Ancient Monuments

History on the Ground

This site is entirely user-supported. See how you can help.

Extensive prehistoric and medieval remains on Levisham Moor

A Scheduled Monument in Newton, North Yorkshire

Approximate Location Map
Large Map »
Street or Overhead View
Contributor Photos »

If Google Street View is available, the image is from the best available vantage point looking, if possible, towards the location of the monument. Where it is not available, the satellite view is shown instead.

Coordinates

Latitude: 54.3201 / 54°19'12"N

Longitude: -0.7235 / 0°43'24"W

OS Eastings: 483126.387865

OS Northings: 492361.961267

OS Grid: SE831923

Mapcode National: GBR RLDH.44

Mapcode Global: WHF9J.VPN0

Entry Name: Extensive prehistoric and medieval remains on Levisham Moor

Scheduled Date: 11 March 1964

Last Amended: 16 October 2002

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1020820

English Heritage Legacy ID: 35461

County: North Yorkshire

Civil Parish: Newton

Traditional County: Yorkshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): North Yorkshire

Church of England Parish: Levisham St John the Baptist

Church of England Diocese: York

Details

The monument includes buried and earthwork remains of a range of
agricultural, domestic, industrial and ritual features dating from the
prehistoric and medieval periods and located on the southern part of
Levisham Moor. These features include Bronze Age round barrows and dykes,
Iron Age agricultural, industrial and settlement remains, a medieval
grange and a medieval iron working site as well as numerous hollow ways
tracks and field systems dating to the medieval and post-medieval periods.
None of these features exist in isolation. Together they reflect a
continuing and changing pattern of land use in which the later phases are
superimposed upon the earlier.
Levisham Moor lies on the southern edge of the sandstone, predominantly
heather covered moor characteristic of the North York Moors. The moor
occupies the northern part of a block of land defined by the deep valleys
of Newton Dale to the west, Horcum Slack to the east, Havern Beck to the
north and Levisham Beck to the south. The eastern side of the moor is
bisected by smaller valleys known locally as griffs which divide the moor
into a series of flat-topped peninsulas, known as riggs, with steep slopes
on all but their western and north western sides. The moor has been
intensively occupied and exploited from prehistoric times and the monument
occupies the southern, lower part of the moor where the major
concentration of activity was located. The northern part of the moor shows
little trace of intensive occupation and it is considered that this area
was used primarily for pastoralism. Consequently that part of the moor is
not included in the monument although some isolated remains are protected
separately. The southern part of the block of land has been enclosed and
brought into agricultural use but traces of prehistoric remains in this
area are visible on aerial photographs.
The monument is defined on its southern side by the edge of the improved
land, on its western side by the natural top edge of the precipitous west
facing flank known as West Side Brow and on the eastern side by Levisham
Beck. The northern side of the monument is defined by the natural valleys
of Hawdale Griff and Horness Griff and by the limits of prehistoric
occupation defined by dykes.
The earliest, clearly identifiable remains known to survive date to the
Bronze Age. By the Early to Middle Bronze Age much of the previously
wooded land had been cleared and was divided into discrete agricultural
units, which supported specialised activities. These areas were created by
constructing substantial dykes across ridges and promontories formed by
the natural topography of the riggs and griffs.
The most northerly of these areas lies on the northern part of Sheephouse
Rigg centred at NGR SE83159330 where two parallel, east to west orientated
dykes extend across the shoulder of land between Hawdale Griff at the east
to the edge of West Brow at the west and thus enclose an area measuring a
maximum of 350m by 500m. The northern dyke extends eastwards for 250m from
