Earthworks and Allied Structures and Cultivation Systems

Pages 1-3

An Inventory of the Historical Monuments in City of York, Volume 3, South west. Originally published by Her Majesty's Stationery Office, London, 1972.

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In this section


(The dimensions given in the Inventory are internal unless otherwise stated, and read first from E. to W. The National Grid References are in 100-kilometre square SE. The dates given in the descriptions of memorials are usually of the death of the persons commemorated. Numbers following unidentified shields of arms refer to their blazons, which are listed at the end of the Armorial Index.)


(Defensive earthworks and fortifications are described in York II. The Defences.)


(1) Mound (59245102), Mount School, now approximately circular, with a flat asphalted top and surrounded by an asphalt path, is 4¼ ft. high and 67 ft. in diameter. In 1852 the OS map shows the diameter as 80 ft.; it was then part of a landscape garden. Though then marked, as on all subsequent OS maps, as a tumulus, evidence of its original purpose is lacking.

It could well be the steading for a post mill, but its position cannot be identified with that of any mill shown on early maps of the area. The flimsy basis for the identification of this mound as a 'tumulus' is set forth by Hargrove (History, 1, 245).


(2) Enclosure, Enfield Crescent, Holgate Hill (58955133), now built over, though fragments survive in house gardens. The plan was recorded on the largescale OS maps 1852–1936, and the site was excavated in 1936 by P. Corder (YAYAS Procs. (1951–2), 31, with plan).

The enclosure of rectangular plan (160 ft. by 148 ft.) was defined by a rampart 3 ft. 2 in. high and 20–25 ft. wide with a hollow on the inner side from which the material for the rampart had been quarried; there was no evidence for any entrance. The work is on the steep slopes of a hill whose summit has been levelled. Here excavation revealed a small area of cobbling 11 ft. by 4½ ft. with 14th-century occupation debris and roof tiles, but no walling. Two sherds of 14th-century pottery were found in the make-up of the bank, but association between the bank and the occupation of the hill-top was not proved. Corder suggested a 14th-century military lookout post; but if the enclosure is to be dissociated from the hill-top feature, it could be of 17th-century date (compare RCHM, Newark on Trent (1964), monuments 12, 16 and 17) since it is known that the Scots captured a work at Holgate in 1644.


(3) Open Fields of mediaeval type, survive as traces or are visible on recent air photographs. They consist of scattered parcels of broad plough ridges (usually 28– 30 ft. wide, but sometimes up to 40 ft.), separated by narrow furrows. Though now within the city boundaries they belong in part to older townships now incorporated, and are listed below accordingly.

The pattern of land use seems to have been 'ings' or water meadows by the river or its tributaries, moor or 'stray' on the lower-lying lacustrine clays, and arable on glacial deposits or lacustrine sands and gravels.

(a) York. Two city pastures S.W. of the river survive intact, Hob Moor and Knavesmire (Plate 4). On the former are narrow plough ridges about 6 ft. wide which represent temporary ploughing during the Napoleonic Wars. At enclosure the Knavesmire was enlarged to compensate for loss of pasture rights on the surrounding arable after harvest, and broad ridge-and-furrow is visible on its margins on both sides of the stray, E. of the Tadcaster Road in York (590500 and neighbourhood) and in Dringhouses and Middlethorpe (see below). Ridge-and-furrow is also visible in the former Campleshon Field, S. of Campleshon Road (600500 and neighbourhood); in the field E. of Bishopthorpe Road, between the road and Nun Ings (601497 etc.); and in an orchard adjacent to Albemarle Road (595508 etc.). York Fields, part of the city's former open fields, are now obliterated by Victorian housing S.W. of Scarcroft Road.

(b) Acomb. Field names surviving from before enclosure were recorded on the OS map of 1853 (6 in. scale, sheet 174). The moor lay at the S. end of the parish, the ings at the N., beside the river. A long stretch of marshy land known as the Carr ran N. from the village, separating the Beck Field (the N. part of which was known as Far Field) from a long field sub-divided into Ouse Acres, Mill Field, Low Field and Hob Moor Field. West Field lay S.W. of the village and the land N. of Grange Lane was known as Chapel Field. Rapid expansion of housing since 1952 has obliterated traces of these fields, but air photographs taken then show ridge-and-furrow S. of York Sugar Factory (Ouse Acres, 577526), and towards Askham Lane (565510). Here the ridge-and-furrow turns into low terraces, whose lines are continued by garden boundaries on N. of Askham Lane (Chapel Field), S. of the houses in Front Street (near 575510) disappearing into the housing estate at Tudor Road (Low Field), and W. of Hob Moor (580305, in Hob Moor Field). Broad and narrow ridge-and-furrow to E. of Acomb Wood and N. of Moor Drain (near 573496) probably represent post-enclosure ploughing on Acomb Moor (Enclosure Award, 1776; reprinted in H. Richardson, A History of Acomb (1963), 49 ff.).

(c) Dringhouses. The village, or township, lies athwart the Tadcaster Road on a narrow glacial ridge. As shown on the 1853 OS map, the territory of the village, which lay in three parishes (Holy Trinity, Micklegate; St. Mary Bishophill Senior; and Acomb), was on both sides but mainly W. of the road. It also included a narrow strip crossing the Knavesmire and incorporating the ancient manor of Bustardthorpe on the W. bank of the Ouse. There were several detached portions on Middlethorpe Ings. Dringhouses has now become a separate ecclesiastical parish, and has lost its detached portions and the strip across the Knavesmire.

