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Viewing website implies consent to set cookies on your computer. Full details Swaledale and Arkengarthdale Archaeology Group
Registered Charitable Incorporated Organisation Number 1155775
SWAAG Honorary President:
Tim Laurie F,S,A,
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Reeth Museum's Digital Image Archive has beeen transfered to the Resource Centre in Keld.

A Solar Eclipse and a Viking Settlement
We had two very different talks in our June meeting. In the first Les Knight spoke about the 1927 solar eclipse. Many SWAAG members will have spotted the yellow AA sign, commemorating the centre line of totality, as they drive into Richmond from Swaledale. There was great excitement prior to the event, the newspapers printed special supplements, the Ordnance Survey produced a map, and plans were laid to set up telescopes along the line of totality. Railway companies advertised excursions to places such as Richmond, Southport and Blackpool. LNER alone had 37 trains scheduled for the occasion. Les concluded that this was probably one of the greatest mass movements in British history, with over 3 million people being transported, by various means, to the north of England. In Richmond there were lectures, dances and whist drives to celebrate and 35,000 people went to Richmond racecourse to watch on the day. Virginia Woolf, a keen astronomer, went to Richmond too.

Sadly, from a weather point of view the 29th of June wasn’t the best of days – there was almost complete cloud cover. A plane was launched from Catterick, and a hot air balloon was blown out into the Irish Sea in its ill-fated attempt to get a better view. The best photo was obtained by the Astronomer Royal in the grounds of Giggleswick School. The headline in the Darlington and Stockton Times after the event was “The Eclipsed Eclipse”.

Alan Mills followed with a talk about his visit to the Norse settlement of L’Anse aux Meadows, on Newfoundland, in Canada. Excavated in the 1960s, by Anne Stine Ingstad, it provides conclusive evidence that the Vikings arrived in the Americas nearly 500 years before Christopher Columbus. The site contains the remains of eight buildings and probably supported 60 to 100 people over a 20-to-30-year period. Workshops were also found together with typical Norse artefacts. The site may not have been occupied all year round.

The Norse sagas, which were written down in the 13th century, refer to exploration west of Greenland and mention the settlement of “Vinland”. Whether this was L’Anse aux Meadows is debatable. Butternuts, which don’t grow in Newfoundland, were found during the excavation and must have come from further south where perhaps grapes might also have been growing in the wild. As yet no other confirmed Viking settlements have been found in Canada.

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News Record: 188     Updated: 11-07-2024 16:20:23

Addlebrough June 2024
The aim of the walk was to start from the village of Thornton Rust in Wensleydale to the summit of Addlebrough and to view the bronze age burial mound and cup marked stones on the summit.

The nine of us met in the small car park in Thornton Rust, a small village on the south side of Wensleydale. After reading the information board about the sheep dip in the stream next to the car park we set off at 10.30am. After a few hundred metres along a walled track, we reached the fields heading to the heathland below Addlebrough. Eventually after a few ladder stiles we reached what could possibly be a large standing stone that had toppled over and from here we got our first view of the bronze age / iron age settlement that was visible on Greenber Edge to the south. We then set off on the steady climb up Addlebrough. Once on the top we were greeted with stunning views of Wensleydale. We could see across to Carperby and the bronze age burial mounds above the village, bronze age settlement at Pen Hill and the henge above Aysgarth which was at the centre of these settlements. We made our way to the south side of the summit where we could view the settlement on Greenber Edge including Stoney Raise cairn which is the largest stone cairn in the northern Pennines measuring 30 metres across and 2 meters high. The settlement is almost one kilometre in length and very visible in the landscape. It had been used many times over the centuries including iron age / Roman and possibly in medieval times.

After lunch we headed around to the north side of the summit looking at various features on the way until we reached the burial mound with some beautiful cup-marked stones on top. This burial has stunning views of the full length of Wensleydale.

We then walked around to the west side of the summit in strong winds to view the remains of some medieval house and field plots of stone which are still visible. From here we could see Semer Water and the huge boulder named the Devil’s Stone that lay below.

The wind was now really strong so we decided to return to Thornton Rust off the front of Addlebrough. On the way we observed lots of natural springs and looked for the many possible burnt mounds that are around Addlebrough and Thornton Moor. Burnt mounds are mounds containing a large pile of burnt stones and a trough that would have contained water from the spring. The hot stones would have been added to the water, these are believed to be bronze age and found all over northern Europe. It is not known whether these are prehistoric saunas, for industrial use such as leather working or of a ritual purpose. Once we had crossed a few more fields we were on the road that led us back to Thornton Rust and the car park. The four-hour round journey took in stunning views of Wensleydale and the rich archaeology in this bronze age landscape.
SWAAG Members on the summit of Addlebrough at the bronze-age burial mound with cupped stones Greenber Edge Settlement and Stoney Raise Cairn
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One of the cupped marked stones on the burial mound, Addlebrough Devil’s Stone
News Record: 187     Updated: 21-06-2024 11:47:50

Braithwaite Hall, East Witton Camp and Castle Steads
A small group from SWAAG enjoyed a lovely walk from Braithwaite Hall encompassing East Witton Camp and Castle Steads.

Braithwaite Hall is a 17th Century house, it incorporates an earlier building from the early 1600’s. The current building replaces the original structure mentioned in 1301 that was linked to Coverham and Jervaulx Abbeys. Following the Dissolution of the Monasteries the house was owned by the Crown then the City of London and later by the Wood family. Benjamin Wood was responsible for the renovations /rebuilding in 1667 when the “new” staircase was installed.

To the east of the Hall is an area with Ridge and Furrow and earthworks indicating the site of a former peasant settlement.

Moving up on to Braithwaite Banks you find East Witton Camp. This is a fortified “univalliate” hillfort. It is defended by a rampart and an outer ditch, except the east side and this is defended by the Red Beck Gill – a steep sided gulley. The banks are constructed with a stone core and have two entrances. The defences were extended to the north. The inner area is quite flat and may have been ploughed. It is now bracken covered. From LIDAR it does appear to have a square feature on this platform. Was this an area of occupation, a farm or more of a meeting place, a market or it has been suggested a citadel?

The group then walked over the moor, a wonderful landscape. There are areas of mining here and some marshy wet areas. Birds observed included: Cuckoo, Wheatear, Kite, Greylag Geese and goslings. A female deer was spotted as we moved towards a dry valley (possible melt water channel). The landscape changes here – bilberry bushed replace bracken and heather.

Lunch at an old quarry, and what appeared to be a meeting place of trackways. Passing through a “doorway” in the wall we passed down the hill side into Castle Steads. A large flat area enclosed on three side by a ditch and bank, the south side being the steep hill leading on to the moor. Is this just an animal enclosure, a farm, it does not appear to be a defensive structure.

Heading back towards Braithwaite Hall, we found some evidence of a later structure and a ford crossing in the middle of a field (the ford crossing is marked on the OS map). The structure was a long building with an entrance on the north side, the structure appears to be built into the hillside. The wall has a substantial foundation. Possible hollow way / track crossing above this area.

SWAAG would like to thank Vicki and Charles of Braithwaite Hall for providing parking and access to the land.

Braithwaite Hall is a National Trust Property – there is a lot of data on the National Trust HER relating to this area.

Other references include SWAAG database record 691

Braithwaite Hall Ditch and bank on the west side of East Witton Camp
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Castle Steads – looking west along the ditch and bank
News Record: 186     Updated: 10-06-2024 13:37:57

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