Prehistoric field system, medieval rabbit warren and post-medieval mining test pits on Rhumbard Snout


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1020309

Date first listed: 07-Nov-2001


Ordnance survey map of Prehistoric field system, medieval rabbit warren and post-medieval mining test pits on Rhumbard Snout
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

County: North Yorkshire

District: Ryedale (District Authority)

Parish: Levisham


National Grid Reference: SE 81751 91510


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 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 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.

A pillow mound is an artificial rabbit warren used for the breeding and management of rabbits or hares in order to provide a constant supply of fresh meat and skins. Although the hare is an indigenous species, the tradition of warren construction and use dates from the 12th century, following the introduction of rabbits into England from the continent. Pillow mounds were intended to centralise the colony and make catching the animals easier, whether using nets, ferrets or dogs. The mounds vary in design although rarely exceeding 0.7m in height. Earlier monuments such as burial mounds, boundary features and mottes were sometimes reused as breeding places. The mounds are usually surrounded by ditches and contain underlying channels or are situated on sloping ground to facilitate drainage. The interior of the mound may also contain nesting places constructed of stone slabs or cut into the underlying subsoil or bedrock. Pillow mounds might be associated with living quarters for the warrener who kept charge of the site, sometimes surrounded by an enclosed garden and outbuildings. Early warrens were mostly associated with the higher levels of society; however, they gradually spread in popularity so that by the 16th and 17th centuries they were a common feature on most manors and estates throughout the country. Warrens continued in use until fairly recent times, finally declining in the face of 19th and 20th century changes in agricultural practice, and the onset of myxomatosis. Warrens are found in all parts of England, the earliest examples lying in the southern part of the country. Approximately 1,000 - 2,000 examples are known nationally with concentrations in upland areas, on heathland and in coastal zones. The profits from a successfully managed warren could, however, be considerable and many areas in lowland England were set aside for warrens at the expense of agricultural land. Although relatively common, warrens are important for their associations with other classes of monument, including various forms of settlement, deer parks, field systems and fishponds. They may also provide evidence of the economy of both secular and ecclesiastical estates. All well- preserved medieval examples are considered worthy of protection. A sample of well-preserved sites of later date will also merit protection. Ironstone mining was widespread in the North York Moors and successful exploitation was nearly always preceded by trial pits. The examples of trial pits at Rhumbard Snout will offer evidence of the methods of investigation used in the post-medieval period. The field system is extensive and survives well. It will preserve important evidence of a type of monument relatively rare in the area. The pillow mound is one of a wider group of similar monuments linked to a monastic estate. It survives well and preserves important evidence of both economic practices of the period and of the impact of monastic activity on the medieval landscape.


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The monument includes the remains of a prehistoric field system, a medieval artificial rabbit warren known as a pillow mound and post-medieval mining test pits. It is located on the sloping southern tip of the wide, natural terrace which lies between the West Side Brow of Levisham Moor and Newton Dale to the west. Levisham Moor lies on the southern edge of the sandstone, predominantly heather covered moor characteristic of the North York Moors. The moor occupies the northern part of a block of land defined by the deep valleys of Newton Dale to the west, Horcum Slack to the east, Havern Beck to the north and Levisham Beck to the south. The eastern side of the moor is bisected by smaller valleys known locally as griffs which divide the moor into a series of flat-topped peninsulas with steep slopes on all but their north western sides. The southern part of the block of land has been enclosed and brought into agricultural use but traces of prehistoric remains in this area are visible on aerial photographs. Today the moor is little used but archaeological evidence indicates that this has not always been the case. Both the prehistoric and medieval periods saw intensive use of the land for agricultural, industrial and ritual purposes. Remains of these activities survive today. The monument extends over an area approximately 500m north west to south east by 400m north east to south west. The field system includes at least seven tumbled stone walls up to 0.3m in height and up to 60m apart extending roughly parallel from east to west across the slope. These are linked in places by north to south aligned walls mostly constructed of stones heaped around earthfast boulders which form broadly rectangular fields. Within the fields are clearance cairns. These are mounds of stones measuring up to 3m in diameter and up to 0.3m in height which are the result of heaping stones into piles to clear and improve the land for farming. Evidence from other similar monuments in the north of England shows that such cairns may also have been used for burials. Also included within the walls and cairns are numerous upright stones with a maximum height of 0.5m. The settlement from which this area of land was farmed has yet to be identified, but it is anticipated to have been nearby. It has been suggested that the area was farmed from c.1500BC to the 1st century AD. The pillow mound is located on the western edge of the terrace in the southern part of the monument at NGR SE81859130. It includes a rectangular, rounded mound measuring 21m north to south by 4m east to west. It is surrounded on all except the northern side by a ditch 2m wide and an external bank up to 2m wide. The date for its construction and use is yet to be confirmed but it is thought that it might be part of the estate of Malton Priory, which had a substantial sheep farm on the moor during the 11th to 16th centuries, other evidence for which survives on the moor 1km to the north east. There is a group of further pillow mounds, also linked to the priory, located 600m to the north east which are the subject of separate schedulings. The remains of mining activity are located in the south eastern area of the monument. These include shallow test pits and at least one more substantial shaft surrounded by a circular pile of spoil. These workings are thought to be test pits for ironstone.

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.

Legacy System number: 34831

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
An Iron Age Farm on Rhumbards Snout, (1971)
Atkins, C, An Archaeological Survey of the Levisham Estate, (1991)

End of official listing