Archaeology Summary

Archaeology Contents

As a result of the detailed examination of all available maps and aerial photographs of the Scriven area together with visits to the site some 300 archaeological features have been identified, recorded and, where possible, photographed. A copy of the records has been forwarded to the Heritage Department of North Yorkshire County Council for inclusion in their Historic Environment Record.

The features have been sorted into groups of similar features, namely fields, including the areas of both the village of old and new Scriven, buildings, transport features, water features and other features which includes such features as ridge & furrow, hut circles, quarries, electricity pylons, etc.

The Archaeology of Scriven

We have no evidence of human activity in Scriven from the Palaeolithic, that is the period of prehistory ending around 8000BC. The glaciations of the last ice age would have destroyed what little there was although some may have survived in the gravel and sands of the river Nidd. Gravels are of a great age and are a potential recipient of deposits. The extractive activity in the north of the study area, which once carried the original course of the river, has probably destroyed any remaining traces of human presence.

The hunting and gathering bands of the Neolithic who drifted back into Britain after 12000BC when the ice sheet of the glaciations receded and the land revived, left a very light footprint on the landscape. Some of them may have passed through Scriven and even settled since we have some flint artefacts such as simple hand axes and scrapers which may date from that period. Our study area is one with good water supplies in the form of becks and springs and areas of elevated and well-drained land such as Coney Garth and Guiseley Hill. Such a landscape might well attract the temporary settlement that was a characteristic of the time.

The later age of the Neolithic, 3500-2000BC was a time of more settled communities and the introduction of agriculture. We have no direct evidence of settlements but a number of artefacts have been found which confirm human activity in the locality. These include two fine stone axes and a broken mace head as well as a thumb-held scraper and flint waste from the knapping process. Scriven was undoubtedly part of an area that was becoming busy with human activity. The great henge monuments at Thornborough, for example, are only 14 miles away.

The Bronze Age, 2000-800BC, saw the technological revolution that progressively substituted metal for stone tools and weapons. Scriven has yielded a loop and socket spearhead, a bronze ingot, a piece of scrap bronze and an item of worked bone that date from the period. The age saw an increasing sophistication and complexity in society and more and larger settlements. We have no direct evidence of this in our area but it is set in a wider region that has. Burial mounds were a feature of the time and there is a suggestion of these to the north west of the study area where, allegedly, human skeletons were disinterred but unfortunately before the age of scientific recording.

From about 800BC iron began to be substituted for bronze as a material for implements and weapons. A harder metal made from more readily available ores, its arrival coincided with an era of social change. The building of hill forts or secure settlements on elevated ground surrounded by defensive banks and ditches was a feature of the Iron Age and our area has two possible sites, Coney Garth and Guiseley Hill. On the eastern flank of the latter there are the remains of a bank and ditch lying over approximately 60 metres which look convincingly like the fortifications of an Iron Age settlement. The continuing line of this feature encircling the hill has been traced by dowsing. A number of circular features has also been detected within this surrounding structure on the flat crown of the hill. Dowsing of course, is not a scientifically proven technique and can only suggest the existence of these features. However, dowsing has successfully confirmed the line of the walls of an adjacent 17th century farm complex clearly marked on a map.

Human activity at this period is further indicated by the evidence of field systems which show up clearly on aerial photographs of the area to the north of Appleby Carr. Also in this locality, a map of Scriven Common from 1768 depicts “trenches” adjacent to the Iron Age field boundaries which may have been the vestigial surface remains still visible at that time. Furthermore a little way beyond the boundary of our study area the earthworks at Scotton Banks, above the Nidd Gorge, have been identified as an Iron Age fort. We have an item of Iron Age pottery and the base of a beehive quern stone from the Scriven area which add to the conclusion that the locality was one of busy activity at this period.

