Stanwick Late Iron Age oppidum, Iron Age and medieval settlement, early Christian church and sculpture and post-medieval emparkment


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:
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Ordnance survey map of Stanwick Late Iron Age oppidum, Iron Age and medieval settlement, early Christian church and sculpture and post-medieval emparkment
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

North Yorkshire
Richmondshire (District Authority)
North Yorkshire
Richmondshire (District Authority)
Forcett and Carkin
North Yorkshire
Richmondshire (District Authority)
North Yorkshire
Richmondshire (District Authority)
Stanwick St. John
National Grid Reference:
NZ 18092 10697, NZ 18517 11985, NZ 19048 10421

Reasons for Designation

An enclosed oppidum is a nucleated settlement of the Late Iron Age, covering an area in excess of 10ha, whose boundaries are marked by large earthworks comprising a bank and outer ditch, which are generally taken to be of a defensive nature. They contain evidence for a variety of activities, suggesting that they were centres within which a range of economic, political, and religious services were concentrated. Many examples contain evidence for the development of zones within which particular activities (productive or ritual) appear to have been concentrated. Enclosed oppida have generally been dated from the late second/early first century BC and continued in use to the first century AD. Only around ten oppida have been identified in England and of those the majority lie in the south. As a rare monument class, all known examples are considered to be of national importance. Square barrows are funerary monuments of the Middle Iron Age, which may be square or rectangular in shape. They were constructed as earthen mounds surrounded by a ditch and covering one or more burials often associated with grave goods. Early Christian churches were established from the time of St Augustine's mission to re-establish Christianity in England in AD 597. The earliest buildings were simple wooden structures but later examples were built of stone and often included intricate carved stonework. Stanwick developed from an existing Late Iron Age focus to a major market centre and seat of power in the period preceeding the Roman conquest of the north and flourished, albeit briefly, as a centre of a pro-Roman client kingdom. It is thus important for the understanding of the dynamics of social and political change in the Roman North. The oppidum ramparts are well preserved and important information about the form and function of the defences will be preserved. Information on how the interior was used will survive well in those areas not significantly affected by later agriculture or landscaping. Earlier archaeological remains also survive well, particularly within the area known as the Tofts, and offer important evidence of pre- oppidum landuse. The shape of the churchyard, its association with Anglo-Saxon and earlier boundaries and the examples of early Christian sculpture in the church indicate an early and important ecclesiastical establishment of the Anglian period. The church itself is a fine example of a medieval church enhanced by its asociation within an early Christian site and the quality of its internal sculpture. The remains of the adjacent manorial farm complex with its links to monastic orders provides an insight into the economic arrangements of both the orders and their lay successors and the development of medieval agricultural systems. In the 18th century the Stanwick complex formed a focus for the conjoining parks of Forcett and Stanwick which embody a landscape of high status and wealth, with specific elements of emparkment being influenced by the existing prehistoric earthworks. Taken as a whole, the site offers important scope for the study of changing political and economic patterns of settlement and land use over time.


