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Medieval settlement and prehistoric hut circle settlement 870m north east of Washfold Farm

A Scheduled Monument in Bellerby, North Yorkshire

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Latitude: 54.3304 / 54°19'49"N

Longitude: -1.8406 / 1°50'26"W

OS Eastings: 410461.692804

OS Northings: 492770.093234

OS Grid: SE104927

Mapcode National: GBR HLLC.9F

Mapcode Global: WHC6Q.PFQ3

Entry Name: Medieval settlement and prehistoric hut circle settlement 870m north east of Washfold Farm

Scheduled Date: 23 April 2003

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1020949

English Heritage Legacy ID: 35471

County: North Yorkshire

Civil Parish: Bellerby

Traditional County: Yorkshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): North Yorkshire


The monument includes earthwork and buried remains of a medieval
settlement and underlying prehistoric hut circle settlement, known locally
as Old Bellerby or T'old Ruins. It is located on gently sloping ground on
a limestone platform on the south side of the shallow valley of Bellerby
Beck, approximately 1km west of Bellerby village. The monument lies in an
area of farmland which has been intensively used from the late medieval
period onwards.

The medieval settlement takes the form of a series of square and
rectangular enclosures laid out in a regular plan broadly orientated east
to west. The enclosures measure up to 30 sq m and are formed by prominent
linear earthwork banks standing up to 0.75m high and measuring up to 5m in
width. The settlement extends over an area of approximately 100 sq m. The
northern edge of the settlement is defined by the natural limestone scarp
and the southern edge by a natural scarp slope rising up to the south by
some 1.5m which extends east to west across the monument. This is a
natural feature, which can still be traced extending across the fields
further to the east. No earthworks have been identified in the area south
of this feature and it is thought to mark the southern extent of the
settlement as it would have afforded it a degree of shelter. The eastern
edge is defined by the ruined wall which survives as a line of large
tumbled stones on an embankment 0.4m high and up to 2.5m wide. It is not
clear whether this ruined wall predates the medieval settlement and was
related to the earlier prehistoric settlement. The western side of the
medieval settlement is defined by the track known as Mains Lane. This
route way dates to medieval times and the name is a corruption of desmene
ie that land belonging to the manorial holdings which was worked directly
for the lord.

The settlement remains are interpreted as a small isolated farmstead. Some
of the enclosures would have contained buildings for both habitation and
agricultural structures such as barns, stock houses and stores, the
remaining enclosures being for stock management. The very regular layout
of this settlement is unusual in an area otherwise characterised by
nucleated settlements and irregularly planned dispersed farmsteads. It may
be that it related to a wider, possibly monastic estate and could have
operated on a seasonal basis related to stock management such as the
corralling of sheep brought down from the higher fells to the north. It is
not yet understood when or for what reasons the settlement was abandoned.

The remains of the prehistoric settlement lie beneath and are partly
masked by the medieval enclosures. They include a series of at least 16
circular and sub-circular platforms defined by earthen banks. These are
the remains of huts; the banks having supported a timber structure. They
would have provided living accommodation as well as storage or working
areas and possibly animal shelters. Archaeological evidence from similar
sites elsewhere has shown that this type of settlement dates to between
the second millennium BC and the second century AD. The hut circles at Old
Bellerby measure up to 15m in diameter with the banks being up to 3m wide
and standing up to 0.4m high. Some of the hut circles are clustered
together but overall there is no obvious pattern to the layout of the
settlement. In some cases the hut circles overlap one another indicating
that there was more than one phase of construction and use. Some of the
hut circles are situated within small curvilinear enclosures, which may
have functioned as garden plots or paddocks. In addition to the
cultivation plots around the hut circles the settlement would also have
been supported by a wider agricultural system which would have included
arable cultivation and animal husbandry: remains of this cannot be clearly
identified in the surrounding intensively farmed land.

Incorporated in places into the field walls on the south and east of the
monument are large, earth-fast boulders known as orthostats. These are
often found as the foundations of ancient walls and here are thought to be
the remains of a wider enclosure whose relationship with the hut circle
settlement is currently unclear.

The field wall crossing the northern part of the monument is excluded from
the scheduling although the ground beneath it is included. The lower 0.5m
of the field walls along the western and southern sides of the monument
are included in the protection because some remains of the earlier wall
associated with the settlement are known to survive and further remains
are likely to be preserved below ground level. The upper parts of these
walls are however excluded from the monument.

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

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

Medieval rural settlements in England were marked by great regional diversity
in form, size and type, and the protection of their archaeological remains
needs to take these differences into account. To do this, England has been
divided into three broad Provinces on the basis of each area's distinctive
mixture of nucleated and dispersed settlements. These can be further divided
into sub-Provinces and local regions, possessing characteristics which have
gradually evolved during the past 1500 years or more.
The Yorkshire Dales local region is broadly an extension of the lowlands into
the hill mass of the Pennines, but increasing environmental constraints have
ensured that each dale has developed particular and often wholly local
characteristics. The villages and hamlets on the valley side terraces of the
lower and middle dales appear to be of medieval foundation, while the
surrounding farmstead sites vary greatly in date, from early medieval to 19th

The settlement at Old Bellerby is an example of a dispersed farmstead in
an area characterised by both dispersed and nucleated settlement.
Farmsteads, normally occupied by only one or two families and comprising
small groups of buildings with attached yards, gardens and enclosures,
were a characteristic feature of the medieval rural landscape. In some
areas of dispersed settlement they were the predominant settlement form;
elsewhere they existed alongside, or were components of, more nucleated
settlement patterns. The sites of many farmsteads have been occupied down
to the present day but others were abandoned as a result of, for example,
declining economic viability, enclosure or emparkment, or epidemics like
the Black Death. Farmsteads are a common and long-lived monument type;
the archaeological deposits on those which were abandoned are often
well-preserved and provide important information on regional and national
settlement patterns and farming economies, and on changes in these through

The medieval settlement at Old Bellerby survives well and significant
evidence of its original form and function will be preserved. The regular
and highly planned form is unusual in the area.

Hut circle settlements were the dwelling places of prehistoric farmers.
The hut circles take a variety of forms. Some are stone based and are
visible as low walls or banks enclosing a circular floor area. Others were
timber constructions and only the shallow groove in which the timber
uprights used in the wall construction stood can now be identified; this
may survive as a slight earthwork feature or may be visible on aerial
photographs. Some can only be identified by the artificial earthwork
platforms created as level stances for the houses.

Many unenclosed settlements have been shown to date to the Bronze Age but
it is also clear that they were still being constructed and used in the
Early Iron Age. They provide an important contrast to the various types of
defended settlements which were also being constructed and used around the
same time. Their longevity of use and their relationship with other
monument types provides important information on the diversity of social
organisation and farming practices amongst prehistoric communities.

Although obscured by the later medieval settlement the remains of the hut
circle settlement at Bellerby survive well in an area otherwise devoid of
significant prehistoric monuments. Taken together the monument offers
scope for understanding land use and social organisation in two periods of
history and provides information about the continuity of use in the rural

Source: Historic England


Books and journals
White, R, Yorkshire Dales, (1997), 17-34
Moorhouse S, Field survey, (1996)
Moorhouse, S, (2002)
Moorhouse, S, Site Survey, (1996)
Title: Yorkshire Dales National Mapping Project
Source Date: 1995
Morph database

Source: Historic England

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