Castle Hills prehistoric settlement, field system and medieval wood banks


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1019403

Date first listed: 02-Jul-1999

Date of most recent amendment: 11-Aug-2017

Location Description: Castle Hills, Highfield and Highroyds Wood, centred 600m east of Newton Farm.


Ordnance survey map of Castle Hills prehistoric settlement, field system and medieval wood banks
© Crown Copyright and database right 2018. All rights reserved. Ordnance Survey Licence number 100024900.
© British Crown and SeaZone Solutions Limited 2018. All rights reserved. Licence number 102006.006.
Use of this data is subject to Terms and Conditions.

The above map is for quick reference purposes only and may not be to scale. For a copy of the full scale map, please see the attached PDF - 1019403 .pdf

The PDF will be generated from our live systems and may take a few minutes to download depending on how busy our servers are. We apologise for this delay.

This copy shows the entry on 16-Dec-2018 at 03:38:54.


Location Description: Castle Hills, Highfield and Highroyds Wood, centred 600m east of Newton Farm.

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

District: Leeds (Metropolitan Authority)

Parish: Ledsham

District: Leeds (Metropolitan Authority)

Parish: Micklefield

County: North Yorkshire

District: Selby (District Authority)

Parish: Huddleston with Newthorpe

National Grid Reference: SE4529432276


Iron Age field system with an enclosed settlement and associated hollow way surviving as earthworks within an area of ancient woodland, overlain by earthworks related to medieval woodland management, with further associated buried remains surviving as cropmarks in the eastern portion of the monument.

Reasons for Designation

Castle Hills prehistoric settlement, field system and medieval wood banks centred 600m east of Newton Farm is scheduled for the following principal reasons:

* Period, survival and rarity: as a rare lowland survival of prehistoric settlement and field system earthworks, combined with an area of cropmark remains of an unusual form for the region; * Diversity: that prehistoric earthworks appear to have been adapted for woodland management in the medieval period, with one reused as a township boundary, still persisting as a modern parish boundary.


This monument includes features from two distinct periods: part of an Iron Age field system with associated areas of settlement, overlain by boundaries related to medieval woodland management.

Regular aggregate field systems date from the Bronze Age (2000-700 BC) to the end of the Romano-British period in the fifth century AD. They usually cover areas of up to 100 hectares 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 field system. 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 most areas across the country. 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.

Woodland has been managed since at least the fourth millennium BC in order to produce timber and smaller wood for fencing, wattlework and fuel, including charcoal. However, it is only for more recent periods that evidence for woodland management survives in the woods themselves, generally in the form of wood boundaries and features relating to woodland crafts. Woods which are more than 100 years old often have some form of earthwork boundary: ancient wood boundaries (pre AD 1700) are either sinuous or zig-zagged; straight edged woods with slighter earthworks usually indicate a wood boundary of later than AD 1700. Such boundary earthworks are usually in the form of a wood bank with an outer ditch. The bank was traditionally set with a hedge (to keep out livestock) and pollarded trees (to define the legal boundary). The total width of the earthwork is usually between 6m and 12m. Within the wood may be dividing banks and features relating to woodland crafts, such as charcoal burners' huts and hearths, saw-pits for making planks, and roads and trackways providing access. The easy availability of wood-based fuel often resulted in fuel hungry industries being sited within, or close to woods. Quarries are often also located in woodland in order to minimise the loss of more productive agricultural land elsewhere. Varying in area from only a few hectares to several hundreds of hectares, medieval woodlands were usually managed by the control of young trees (underwood), which were periodically cut at ground level (coppiced) and allowed to regrow from the bole or by suckering to produce poles. Standing amongst the underwood were larger trees (standards), often oaks, which were allowed to grow to maturity. Contemporary documentary sources such as charters, maps, land surveys and estate accounts can confirm the age and past management of some woodland. During the post-medieval period forestry plantations were introduced with an increasing tendency to plant high forest using one or two species, and by the end of the C19 coppicing had fallen into decline with the loss of its ancient markets, especially after the widespread introduction of coal for household use and manufacturing. Since 1945 there has been a dramatic increase in the destruction of old woodlands due to increased competition for land. Although they are distributed throughout England, the highest densities of old coppiced woodland survive in the south east, in Sussex, Surrey Hampshire and Kent.

