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Cistercian grange and medieval settlement at High Cayton

List Entry Summary

This monument is scheduled under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979 as amended as it appears to the Secretary of State to be of national importance. This entry is a copy, the original is held by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.

Name: Cistercian grange and medieval settlement at High Cayton

List entry Number: 1020747


The monument may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

County: North Yorkshire

District: Harrogate

District Type: District Authority

Parish: Ripley

County: North Yorkshire

District: Harrogate

District Type: District Authority

Parish: South Stainley with Cayton

National Park: Not applicable to this List entry.

Grade: Not applicable to this List entry.

Date first scheduled: 18-Feb-1955

Date of most recent amendment: 24-Jul-2002

Legacy System Information

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

Legacy System: RSM

UID: 34846

Asset Groupings

This list entry does not comprise part of an Asset Grouping. Asset Groupings are not part of the official record but are added later for information.

List entry Description

Summary of Monument

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

Reasons for Designation

A monastic grange was a farm owned and run by a monastic community and independent of the secular manorial system of communal agriculture and servile labour. The function of granges was to provide food and raw materials for consumption within the parent monastic house itself, and also to provide surpluses for sale for profit. The first monastic granges appeared in the 12th century but they continued to be constructed and used until the Dissolution. This system of agriculture was pioneered by the Cistercian order but was soon imitated by other orders. Some granges were worked by resident lay-brothers (secular workers) of the order but others were staffed by non-resident labourers. The majority of granges practised a mixed economy but some were specialist in their function. Five types of grange are known: agrarian farms, bercaries (sheep farms), vaccaries (cattle ranches), horse studs and industrial complexes. A monastery might have more than one grange and the wealthiest houses had many. Frequently a grange was established on lands immediately adjacent to the monastery, this being known as the home grange. Other granges, however, could be found wherever the monastic site held lands. On occasion these could be located at some considerable distance from the parent monastery. Granges are broadly comparable with contemporary secular farms although the wealth of the parent house was frequently reflected in the size of the grange and the layout and architectural embellishment of the buildings. Additionally, because of their monastic connection, granges tend to be much better documented than their secular counterparts. No region was without monastic granges. The exact number of sites which originally existed is not precisely known but can be estimated, on the basis of numbers of monastic sites, at several thousand. Of these, however, only a small percentage can be accurately located on the ground today. Of this group of identifiable sites, continued intensive use of many has destroyed much of the evidence of archaeological remains. In view of the importance of granges to medieval rural and monastic life, all sites exhibiting good archaeological survival are identified as nationally important.

Cayton Grange was a mixed farming grange with a speciality in fish farming. The tradition of constructing and using fishponds in England began during the medieval period and peaked in the 12th century. Fishponds were artificial pools of slow moving water in which fish were bred and stored in order to provide a constant supply of fresh fish for consumption and trade. Fishponds were maintained by a water management system to regulate water flow. In addition to the ponds there would be buildings for use by fishermen for storing equipment or fish curing. Large and complex systems were often associated with the wealthy sectors of society such as monastic institutions and the aristocracy.

In addition to the mixed farming, pottery production also took place at Cayton Grange. Medieval potteries were industrial sites where ceramic wares were formed and fired. They usually survive in the form of below ground archaeological remains close to sources of clay, water and wood. Kilns for firing the clay vessels are usually the most prominent and easily recognised surviving components. Medieval kilns developed from the simple clamp, or bonfire type, in use during the early part of the period and leaving few recognisable traces, to more substantial structures with clay-lined walls, partly excavated into the bedrock or subsoil. These kilns had a firing chamber, a sunken circular or oval pit up to around 3m in diameter, into which the unfired clay wares were placed. Leading from the firing chamber were one or more flues with stokepits containing the fires for firing the pottery and drawing air through the kiln. The larger, later kilns could have as many as six flues. Kiln roofs are believed to have been temporary structures, dismantled after each firing, and traces of these rarely survive. Some kilns had surrounding walls or windbreaks, and a few had sheltering roofed structures. Situated close to the kilns were pottery waster heaps, workshops, drying sheds, storage buildings, yards and hardstanding, clay pits and drains. Potteries associated with the manufacture of important wares and/or which are known to contain substantial surviving remains are considered to be of national importance.