a point 20m down the slope of West Brow at NGR SE83159350 to Hawdale Griff
then makes a return southward for 75m following the edge of the Griff in
order to fully enclose the area. This dyke includes a single ditch with a
southern bank and a slight outer bank to the north. The ditch is 0.7m deep
and 3m wide and the southern bank is 4m wide and up to 1m high. The
southern dyke lies 350m to the south west and extends eastwards for 300m
as an earthwork from a point 20m down the slope of West Brow at NGR
SE82919316 and terminates at NGR SE83169304. Although the dyke terminates
as an earthwork the line continues as a shallow valley which extends for a
further 250m to Hawdale Griff. This dyke includes a single ditch with a
northern bank. The ditch is 0.5m deep and 3m wide and the bank is 4m wide
and up to 0.75m high. Both these dykes are not a continuous build but are
broken along their entire length by a series of causeways, 3m wide and an
average of 10m apart. This specific form of construction and the size of
the dykes indicate some functional or ritual significance beyond a mere
boundary. Within the area between the dykes there is at least one
identifiable enclosure and a number of clearance cairns indicating that
some of the area was used for agriculture.
Less than 1km to the south east, the steep sided promontory of Horness
Rigg is crossed by a similarly constructed causewayed dyke. This is
located at the narrowest part of the rigg, some 800m north of the southern
tip. This dyke extends for 80m along the top of the rigg from NGR
SE83899272 to NGR SE83999274. The dyke extends for 20m down the steep
slope at both ends. The dyke includes a shallow ditch, 2m wide, with
flanking banks 1.5m wide and 0.4m high. The causeways are up to 1.5m wide
and an average of 7m apart.
To the south of the dyke, on the broad top of Horness Rigg, are remains
of a co-axial field system. It is defined by a series of broad field banks
extending east to west across the top of the rigg, which is a maximum of
130m wide. There is evidence from field walking and aerial photographs of
north to south divisions creating at least two clear fields. It is
considered that the ends of all three of these cross ridge dykes are the
original termini.
In the central area of the monument, to the west of Water Griff a pair of
connected dykes extend north to south across the western side of the three
west to east riggs. These dykes differ in construction from the others
and consist of a single continuous ditch with flanking banks. They are
considered to be later than the other dykes and date to the Late Bronze
Age/Early Iron Age when more intensive use of the land took place.
Generally the banks are 2m-3m wide and up to 0.5m high with a central
ditch 0.5m deep and up to 2m wide. The earliest of these dykes curves
northwards for 350m between the heads of Pigtrough Griff and Little Griff
enclosing a steep sided peninsula of land to the east covering some 15ha.
It is thought that this dyke originally extended further south across the
neck of Dundale Rigg, however any surviving remains have been masked by
later land use and are obscured by deep vegetation. The second dyke
extends, with a slight curve, southwards for 500m from Hawdale Griff at
NGR SE83409286 and joins the other dyke close to the head of Little Griff
and encloses an area of 10ha-12ha. Within the enclosed area to the east of
these dykes there are remains of co-axial field systems on Pigtrough Rigg,
Sheephouse Rigg and Dundale Rigg. These survive as earth and stone banks,
0.4m high and 1.5m wide. The main axis of these systems run east to west
along the spine of the riggs with lesser banks lying at right angles to
these. These field systems would have covered most of the riggs however
much of the visible evidence for this has been disturbed or masked by
later land use leaving only the isolated portions discernible today. The
settlement from which these areas were farmed has yet to be identified,
but it is anticipated to have been nearby.
In addition to the cross dykes and field systems the Bronze Age also saw
the construction of round barrows. There are at least five round barrows
