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North York Moors National Mapping Programme project

This National Mapping Programme (NMP) project targeted areas most in need of archaeological landscape assessment in the North York Moors National Park (NP). The work was undertaken by Archaeological Research Services Ltd with funding from the National Heritage Protection Commissions Programme (NHPCP). Nearly half of the National Park was surveyed, revealing the varied archaeological nature of the upland environment. This included Neolithic and Bronze Age funerary monuments, the medieval monastic landscape and vast post medieval industrial assets. The coastal element of the National Park was previously mapped as part of the north east and Yorkshire Coast Rapid Coastal Zone Assessment Surveys (RCZAS).

Colour aerial photograph showing an expanse of moorland and modern plantation with the sea in the distance
Jugger Howe Moor photographed on 27-NOV-2009. The North York Moors are a diverse landscape dominated by moorland, with wooded valley sides and valleys in pasture (NMR 20963/08) © Historic England

Funerary activity and settlement

Later prehistoric activity dominates the archaeological record of the National Park, comprising monuments from Neolithic long barrows to Bronze Age and Iron Age settlement. Over 500 funerary monuments were mapped from aerial photographs, many of which were new discoveries. Great Ayton Moor displays an example of a Neolithic chambered round cairn and associated long cairn forming the focus for thousands of years of activity including numerous burial cairns, barrows, clearance cairns and an Iron Age settlement.

Colour aerial photograph showing a small banked enclosure on moorland
An enclosed Iron Age settlement on Great Ayton Moor, revealed by aerial photography taken in low winter light 09-JAN-2013 (NMR 28371_043) © Historic England

The power of the church

The influence of religious houses in the medieval period is particularly evident in the North York Moors. There were no less than eighteen monasteries within or immediately adjacent to the current National Park boundaries. The most prominent was Rievaulx Abbey. The monastic impact on the upland environment is clearly illustrated with the number of granges located throughout the project area, most of which were visible on air photographs. The mapping identified a potential five further grange sites, located along remote moorland streams and comprising sod-cast turf boundaries, with evidence of buildings at three sites.

Colour aerial photo showing a ruined monastery with the ground plan well preserved and many walls standing to a good height
The ruined fragments of the Cistercian monastery at Rievaulx photographed on 13-MAR-2002. The ruins lie within a tranquil valley, but the Abbey once dominated much of the moorland landscape utilising the commercial value of wool (NMR 17695/29) © Historic England

Ironstone, jet, coal and alum

Perhaps the greatest influx of activity occurred with the exploitation of minerals, mainly during the time of the Industrial Revolution. This was evident in the aerial photographic record in the form of jet mining and alum quarries to the east of Great Ayton, coal mining along Blakey Ridge and extensive ironstone extraction in Rosedale.

Colour aerial photo showing a large stone building cut into the hillside with multiple arched entrances sitting in moorland
Rosedale was the industrial centre of the North York Moors. The surrounding hills were mined for their ironstone, jet and coal from at least the medieval period until the late 19th century. Taken on 07-OCT-2009 (NMR 20957_024) © Historic England
North York Moors National Mapping Programme and Assessment

North York Moors National Mapping Programme and Assessment

Published 20 May 2011

NMP report from the North York Moors National Mapping Programme

North York Moors NMP 2

North York Moors NMP 2

Published 24 April 2013

NMP report from the North York Moors NMP 2

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