Ancient Monuments

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A cross-dyke from Toisland Wold to Vessey Pasture Dale incorporating a bowl barrow

A Scheduled Monument in Birdsall, North Yorkshire

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Latitude: 54.052 / 54°3'7"N

Longitude: -0.7263 / 0°43'34"W

OS Eastings: 483483.242

OS Northings: 462530.5891

OS Grid: SE834625

Mapcode National: GBR RPCL.K7

Mapcode Global: WHFBW.TFB0

Entry Name: A cross-dyke from Toisland Wold to Vessey Pasture Dale incorporating a bowl barrow

Scheduled Date: 14 January 1994

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1007614

English Heritage Legacy ID: 20473

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 the well-preserved southern part of a cross-dyke,
running from the crest of Toisland Wold into Vessey Pasture Dale, and a round
barrow incorporated into the cross-dyke.
The cross-dyke comprises a 6m wide ditch with a 5m wide bank on each side. The
course of the dyke was recorded by J R Mortimer in the 19th century but, while
the southern part is still reasonably well-preserved, its northern part has
since been considerably altered by the construction of the road to Wharram
Percy House and is not included in the scheduling. South of the bend in the
road the eastern bank survives to a height of 0.5m, forming the modern field
and parish boundary. Although the ditch has been infilled and the western bank
levelled for agricultural purposes, these are thought to survive as buried
features running alongside the bank as far as the brow of the hill. Here the
cross-dyke continues down a slack leading to Vessey Pasture Dale and is
visible as an earthwork in uncultivated land. At the head of the slack the
ditch is up to 1.5m deep and, while the western bank is only slight, the
eastern bank is up to 1.5m high. Further down the slope the earthworks become
less distinct before terminating at the bottom of the slack, where the ditch
joins the ditch of another cross-dyke which runs along the floor of Vessey
Pasture Dale and meets with two further cross-dykes. (Two of these cross-dykes
are indentified for the purposes of scheduling as 20471 and 20474). All four
cross-dykes abut, but for reasons of clarity, they are defined as four
distinct cross-dykes, three of which are the subject of separate schedulings.
The bowl barrow lies 180m south of the modern road at a point where there is a
slight kink in the course of the dyke. Although altered by cultivation and no
longer visible as an earthwork, the barrow was recorded and partially
excavated by J R Mortimer in 1868. He noted that the dyke had cut through the
centre of the barrow.
All fences, including that running along the eastern bank of the dyke, are
excluded from the scheduling, although the ground beneath them 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

Cross dykes are substantial linear earthworks typically between 0.2km and 1km
long and comprising one or more ditches arranged beside and parallel to one or
more banks. They generally occur in upland situations, running across ridges
and spurs. They are recognised as earthworks or as cropmarks on aerial
photographs, or as combinations of both. The evidence of excavation and
analogy with associated monuments demonstrates that their construction spans
the millennium from the Middle Bronze Age, although they may have been re-used
later. Current information favours the view that they were used as territorial
boundary markers, probably demarcating land allotment within communities,
although they may also have been used as trackways, cattle droveways or
defensive earthworks. Cross dykes are one of the few monument types which
illustrate how land was divided up in the prehistoric period. They are of
considerable importance for any analysis of settlement and land use in the
Bronze Age. Very few have survived to the present day and hence all well-
preserved examples are considered to be of national importance.

Although its northern course has been altered by road construction and
agricultural activity, the cross-dyke from Toisland Wold to Vessey Pasture
Dale is reasonably well-preserved over much of its length and adjoins another
well-preserved dyke in Vessey Pasture Dale to form part of an extensive system
of prehistoric dykes recorded on Birdsall Wold. The cross-dyke is directly
associated with a bowl barrow, a type of funerary monument dating from the
Late Neolithic to the Bronze Age. Bowl barrows were constructed as earthen or
rubble mounds, sometimes ditched, which covered single or multiple burials.
Although the barrow has been altered by agricultural activity, it was
comparatively well documented during a campaign of fieldwork in the 19th
century. It will retain further information on the form of the barrow mound
and the burials placed within it.
The monument is associated with other broadly contemporary monuments of
similar type on Birdsall Wold. Parallels are also known from other parts of
the Wolds and from the southern edge of the North York Moors. Such
associations between monuments offer important scope for the study of the
division of land for social, ritual and agricultural purposes in different
geographical areas during the prehistoric period.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
Mortimer, J R , Forty Years Researches in British and Saxon Burial Mounds of East Yorkshire, (1905)

Source: Historic England

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