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Well (Sacred Well)

There can be no doubt that this is an ancient sacred Well. It sits on Holly Hill, and the village that it gives it's name to was the site of an significant bath house in Roman times, possibly including a temple.

A visit to Well church may well reward you with a sight of the goddess of Well spring - a fish-bodied female figure is carved into one of the external window lintels.

The only other place where this image has been found so far is inside the church at Kirklington - the next village into which the spring at Well flows.

Phlashetts Stone (Standing Stone / Menhir)

This is an uncertain find. It is an out of place stone that sits on the gravel bed to the north west of the Northern Henge at Thornborough.

I think it may be significant in that it sits more or less on a straight line between the Sacred Spring at Well and the Northern Henge.

A similar line is followed by the longest pit alignment that is coming away from the northen henge - discovered on the Nosterfield Quarry. The pit alignment is thought to be Iron Age, the Spring at Well was used to feed a Roman bathhouse which was probably related to a temple.

Were it not for the lack of naturally found large blocks of stone locally this stone would probably pass off as an eratic. But such things are largely unknown in the area and therefore there is a good possibility that this was placed for a purpose and therefore requires further investigation.

Dry Gill (Cup Marked Stone)

This stone is a possible.

On the upper surface of the stone are a number of depressions that could be heavily eroded cup marks. Anyone who knows the area knows that these are sometimes difficult to distinguish between natural erosion. However the two of us who visited this stone were sufficiently impressed that we thought it should be included here so others can cast judgement in future.

The stone itself, although very large and weighing several tons is clearly out of place, since it now sits in the middle of a small spring bed. It appears to have fallen down the hill and ended up here.

Druid's Altar (Stone Circle)

This site appears to be a four poster type grave site. It's not a stone circle as far as I can see, it sits within the remains of the collapsed burial mound.

Nosterfield Mixed Period Barrow Cemetary (Barrow / Cairn Cemetery)

This area was excavated, then destroyed by the Nosterfield quarry over quite a period of time, and in several phases. As a result it is difficult to visualise all of the features and contexts found.

In this general area, three ring ditches, currently identified as the remains of Bronze Age barrows, one containing a burial have been found. In addition to this eleven or twelve cremations were deposited in ditches and two Iron Age square barrows were found. All that remains at the present time (Feb 2004) is a single barrow and several pits contining charred remains probably related to the burial activities.

The Square Barrows are the only such structures located in North Yorkshire and are interpreted as being of the Wetwang type, if so they would date to around 600BC and along with the chariot burial found recently in Ferrybridge will have a significant impact on our interpretation of Yorkshires Iron Age.

The Parisi can no longer be seen as being hemmed into a small area of East Yorkshire and they appear to have spread well into the Kingdom of Brigantia, leaving behind their warrior graves as far afield as Ripon and Leeds. The best assumption must be that relations with the Brigantes were not as unfavourable as has commonly been believed - The Parisi are thought to have been later "invaders" - decendents of the Gaulish tribe of the same name that lived in Paris.

It is a real shame that these important finds were not the first to be located on the quarry, as it would have placed considerable importance on the site and would have meant the archaeology of the area would have seen less of the "roughly dug" and more of the "100% excavated".

Rush Wood Post Alignment (Stone Row / Alignment)

When I turned up on site Jan Harding seemed pretty excited about these. There were two large pits, which Jan said were similar to the pits he had excavated a couple of years ago and he said they would have contained large posts - these are 2m+ in diameter!

He said they were part of a larger pit alignment he had identified from air photo's and they were in line with the rising of Orion for the early Neolithic period.

Cowling Lane Round Barrow (Round Barrow(s))

The farmer was in the field when I visited, hence the poor shots. This barrow is surprisingly well looked after, and is approx. 20m across.

Great Crakehall Round Barrow (Round Barrow(s))

On the verge of being lost this barrow looks to be largely ploughed out, although it must have been quite some size originally, the mound today is approx. 20m across.

Rush Wood Round Barrow (Round Barrow(s))

This barrow is a double ditched barrow, measuring approx. 20m across. It is one of the best preserved barrows at Thornborough, but having said that the probably later burial that I watched being excavated had clearly been part ploughed. Close by was the early digging of a possible large post pit.

Pickhill Moated Mound (Artificial Mound)

I have to say the jury is out on this structure, I've not seen anything like it. The fact that its got a demolished railway line on top of it does not help.

The hill is called Picts Hill. The vilage - Pickhill takes it's name from this hill. Pickhill is in the Domesday book - therefore this is not a weird Bailey Hill. There are no similar saxon structures that I can think of, and as an Roman structure it does not fit either, since it is too roughly engineered.

It makes little sense as an Iron age defensive structure since the area enclosed is too small, and there is no rampart as such.