within the monument located at NGR SE82809260, SE83289284, SE83299220,
SE83069194 and SE82269208. These are all situated in prominent
positions, predominantly on watersheds. Some of these are known to predate
the dykes and field systems as they are respected by the later features.
In common with other barrows elsewhere in the moors it is suggested that
as well as being funerary monuments they also served as markers for
boundaries and/or route ways. Some of these barrows were excavated in the
19th century and in the 1960s and artefacts found within included food
vessels and remains of human burials. One of the barrows (at SE83289284)
shows traces of an encircling ditch.
Adjacent to the dykes at the western side of Pigtrough Rigg are the
remains of an Iron Age/Roman period dispersed enclosed settlement. This
survives as a group of four earth and stone built enclosures. The bulk of
the settlement is enclosed by and partly formed by the earlier dykes. The
four enclosures were partly excavated in the 1950s and 1960s and the
evidence showed that three were primarily for domestic occupation whilst
the fourth was an iron working site of the bloomery type. All four
produced native ware pottery and were firmly dated to the Late Iron Age to
early Roman Period. The largest of these enclosures is an irregular
shaped, four-sided structure known locally as `the war camp'. It survives
as a prominent earthwork formed by a substantial bank and external ditch.
It is trapezoidal in shape varying in size from 50m to 60m from east to
west, and from 50m to 54m from north to south. One piece of early second
century Roman pottery found during the excavations attests to the site
being occupied well into the Roman period.
A second enclosure is located 30m to the north west. It survives as a
horseshoe-shaped embanked enclosure measuring 50m east to west by 45m
north to south. Excavations within the interior uncovered two irregular
shaped hut circles approximately 12m in diameter. In addition domestic
debris including pottery, pieces of quern stone and a fragment of glass
bangle were found. Another enclosure lies 200m to the south west. It
measures 50m east to west by 45m north to south and has been dated from
the excavations to the Late Iron Age. Both these enclosures were located
within the lee of the earlier dykes, which offered some degree of shelter.
The iron working site is located on a slight rise at the head of Pigtrough
Griff to the west of one of the earlier dykes. It survives as a ditched
enclosure containing a mound up to 10m across. The enclosure is horseshoe-
shaped, open on the western, downhill side and is formed by a pair of
concentric, penannular ditches, an average of 2.5m apart, ranging from
1.15m to 1.86m wide and up to 0.5m deep. The outer ditch encloses an area
measuring 14.5m along a north to south axis. Excavations within the
interior revealed a ring of post holes for a roughly circular timber
building measuring some 6m in diameter. Within the area of the building
were found the remains of at least three phases of furnace. The furnaces
were oval in shape and constructed primarily of clay. They belong to the
group of domed or pot furnaces, with a circular hearth with a domed
superstructure above it, rising to a central aperture. This type of
furnace was common throughout northern Europe in the Late Iron Age. The
whole complex has been dated to the first century AD. It is thought that
the site produced iron primarily for domestic consumption.
The four enclosures are broadly contemporary in date and can be regarded
as a single dispersed settlement. The areas of domestic occupation are
enclosed on the west by the earlier dyke with the industrial area located
further away beyond the dyke and outside the enclosed area. Environmental
evidence from the moor indicates that by the time the settlement was
established, arable cultivation was giving way to a more pastoral economy.
A further enclosure of Iron Age date is located at the southern tip of
Horness Rigg. It is in a prominent position commanding an excellent line
of sight southward along Levisham Beck. It measures a maximum of 60m north
to south by 45m east to west. It is formed by a bank 0.6m high and up to
