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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.

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

Out of the Bottle!
May’s meeting was rather different, as we got to sample some beer! Our speaker was Keith Thomas, who as well as being a SWAAG member, is chairman of BrewLab in Sunderland. Keith spoke about the bioarchaeology of historic beers. Information about past beers can be found in documents from breweries, in recipes, from newspapers and from oral traditions. Recreating beers from these sources can be difficult as archaic measurements must be deciphered and the original ingredients sourced. There have also been attempts to recreate to historic brewing conditions using experimental archaeology.

Beer bottles themselves often provide the best information. In the 1980s BrewLab decided to create a beer for Christmas. They decided on a porter, a beer whose popularity had declined by the 20th century, but although they obtained a recipe from Whitbread, they were uncertain about its authenticity. By chance some sealed bottles of original Flag Porter had been found in a 19th century shipwreck off the south coast. From these they were able to analyse the contents, discovering that there was still a small amount of yeast present. A new Flag Porter was then brewed and the taste was even authenticated by the elderly resident of a care home, who had enjoyed porter in his youth.

More recently BrewLab acquired three bottles of Wallachia Stout, from a ship that sank in the Clyde estuary in 1895. DNA analysis confirmed the fungi and bacteria present and yet again there were traces of yeast. Several contaminants were also found because of the lack of sterilisation and modern hygiene. Contamination was a problem for brewers in the past, an outbreak of arsenic poisoning in Liverpool and Manchester, in 1900, was suspected to have been related to contaminated beer. Fortunately, BrewLab were able to recreate a more healthy version of the Wallachia Stout.

BrewLab has recreated other beers but sadly it isn’t possible to cover all those in a few paragraphs. Keith ended with a plea to keep any beer bottles you might find – don’t empty the contents down the drain. If they’re already unsealed – don’t wash them out – valuable DNA information can still be obtained!

Flag porter Historic bottles
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News Record: 185     Updated: 02-06-2024 12:23:10

The Point of Oxan
SWAAG member, Sheila Ickringill, gave us a fascinating talk about the Point of Oxan, on Graemsay. Orkney’s many islands have provided natural harbours for shipping down the centuries. Fur trade convoys on their way back from Hudson Bay stopped there in the 17th century and in the 19th century Orkney was the focus of a boom in the herring industry.

As in other narrows, the currents off Graemsay would have been treacherous and the passages unmarked. In 1786 an Act of Parliament set up the Northern Lighthouse Board. This oversaw the construction and operation of the first four modern style Scottish lighthouses. The Hoy Sound Low and the Hoy Sound High lighthouses, on the Point of Oxan, were built by Alan Stevenson, son of engineer Robert Stevenson, in 1851. Accommodation was provided for the lighthouse keepers, together with workshops, stables, and byres. Stevenson used a distinctive Egyptian design.

The lighthouses with their different heights acted as leading lights but this still didn’t prevent disasters. In 1866 the Albion was wrecked off the shore whilst taking Stafford Pottery to America.

The lighthouses were automated in the 1970s.

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News Record: 184     Updated: 31-05-2024 14:00:14

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