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Medieval manorial complex, garden and water management features, St Mary's chapel, and a linear earthwork forming part of the Aberford Dyke system

A Scheduled Monument in Saxton with Scarthingwell, North Yorkshire

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Latitude: 53.8259 / 53°49'33"N

Longitude: -1.2982 / 1°17'53"W

OS Eastings: 446293.668848

OS Northings: 436848.385658

OS Grid: SE462368

Mapcode National: GBR MSC6.R8

Mapcode Global: WHDBN.133C

Entry Name: Medieval manorial complex, garden and water management features, St Mary's chapel, and a linear earthwork forming part of the Aberford Dyke system

Scheduled Date: 17 September 1949

Last Amended: 25 June 2001

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1020326

English Heritage Legacy ID: 32815

County: North Yorkshire

Civil Parish: Saxton with Scarthingwell

Traditional County: Yorkshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): North Yorkshire

Church of England Parish: Saxton All Saints

Church of England Diocese: York


The monument includes the earthworks of a medieval manorial complex, garden
and water management features, together with St Mary's chapel, and a linear
earthwork which is considered to be part of the Aberford Dyke system.
The manorial earthworks lie within a triangular area of land east of the farm,
at the centre of which is St Mary's Chapel, dating from the 12th-13th
centuries, and which is a Listed Building Grade II*. Excavation has shown
that the chapel was once larger and that it has been much altered over the
The earthworks of the manorial complex have several distinct components. On
the west side of the field containing the chapel is a large enclosure
approximately 50m long which probably contained the manor house; to its south
are at least three smaller enclosures on the same alignment, which would have
contained ancillary manorial buildings. On its west side this enclosure
complex is interrupted by the modern track to Lead Hall Farm and by
landscaping works. A hollow way approximately 7m wide runs between the smaller
enclosures and connects with a larger hollow way over 10m wide, aligned north-
south, along the east side of the enclosures. The latter hollow way appears to
join a 9m wide trackway aligned east-west, which may be a carriageway to Lead
Hall Farm, possibly also formerly a routeway associated with the medieval
earthworks. East of the manorial enclosures and the hollow way aligned north-
south, are the earthworks of medieval ridge and furrow, aligned east-west.
These are discontinuous and lie in two main areas, one north of the
carriageway and another south of the chapel. Between the two areas of ridge
and furrow lie the chapel and a large, almost square enclosure with part of
another enclosure appended to its south end; both enclosures and the ridge and
furrow appear to follow the main hollow way aligned north-south. A further
hollow way runs north to south on the east side of the chapel at which point
it turns south east towards a probable water course which may be associated
with the water management features in the adjacent field to the west. The
chapel itself is surrounded by a small enclosure. The hollow way on the east
side of the chapel appears to form the eastern boundary to this distinctive
group of earthworks. To the east of this group there are the remains of a
dovecote mound and the earthworks of ponds and water courses. On the west side
of Lead Hall Farm are the earthworks of garden features including a probable
prospect mound. To the south west of the manorial complex are the earthworks
of water management features comprising a number of irregularly-shaped and
interlinked enclosures of different sizes interpreted as fishponds. The ponds
lie on either side of a broad water channel running east to west, water
probably being diverted into them at the north western end of the field from
the Cock Beck. A system of leats and sluices, the latter represented by in
situ stonework, is well preserved. The morphology of the ponds and the system
of leats running into the east-west channel suggest different phases of use.
The entire complex of earthworks is extensive and it is likely that a number
of different phases of activity are represented on the site and these may be
further clarified by documentary and interpretive earthwork survey.
The history of this medieval manorial complex and chapel is not yet fully
understood. The complex lies less than two kilometres from the heart of the
Towton battlefield. The battle of Towton on 29th March 1461, reputably the
largest and bloodiest battle ever fought in England, was one of the major
engagements of the Wars of the Roses. The size of the Yorkist and Lancastrian
armies was considered exceptional for the time; contemporaries felt sure that
over 100,000 were present and after the battle, heralds numbered the dead at
28,000. Despite being a decisive Yorkist victory, it was to be a further 25
years before the political struggle came to an end. The scale of this battle
must have had a major impact on settlement and agricultural activity in the
immediate battlefield area and significant information on this impact will be
preserved within the manorial remains at Lead.
A length of linear earthwork, which is considered to be part of the Aberford
Dyke system, runs for approximately 100m and lies between the B1217 and the
Cock Beck, 330m west of Lead Hall Farm. Its eastern end abuts the remains of
the area of medieval settlement. Although considered to be part of the
Aberford Dyke system, this stretch of earthwork is physically separated by
more than one kilometre from other sections of the dyke system (Woodhouse Moor
Rein and South Dyke) but it is broadly similar in dimensions and construction
with the South Dyke. The purpose of Woodhouse Moor Rein, the South Bank and
the linear earthwork 330m west of Lead Hall Farm is difficult to understand,
but they seem intended to reinforce the weaker, stoneless end of the main dyke
system and it is probable that this eastern end of the dyke, being on marl,
was further protected by surrounding dense forest which impeded access.
The monument comprises a double bank with a ditch lying between. The southern
of the two banks is approximately 12m wide and 0.4m high and the northern bank
is approximately 10m wide and 0.4m high. The ditch is approximately 5m wide
and 0.4m deep. The whole monument is therefore approximately 27m wide. The
northern bank continues for approximately 24m into the adjoining field to the
east. Approximately 50m south of the bank at the south west corner of the
western field is a natural scarp accentuated by a lynchet; this is
approximately 15m wide and 0.3m high, and continues as a broad stony bank
curving round northwards to meet a sharp bend in the Cock Beck. The whole
feature is not part of the dyke system but is a continuation of the road line
or field boundary visible in the field to the east, just north of the modern
road. This feature is included in the area of protection due to its proximity
at this point to the linear double-banked earthwork.
Lead Hall Farm remains in occupation and is not included in the scheduling.
All fences and road surfaces are excluded from the scheduling, although the
ground beneath these features is included.