In 2003, an area on the western edge of the monument measuring nearly 1ha was investigated archaeologically in advance of the widening of the A1(M) motorway. Across the northern end of this area, a south west to north east aligned ditch up to 4m wide and 2m deep was identified, including a sherd of Iron Age pottery from its lower fill. This ditch, interpreted as one of the internal boundaries of the prehistoric field system, continued north eastwards into the area of the monument unaffected by the road widening. In the southern part of the area investigated, another boundary ditch was excavated which had been recut and measured up to 2.2m wide and 0.8m deep. This contained Romano British pottery dated to the late 2nd, 3rd and 4th centuries and incorporated an out-turned entrance or droveway leading southwards. This ditch was shown to be part of an earthwork which still survives within the area of the monument beyond that affected by the road widening. This is thought to be the southern boundary of the field system, re-used as a woodbank in the medieval period, being used as the boundary between the townships of Ledston and Micklefield from at least the Norman Conquest, this still forming the parish boundary.


PRINCIPAL ELEMENTS: the western part of the monument includes upstanding earthworks and associated buried remains of an Iron Age field system with an enclosed settlement and associated hollow way within an area of ancient woodland, overlain by earthworks related to medieval woodland management. The field system and other features extend into the eastern part of the monument as cropmarks, surviving as buried archaeological remains.

DESCRIPTION: the field system is extensive and well-preserved. It is composed of a complex of lynchets and broad banks forming irregular quadrangular fields. At Castle Hills, at the summit of a ridge, is a sub-rectangular embanked enclosed settlement 47m by 37m. The enclosure bank is 9m wide and 0.5m high. North of the settlement is a hollow way 13m wide and up to 1m deep. This hollow way crosses the field system from east south east to west north west, becoming multiple at its eastern end where it splits into three approximately parallel courses. The field system, the enclosure and the hollow way appear to be contemporary with each other. The cropmark features, situated on a slight rise, stretch for 450m and comprise a linear arrangement of small curvilinear enclosures, typically 35m in length and 20m wide, laying either side of a sinuous east-west trackway. Some of the enclosures appear to be linked, others overlap and some remain isolated. The trackway clearly lines up with the hollow way, suggesting that some if not all of these cropmark features are contemporary with the earthworks in the western part of the monument.

The monument also includes two linear earthworks, probably prehistoric in origin, thought to have been used for medieval woodland management. These wood banks take the form of ditches 5m to 6m wide and up to 0.8m deep, with banks on one or both sides. For most of their length the wood banks are sinuous and the banks are slight, typically 3m to 4m wide and up to 0.2m high. In some stretches, however, the wood bank is straight and has a well-defined bank on one side, up to 0.5m high. The southern-most of these wood banks is followed by the township boundary between Micklefield and Ledston. Excavation through the ditch to the west of the monument (in the area now covered by the A1(M)) uncovered a small quantity of Romano-British pottery. The more northern wood bank takes a sinuous course, running approximately north east from the west corner of the wood, to the south west corner of a quarry, south of the railway line which runs along the northern boundary of the monument. Near its south western end this wood bank cuts through the hollow way, indicating that this section post-dates the main route way through the prehistoric field system.

AREA OF MONUMENT: the constraint line is drawn to enclose both the earthworks and cropmarks of the prehistoric field system, enclosures, trackway, hollow way, and medieval woodbanks. On the west side the constraint line runs along the edge of the wood. On the east side the constraint line runs along the edge of the wood as far as the east-west field track and then runs eastwards from the end of this track across open fields to the corner of the quarry and then south to the north side of Highfield Lane, following the lane westwards to join the south-east corner of Castle Hills Wood. Highfield Lane and the quarry are excluded from the constraint area, as is an enclosure for a telephone mast at the south eastern corner of the monument. The remains of a trackway and associated enclosures are known to extend further east into an area with extant (1993) permission for quarrying. Adequate provision for dealing with these remains through the planning permission have been provided and consequently they are not included in the monument. On the north side of Highroyds Wood the constraint line is drawn along the south side of the railway line, and the quarry, so that the railway and the quarry lie outside the constraint area, on the south side the constraint line is drawn leaving a margin of 2m on the south side of the southern bank of the woodbank which is followed by the township boundary. The area thus defined is depicted on the 1:10000 map extract.

Excavations in 2003 to the west of the monument identified further archaeological remains (known as site C4SA). These were dated to the Romano British period and although preserved in-situ, as they are later than those of the monument, being of a nationally more common site type, they have not been included in the designation.

Excavations in 2003 to the south of the monument also identified further archaeological remains (known as site M). Although this included Iron Age settlement remains, these were excavated, and the site is now beneath the A1(M) motorway. Again this area has not been included in the designation.

EXCLUSIONS: fence and gate posts within the area of the monument are excluded, although the ground beneath is included in the scheduling. Fence lines used to define the boundaries of the scheduled monument lie immediately outside of the designated area.


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

Legacy System number: 31531

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
Oxford Archaeology North, , Archaeology of the A1 (M) Darrington to Dishforth DBFO Road Scheme, (2007), 81-117

End of official listing