A manor map of 1629 (York City Library) (fn. 1) (Plate 4) shows three areas of fields: North Field (still marked on modern OS maps), West Field and 'Streate Lands' on the E. of the main Road. North and West Fields were still largely open and unconsolidated in 1629, whereas 'Streate Lands' seem to have been already consolidated and enclosed. Between 1772 and 1838, 'Streate Lands' was transferred to Middlethorpe township (map of Micklegate Ward Stray, by John Lund jun., 1772, YCA, D/Vv.; Tithe Award Map, 1838, 284S, Borthwick Inst.). Dringhouses Moor lay to the S.W. of the village in relatively wet, low-lying land. 'The Roughs', still marked on modern OS maps, are in the W. corner of Dringhouses Moor (in 1629 this area lay outside the manor); there are considerable traces here of narrow ridge-and-furrow, running mainly N.N.W.-S.S.E., representing a late plough-up of marginal land.

North Field is now completely built over, though considerable stretches of ridge-and-furrow show on recent air photographs (E. of railway 584496; W. of Eason View 579495; and S. of Hob Moor 583501). These ridges compare closely with the original disposition of strips in furlongs, as shown on the 1629 map. Even now, after the area has been developed, some hedges and roads preserve the lines of the original furlongs. The 1853 OS map shows the North Field enclosed, but still preserving in detail the furlong structure.

No cultivations survive on the former West Field and 'Streate Lands', but closely-spaced, parallel hedges represent the enclosure of consolidated holdings of strips. Both of these open fields, by the nature of the narrow, glacial ridge on which they lay, were very long and thin, with all the strips running one way (roughly W.N.W.-E.S.E.).

Ridge-and-furrow 30–35 ft. wide is visible E. of the Tadcaster Road in the pasture fields N. and S. of Cherry Lane, and next to the Knavesmire. These presumably represent original open-field strips behind the crofts and tofts. Although they were enclosed at an early date, they were still used as half-year commons in the 18th century (YCA, D/Vv., Micklegate Ward Stray, 1772).

In Bustardthorpe ridge-and-furrow can still be seen on the low, gravel ridge (between the Knavesmire and the Ings), on the E. margin of the Knavesmire (598493), and E. of Bishopthorpe Road, where ridge-and-furrow 36–45 ft. wide is particularly well-marked E. of the old gravel workings (N. and S. of 601491). All this ridge-and-furrow runs E.-W. On the 1629 map, the area is marked 'Yorke Feilde' subject to the Manor of Dringhouses. There is a close correspondence between the ridges and the consolidated strip-holdings of the open-field. A large enclosed area immediately to the S. of 'Yorke Feilde' is called Bustard Hall Garth, and is obviously the site of the former Domesday manor of 'Torp' (Bustardthorpe).

A long, narrow strip of ground, now part of the Knavesmire (centring on 590500) also bears broad ridge-and-furrow, originally part of the Manor of Dringhouses. By 1629 the area was already enclosed and known as 'The Flatts'. The 1772 map shows that it was still subject to common rights, as were most of the ancient enclosures in the manors of Dringhouses and Middlethorpe.

(d) Holgate. No field names survive, and the area is almost entirely built over. The ings were on the alluvium by the Ouse and the moor on the lacustrine deposits S. of the village, while the arable was on the glacial deposits around the village, here reaching their maximum height of 125 ft. above OD on Severus Hills. Ridge-and-furrow, forming terraces on the steeper slopes, survived until recently on the hills, particularly How Hill (580515), where fragments still remain, and W. of Holgate Beck, S. of Hamilton Drive (587508).

(e) Middlethorpe. This township extended from the R. Ouse to the boundary of Dringhouses on the W. The arable land stretched in a crescent from N. of Middlethorpe Manor and Hall in the N.E. to the edge of the Common Moor in the S.W. N.W. of the present village ridge-and-furrow apparent on air photographs taken in 1952 is now built over. On the N. ridge-and-furrow does survive N. and S. of Knavesmire Lane (597488), and N. of the Hall and Manor (600488). The widths of the ridges are, respectively, 33–40 ft. and approximately 30 ft. These traces on the ground compare quite closely with the disposition of the strips in the open-field, as shown on the 1629 map.

Middlethorpe Ings are outside the boundary of cultivation on the W. bank of the Ouse. Middlethorpe Common Moor lay to the W. of the arable land, and was almost completely enclosed between the surveying and drawing of the map (1624–9). Only a small piece of land at the S. end of the Knavesmire is now called Middlethorpe Common. Two small parcels of land, called 'The Moore Lands' and 'Honger Hills' on the 1629 map, on the N.W. side of the Common, probably represent arable intakes at some time before the 17th century.

'Streate Lands', the arable area S. of Dringhouses village and E. of the Tadcaster Road, is shown as part of the Manor of Dringhouses in 1629, yet in 1838, when the Middlethorpe Tithe Award Map was surveyed, it was part of Middlethorpe township. A dyke which forms the boundary between the Knavesmire and Middlethorpe Common is referred to in a lease of 1567 (YCA, YC/DA, G.5), when it was accepted by the City and the Lord of the Manor of Middlethorpe as their common boundary.


  • 1. The map, drawn in 1629, was surveyed in 1624 by Samuel Parsons; it is described as 'The Plott of the Mannor of Dringhouses lyinge within the Countie of the Cittie of Yorke'. The draughtsmanship is of fine quality and the plan extremely accurate, showing individual buildings and garths.