The remains of the grange at Cayton survive well. The well-preserved remains of the specialist activities of fish farming and pottery production are significant as they will retain important evidence of the economy of the abbey. The grange site is also significant as it was one of the earliest of the granges of Fountains Abbey and is important for understanding the development of the grange economy both for the abbey itself and the wider development of monastic economies throughout the country.

Medieval rural settlements in England were marked by great regional diversity in form, size and type. Cayton village lay in an area generally dominated by market towns, villages and hamlets. Medieval villages were organised agricultural communities, sited at the centre of a parish or township, that shared resources such as arable land, meadow and woodland. Village plans varied enormously, but when they survive as earthworks their most distinguishing features include roads and minor tracks, platforms on which stood houses and other buildings such as barns, enclosed crofts and small enclosed paddocks. They frequently included the parish church within their boundaries, and as part of the manorial system most villages included one or more manorial centres which may survive also as visible remains as well as below ground deposits. In the north of England, villages were the most distinctive aspect of rural life, and their archaeological remains are one of the most important sources of understanding about rural life in the five or more centuries following the Norman conquest.

The medieval village of Cayton retains important archaeological remains, both earthwork and buried. Significant evidence of the social and economic history of the settlement and its ultimate absorption into the monastic grange will be preserved. Taken together the remains of a multifunctional monastic grange and earlier settlement offer important scope for understanding the development of the rural economy and the transition to a landscape dominated by powerful and influential monastic estates.


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


The monument includes earthwork and buried remains of a medieval village and a monastic grange of Fountains Abbey located at High Cayton, 8km north of Harrogate. The monument occupies fields and part of the valley known as Cayton Gill lying to the south of High Cayton farm. The remains of the village and the domestic and administrative elements of the grange occupy the high ground to the east of Cayton Gill, whilst the valley bottom and eastern slope contains remains of a fishpond and associated features.

The earliest reference to the village of Cayton is in the Domesday Book in 1087. It was part of the manor of Knaresborough and covered two carucates or approximately 200 acres (about 90ha) of land. In the 12th century it was the property of Eustace Fitz-John, the lord of the Honour of Knaresborough, who in 1135 granted it to the Cistercian Abbey of Fountains which lay 4km to the north. It was one of the earliest land grants to the abbey and a grange was soon established on the site. It appears that Cayton did not suffer the forced depopulation that was the fate of other settlements that came into the ownership of monastic houses. The surviving earthwork remains of both the village and the grange indicate that they were in use at the same time. Given that the land that eventually made up the grange was acquired piecemeal and a local workforce would have been required, it is likely that the existing population remained and may have dwindled over time as the grange expanded.

In 1165, 60 acres (24ha) of ploughland known as Gollecroft was granted to the grange. By further careful land acquisitions in the area, often from small local freeholders, the grange expanded and by 1260 had been consolidated into a substantial estate. At its height the Fountains estate at Cayton totalled some 631 acres (255ha).

Cayton grange operated a mixed economy with both arable cultivation and stock rearing, which included sheep and cattle. It was also a gathering point for stock driven from outlying uplands particularly from another Fountains grange at Bewerly. However, one of the most important activities at Cayton Grange was fish farming. This took place in a large fishpond created by building a dam across Cayton Beck on land granted to the abbey by Nicholas de Cayon and William de Scotton in 1160. The pond is known to have been operating by 1175. The date is significant as the establishment of fishponds at monastic houses was not common in England until the late 12th century and consequently the pond at Cayton is one of the earliest examples. Fish farming was an important aspect of the Fountains economy and the pond at Cayton was one of a number of large fish ponds operated by the abbey.

