage Legacy ID: 20463

County: North Yorkshire

Civil Parish: Birdsall

Traditional County: Yorkshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): North Yorkshire

Church of England Parish: West Buckrose

Church of England Diocese: York


The monument includes a prehistoric linear boundary earthwork, one adjoining
cross-dyke, a second intersecting cross-dyke and nine closely associated round
barrows situated near Aldro Farm, at the western end of Birdsall Wold. The
linear boundary defines the northern and western sides of a plateau whose
southern and eastern sides are formed by the steep scarps of Brownmoor Dale
and Birdsall Dale.
The linear boundary runs from the head of Brownmoor Dale and curves around the
brow of the hill, between the 220m and 230m contours, to the head of Birdsall
Dale. Over most of its length the boundary comprises a single ditch, averaging
6m wide by between 1m and 2.5m deep, with an earthen bank on each side. The
inner (uphill) bank is between 2m and 8m wide by up to 0.5m high; the outer
(downhill) bank is up to 5m wide and 0.5m high, although in places only a
slight ridge is visible. On the northern arm of the linear boundary, a slight
outer ditch can be observed and a 19th century survey of the earthworks by
J R Mortimer records two ditches; it is thought that the outer ditch has
become partially infilled over the years and survives as a buried feature over
much of its length. In three places the earthworks lie buried beneath modern
roads and the western arm is bridged by a causeway carrying a farm track.
About 200m north of Aldro Farm, the entrenchment surrounds the bowl barrow
known as Aldro Rath; this is a 1.5m high mound which is 20m in diameter,
encircled by a ditch and bank that lie partly beneath the modern estate road.
Mortimer's partial excavation of the barrow, in 1874, established that the
linear boundary was built after the barrow but respected its circumferecnce.
The linear boundary then changes course to run southwards and, although it
lies partly beneath the modern road while its outer bank has been levelled by
ploughing, its course is well recorded; the ditches are thought to survive as
a buried feature as far as Aldro Farm where the boundary is thought to have
been destroyed by the foundations of the existing buildings. A second barrow,
recorded and partially excavated by Mortimer, lay adjacent to the boundary
dyke, about 10m east of the road's edge and had a diameter of 16m; although
altered by ploughing and no longer visible at the surface, buried features
relating to the construction of this barrow are thought to survive.
The south-western end of the linear boundary joins the end of a cross-dyke
which runs south-westwards across the head of Brownmoor Dale. The cross-dyke
is best-preserved on the northern slope of the dale where it is observed as a
ditch 8m wide by up to 1.5m deep with a slight bank on each side. The cross-
dyke is recorded as continuing over the crest of the ridge into Deep Dale, but
although its course is retained by the modern field boundary, there is no
visible evidence of the prehistoric earthworks south of the road. The cross-
dyke is thought to have been constructed as a boundary between Acklam Wold and
Hanging Grimston Wold, each of which were used as burial grounds during the
Bronze Age.
A group of seven bowl barrows lies at the west of the monument, around Aldro
Wood. Five barrows were partially excavated by Mortimer in 1868 after the
mounds were partially levelled for agricultural purposes although, despite
this alteration, three are still visible as slight mounds up to 0.3m high and
ranging between 14m and 23m in diameter. Below-ground remains of burials and
ditches were recorded during the excavations. The westernmost of these barrows
is visible on aerial photographs which show a concentric pair of ditches, 13m
and 26m in diameter respectively, which surrounded the mound; material for the
construction of the mound was obtained from these ditches and, although they
have become infilled over the years, they survive as buried features. In
addition to those which are visible as earthworks, two barrows are known from
aerial photographs; the circular outlines of the infilled ditches have been
observed and these features along with grave pits beneath these barrows will
survive intact. Also visible from the air is the line of a buried ditch,
previously noted by Mortimer, which is a ploughed-out cross-dyke running
westwards down Leavening Wold; this ditch is estimated to be about 5m wide and
will have been flanked by banks formed of the excavated earth but which are no
longer visible as earthworks as they have been levelled by ploughing. The dyke
is included in the scheduling where it runs between the barrows.
Excluded from the scheduling are the metalled surfaces of roads and field
boundary fences, although the ground beneath these features is included.

The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.
It includes a 2 metre boundary around the archaeological features,
considered to be essential for the monument's support and preservation.

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

The linear earthworks at Aldro Farm are well-preserved parts of an extensive
system of prehistoric dykes which has been recorded on the Wolds. Their
construction is thought to span the millennium from the Middle Bronze Age,
although they may have been re-used later. Current interpretations favour the
view that they were used to define territorial landholdings and also
subdivisions within such holdings; in the latter case they defined areas of
land used for different purposes. At Aldro Farm the cross-dykes subdivide the
top of the Wold. The linear boundary located at the top of the chalk
escarpment would seem to have served a different purpose, perhaps defining the
extent of territorial landholdings here.
The linear earthworks are directly associated with a number of earlier bowl
barrows, funerary monuments dating from the Late Neolithic through to the
Early Bronze Age. Bowl barrows were constructed as earthen or rubble mounds,
usually ditched, which covered single or multiple burials. Although many of
the barrows near Aldro Farm have been partially altered by agricultural
activity, most are still visible and were comparatively well documented during
a campaign of fieldwork in the 19th century. The close juxtaposition of the
linear earthworks with the bowl barrows provides an insight into the changing
patterns of land use in this area of the Wolds during the Bronze Age. Such
associations between monuments offer important scope for the study of the
division and use of land for social, ritual and agricultural purposes.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Mortimer, J R, 25 yrs researches, (1905)
Mortimer, J R , Forty Years Researches in British and Saxon Burial Mounds of East Yorkshire, (1905)
RCHME Survey (unpublished),
Stoetz, K., RCHME unpublished survey,
Title: Ordnance Survey 6" Series
Source Date:

Source: Historic England

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