Medieval manorial complex, garden and water management features, St Mary's chapel, and a linear earthwork forming part of the Aberford Dyke system


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1020326

Date first listed: 17-Sep-1949

Date of most recent amendment: 25-Jun-2001


Ordnance survey map of Medieval manorial complex, garden and water management features, St Mary's chapel, and a linear earthwork forming part of the Aberford Dyke system
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

County: North Yorkshire

District: Selby (District Authority)

Parish: Lead

County: North Yorkshire

District: Selby (District Authority)

Parish: Saxton with Scarthingwell

National Grid Reference: SE 46251 36791


Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.

Reasons for Designation

As a manorial centre, Lead would have been an important focus of medieval rural life. Its buildings, which probably included the chapel, will have reflected its status as an aristocratic or seigneurial residence. However, whilst being of such status, the complex is typical of those manors which were not confined within impressive moats or major enclosing earthworks which tend to be well-preserved. The original buildings of the complex typically exhibit a fairly unplanned layout which appears to extend over a large area and whose full extent is difficult to determine. Continued use of the site has also, in some instances, led to the destruction or truncation of medieval remains but this has not diminished the overall integrity of the site. Examples of medieval manorial centres of this type which can be positively identified and demonstrated to have extensive surviving archaeological remains are relatively rare. The Aberford Dykes are substantial linear earthworks situated in North and West Yorkshire, east of Leeds. They lie north and south of Cock Beck with the modern village of Aberford at their approximate centre. They are visible as rock-cut ditches and banks. Most of the earthworks run approximately east-west. The ditch is on the south side of the bank and some parts of the earthworks have an additional counterscarp bank on the same side. The earthworks north of Cock Beck (including sections known as The Ridge, Becca Banks and the earthwork at Field Lane) mostly occupy commanding positions at the top of the scarp and may once have formed a single boundary. The earthworks south of the Cock Beck include the South Dyke which occupies the top of the scarp above the beck and, crossing it, Woodhouse Moor Rein, running north east-south west along a low rounded ridge. The Aberford Dykes have been identified as defences of the British kingdom of Elmet against the Anglo-Saxons in the late sixth and early seventh centuries, or as boundaries to defend the Anglo-Saxon kingdom of Deira against the Mercians in the seventh century AD. They have also been interpreted as dykes built to defend the territories of the Brigantes against the advance of the Roman Empire in the first century AD. There is no documentary evidence for the date of the Dykes, however, and firm archaeological dating evidence is sparse. They may not all belong to one period but relate to a number of different events. The style of construction has parallels in both the Roman and the early post-Roman periods. Excavation at Field Lane retrieved Roman period pottery from deposits associated with the silting up of the ditch. It is therefore likely that, here at least, the ditch was open during the Roman period. The size and extent of the Aberford Dykes imply a considerable expenditure of time and labour, suggesting a degree of social organisation at the time of their construction and a strong concern for territorial control, whether military, organisational or symbolic. All known lengths of the Aberford Dykes where significant archaeological deposits are likely to survive are considered to be nationally important. The length of linear earthwork considered to be part of the Aberford Dyke system survives reasonably well, although degraded by ploughing, and will preserve significant archaeological information on Roman and post-Roman remains in this region.


Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.


