Prehistoric field system and seven round barrows on West Ayton Moor
Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number: 1017154
Date first listed: 04-Aug-1933
Date of most recent amendment: 09-May-2001
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.
County: North Yorkshire
District: Scarborough (District Authority)
Parish: Hutton Buscel
County: North Yorkshire
District: Scarborough (District Authority)
Parish: West Ayton
National Park: NORTH YORK MOORS
National Grid Reference: SE 95962 88449, SE 96056 88156, SE 96515 88367
Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.
Reasons for Designation
Regular aggregate field systems date from the Bronze Age (2000-700 BC) to the
end of the fifth century AD. They usually cover areas of up to 100ha and
comprise a discrete block of fields orientated in roughly the same direction,
with the field boundaries laid out along two axes set at right angles to one
another. Individual fields generally fall within the 0.1ha-3.2ha range and can
be square, rectangular, long and narrow, triangular or polygonal in shape. The
field boundaries can take various forms (including drystone walls or reaves,
orthostats, earth and rubble banks, pit alignments, ditches, fences and
lynchets) and follow straight or sinuous courses. Component features common to
most systems include entrances and trackways, and the settlements or
farmsteads from which people utilised the fields over the years have been
identified in some cases. These are usually situated close to or within the
The development of field systems is seen as a response to the competition for
land which began during the later prehistoric period. The majority are thought
to have been used mainly for crop production, evidenced by the common
occurrence of lynchets resulting from frequent ploughing, although rotation
may also have been practised in a mixed farming economy. Regular aggregate
field systems occur widely and have been recorded in south western and south
eastern England, East Anglia, Cheshire, Cumbria, Nottinghamshire, North and
South Yorkshire and Durham. They represent a coherent economic unit often
utilised for long periods of time and can thus provide important information
about developments in agricultural practices in a particular location and
broader patterns of social, cultural and environmental change over several
centuries. Those which survive well and/or which can be positively linked to
associated settlements are considered to merit protection.
Although some of the earthwork boundaries have not survived, the field system on West Ayton Moor is in a good state of preservation. Significant information about the form and development of the field layout will survive. Important evidence for the type of agriculture practised and the contemporary environment and economy will survive in the lower ditch fills. Evidence for earlier land use will also survive beneath the field banks. The field system lies in an area where other field systems are known, which survive only as cropmarks on aerial photographs; as a monument with upstanding earthworks, this field system will preserve a range of evidence which the other sites have now lost. Round barrows are funerary monuments dating from the Late Neolithic period to the Late Bronze Age, with most examples belonging to the period 2400-1500 BC. They were constructed as earthen mounds, sometimes ditched, which covered single or multiple burials. They occur either in isolation or grouped as cemeteries and often acted as a focus for burials in later periods. Often superficially similar, although differing widely in size, they exhibit regional variations in form and a diversity of burial practices. There are over 10,000 surviving examples recorded nationally (many more have already been destroyed), occurring across most of Britain, including the Wessex area where it is often possible to classify them more closely, for example as bowl or bell barrows. Often occupying prominent locations, they are a major historic element in the modern landscape and their considerable variation of form and longevity as a monument type provide important information on the diversity of beliefs and social organisation amongst early prehistoric communities. They are particularly representative of their period and a substantial proportion of surviving examples are considered worthy of protection. Prehistoric rock art is found on natural rock outcrops in many areas of upland Britain. It is especially common in the north of England in Northumberland, Durham and North and West Yorkshire. The most common form of decoration is the 'cup and ring' marking, where expanses of small cup-like hollows are pecked into the surface of the rock. These cups may be surrounded by one or more 'rings'. Single pecked lines extending from the cup through the rings may also exist, providing the design with a 'tail'. Pecked lines or grooves can also exist in isolation from cup and ring decoration. Other shapes and patterns also occur, but are less frequent. Carvings may occur singly, in small groups, or may cover extensive areas of rock surface. They date to the Late Neolithic and Bronze Age periods (2800-c.500 BC) and provide one of our most important insights into prehistoric 'art'. The exact meaning of the designs remains unknown, but they may be interpreted as sacred or religious symbols. Frequently they are found close to contemporary burial monuments and the symbols are also found on portable stones placed directly next to burials or incorporated into burial mounds. Around 800 examples of prehistoric rock art have been recorded in England. This is unlikely to be a realistic reflection of the number carved in prehistory. Many will have been overgrown or destroyed in activities such as quarrying. All positively identified prehistoric rock art sites exhibiting a significant group of designs normally will be identified as nationally important. The Tabular Hills in the Wykeham Forest area contain a dense concentration of prehistoric monuments, dating from the Neolithic to the Iron Age, which includes field systems, enclosures and land boundaries as well as both round and square barrows. The spatial and chronological relationships between the round and square barrows in this area, and between both types of barrow and other prehistoric monuments, are of considerable importance for understanding the development of later prehistoric society in eastern Yorkshire. Despite limited disturbance, five of the seven round barrows have survived well. Significant information about their original form and the burials placed within them will be preserved. Evidence for earlier land use and the contemporary environment will also survive beneath the barrow mounds. The barrow known as Way Hagg is one of several which include decorated cup marked stones, distributed along the northern and eastern periphery of the North York Moors. As such it can be dated earlier than many similar barrows found on the central moorland.
Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.
The monument includes a prehistoric regular aggregate field system and seven
round barrows situated on level ground towards the northern edge of the
Tabular Hills, in Wykeham Forest. It is in three separate areas of
The principal part of the field system is situated at the top of a steep slope
which runs down to the River Derwent valley to the east. It is visible as two
phases of laid out fields, and is orientated with its long axis predominantly
north west to south east. The first phase consisted of at least five adjacent
sub-rectangular fields, each measuring internally about 100m north east to
south west by about 35m to 100m. The most northerly two of these are bounded
by a ditch 1.5m wide and 0.3m-0.5m deep with an inner bank 1.5m-2m wide and
standing up to 0.3m high. However, the remainder are no longer clearly defined
as earthworks, having been truncated by the later phase or levelled by arable
ploughing and forestry activities, although traces of the south west edge
survive, recut as a post-medieval drainage ditch.
The later phase of fields is evident as a realignment of the northern part of
the field system, to run NNW to SSE on the east side of a trackway. The
trackway was originally 12m wide and defined by a ditch on each side with a
bank to the east. However, only the western of the two ditches survives at the
north end of the field system, up to 2m wide and 0.4m deep with traces of the
adjacent bank 2m wide and up to 0.3m high, and only the eastern ditch and bank
survive further to the south, each 1.5m wide and up to 0.3m deep and 0.3m
high. To the immediate north of the modern east to west field boundary which
crosses the monument, both trackway boundaries survive as earthworks but the
remainder have become infilled over the years or levelled by forestry
activities and are no longer visible as earthwork features. At least two new
fields were constructed during the later phase, measuring internally 80m-90m
east to west and from 95m up to 170m north to south. The more northerly of
these is visible at its north west corner, bounded by the trackway to the west
and on its south side where it is defined by a bank up to 1.5m wide and 0.4m
high with a ditch up to 1m wide and 0.2m deep to the north. The eastern
boundary of both fields no longer survives as a clearly defined earthwork, the
ditches having been recut as post-medieval drains associated with a trackway
running NNW to SSE, although traces of a bank up to 1.5m wide and 0.2m-0.4m
high are visible in places. A second post-medieval trackway runs WSW to ENE
across the field system and a stone culvert carries the recut ditches of the
eastern boundary underneath it. The southern boundary of the northern field
continues beyond the eastern boundary as far as a break in slope; a similar
parallel boundary consisting of a bank up to 2m wide and 0.3m high with a
ditch 1.5m wide and 0.3m deep on its north side lies about 35m to the south,
but does not extend as far to the west as the trackway. Fragments of other
banks and ditches of similar dimensions are visible outside the main fields to
the north east and south east. These would originally have defined additional
fields of which all other traces have been destroyed by forestry activities
and arable ploughing.
Originally there were five round barrows in the main area of the field system.
The first lies in the field at the south end of the field system and has been
levelled by ploughing so that it is no longer visible as an earthwork. The
eastern boundary of the field system trackway has turned to the west at this
point to go around this barrow, which would have been upstanding when the
field system was laid out. The second barrow lies 130m to the north west,
outside the western edge of the earlier phase of the main field system. It has
an earth and stone mound which measures 11m in diameter and stands up to 0.7m
high. In the centre of the mound there is a hollow and several surface
irregularities caused by partial excavation in the past. The mound is
surrounded by a ditch up to 2m wide and 0.3m deep.