1.5m wide on all but the northern side where it is defined by a terrace
cut into the higher ground to the north. Trial excavations in 1958
produced Iron Age and Romano-British pottery.
In the south western part of the monument at NGR SE82509200 there are
extensive and well-preserved remains of a grange of Malton Priory. It is
located in a sheltered shallow valley formed by a watercourse known as
Dundale Griff. The grange was primarily a bercary or stock farm
specialising in sheep although other beasts were also husbanded.
The Gilbertine Priory at Old Malton was granted extensive tracts of land
in Dundale in the late 12th and 13th centuries. These grants included
arable and uncultivated land and pasture for 1000 sheep, mares and
stallions along with the right of the canons to make houses and enclosures
from wood, turf and heather. A bercary of Malton Priory is specifically
mentioned in documents dating to 1224.
The earthwork remains show that the bercary was enclosed by a large
irregular shaped compound formed by a substantial bank and ditch. This
large enclosure was subdivided into at least three separate and distinct
internal enclosures. One, to the north of the stream was a general stock
fold and the other two, to the south of the stream, was used for more
specific animal husbandry. In the south eastern enclosure there are the
remains of three, large, stone, possibly aisled buildings lying adjacent
to the stream. These are thought to be barns or sheep houses to shelter
young stock over winter. There are remains of further structures such as
barns and stock houses elsewhere in the complex. At NGR SE82579193 there
is a complex of buildings thought to be the domestic accommodation for the
stock keeper, lying as it does in the more sheltered part of the site.
Generally the earthwork remains of structures throughout the site are up
to 2m wide and 0.5m in height. The main access to the site was along the
valley floor from the east and the remains of a drove way leading directly
into the large northern enclosure still survive. At the eastern end, this
drove way connects with Limpsey Gate Lane, an old route mentioned in 13th
century charters which leads to Levisham village and then south, off the
moor. Two further entrances to the grange complex have been identified,
one in the northern boundary giving access on to the moor to the north and
the second in the western boundary.
In the medieval period most of the flat land on the moor was used
extensively for agriculture both cultivation and pasture. Remains of this
use survive throughout the monument as ridge and furrow, linear dykes and
enclosures. Whilst it is known that Malton Priory was granted large areas
of cultivated and pasture land the remainder was used by lay people. It is
likely that some of the prehistoric features such as dykes and enclosures
were reused in the medieval period.
At the confluence of Levisham Beck and Dundale Griff there is the site of
a medieval iron working site of the bloomery type. The site survives as a
complex of mounds and hollows covering an area approximately 20m by 10m.
There are substantial amounts of slag visible on the surface and visible
in the river bank where it has been cut by the stream. Where exposed by
the stream the slag is up to 0.4m deep. Trial excavations in 1957 failed
to locate the actual furnace itself although medieval pottery was
uncovered. A forge is recorded at Levisham in 1209 and there are further
references in 1334, 1438 and 1661. The location of the source of the iron
ore is not currently known, however iron ore was prospected for on
Levisham Bottoms 2km to the west.
Throughout the monument is a network of paths, hollow ways, packhorse
routes and tracks. Many of these respect the prehistoric monuments and may
originate in the prehistoric period. In the post-medieval period,
agricultural use of the moor declined and the land was used primarily for
grazing and other activities such as quarrying.
A number of features are excluded from the scheduling. These are: all
fences posts, signs and the stone shooting hut at NGR SE83589252:
however the ground beneath all these features is included.