The monument includes the ramparts, ditches and some internal areas of the Late Iron Age oppidum at Stanwick. Also included are some Late Iron Age barrows, evidence of early Christian occupation, the medieval church of St John, an Anglo-Danish cross shaft, remains of a medieval farm and field systems, medieval and post-medieval earthworks at Forcett and remains of 18th century emparkment. All these features lie within or immediately adjacent to the oppidum. The monument is divided into three separate areas of protection. The internal areas of the oppidum within the monument include the bulk of the land lying between Forcett and Kirkbridge and north of the Maiden Gill earthwork, the field known as the Tofts and the land between Kirkbridge and Stanwick Hall and the ramparts to the east as far south as Church Lodge and Outer Lodge. Kirkbridge Farm and its associated buildings and the house known as Stanwick House and its outbuildings are not included in the scheduling. The majority of the churchyard of St John's Church is not included, although the enclosing boundary wall and a 3m margin of ground immediately within it is included. The church (which is Listed Grade I) is included, as is the ground beneath it, extending as far as the outer edge of the path surrounding the church. The earliest known occupation of the site is of Middle to Late Iron Age date and is concentrated in and around the field known as the Tofts, where both excavation and geophysical surveys have revealed a complex of agricultural and settlement features. Two Iron Age square barrows, or burial mounds, survive as low irregular mounds and are located north of Kirkbridge Farm. During excavation Belgic butt beaker sherds were found in one of the mounds. The oppidum is enclosed by a substantial bank and external ditch defining an area of 310ha subdivided internally into a northern compound of approximately 60ha and a larger southern area of 250ha. The northern enclosure is irregularly shaped, measuring 1.3km north west to south east by 750m north east to south west, and is defined by a bank and ditch rampart up to 30m wide. The rampart extends for 350m north east from Forcett village before curving slightly to the south east and extending for 1km to meet the north flank of Henah Hill. The ramparts follow the west flank of the hill, where the earthworks are at their most impressive with the bank standing up to 5m high and 25m wide. The rampart dividing the north and south enclosures then extends westward from Henah Hill across the south of the Tofts, then turns and extends for 900m to the north west to link with the outer rampart at Forcett. The southern section of the internal rampart extending west from Henah Hill no longer survives as an upstanding earthwork but is clearly visible on aerial photographs. Another earthwork follows the east side of the Tofts field and further earthworks are located around Mary Wild Beck within a field. A further bank extends 150m eastwards from the main rampart 200m north of Henah Hill, then turns to continue south for 500m enclosing the east side of the hill. This eastern arm has been reduced by agricultural activity and no longer remains as an upstanding earthwork, although it is clearly visible on aerial photographs. The ramparts forming the outer enclosure continue southwards from the south east of Henah Hill for 800m, where the bank is 15m wide and 3m high and the ditch is 5m wide and 1.5m deep. The ramparts then turn and extend westwards for 2.1km. The eastern part is much reduced and in places only a small bank is visible, while for the remainder the bank is up to 15m wide and 2.5m high. North of the south west corner the ramparts have been lost to later quarrying but continue again and extend north east for 1.2km, then turn further east for 200m to complete the circuit at Forcett. At the south east corner of the enclosure a linear earthwork extends south for 200m, is interrupted by the buildings of Park House, but then continues for a further 230m south of the farm. Although reduced by agricultural activity and no longer visible as an upstanding earthwork, the earthwork south of Park House is included in the scheduling. Excavations have revealed that the oppidum ramparts were originally stone revetted, and that in places the ditch was cut into the bedrock. An excavated section of the ramparts in Cat Wood, east of Forcett has been left exposed, and is now held in the care of the Secretary of State. Entrances through the ramparts have been identified near North Lodge, at the dog leg on the Maiden Gill earthwork, 100m south east of Forcett, at the centre of the southern arm, and in the centre of the east and west sides of the outer enclosure at Outer Lodge and Hillhouse Lane respectively. Excavations have also revealed features pre-dating the main ramparts. A series of low clay banks and ditches were identified, some of which are considered to be remnants of earlier boundaries, while the remainder are either the first stages of the oppidum defences or served to mark out their required alignment. The Iron Age occupation of the site is known to have included a settlement with associated agricultural activities concentrated in the Tofts. Excavations carried out in the Tofts revealed a sequence of timber round houses enclosed by a palisade and later a bank and ditch with a stone gatehouse. Evidence from this work revealed that the inhabitants of the settlement were a wealthy elite who were already trading with the Roman world by the mid-first century AD. The oppidum ramparts were then built around this settlement, probably in two stages, and enclosed a great block of land subdivided into two enclosures. The northern, smaller, enclosure was built first and enclosed elements of the existing, expanding Iron Age settlement and probably functioned as an enlarged focus of occupation. Remains of this occupation are likely to survive in the fields in the north of the monument, particularly around the entrances where evidence of substantial gate structures may survive. The larger outer enclosure served as enclosed farmland and was associated with the market function of the site. The oppidum is identified as a defended centre controlling trade and resources for a well established native economy and society which had an undoubted defensive function; they also served to display the status and prestige of their builders. The site flourished for several decades during the first century AD but lost influence and declined in importance after AD 70 when Roman power and authority expanded into the north of England and the power and influence of Stanwick as a centre for the native population declined. The early Christian remains are located in the area now occupied by the Church of St John the Baptist to the north east of the Tofts. The church stands in a semi-circular churchyard and research at similar churches elsewhere has shown that such round churchyards are often Saxon in origin. The west wall of the churchyard is followed by the parish boundary and research in other parts of England has shown a strong correlation between burial sites and parish boundaries, some of which respect earlier Iron Age boundaries and settlements. Many of these boundaries have been confirmed by Anglo-Saxon charters. There are many pieces of Saxon sculpture built into the fabric of the church, at least two of which are part of a decorative frieze for a stone building. An Anglo-Danish cross shaft decorated with interlace and course leaf scroll stands in a stone base in the churchyard to the south of the church. The cross base is Listed Grade II. Taken together this indicates the presence of an early Christian church by the eighth and ninth centuries at the latest. This was ultimately replaced in the 13th century by the current building which incorporated some of the earlier dressed stone into the fabric. The choice of the Stanwick oppidum as a location for an early Christian church is evidence of the continued importance of the site at this time. The church was located to serve a local community, although settlement sites of a contemporary date are yet to be identified in the area. The bulk of the current church is 13th century in date and has been altered and added to in later years. In the 16th century a window was inserted into the north wall of the chancel, and the entire building was heavily restored in the 19th century. In the interior, in addition to the prominent Saxon sculpture, there are some fine post-medieval memorials and coats-of-arms, including a large marble chest tomb with alabaster effigies of Sir Hugh Smithson (d.1670). The church is now managed by the Church Conservation Trust and is included in the scheduling. East of Kirkbridge Farm there are a series of earthworks representing enclosures, trackways and yards which are associated with a medieval farmstead. Further remains of medieval field systems lie in the area of the Tofts and south of Henah Hill where ridge and furrow is preserved, demonstrating the characteristic `S' shape with headlands and balks. It is thought that the farmstead may have been a manor farm located on the higher dry ground adjacent to the church and that the construction of Kirkbridge House in the mid-17th century has removed all traces of earlier occupation. Immediately north west of the oppidum ramparts there are the remains of medieval and post-medieval building platforms, enclosures, and ridge and furrow agriculture associated with the village at Forcett, preserved as earthworks. These indicate that the village of Forcett was originally more extensive. The manor at Stanwick is first recorded in 1208 and was later owned by the military orders of the Templars and the Hospitallers. By the mid-14th century the Knights Hospitallers tenanted it to the Catterick family, who did not, however, reside there. It was not until the land was sold to the Smithsons in 1638 that there is certain evidence for the lord of the manor living at Stanwick. In the mid-17th century Stanwick Hall (now demolished) was built and in 1740 Sir Hugh Smithson married Elizabeth Percy and through her inherited the Earldom of Northumberland and the house and estate parkland was improved to reflect this new position. Stanwick Hall was located south of the Tofts with a landscaped park lying wholly within the oppidum, with the ramparts forming the park boundary to the east and south. The ramparts were a park feature in their own right and other parkland features survive within the area of protection, including paths and a plinth for a statue on the southern rampart, and a polygonal deer shelter standing in the Tofts field. Some of the later earthworks around the Mary Wild Beck in the Tofts field may also be the result of this landscaping. Stanwick Hall was demolished in the 20th century and most of the formal park is now farmland. Some parkland features will survive, however, including the deer park ha-ha, the eastern and southern park wall outside the oppidum ramparts and the terrace to the west of Duchess Walk, although these features lie outside the area of protection. In the 18th century a formal park was also established around Forcett Hall to the west of the oppidum. This park adopted the western rampart of the oppidum as its eastern boundary. As with Stanwick Park the rampart was a feature of Forcett Park in its own right, although it was also modified by levelling the top of the bank to make a formal carriage drive, and plinths for statues and seats were placed on the ramparts. Forcett Hall and its park are still extant to the west of the oppidum beyond the area of protection. The eastern park wall which stands on the inside of the western rampart is excluded from the scheduling, although the ground beneath it is included. A number of features are excluded from the scheduling; these are Kirk Bridge (Listed Grade II), the well house 150m north of the church (Listed Grade II), the well 50m north east of the church (Listed Grade II), the four tombstones 5m south west of the church (Listed Grade II), four tombstones 2m east of the church porch (Listed Grade II), the Newcomb memorial (Listed Grade II), the Slater memorial (Listed Grade II), the deer shelter (Listed Grade II), the lych gate, walls, fences, gates, signs and the surfaces of all roads and paths; the ground beneath all these features is, however, included.

