|In spite of being threatened with an AGM, some 40 members joined us online last Tuesday for Alan Mills' talk about the Swaledale Dykes. Alan and Judith have reviewed all the available evidence and brought it together to form some interesting conclusions.
The dykes, clearly visible in the Swaledale landscape, have been the object of many academic theories and much informed speculation. Fieldhouse and Jennings suggested a series of Romano-British fortifications against the Romans. Andrew Fleming's theory was that they were the boundaries of the Early-Medieval Kingdom of Swaledale. Grigg 's view was that they were Early-Medieval route-blocking structures. Ainsworth, Gates and Oswald set their origins in the Bronze Age.
SWAAG has conducted two digs on the dykes, one in 2012 led by Tim Laurie and supervised by ASDU, and a second in 2016 led by Rob Nicholson and supervised by YDNPA. Both reports are available on this website.
Alan and Judith note that the dykes "look like" Early Medieval but that place name history and pollen analysis suggest an earlier phase, possibly as early as 300BC. This leads them to conclude that the Grinton-Fremington Dykes were most probably originally constructed between the late Iron Age and 800AD, perhaps as a defensive structure or maybe just as a statement of land ownership. They were then supplemented in the mid-10th Century by the High Harker dykes to defend the local Anglo-Saxon / Hiberno-Norse population from incursions from the south and southeast.
Many thanks to Chairman Dave Brooks for keeping the AGM on track and mercifully short and to Alan and Judith for this very interesting new addition to our understanding of the history of Swaledale.