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

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

The North York Moors is an area which has an abundance of prehistoric
remains particularly within moorland landscapes where they have not been
disturbed by more recent agricultural activity. These are evidence for the
widespread exploitation of these uplands throughout prehistory. Levisham
Moor is one of the more extensive and complex of such landscapes known in
the area, and significant remains survive which retain valuable
information about the early exploitation of the uplands. The causewayed,
cross ridge dykes are the earliest evidence of the systematic enclosure of
the land. Current information favours the view that they were used as
territorial boundary markers demarcating land allotment within
communities. In addition it is considered that the land thus defined may
also have had a ritual significance evidenced by the particular
construction technique employed and the level of energy and material used.
From work undertaken on this monument class in the north east of England
they are dated to the Early Bronze Age. At Levisham the type of land use
within the areas defined by the dykes is illustrated by the regular
cultivation plots created from the co-axial field systems, significant
remains of which still survive. The other features of the Bronze Age
landscape, which survive well, are the round barrows. These are funerary
monuments dating from the Late Neolithic period to the Late Bronze Age,
with most examples belonging to the period 2400-1500 BC. They were
constructed as earthen or rubble mounds, sometimes ditched, which covered
single or multiple burials. They occur either in isolation or grouped as
cemeteries and often they exhibit regional variations in form and a
diversity of burial practices and provide important information on the
diversity of beliefs and social organisations amongst early prehistoric
communities.
The later prehistoric remains are identified as the simple cross dykes
defining more specific territories again with well-preserved remains of
their associated field systems. This provides important evidence of the
continuity and change in forms of land division. At Levisham there is also
the evidence of the transition in the Late Iron Age to a more focussed
settlement pattern with the establishment of dispersed enclosed
settlements superimposed upon the edges of the pre-existing field system.
Late Iron Age and Roman period dispersed enclosed settlements are discrete
areas of occupation incorporating a small cluster or even a single main
dwelling surrounded by structures and activity areas associated primarily
with crop processing, animal husbandry and craft production. Though size
varies the majority fall between 0.2ha and 1.6ha in extent with the
smaller examples particularly prevalent in the north and upland or
marginal land use areas.
This form of settlement had a long tradition in England and its origins
can be traced back to the Middle Bronze Age. They were a particularly
common aspect of the rural landscape and represent foci for social groups
based in dispersed individual farming communities. They are a defining
characteristic of rural settlement in most areas throughout the second
half of the first millennium BC and Roman periods. Around dispersed
enclosed settlements there would be the track ways and boundaries of
associated field systems, industrial areas and quarries, and occasionally
the cemeteries of individual communities. On the majority of studied
examples there is little evidence of great personal wealth or centres of
particular ritual or burial significance. These settlements generally
represented the homes of small family or kinship groups of moderate
standing. The dispersed enclosed settlement at Levisham survives well and
a range of different forms and styles of structures are present. Of
particular importance are the well-preserved remains of a complex iron
working site associated with the settlement.
The iron was produced in what was known as a bloomery. These were clay
furnaces up to 1m in diameter in which iron ore and charcoal was fired
together to produce iron and slag. The remains of this process retains
important evidence of early iron production and will add to the
understanding of the development of the technology. The prehistoric
remains at Levisham represent a long period of exploitation of the land
and important evidence of the development of agriculture and the
settlement survives. It is known that archaeological deposits survive
extremely well and important evidence for the nature and duration of the
settlement still remains.
In addition to the prehistoric period important remains of the medieval
exploitation of Levisham Moor also survive. Of particular significance are
the grange and iron working site. A monastic grange was a farm owned and
run by a monastic community and independent of the secular manorial system
of communal agriculture and servile labour. The function of granges was to
provide food and raw materials for consumption within the parent monastic
house itself, and also to provide surpluses for sale for profit. The first
monastic granges appeared in the 12th century but they continued to be
constructed and used until the Dissolution. Five types of specialist
grange are known: agrarian farms, bercaries (sheep farms), vaccaries
(cattle ranches), horse studs and industrial complexes. A monastery might
have more than one grange and the wealthiest houses had many. On occasion
these could be located at some considerable distance from the parent
monastery. Granges are broadly comparable with contemporary secular farms
although the wealth of the parent house was frequently reflected in the
size of the grange and the layout and architectural embellishment of the
buildings. In view of the importance of granges to medieval rural and
monastic life, all sites exhibiting good archaeological survival are
identified as nationally important.
Medieval iron smelting sites are frequently found near streams and are
known as bloomeries. In the bloomeries iron ore was fired to about to
about 1200 degrees Centigrade, using charcoal as fuel. This caused a
chemical reaction, producing a mass of iron called a bloom, which was then
hammered to remove any residual slag. Bloomeries were usually located
close to a source of wood for charcoal making, which would be made nearby.
This area of North Yorkshire is particularly rich in evidence for early
iron smelting, and this bloomery is one of several in the area. It
survives well, is relatively well-documented and will make a significant
contribution to the study of the early iron industry.
The archaeological remains on Levisham Moor survive well and represent a
broad chronological and functional range. In addition to the known
surviving remains there is a very high potential for further remains,
currently unknown, to survive throughout the lower part of the moor. Taken
together the surviving remains contribute greatly to the understanding of
land use and change over a broad sweep of time.

