Three medieval pillow mounds 900m north of Grove House


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1020685

Date first listed: 24-Apr-2002


Ordnance survey map of Three medieval pillow mounds 900m north of Grove House
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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 82012 92035, SE 82017 91874, SE 82035 91921


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

Reasons for Designation

A warren is an area of land set aside 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. Warrens usually contain a number of purpose-built breeding places known as pillow mounds or rabbit buries, which 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. A typical warren may contain between one and forty pillow mounds or rabbit buries and occupy an area up to c.600ha. Many warrens were enclosed by a bank, hedge or wall intended to contain and protect the stock. Other features associated with the warren include vermin traps (usually a dead-fall mechanism within a small tunnel), and more rarely traps for the warren stock (known in Yorkshire as `types') which could contain the animals unharmed and allow for selective culling. Larger warrens might include 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.

The three medieval pillow mounds 900m north of Grove House survive well and significant evidence of their internal structure and function will be preserved. Their close association with the nearby grange of Malton Priory is also important. The monument contains important evidence about warrening and the exploitation of Levisham Moor in the medieval period.


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


The monument includes a group of three pillow mounds, being part of a medieval rabbit warren located on the lower flanks of West Side Brow on the western side of Levisham Moor. The monument is divided into three separate areas of protection, each containing one pillow mound. 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 pillow mounds are distributed across the lower flanks of the hill in a well drained and sheltered location. Two of the mounds are 50m apart with the third lying some 100m to the north. The warren is thought to be part of the estate of the grange of Malton Priory. It is known from documentary sources that Malton Priory held extensive tracts of land and rights on Levisham Moor from the late 12th century onwards. Although the grange specialised in sheep farming it also had cattle, horses and areas of arable within the estate. As rabbit farming was a significant part of the monastic estate economy it is likely that the grange exploited rabbits also. The site of the grange itself is located in Dundale on the moor top, some 500m to the east, and is protected as a separate monument. The three pillow mounds are similar in shape and dimension each being visible as a rectangular rounded earthen mound measuring 14m in length by 4m width and standing 1.2m high. Each is surrounded by a ditch 1m wide and 0.5m deep. They are all orientated south west to north east and are perpendicular to the slope in order to obtain efficient drainage. Another pillow mound thought to be connected to this group is located 700m to the south west and is protected as part of a separate monument,(SM 34831).

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: 35463

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
Atkins, C, Levisham Moor an Archaeological Survey, (1991)
Atkins, C, An Archaeological Survey of the Levisham Estate, (1991)
Hayes, , Turnbull, , Levisham Moor Archaeological Investigations 1957-1978, (1990)
Hayes, , Turnbull, , Levisham Moor Archaeological Investigations 1957-1978, (1990)
Moorhouse, S, 'The Archaeology of Rural Monasteries' in Monastic Estates their Composition and Development, , Vol. BAR 203, (1989), 65-66
Moorhouse, S, 'CBA 4 Newsletter' in A Medieval Monastic Farm on Levisham Moor North Yorkshire, , Vol. CBA 4, (1986), 8-11
Moorhouse, S, 'CBA 4 Newsletter' in A Medieval Monastic Farm on Levisham Moor North Yorkshire, , Vol. CBA 4, (1986), 8-11

End of official listing