In common with much of the north of England, the grange was devastated by attacks by the Scots in the early part of the 14th century. By 1363 Cayton was still in a parlous state and the abbey wished to convert it, along with eight other granges, into a secular vill and rent it out to lay tenants. By the late 15th century the wider Fountains economy, following the national trend, was concentrating on wool production. In 1482 there were 300 ewes and 134 young cows recorded at Cayton. By 1500 the grange had been partitioned and the common stock of cattle and sheep was reared in the part nearest to the Abbey and the remainder of the property leased to the Vavasour Family.

After the dissolution of Fountains Abbey in 1539 the grange was valued at 21 pounds. It is thought that some of the grange buildings remained in use until the construction in c.1607 of the Old Hall at High Cayton, which still survives as an occupied building just to the north of the monument. The former grange buildings were dismantled and some of the stones used in later buildings and walls, much of which can still be seen in stonework around the current farm complex.

The visible remains of the early village survive as earthworks in the south eastern part of the monument. These include low banks up to 0.5m high, which form poorly defined rectangular shaped building platforms laid out in an irregular pattern. Around these features are earthwork remains of yards and enclosures. Further remains of the early village have been masked by later activities particularly remains of the later grange.

To the north west of these features at NGR SE28566312 there is a prominent earthwork enclosure measuring 48m by 57m. It takes the form of an elevated and partly levelled platform contained on three sides by a bank. Within the enclosure there are sub-divisions and building platforms. There are pieces of in situ stonework exposed within the south eastern part of the enclosure indicating that it once supported stone built structures. This feature has been interpreted as the site of a substantial building possibly the former manor house associated with the early settlement. This manor house complex continued in use as the core of the monastic grange and is thought to have been abandoned at the end of the 16th century when the focus of activity became concentrated around the current farmhouse. The remains contained within this feature represent both an early high status building complex and its later reuse as part of the grange.

The remains of the monastic grange, in common with other lowland granges, reflected the general design of a monastic house. The administrative and domestic functions were centred on an enclosed area known as the grange court. Outside this was a wider area, within which some of the working aspects of the grange took place with the whole area, known as the precinct, being surrounded by a boundary wall or fence. At Cayton the precinct was defined on the eastern, northern and southern sides by a prominent bank and ditch, with the western side being defined by the western side of Cayton Gill. There was a boundary extending east to west approximately halfway across the precinct, which separated the grange court in the north western part of the precinct from the outer court. The grange court was focussed on the site of the suggested former manor house. To the south of this complex there was a courtyard accessed from the east. At the south east corner of the courtyard is a small complex of building platforms measuring up to 10m by 8m which are the remains of the ancillary buildings which formed the southern side of the courtyard. The southern boundary of the grange court survives as a bank and ditch a total of 6m wide extending for approximately 100m to the east of the courtyard. The remaining boundaries of the grange court have not yet been identified.

A substantial double bank and ditch up to 12m wide defines the eastern boundary of the precinct. It extends north to south for approximately 370m across the eastern part of the monument although it varies in the detail of form and dimensions along its length due to modifications over time. However, consistently along its length there is a larger internal bank up to 1m in height and for most of its length there is a central ditch which served in part as a drain. The ditch is more pronounced to the south where the feature extends down the slope towards Cayton Gill.

At the northern end the precinct boundary turns and extends west for 40m and is then truncated by later agricultural activity. At the southern end it extends west for 110m and terminates at the edge of the former fishpond in the valley of Cayton Gill. On the southern side of this section of the boundary there are sections of medieval walling up to six courses high which are the remains of the precinct wall.

Towards the end of the 15th century pottery was being produced at the grange. This took place on the edge of the slope overlooking the fishpond at NGR SE84606295 and surviving remains include areas of pottery and tile waste, the pits from which the clay was extracted and below ground remains of at least two kilns, which have been identified by geophysical survey.

Throughout the area of the outer court there are earthwork remains of enclosures, banks and ditches. At NGR SE28706315 there are the earthwork remains of two building platforms, which have been interpreted as the site of agricultural structures, possibly barns. Other remains are interpreted as yards, building platforms and drainage ditches. Outside the precinct to the east at NGR SE28826300 there are two large earthwork platforms measuring 20m by 40m and 40m by 60m. These are considered to be medieval in date and are associated with the grange.