The hill itself is square-ish and therefore this is doubtfull to pre-date the Iron Age. So for the moment I'm calling it Iron Age!

On the 1st edition OS there is a long mound and a short mound marked in the field next door, as well as some "mound foundations" and an earthwork. None of these are easily spotted today.

This site was definately of important at some time, we just need to work out when.

Maiden Castle (Grinton) (Ancient Village / Settlement / Misc. Earthwork)

Th hut circle at SE024979 is about average in size, measuring 8m north south and 9m east west. it's walls were made of large dry stone block on the inside and out with a rubble fill. The only entrance was to the south. Outside the circle, toughly to the south east are a number of large outlying stones which seem to respect the arc of the hut circle and may therefore be contemporary.

Harkerside Moor Circle (Stone Circle)

I went to see what I could see today and saw a stone circle.

I can see why there is confusion, since I also found several hut circles, and squares and other shapes all located broadly in the same area identified as a hut circle on the OS - a clear understatement of what is going on here!

This stone circle sits in a place of prominance in the middle of an apparent pre-historic settlement, that includes a number of huts, field enclosures and other signs of human activity. Including a cairn not too far away.

The circle is small - 10m across and appears to be a nine stone - circle with several stones missing. The embankment that it sits on is approx. 11m in diameter.

Most of the stones appear to have slipped from their original position and a few seem to be missing altogether. The stones themselves are small - the largest is less than a metre high. This is not surprising as the strata of the local rocks means they are subject to easy fracture and these stones appear to have done well to stay so large.

Interestingly, two different types of stones were used to create this circle. The majority of stones were limestone but at least two were sandstone.

One of the sand stones appeared to have human-made drill holes which were very shallow - perhaps 5mm deep.

Three Hills (Barrow / Cairn Cemetery)

I called this a barrow cemetery because even though there's only three barrows here, they are close together and in alignment, and it is this relationship that makes me feel they should be treated as a group.

Even though these barrows are protected monuments I do not think they will be here for very much longer. You see protection means the farmer can continue ploughing them. A small mound, if continually ploughed will eventually be flattented to nothing.

This was dramatically demonstrated today when I visited the excavations of Dr Jan Harding, who had placed an excavation trench across one of the barrows. The barrow is almost flat, the ditch on one side was about an inch deep once the plough soil had been removed and in some places the plough had cut through the ditch to the natural underneath. The ditch on the other side of this ring ditched monument was about six inches or so deeper, but clearly it won't be long before this crop mark is just a crop memory.

I've included some pictures of the excavation but as you may guess, there's not a great deal to so, these may be the last.

Fortress Dyke Camp (Plateau Fort)

This camp has a fascinating possible faulse entrance system. Several hollow ways which approach it from the south converge at Fortress Dyke stream and on the other side diverge again. One of them takes a course straight to the camp, another runs beyond its western side whilst another tow seem to go nowhere - running for 30m or so and then just stopping. Whilst this sort of complex entrance is the same sort of idea as at other Iron Age hillforts, this system is completely different. firstly there are no apparent walls to the hollow ways that approach the camp - it is was a defensive measure they would have had to be lined with wooden fences.

The camp itself is sub rectilinear aproximately 45m by 60m. It has a single bank and ditch which is only apparent on three sides. The fourth side - east appears to have a slight ridge running along it for some of it's length at least. The camp is cut right through by a stream running east west. This may have been an original feature which has now eroded quite a deep path through the camp.

To the north are several other enclosures which have been interpreted as field systems, although one at least is too small, being approx 20m by 7m, and may have been an animal enclosure.


I visited the site in August 2003 and must admit to being confused as to why it was called Brigantium? It's not in the Brigantia I think I know, and does not discuss Brigantian archaeology. However, it does a good jod of illustrating Northumbrian archaeology with a video show and some reconstructions. I do have some concerns however. Firstly, the site is getting very run down - some of the path have obviously been closed and everywhere there are signs explaining that things are being "experimentaly" allowed to get overgrown. I'd suggest they lack the resourrces to cut the grass, and clearly a number of the displays are now no longer visible - ridge and furrow, Roman Road, Roman Defences, the Iron Age enclosure features etc. It looks to me that this is a museum in decline - the signs are getting very faded and in need of painting etc. The displays are deteriorating/obviously not being used as part of a "live" reinactment.

I would be very surprised if this museum lasts out the decade without further funding.

Castle, Nr Reeth (Enclosure)

I'm not really sure what this is, other than it's more than what it is currently used for - an animal enclosure. I visited this place on the way to the Gayle mines. There are two places locally called Castle - this place and Castle Knoll, at the top of the escarpment. But no obvious castle. Anyway, this enclosure comprises of a very rough circle of orthostats that have been left in situ and used to create an sheep enclosure. in the centre is a stone on top of a stone. From what I know about the region, these orthostatic walls were created at the very beginning of the clearance of the fields, an a guess I'd say that these were placed here during the late bronze age, as man made the transition to a farmer. However, they could be earlier - very little work has been done on these types of walls so far, although I have come across some partially cleared fields with orthostatic walls, associated to Iron Age type dwelling enclosures quite near to here so I'm pretty certain as to my interpretation.