The monument includes the earthworks of a medieval manorial complex, garden and water management features, together with St Mary's chapel, and a linear earthwork which is considered to be part of the Aberford Dyke system. The manorial earthworks lie within a triangular area of land east of the farm, at the centre of which is St Mary's Chapel, dating from the 12th-13th centuries, and which is a Listed Building Grade II*. Excavation has shown that the chapel was once larger and that it has been much altered over the years. The earthworks of the manorial complex have several distinct components. On the west side of the field containing the chapel is a large enclosure approximately 50m long which probably contained the manor house; to its south are at least three smaller enclosures on the same alignment, which would have contained ancillary manorial buildings. On its west side this enclosure complex is interrupted by the modern track to Lead Hall Farm and by landscaping works. A hollow way approximately 7m wide runs between the smaller enclosures and connects with a larger hollow way over 10m wide, aligned north- south, along the east side of the enclosures. The latter hollow way appears to join a 9m wide trackway aligned east-west, which may be a carriageway to Lead Hall Farm, possibly also formerly a routeway associated with the medieval earthworks. East of the manorial enclosures and the hollow way aligned north- south, are the earthworks of medieval ridge and furrow, aligned east-west. These are discontinuous and lie in two main areas, one north of the carriageway and another south of the chapel. Between the two areas of ridge and furrow lie the chapel and a large, almost square enclosure with part of another enclosure appended to its south end; both enclosures and the ridge and furrow appear to follow the main hollow way aligned north-south. A further hollow way runs north to south on the east side of the chapel at which point it turns south east towards a probable water course which may be associated with the water management features in the adjacent field to the west. The chapel itself is surrounded by a small enclosure. The hollow way on the east side of the chapel appears to form the eastern boundary to this distinctive group of earthworks. To the east of this group there are the remains of a dovecote mound and the earthworks of ponds and water courses. On the west side of Lead Hall Farm are the earthworks of garden features including a probable prospect mound. To the south west of the manorial complex are the earthworks of water management features comprising a number of irregularly-shaped and interlinked enclosures of different sizes interpreted as fishponds. The ponds lie on either side of a broad water channel running east to west, water probably being diverted into them at the north western end of the field from the Cock Beck. A system of leats and sluices, the latter represented by in situ stonework, is well preserved. The morphology of the ponds and the system of leats running into the east-west channel suggest different phases of use. The entire complex of earthworks is extensive and it is likely that a number of different phases of activity are represented on the site and these may be further clarified by documentary and interpretive earthwork survey. The history of this medieval manorial complex and chapel is not yet fully understood. The complex lies less than two kilometres from the heart of the Towton battlefield. The battle of Towton on 29th March 1461, reputably the largest and bloodiest battle ever fought in England, was one of the major engagements of the Wars of the Roses. The size of the Yorkist and Lancastrian armies was considered exceptional for the time; contemporaries felt sure that over 100,000 were present and after the battle, heralds numbered the dead at 28,000. Despite being a decisive Yorkist victory, it was to be a further 25 years before the political struggle came to an end. The scale of this battle must have had a major impact on settlement and agricultural activity in the immediate battlefield area and significant information on this impact will be preserved within the manorial remains at Lead. A length of linear earthwork, which is considered to be part of the Aberford Dyke system, runs for approximately 100m and lies between the B1217 and the Cock Beck, 330m west of Lead Hall Farm. Its eastern end abuts the remains of the area of medieval settlement. Although considered to be part of the Aberford Dyke system, this stretch of earthwork is physically separated by more than one kilometre from other sections of the dyke system (Woodhouse Moor Rein and South Dyke) but it is broadly similar in dimensions and construction with the South Dyke. The purpose of Woodhouse Moor Rein, the South Bank and the linear earthwork 330m west of Lead Hall Farm is difficult to understand, but they seem intended to reinforce the weaker, stoneless end of the main dyke system and it is probable that this eastern end of the dyke, being on marl, was further protected by surrounding dense forest which impeded access. The monument comprises a double bank with a ditch lying between. The southern of the two banks is approximately 12m wide and 0.4m high and the northern bank is approximately 10m wide and 0.4m high. The ditch is approximately 5m wide and 0.4m deep. The whole monument is therefore approximately 27m wide. The northern bank continues for approximately 24m into the adjoining field to the east. Approximately 50m south of the bank at the south west corner of the western field is a natural scarp accentuated by a lynchet; this is approximately 15m wide and 0.3m high, and continues as a broad stony bank curving round northwards to meet a sharp bend in the Cock Beck. The whole feature is not part of the dyke system but is a continuation of the road line or field boundary visible in the field to the east, just north of the modern road. This feature is included in the area of protection due to its proximity at this point to the linear double-banked earthwork. Lead Hall Farm remains in occupation and is not included in the scheduling. All fences and road surfaces are excluded from the scheduling, although the ground beneath these features is 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.

Legacy System number: 32815

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
England, R, Excavations at Lead Chapel: Volume 32, (1936)
aps held by NYCC at Northallerton, Crawshaw, A, (1986)

End of official listing