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Viewing website implies consent to set cookies on your computer. Full details Swaledale and Arkengarthdale Archaeology Group
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Tim Laurie FSA
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Summer Activities 2022
At the beginning of August SWAAG had permission to explore some of the industrial archaeology on Preston Moor. It’s a fascinating but hazardous area, pockmarked by disused lead and coal workings. It has interesting fauna and flora too, including spring sandwort which has adapted to grow on the spoil heaps. Water-crowfoot, lesser spearwort, and more unusual cream field gentians were also spotted on the walk. The weather seemed to forget it was summer and after the lunch the skies fell, somewhat curtailing our visit to Cobscar smelt mill and the nearby chimney.

At the end of August SWAAG members participated in a very enjoyable three-day surveying course, run by the Yorkshire Dales National Park Community Heritage Officer, Doug Mitcham. This offered training in archaeology surveying and the use of Inkscape, a free graphics package for drawing. Our time was split between a temporary classroom in Fremington Sunday School and outdoor practical sessions on Grinton Mounds and Reeth Low Moor. This set us up for our Autumn’s more detailed surveying project on Grinton Mounds.

Our programme of talks began in September with a presentation by Joe Ogden, one of our student members. He has just completed his MSc in Landscape Archaeology and Digital Heritage, at Bradford University. He explained how, as part of his research, he had created 3D digital models to visualise the interior of Elbolton Cave, near Grassington. The prehistoric human remains, artifacts, and animal bones removed during various excavations have been digitised. Using information from historical records they have been positioned in the digital cave, giving the viewer an insight into how the cave might have appeared at the time of discovery.

J. H.
A cream field gentian Les explains the geology
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News Record: 159     Updated: 30-09-2022 17:44:03

A Walk to Maiden Castle
On Sunday 10th July, six members and two guests joined Judith and Alan Mills for the short walk to the Roman fortlet, Maiden Castle, perched up above the A66 overlooking the Eden Valley. John Nolan of the Northumberland Archaeology Group joined us; many members will remember John and his partner Jenny Vaughan helping us with the Big Dig. It was extremely useful to have John along; as a professional archaeologist he pointed out much which might otherwise have passed us by.

Having left Swaledale on a beautifully warm and sunny morning, about 18C, we were rather surprised to find that our meeting point and the fortlet were in low cloud, with a chilly wind, about 12C. Rummaging around in our cars found sufficient kit to keep everyone warm although Alan ended up wearing an old bright yellow oilskin, kept in the car for emergencies.

The walk began by going up what looked suspiciously like a Roman road complete with what looked like an ‘agger’, ditches either side.

Later after seeing much evidence of quarrying up above the consensus was that it was a more modern track to cart stone down into the valley, possibly for walling or maybe for the nearby Stainmore railway line.

After a short climb up this track, onto the plateau, the actual Roman road is met running broadly East-West; this connected the Roman military strongholds of York and Carlisle. The A66 mainly follows the line of this road. Along the road are some small orthostats which might have been road markers of some sort, with any inscription long gone.

Maiden Castle is about one kilometre north-west along the old Roman road although a detour is called for to avoid a rather boggy section. The fort comes into view sitting up above the Eden valley below.

Previous excavations of this now scheduled ancient monument show that it was occupied from at least the early 2nd C to the late 4th. On our visits, the archaeologists’ friends aka rabbits, have uncovered Roman pottery in the area with small enclosures to the south-west (see plan below); possibly cultivation or maybe some house platforms. Previously we found a piece of grey-ware and part of a Crambeck ware mortarium and on this visit a piece of grey-ware pot rim.

Maiden Castle is an interesting fort in an interesting position. It seems to be part of a network of Roman works including the Roman road itself (its route mainly followed by the A66), the forts at Greta Bridge, Bowes and Brough, the marching camps at Rokeby Park, Rey Cross and Crackenthorpe and a number of possible signal stations.

Why is the fort such a small fort there? It is very small, about 40 x 50 metres internally; perhaps just about enough to accommodate a ‘century’ of 80-100 soldiers. Perhaps a clue lies in a small flat area just outside the fort walls in the south-west corner. This might possibly have been the platform for a signal station. Maybe the fort was there to defend the signal stations in the area, react to any identified threats?

We left Maiden Castle in bright warm sunshine, with perhaps more questions than when we arrived. Maybe a topic for a future talk.

Our thanks to Hilary Fawcett and Lesley Wolsey for taking the photographs.

Judith and Alan Mills July 2022
The faint ‘con trails’ in the sky point to the fort’s east entrance
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An enclosure or house platform? Plan of Maiden Castle Roman fortlet © RCHME 1963
News Record: 158     Updated: 27-07-2022 12:58:28

Cumbria – the last outpost of English resistance?
In June, thanks to the wonders of modern technology and the expertise of Mike and Mike, SWAAG members had the option of joining the speaker in Fremington Sunday School or watching Zoom from home.

King William’s conquest of England in 1066 was something like the blitzkrieg of its day – a single massive defensive battle in which Saxon infantry faced armoured cavalry for the first time, resulting in English defeat and their almost immediate subjugation. The new king’s control reached from the Tamar to the Tyne within a year, although repeated rebellions took another 5 years to subdue. 

Member Rod Flint discussed why it was that the small North West corner of the kingdom, and the central fells of the Lake District in particular, remained outside the King’s control for 91 years, and even after the Normans finally set foot there, why it took them 65 years before it was fully under their control. Geography, international politics, and the egos of competitive and powerful men all played their role.

Rod’s talk explored the politics of pre- and post-conquest northern England, looking at who the ‘strongmen’ of the North West were, and why the King’s writ didn’t extend beyond Carlisle until late in the reign of Henry I.

R. F.
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News Record: 157     Updated: 17-06-2022 12:47:09

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