From the time of the Roman occupation we have no direct evidence of either settlement or roads, but we have some contemporary artefacts in the shape of a disc quern and scatters of pottery fragments. A quantity of Roman coins has also been discovered including two silver denarii, one minted before the Roman invasion, the other bearing the image of the young emperor Hadrian depicted without his beard. An urn, or cooking pot, from the Antonine period was discovered near the southern boundary of our area and a coin hoard to the east. That this area was one of passage and movement seems clear. The large Roman town of Isurium (Aldborough) is only six miles away and Dere Street, the main Roman road to the north (A1) only three miles. Moreover, Knaresborough was, accordingly to an 18th century commentator, allegedly the site of a military fort, the perimeter ditch and bank of which was apparently detectable before the modern expansion of the town.

From the centuries which immediately followed the end of Roman rule we have a few but interesting finds. Four Anglo-Saxon lead spindle whorls and a decorated pin head have been found, domestic items suggesting settlement. The Domesday Book declares that the manor of Scriven was the possession of the late king Edward the Confessor and yielded a rent of £6 per annum. This implies a fairly well developed settlement and some form of grander dwelling for a local lord or estate manager.

Precisely where such a settlement might have been we are not entirely sure, but in the fields north of Jacob Smith Park, a number of building platforms and a trackway with a double bank and ditch are just discernible in the turf. They are clearly of an early date and may plausibly be regarded as the location of the pre-Conquest settlement. They are very close to the site of the original Scriven Hall and the historic village. Good settlement sites tend to be perpetuated.

In addition to these features there are the remains of a bank and ditch which run through the woodland between Scriven Hall and Appleby Carr and are clearly of some antiquity. An interesting feature of its course is the bend it forms to enclose two building platforms, which leads to the conclusion that it is an early boundary probably of Anglo-Saxon origin. In a survey of Knaresborough dating from 1611, in a review of the lands of Sir Henry Scriven, it is noted that land was used “for a way to lead from ye town of Scriven to ye said Moor of Scriven as may appear by an old ditch showing which may ye hedges of ye ancient enclosure …did go.” This “old ditch” is almost certainly the one in question.

In addition, Scriven Park, was anciently styled Heal Park from the Anglo-Saxon “heal” meaning a hall. There may well have been a substantial building in the locality. The same survey of 1611 records a “little wooden house called Heal Park to the west of Scriven Hall in 4 acres.” Four acres is the area of High Wood although the boundaries are, admittedly, not identical. Anglo-Saxon presence in our study area is further confirmed by the burials discovered in 1632 adjacent to Coney Garth. These were apparently pre-Conquest on the basis of evidence available at the time, although they were admittedly disinterred before the age of scientific recording. Coney Garth itself is an ideal spot for habitation, elevated, well-drained and yet with access to springs, so an Anglo-Saxon and even earlier settlement is a distinct possibility. Further burials were discovered near Preston Farm in Market Flatt Lane during gravel extraction operations in the 19th century. The adjacent dome-like rise in the ground beyond the farm has all the appearance of a barrow or burial mound. The discovery of the skeletons nearby makes this a plausible interpretation. There is an intriguing reference on a map of 1834 to “sandy barrows” also adjacent to Market Flatt Lane but further to the south east.

For the centuries that followed the Norman Conquest we have archival as well as archaeological evidence. The township of Scriven was well established around what is now the Green with a grander house for the manorial steward on the site of Scriven Hall. The remains of the settlement thus lie beneath later developments. The most significant evidence of the period, however, is in the form of earthworks, that is the ridge and furrow of medieval agriculture.

Medieval farming was done, not in fields but in strips usually about 200 metres long and from 6-9 metres wide. The system of ploughing in ever decreasing circles caused the earth to be gradually heaped up in the centre, eventually to form a long continuous and shallow domed effect. At the head of the strips another shallow bank or headland would be formed where the ploughman turned the team of oxen. One tenant farmer would have a series of strips distributed in different locations so that, in the highly regulated medieval world, no individual would monopolise the best land. Strips were grouped in areas called furlongs or in our region flatts.

Evidence of ridge and furrow lies all around the settlement of Old Scriven. Some evidence has been destroyed by modern ploughing but is still detectable on aerial photographs, as is that which has now disappeared under modern development. Some is still extant and clearly visible on the ground, notably in the fields adjacent to the Ripley Road between Appleby Carr and Howe Hill. In Jacob Smith Park there are some fine examples still visible in the turf and also in the woods to the west. Aerial photographs taken in the 1960s show well marked ridge and furrow in the area north of Park Grove. There are also traces in fields north of Market Flatt Lane. The area to the west of the Boroughbridge Road and to the east of Coney Garth was also a significant site.