MAP EXTRACT The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.


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

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Books and journals
Bagshawe, A S, The Post-Roman Development of Stanwick Township, (1975)
Bowden, M, There By Design, Field Archaeology in Parks and Gardens, (1998)
Chadburn A, , Earthworks in the parish of Forcett and Carkin, (1982)
Norman, P, An Investigation into the Parish Boundary of Stanwick St John
Wheeler, M, Stanwick Fortifications, (1954)
Haselgrove, C, 'Rural Settlement in the Roman North' in Indigenous settlement patterns in the Tyne-Tees lowlands, (1982), 57-104
Haselgrove, , Turnbull, , 'Archaeological Journal' in Stanwick North Yorkshire, , Vol. VOL 147, (1990), 58-72
MacGregor, M, 'Proceedings of the Prehistoric Society' in , , Vol. VOL 28, (1962), 19
Maclaughlan, , 'Archaeological Journal' in Roman Roads Camps and Earthworks in the North Riding, , Vol. VOL 6, (1849), 216-222
Morris, CD, 'Medieval Archaeology' in Pre-Conquest Sculpture of the Tees Valley, (1976), 140-146
Morris, C D, 'Medieval Archaeology' in Pre-Conquest Sculpture of the Tees Valley, , Vol. VOL, (1976), 140-146
Turnbull, P, 'Durham Archaeological Journal' in Stanwick In The Northern Iron Age, , Vol. VOL 1, (1984), 41-49
Turnbull, , Haselgrove, , 'Archaeological Journal' in Stanwick North Yorkshire, , Vol. VOL 147, (1990), 36-87
Welfare, H et al, 'Archaeological Journal' in Stanwick North Yorkshire, , Vol. VOL 147, (1990), 1-35
HMSO, Listed Building description,


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.

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