Prehistoric linear boundary in Ellerburn Wood, 370m north west of St Hilda's Church


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1020696

Date first listed: 05-Jul-2002


Ordnance survey map of Prehistoric linear boundary in Ellerburn Wood, 370m north west of St Hilda's Church
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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: Thornton-le-Dale


National Grid Reference: SE 83986 84481


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

Reasons for Designation

Linear boundaries are substantial earthwork features comprising single or multiple ditches and banks which may extend over distances varying between less than 1km to over 10km. They survive as earthworks or as linear features visible as cropmarks on aerial photographs or as a combination of both. The evidence of excavation and study of associated monuments demonstrate that their construction spans the millennium from the Middle Bronze Age, although they may have been re-used later. The scale of many linear boundaries has been taken to indicate that they were constructed by large social groups and were used to mark important boundaries in the landscape; their impressive scale displaying the corporate prestige of their builders. They would have been powerful symbols, often with religious associations, used to define and order the territorial holdings of those groups who constructed them. Linear earthworks are of considerable importance for the analysis of settlement and land use in the Bronze Age; all well preserved examples will normally merit statutory protection.

Despite limited disturbance, the prehistoric linear boundary in Ellerburn Wood, 370m north west of St Hilda's Church is in a good state of preservation. Important environmental evidence which can be used to date the boundary and determine contemporary land use will be preserved within the lowest ditch fills. Evidence for earlier land use will be preserved in the old ground surface beneath the banks. Stratigraphic relationships between the different components of the boundary will survive and provide evidence for its sequence of construction and development. The linear boundary is one of several boundaries dividing the area between Thornton Dale in the east and Newton Dale in the west. It is thought to represent part of a system of territorial land division which was constructed to augment natural divisions of the landscape by river valleys and watersheds. This system is one of many such groups of boundaries found on the Tabular Hills. The boundary lies close to the site of an Iron Age cart burial in an area which also includes other burial monuments. Networks such as this offer important scope for the study of land use for social, ritual and agricultural purposes during the later prehistoric period.


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


The monument includes a prehistoric linear boundary which runs along the top of the steep east-facing slope into Kirkdale Slack, towards the southern edge of the Tabular Hills. The boundary runs approximately north east to south west for 1.18km, terminating on level ground at the head of the slack to the north east and at a point where the slope becomes steeper to the south west. For the northern 500m, the boundary has a ditch with a bank of earth and stone along its eastern edge, which has an overall maximum width of 10m. The bank stands up to 1.2m high and the ditch is up to 1m deep, although at the extreme northern end the ditch has become filled in as a result of ploughing in the corner of an arable field. For the southern 518m, the boundary has two parallel steep-sided ditches, each with a bank of earth and stone along its eastern edge, and it has an overall maximum width of 22m. The western ditch is a continuation of the ditch in the northern part of the boundary. The eastern ditch is up to 2m deep from the top of the western bank and up to 0.6m deep from the top of the eastern bank. The eastern bank stands up to 1m high. At the northern end of the southern part of the boundary, the two ditches and banks turn to the south east and run down the slope for 60m, petering out at the bottom of the steep part of the slope. The earthworks are shallower and not so well-defined for this arm of the boundary, and there is an additional bank on the north eastern side of the north eastern ditch. The ditches are up to 0.6m deep and the banks stand up to 0.3m high, and this arm has an overall maximum width of 22m. The boundary has been breached in four places by medieval hollow ways. These are 3m-5m wide and up to 1.2m deep from the bottom of the ditches which they cross. They run in a general north west to south east direction down the slope and are interpreted as routes used for the passage of animals between Ellerburn and pastures on the higher ground to the west of the boundary. It is thought that they were in use from the 14th century onwards. The monument forms part of a network of prehistoric linear boundaries which is surrounded by many other prehistoric monuments, particularly burials. The field boundary wall which runs along the western edge of the western ditch at its southern end, and also crosses the monument at its northern end, and the surface of the track which crosses the north west to south east arm of the boundary 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.


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

Legacy System number: 35171

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
Spratt, D A, Linear Earthworks of the Tabular Hills: North East Yorkshire, (1989), 29-32
Spratt, D A, Linear Earthworks of the Tabular Hills: North East Yorkshire, (1989), 29
Stead, I M, 'Antiquity' in A Chariot Burial on Pexton Moor, North Riding, , Vol. 33, (1959), 214-216

End of official listing