Tracks, lanes and holloways linked the grange to neighbouring medieval settlements as well as to Fountains Abbey. The remains of at least two original entrances through the eastern precinct boundary survive. One is at the south eastern angle of the bank and ditch where river cobbles have been placed across the ditch which was the route south to Ripley. The other entrance was at the northern end of the boundary at NGR SE28726318 which was the route east to South Stainley. At the northern western part of the monument, at NGR SE28356326 there is the remains of the track, which led from the grange to Markington and beyond to Fountains Abbey. The continuation of some of these tracks can be identified within the grange complex. Many of these tracks beyond the grange are still in use today as roads, bridle ways and footpaths. There are also remains of a network of tracks within the monument, which gave access between the various parts of the grange.

The fishpond is located at the western part of the monument. It was created by the construction of a substantial dam built east to west across Cayton beck, which resulted in the creation of a pond covering 15 acres (6ha). The dam still survives as an earthwork measuring 75m in length by 12m wide and standing 2m in height. The northern face of the dam was originally revetted with sandstone blocks. There is a breach 4m wide in the dam, which allows the beck to continue flowing. To the south of the dam are leats and channels, which are part of the water management system associated with the functioning of the pond. The fishpond is likely to have been divided into compartments linked by channels and controlled by sluices remains of which will survive within the now waterlogged pond. In addition to the pond itself there were also structures associated with the management and processing of the catch including smoke houses, boat houses and storage and transportation facilities. Remains of some of these have been identified on the eastern and northern periphery of the pond. They survive as rectangular building platforms measuring up to 10m by 7m.

In addition to fish farming the grange also operated other forms of agriculture including arable cultivation, animal husbandry and domestic horticulture. The most prominent remains of these are of arable cultivation that survives as blocks of ridge and furrow. Some of these remains were originally associated with the village and were created prior to the establishment of the grange but probably continued in use into monastic times. The areas of ridge and furrow are located in the central and southern areas of the outer court of the grange and also in the north eastern corner of the monument outside the grange precinct.

All modern walls, fences, gates, sign posts and the wind pump 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.

Selected Sources

Books and journals
Atha, M, High Cayton Deserted Medieval Village Complex integrated Site, (2000)
Cale, K, High Cayton Deserted Medieval Village, (1996)
Cale, K, High Cayton Deserted Medieval Village, (1996)
Clough, , The Lead Industry of the Pennines, (1980), p119
Coppack, G, Fountains Abbey, (1993), 81-82
Dent, E, The Impact of Fountains Abbey Upon the Area to the South and SW, (1995), 38-57
Dent, E, The Impact of Fountains Abbey Upon the Area to the South and SW, (1995), 38-57
Horsley, T, The Use of Geophysical Methods for the Archaological Prospection, (1997), 70-76
Hudleston, N A, Stainley and Cayton, (1956)
McDonnell, J, Inland Fisheries in Medieval Yorkshire, (1981)
Muir, R, Landscape Detective Discovering a Countryside, (2001), 47
Muir, R, Landscape Detective Discovering a Countryside, (2001), 47
Platt, C, The Monastic Grange in Medieval England, (1969), 88-91
Platt, C, The Monastic Grange in Medieval England, (1969)
Raistrick, A, The Smelting Mills of Wensleydale and Swaledale, (1975)
Aspinall, et al, 'Medieval Archaeology' in Topographical and Geophysical Survey of a Rural Medieval Complex, (1994), 177-182
Aspinall, et al, 'Medieval Archaeology' in Topographical and Geophysical Survey of a Rural Medieval Complex, (1994), 177-182
Currie, C K, 'The Archaeology of Rural Monasteries' in The Role of Fish ponds in the Monastic Economy, , Vol. BAR 203, (1989), 173-185
Moorhouse, S, 'The Archaeology of Rural Monasteries' in Monastic Estates their Composition and Development, , Vol. BAR 203, (1989), 29-83

National Grid Reference: SE 28532 62768


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