The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

As a manorial centre, Lead would have been an important focus of medieval
rural life. Its buildings, which probably included the chapel, will have
reflected its status as an aristocratic or seigneurial residence. However,
whilst being of such status, the complex is typical of those manors which were
not confined within impressive moats or major enclosing earthworks which tend
to be well-preserved. The original buildings of the complex typically
exhibit a fairly unplanned layout which appears to extend over a large area
and whose full extent is difficult to determine. Continued use of the site
has also, in some instances, led to the destruction or truncation of medieval
remains but this has not diminished the overall integrity of the site.
Examples of medieval manorial centres of this type which can be positively
identified and demonstrated to have extensive surviving archaeological remains
are relatively rare.
The Aberford Dykes are substantial linear earthworks situated in North and
West Yorkshire, east of Leeds. They lie north and south of Cock Beck with the
modern village of Aberford at their approximate centre.
They are visible as rock-cut ditches and banks. Most of the earthworks run
approximately east-west. The ditch is on the south side of the bank and some
parts of the earthworks have an additional counterscarp bank on the same side.
The earthworks north of Cock Beck (including sections known as The Ridge,
Becca Banks and the earthwork at Field Lane) mostly occupy commanding
positions at the top of the scarp and may once have formed a single boundary.
The earthworks south of the Cock Beck include the South Dyke which occupies
the top of the scarp above the beck and, crossing it, Woodhouse Moor Rein,
running north east-south west along a low rounded ridge.
The Aberford Dykes have been identified as defences of the British kingdom of
Elmet against the Anglo-Saxons in the late sixth and early seventh centuries,
or as boundaries to defend the Anglo-Saxon kingdom of Deira against the
Mercians in the seventh century AD. They have also been interpreted as dykes
built to defend the territories of the Brigantes against the advance of the
Roman Empire in the first century AD. There is no documentary evidence for the
date of the Dykes, however, and firm archaeological dating evidence is sparse.
They may not all belong to one period but relate to a number of different
events. The style of construction has parallels in both the Roman and the
early post-Roman periods. Excavation at Field Lane retrieved Roman period
pottery from deposits associated with the silting up of the ditch. It is
therefore likely that, here at least, the ditch was open during the Roman
The size and extent of the Aberford Dykes imply a considerable expenditure of
time and labour, suggesting a degree of social organisation at the time of
their construction and a strong concern for territorial control, whether
military, organisational or symbolic. All known lengths of the Aberford Dykes
where significant archaeological deposits are likely to survive are considered
to be nationally important.
The length of linear earthwork considered to be part of the Aberford Dyke
system survives reasonably well, although degraded by ploughing, and will
preserve significant archaeological information on Roman and post-Roman
remains in this region.

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
England, R, Excavations at Lead Chapel: Volume 32, (1936)
aps held by NYCC at Northallerton, Crawshaw, A, (1986)

Source: Historic England

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