The third barrow is situated 100m to the NNE of the second, but has been
levelled by forestry activities and is no longer visible as an earthwork.
About 120m to the ESE lies the most prominent of the five barrows, situated
immediately outside the eastern boundary of the main field system between the
two ditches which extend to the east. It is known as Way Hagg. The barrow has
a well defined earth and stone mound measuring 11m in diameter and standing up
to 1.3m high. In the centre of the mound there is a hollow caused by part
excavation in 1848 by J Tissiman. Four stones decorated with cup marks were
found within the mound, three of them covering a cremation within an urn. The
mound is surrounded by a ditch up to 2m wide and 0.2m deep; to the south of
the mound this has been recut as one of the field system ditches.
The fifth barrow lies 55m to the south east of Way Hagg, also outside the
eastern boundary of the field system. It has an earth and stone mound which
measures 7m in diameter and stands up to 0.5m high. The surface is irregular
as a result of partial excavation in the past.
Associated with the main area of the field system there are two other areas of
similar boundaries on the same alignment, which would also have defined fields
belonging to the same overall system. The northern area lies 590m to the west
of the main field system area. It consists of a bank which measures 1.5m-2m
across and stands up to 0.4m high. The ground level is lower to the south east
of the bank than to the north west. Originally the bank was at least 90m long
but 20m at the eastern end have been levelled by forestry ploughing and are no
longer visible as an earthwork.
The southern area of associated boundaries lies 280m to the SSE of the
northern and 235m south west of the main field system area. It consists of a
ditch between two banks, each of which measures 1.5m across. The banks are up
to 0.3m high and the ditch is up to 0.3m deep. The boundary is 150m long and
there is a 6m wide opening 50m to the north west of the south eastern end.
This would originally have been a field entrance. At its south eastern end the
boundary turns to run towards the north east; this arm has largely been
destroyed by forestry ploughing, although traces survive about 55m-70m away
from the corner. At the north western end of the boundary, the western bank
ends about 20m before the eastern. About 6m beyond the end of the eastern bank
there is a 12m length of boundary running to the south west. It consists of a
ditch 1.5m wide and up to 0.2m deep, between two banks each 1.5m-2m wide and
0.2m-0.3m high. The opening between this and the main north west to south east
boundary would originally have been a field entrance.
There are two round barrows at the eastern end of the most southern north east
to south west arm of associated field system boundaries. The first is situated
7m to the south west of the eastern end of the boundary ditch. The second
barrow is situated 15m to the north west, on the opposite side of the field
system boundary. Both barrows have an earth and stone mound which measures 6m
in diameter and stands up to 0.7m high. In the centre of each there is a
hollow caused by partial excavation in the past. The mounds were originally
surrounded by a ditch up to 2m wide but over the years these have become
infilled by soil slipping from the mound so that they are no longer visible as
earthwork features, although there is a slight depression around the northern
and eastern sides of the south eastern barrow mound.
The monument lies within a dense concentration of prehistoric burial monuments
in an area which also includes the remains of prehistoric settlement and land
The surfaced forestry track which runs east to west through the northern part
of the main field system and the modern field boundaries which run north east
to south west and north west to south east across the southern part of the
main field system are excluded from the scheduling, although the ground
beneath them 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: 33508
Legacy System: RSM
Books and journals
Lee, G E, Wykeham Archaeological Survey, (1991)
Smith, M J B, Excavated Bronze Age Burial Mounds of Durham and N' land., (1994), 142
Smith, M J B, Excavated Bronze Age Burial Mounds of Durham and N' land., (1994)
Hayes, R H, 'North East Yorkshire studies: archaeological papers' in Small Square Or Rectilinear Enclosures In North East Yorkshire, (1988), 51-56
Spratt, D A , 'Prehistoric and Roman Archaeology in North East Yorkshire' in Prehistoric and Roman Archaeology of North East Yorkshire, , Vol. 87, (1993)
Title: Ordnance Survey 25" sheet 77/13 Source Date: 1928 Author: Publisher: Surveyor:
Title: Ordnance Survey 25" sheet 77/14 Source Date: 1912 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