Claro Group

Claro Community Archaeology Group


Group Photo courtesy of the Knaresborough Post

The origins of the group started with Mary Kershaw who in 1987 became archaeologist for Harrogate Borough Council Museums Service. Mary initiated and led an excavation at Knaresborough Castle near the porch area. She got together a team of volunteers to help and involved Kevin Cale, then a recent archaeology graduate, as an assistant. When this was finished Mary organised a further team which was to be called the Knaresborough Archaeology Group. Members met on a Thursday in the undercroft of the Old Court House at Knaresborough Castle and recorded the findings of the excavations and drew architectural fragments recovered from the dig. They also carried out a study of the tool marks made by medieval masons.
As this project was coming to an end the Nidderdale Area of Outstanding Beauty was created. By this time Mary had become Curator of the Harrogate Museums Service and she employed Kevin Cale to supervise a new group of volunteers to make a landscape and archaeological survey of three sample parishes within the Nidderdale AONB which fell mostly within the boundaries of Harrogate Borough Council. The areas chosen were Ellingstring in the north, Fewston in the Washburn Valley and Dent by the Wharfe.
In 1995 a start was made in Ellingstring with a group of volunteers. The intention was to look at the landscape, earthworks, tracks and streams recording whether or not they were of archaeological significance and create a base of information for development, control and the protection of archaeology. Standing buildings were not to be included. Everything was to be recorded on a computer in a format compatible with the North Yorkshire County Council archaeological record.
We started from scratch modifying the recording as it went along. We went to Ellingstring in all weathers and lunched at the Coverbridge Inn. This project lasted a year and a half and we recorded ridge and furrow, holloways, springs, sheep houses and the remains of the settlement on the village green. We learnt to make snow angels and drank sloe gin. We produced and published a report of what we had found.
All our investigations were financed by Harrogate Borough Council and supervised by Mary Kershaw but it was Kevin who taught us how to view a landscape and dealt with all our queries.
The next project which took a year in 1996 was of a different nature as the AONB asked us to do a survey of all the known prehistoric archaeology in the area to create a base of information. This was very much a desktop exercise, done from archives and aerial photographs, and involved little fieldwork apart from some confirmatory visits.
Our next project begin in 1997 was Fewston on the same basis as Ellingstring. This was a bigger undertaking both in acreage and in archaeological complexity as it involved, for example, mill complexes and elaborate water management systems.
One of our chief problems was the advent of foot and mouth disease, so for a year we worked at base which gave us a chance to catch up and refine our computer recording systems. This project came to an end in 2003 when we produced two reports – one, technical and detailed, and one more popular and illustrated for sale to the general reader.
We then experienced a major change. Mary Kershaw left to take up a position in York and the Council could no longer fund us from the Museums budget although we were able still to have free use of the Court House premises. Fortunately funding became available from the Heritage Lottery Fund and in 2004 we were able to obtain a grant for a twelve month study of the history and archaeology of the parish of Thruscross. Our name was changed to Claro Community Archaeology Group.
In this project we did record some standing buildings and were able to demonstrate the benefit of our work in that when we went to do a detailed survey of a ruined cottage of historic significance we found that it had been demolished overnight and our ecords were all that remained. We continued this work with the aid of a further two year grant which enabled us to cover most of the Thruscross civil parish. These two projects also produced reports which were well received.
As we completed the Thruscross work we decided to embark on a longer term project and were able to obtain a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund for a four year study, later extended to five years, of the archaeology, history and buildings of the parish of Scriven. This was inspired by the fact that Scriven Park, now Jacob Smith Park, had just been bequeathed to Harrogate Borough Council and made available for public access. Much public interest was thus aroused. This is the project on which we are currently working still with aid of Kevin Cale, our archaeological and project management advisor.

Copyright of all information Claro Community Archaeology Group.


Quern Day 2010



The Old Courthouse
Knaresborough Castle


Guided Walk 2011


Maunday Thursday 2011