The enclosure looks like it originally opened to go up the hil and a tight double wall of orthostats creates a narrow causeway which drives up the hill side for some way, then widens out in a similar way to what are known as "banjo enclosures" - creating a bottle neck or funnel into enclosure. These have so far been interprested as for animal use, however, my gut feel is that this was not the primary purpose here. About half way up the hill, just as you enter the mining zone the orthostats disappear. They don't appear to have been taken, they just stop.

The Devil's Arrows (Standing Stones)

Typical of the North Yokshire ancient monuments, the Council has chosen to ignore that they exist and build a motorway next door. Sorry to be political, but North Yorkshire is the county of destroyed ancient monuments, a trend our current council seems content to continue.

The Arrows sit close to place where the Ure changes it's name to the Ouse. Julian mentions the Ure as the River of the Goddess Ur.

The Thornborough Henges

Visiting Thornborough.

Come off the A1 at the B6267 junction heading for Masham. Before going to the henges I recommend a quick diversion:

After about 1/2 mile, take the next right to Kirklington, after about 1/2 mile you will enter the village, turn left and park up to visit the church.

Inside the church, to the right of the door are a number of prehistoris remains held in a cabinet, including Bronze Age pot fragments and an Iron Age bead.

Take time to view the heads in the church, in particular have a look at the "Ogmios" head, and the "fish lady".

Once you have visted the church, back in the car and carry on out of the village (church on your right) for 1/2 mile to the juntion. Here, turn right and travel for about 1 mile till you get to Nosterfield. Turn left into the village and park up.

To get to the henges, continue walking in the direction of travel (south) out of the village until you come to a wooded area on the left. this is the first and best preserved henge. There are no access rights to any of the henges but I hear some terrible folks just walk in and look around!

Once you've seen the northern hange continue south down a track which runs alongside the central henge on the left. you will also see the landfill site (owned by North Yorkshire County Council) on your right, and lots of evidence of quarrying all round.

At the end of the track turn left to head towards the henge. Again I could not comment on the use of the gate to gain access to the henge. Notice that the some of the stones in the intrior of the henge wal are half covered with "gypsom plaster". I have a theory that the henge walls were plastered white.

From the central henge you could carry on down to the southern henge, through the gate on the other side of the road. My favorite henge is the southern one. Although it is the most destroyed, it is also the mose tranquil.

Before going home, I'd also recommend a visit to another site.

If you read the website you will notice that we keep banging on about post hole alignments.

One the the alignments heads from the northern henge to St Michaels Well, at Well. If you rejoin the main road (in the car) and turn left, than take the next right, you will get to Well. Once you have negotiated the steep bank at Well, take the next right and park up at the Church. The church has many relics of interest. Including some find "celtic heads" and other carvings on the outside of the church. Look hard to find the horned god, fish woman and naked man shaking hands with a giant. The cross was probably from a Devils Arrows type megalith originally.

What you have seen during this visit are clues to the significance of the area of Thornborough and it's northern perimeter. The henges, whilst being of fundamental importance are only a part of this ritual landscape. The "god figures" held in the local churches, the significance of St Michaels Well help create a wider ritual landscape that shows a "deformed continuity" of ancient beliefs.

Dunmallard Hill (Hillfort)

Dunmallard Hill, shrouded in trees, hides a true hill-fort. It uses the steed slopes of the hill to good effect, adding to the defence with a deep ditch and rampart within.

The fort is quite small, parhaps 1.5 acres in internal area. Within the defences there are traces of low wide ditches, presumable dwellings and other related structures.

The rampart is extremely variable, in some places rising 10m above the base of the ditch, yet in others is almost not existent.

Maiden Castle (Ullswater) (Hillfort)

The location of Maiden Castle could not have been strickly for its defensive position, as can be seen fron the photo, its position made it vulnerable on one side and also meant the occupants had limited views of the surrounding area. If anything it hides amongst the hills.

This poor defensive positioning is an aspect shared by several other Brigantian earthworks of presumed defensive capacity, including Maiden Castle (Reeth), Stanwick (North Yorkshire), Carl Wark (Derbyshire), Scoles Coppice (South Yorks), Castle Steads (North Yorkshire) and quite a few others. This has caused a fair degree of confusion in defining what their purpose actually was. There seem to be several schools of thought on the subject, each may be correct for particular earthworks. These vary from seeing these as tactical camps not intended to be held in difficult circumstances, to being seen more as symbolic or even religious in purpose.
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