Another feature of medieval agriculture was the lynchett bank, a form of terrace on slopes to ease ploughing along the contours. There are several good examples of this type of earthwork on the eastern slopes of Coney Garth and running in a south-easterly direction. Although now low profile they are still visible from the Boroughbridge Road in the right light. On the western slope there are several more running south but cut into by later quarrying. In a low sun they are visible from Market Flatt Lane.

The whole picture adds up to Scriven in medieval times, at least up to the Black Death in 1348, being a busy and well cultivated area. The pattern of ridge and furrow suggests the presence of the three field system where one third of the strip was left fallow each year and crop rotation practised on the remainder.

A considerable range of finds from the period AD1100 –AD1500 have come to light which illustrate the social and technical developments of the age. Post medieval archaeology is sparse but interesting. There is evidence of an elaborate water management system, probably dating from the late 16th-17th centuries. This seems to have been designed to provide a continuous supply to a smelting operation in the area immediately south east of what is now the junction of Scriven Road and Greengate Lane. Old maps of this area record “smeltfield”, “smeltbridge” and “smeltpond,” which make the presence of metal working highly possible. Into this location was fed water gathered in the area of Jacob Smith Park and deposited into the beck that once ran along the line of the northern boundary, then low ground south of the Old Scriven settlement. This supplemented flow of water was evidently used for an industrial purpose.

The park area contains the remains of three ponds, one in the south west corner, west of Guiseley Hill, another approximately 120 metres to the north adjacent to the western boundary and a third in the north east near the northern boundary. These ponds appear to be connected by drains that are not recorded on any 18th or 19th century maps. The line of these drains has been confirmed by dowsing, but there is more concrete evidence close to the second of the two ponds in the form of the partially buried masonry of a section of culvert. Nearby in the turf is the surface evidence of a few metres of culvert, the line of which proceeds to the lower pond.

An early 17th century document makes reference to a small mill at Appleby Carr and there is a culverted drain which lies beneath the fields to the west and culminates in a sluice on the edge of the lake. This feature is embodied in the ruins of masonry which seems to be too extensive to be simple sluice housing. The structure is a good candidate to be the old mill.

A map of 1629 depicts a farm complex in what is now Jacob Smith Park near Guiseley Hill and probably accessed from Scotch George Lane. Although there are no obvious remains on the ground, dowsing has revealed the lines of the exterior and interior walls which coincide precisely with the cartographic image.

A small number of houses in Old Scriven from the 14th to the 17th centuries still survive, modified and modernised but retaining their original features. These are described at greater length in our People and Places section of our publication, The Chronicles of Scriven.

From the 18th century little remains that has not been obliterated or incorporated into modern structures. There are no remains of Scriven Hall apart from the stable block which is now the present hall together with some boundary walls. The perimeter walls of the 18th century park still stand and in the fields to the west of Howe Hill, north of the Ripley Road, the ha-ha delineating the edge of the park survives as field boundaries. In the fields north of the Ripley Road and immediately to the west of Howe Hill are building platforms clearly visible in the turf which relate to structures, barns or cottages which are marked on the early 19th century maps and are probably 18th century in date.

Evidence of past extractive industry is to be found in the disused quarries which surround Coney Garth. The complex geology of this area and the availability of limestone, sandstone, sand and gravel close to the surface have provided a source of building material for centuries, although since the quarries on the western edge overlay the ridge and furrow they are clearly post-medieval.

The long limestone faces on the northern slopes have clearly been worked for a long time, at least since the 17th century, and the stone of which the old houses around The Green are built seems to have come from the sandstone quarries of the southern slopes. The boundary wall of the park appears to have the same origin.

From recent times the most significant archaeological feature is the remains of the prisoner of war camp from the Second World War. The brick and concrete bases of the huts still remain in the woods between Scriven Hall and Appleby Carr. They are much overgrown with vegetation but can be found amongst the undergrowth of the wood. Their precise location is indicated on maps from the1950s.