Aldro earthworks: a linear boundary, two cross-dykes and nine round barrows on Birdsall Wold


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:
Date of most recent amendment:


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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

North Yorkshire
Ryedale (District Authority)
North Yorkshire
Ryedale (District Authority)
North Yorkshire
Ryedale (District Authority)
North Yorkshire
Ryedale (District Authority)
National Grid Reference:
SE 80429 63250

Reasons for Designation

The linear earthworks at Aldro Farm are well-preserved parts of an extensive system of prehistoric dykes which has been recorded on the Wolds. Their construction is thought to span the millennium from the Middle Bronze Age, although they may have been re-used later. Current interpretations favour the view that they were used to define territorial landholdings and also subdivisions within such holdings; in the latter case they defined areas of land used for different purposes. At Aldro Farm the cross-dykes subdivide the top of the Wold. The linear boundary located at the top of the chalk escarpment would seem to have served a different purpose, perhaps defining the extent of territorial landholdings here. The linear earthworks are directly associated with a number of earlier bowl barrows, funerary monuments dating from the Late Neolithic through to the Early Bronze Age. Bowl barrows were constructed as earthen or rubble mounds, usually ditched, which covered single or multiple burials. Although many of the barrows near Aldro Farm have been partially altered by agricultural activity, most are still visible and were comparatively well documented during a campaign of fieldwork in the 19th century. The close juxtaposition of the linear earthworks with the bowl barrows provides an insight into the changing patterns of land use in this area of the Wolds during the Bronze Age. Such associations between monuments offer important scope for the study of the division and use of land for social, ritual and agricultural purposes.


The monument includes a prehistoric linear boundary earthwork, one adjoining cross-dyke, a second intersecting cross-dyke and nine closely associated round barrows situated near Aldro Farm, at the western end of Birdsall Wold. The linear boundary defines the northern and western sides of a plateau whose southern and eastern sides are formed by the steep scarps of Brownmoor Dale and Birdsall Dale. The linear boundary runs from the head of Brownmoor Dale and curves around the brow of the hill, between the 220m and 230m contours, to the head of Birdsall Dale. Over most of its length the boundary comprises a single ditch, averaging 6m wide by between 1m and 2.5m deep, with an earthen bank on each side. The inner (uphill) bank is between 2m and 8m wide by up to 0.5m high; the outer (downhill) bank is up to 5m wide and 0.5m high, although in places only a slight ridge is visible. On the northern arm of the linear boundary, a slight outer ditch can be observed and a 19th century survey of the earthworks by J R Mortimer records two ditches; it is thought that the outer ditch has become partially infilled over the years and survives as a buried feature over much of its length. In three places the earthworks lie buried beneath modern roads and the western arm is bridged by a causeway carrying a farm track. About 200m north of Aldro Farm, the entrenchment surrounds the bowl barrow known as Aldro Rath; this is a 1.5m high mound which is 20m in diameter, encircled by a ditch and bank that lie partly beneath the modern estate road. Mortimer's partial excavation of the barrow, in 1874, established that the linear boundary was built after the barrow but respected its circumferecnce. The linear boundary then changes course to run southwards and, although it lies partly beneath the modern road while its outer bank has been levelled by ploughing, its course is well recorded; the ditches are thought to survive as a buried feature as far as Aldro Farm where the boundary is thought to have been destroyed by the foundations of the existing buildings. A second barrow, recorded and partially excavated by Mortimer, lay adjacent to the boundary dyke, about 10m east of the road's edge and had a diameter of 16m; although altered by ploughing and no longer visible at the surface, buried features relating to the construction of this barrow are thought to survive. The south-western end of the linear boundary joins the end of a cross-dyke which runs south-westwards across the head of Brownmoor Dale. The cross-dyke is best-preserved on the northern slope of the dale where it is observed as a ditch 8m wide by up to 1.5m deep with a slight bank on each side. The cross- dyke is recorded as continuing over the crest of the ridge into Deep Dale, but although its course is retained by the modern field boundary, there is no visible evidence of the prehistoric earthworks south of the road. The cross- dyke is thought to have been constructed as a boundary between Acklam Wold and Hanging Grimston Wold, each of which were used as burial grounds during the Bronze Age. A group of seven bowl barrows lies at the west of the monument, around Aldro Wood. Five barrows were partially excavated by Mortimer in 1868 after the mounds were partially levelled for agricultural purposes although, despite this alteration, three are still visible as slight mounds up to 0.3m high and ranging between 14m and 23m in diameter. Below-ground remains of burials and ditches were recorded during the excavations. The westernmost of these barrows is visible on aerial photographs which show a concentric pair of ditches, 13m and 26m in diameter respectively, which surrounded the mound; material for the construction of the mound was obtained from these ditches and, although they have become infilled over the years, they survive as buried features. In addition to those which are visible as earthworks, two barrows are known from aerial photographs; the circular outlines of the infilled ditches have been observed and these features along with grave pits beneath these barrows will survive intact. Also visible from the air is the line of a buried ditch, previously noted by Mortimer, which is a ploughed-out cross-dyke running westwards down Leavening Wold; this ditch is estimated to be about 5m wide and will have been flanked by banks formed of the excavated earth but which are no longer visible as earthworks as they have been levelled by ploughing. The dyke is included in the scheduling where it runs between the barrows. Excluded from the scheduling are the metalled surfaces of roads and field boundary fences, although the ground beneath these features is included.

MAP EXTRACT The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract. It includes a 2 metre boundary around the archaeological features, considered to be essential for the monument's support and preservation.


The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.

Legacy System number:
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Books and journals
Mortimer, J R, 25 yrs researches, (1905)
Mortimer, J R , Forty Years Researches in British and Saxon Burial Mounds of East Yorkshire, (1905)
RCHME Survey (unpublished),
Stoetz, K., RCHME unpublished survey,
Title: Ordnance Survey 6" Series Source Date: Author: Publisher: Surveyor:


This monument is scheduled under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979 as amended as it appears to the Secretary of State to be of national importance. This entry is a copy, the original is held by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.

End of official listing

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