Source: Historic England

Sources

Books and journals
Atkins, C, An Archaeological Survey of the Levisham Estate, (1991), 5-7
Atkins, C, An Archaeological Survey of the Levisham Estate, (1991), 11, 145
Atkins, C, An Archaeological Survey of the Levisham Estate, (1991), 6-9
Atkins, C, An Archaeological Survey of the Levisham Estate, (1991), 11
Atkins, C, An Archaeological Survey of the Levisham Estate, (1991), 10-12
Atkins, C, An Archaeological Survey of the Levisham Estate, (1991), 5-7
Atkins, C, An Archaeological Survey of the Levisham Estate, (1991), 7-10
Atkins, C, An Archaeological Survey of the Levisham Estate, (1991), 10
Atkins, C, An Archaeological Survey of the Levisham Estate, (1991), 7-11
Atkins, C, An Archaeological Survey of the Levisham Estate, (1991), 12-15
Atkins, C, An Archaeological Survey of the Levisham Estate, (1991), 5-7
Atkinson, C, An Archaeological Survey of Levisham Moor, (1991), 7-10
Atkinson, C, An Archaeological Study of the Levisham Estate, (1991), 7-10
Atkinson, C, An Archaeological Survey of the Levisham Estate, (1980), 11
Atkinson, C, An Archaeological Survey of Levisham Moor, (1991), 11
Atkinson, C, An Archaeological Survey of Levisham Moor, (1991), 7-10
Atkinson, C, An Archaeological Survey of Levisham Moor, (1991), 8
Atkinson, C, An Archaeological Study of the Levisham Estate, (1991), 7-11
Dennison, E, Levisham Moor Beracary Site Erosion Survey, (2001)
Hayes, R H, Levisham Moor Archaeological Investigations 1957-1978, (1980), 22-26
Hayes, R H, Levisham Moor Archaeological Investigations 1957-1978, (1980), 1-5
Hayes, R H, Levisham Moor Archaeological Investigations 1957-1978, (1980), 27-29
Hayes, R H, Levisham Moor Archaeological Investigations 1957-1978, (1980), 69
Hayes, R H, Levisham Moor Archaeological Investigations 1957-1978, (1980), 31
Hayes, R H, Levisham Moor Archaeological Investigations 1957-1978, (1980), 1-5
Hayes, R H, Levisham Moor Archaeological Investigations 1957-1978, (1980), 68
Hayes, R H, Levisham Moor Archaeological Investigations 1957-1978, (1980), 1-16
Hayes, R H, Levisham Moor Archaeological Investigations 1957-1978, (1980), 31, 60
Hayes, R H, Levisham Moor Archaeological Investigations 1957-1978, (1980), 59-64
Hayes, R H, Levisham Moor Archaeological Investigations 1957-1978, (1980), 17-20
Hayes, R H, Levisham Moor Archaeological Investigations 1957-1978, (1980), 1-7
Hayes, R H, Levisham Moor Archaeological Investigations 1957-1978, (1980), 1-7
Moorhouse, S, 'The Archaeology of Rural Monasteries' in Monastic Estates their Composition and Development, , Vol. BAR 203, (1989), 29-83
Moorhouse, S, 'CBA 4 Newsletter' in A Medieval Monastic Farm on Levisham Moor North Yorkshire, (1986), 8-12
Moorhouse, S, 'CBA 4 Newsletter' in A Medieval Monastic Farm on Levisham Moor North Yorkshire, (1986), 8-12
Spratt, D A, 'Prehistoric and Roman Archaeology of North East Yorkshire' in Prehistoric and Roman Archaeology of North East Yorkshire, , Vol. 87, (1989), 94-130
Spratt, D A, 'Prehistoric and Roman Archaeology of North East Yorkshire' in Prehistoric and Roman Archaeology of North East Yorkshire, , Vol. 87, (1989), 92-142
Spratt, D A, 'Prehistoric and Roman Archaeology of North East Yorkshire' in Prehistoric and Roman Archaeology of North East Yorkshire, , Vol. 87, (1989), 92-142
Spratt, D A, 'Prehistoric and Roman Archaeology of North East Yorkshire' in Prehistoric and Roman Archaeology of North East Yorkshire, , Vol. 87, (1989), 92-142
Spratt, D A, 'Prehistoric and Roman Archaeology of North East Yorkshire' in Prehistoric and Roman Archaeology of North East Yorkshire, , Vol. 87, (1989), 92-142
Vyner, B, 'Moorland Monuments; Studies in the Archaeology of N E Yorkshire' in Brides Of Place, , Vol. 101, (1995), 16-31
Vyner, B, 'Moorland Monuments Studies in the Archaeology of NE Yorkshire' in Brides of Place, , Vol. 101, (1998), 16-31
Vyner, B, 'Antiquity' in The Territory of Ritual: Cross ridge boundaries, , Vol. VOL 68, (1994), 27-38
Vyner, B, 'Antiquity' in The Territory Of Ritual: Cross-Ridge Boundaries in Cleveland, (1994), 27-38
Vyner, B, 'Antiquity' in The Territory Of Ritual: Cross-Ridge Boundaries in Cleveland, (1994), 27-38
Other
NY 1.13, MPP iron and steel industry step 3 report, (1998)
NY 1.14, MPP iron and steel industry step 3 report, (1998)
Vyner, B, (2000)
Vyner, B, (2000)

Source: Historic England

Other nearby scheduled monuments

AncientMonuments.uk is an independent online resource and is not associated with any government department. All government data published here is used under licence. Please do not contact AncientMonuments.uk for any queries related to any individual ancient or schedued monument, planning permission related to scheduled monuments or the scheduling process itself.

AncientMonuments.uk is a Good Stuff website.