Earthworks and Cultivation Systems

An Inventory of the Historical Monuments in City of York, Volume 4, Outside the City Walls East of the Ouse. Originally published by Her Majesty's Stationery Office, London, 1975.

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'Earthworks and Cultivation Systems', An Inventory of the Historical Monuments in City of York, Volume 4, Outside the City Walls East of the Ouse, (London, 1975), pp. 1-2. British History Online [accessed 25 June 2024].

. "Earthworks and Cultivation Systems", in An Inventory of the Historical Monuments in City of York, Volume 4, Outside the City Walls East of the Ouse, (London, 1975) 1-2. British History Online, accessed June 25, 2024,

. "Earthworks and Cultivation Systems", An Inventory of the Historical Monuments in City of York, Volume 4, Outside the City Walls East of the Ouse, (London, 1975). 1-2. British History Online. Web. 25 June 2024,

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 description of memorials are of the death of the person commemorated.)



(1) Lamel Hill (NG 61455095) occupies a commanding position overlooking the City, in the grounds of The Retreat (24), near the Heslington Road. It stands some 14 ft. to 22 ft. above the surrounding ground and measures 110 ft. to 125 ft. across. A summer-house now stands on the top and the sides have been cut into for a wide path. The mound, excavated by Thurnam in 1849 (Arch. J., VI (1849), 27–39), incorporates in its lowest 3 feet, which are undisturbed, part of an Anglo-Saxon inhumation cemetery. The whole of the upper part was thrown up to form a platform for a gun battery for Lord Fairfax at the siege of York in 1644 and contains disturbed remains of burials, showing that both the cemetery and the original, probably natural, mound were of much greater extent than at present. Both before and after the Civil War the site was used for a windmill.

The burials were in wooden coffins regularly laid on a W.-E. alignment, without grave goods, and were probably Christian. The coffin fittings are similar to those from an Anglo-Saxon cemetery at Garton in the E. Riding (J. R. Mortimer, Forty Years Researches... (1905), 254–7, burials 31–60) which also had W.-E. burials and like Lamel Hill is at the boundary of the settlement it served.

(2) Mound near Monk Bridge (61095277) standing 6 ft. high and 80 ft. in diameter has been excavated twice (Yorks. Geological and Polytechnic Soc. Procs., VII (1881), 425; YAYAS Procs., ii, iv (1936), 44) and has been shown to be not older than the 18th century. It was probably erected as a garden feature to carry a summer-house, of which the foundations can be seen on it.


(3) Traces of former cultivation survive or are visible on air photographs; they consist of scattered parcels of mediaeval broad plough ridges, usually about 30 ft. wide, and fields of later narrow plough ridges, usually 12 ft. to 15 ft. wide. Areas of pasture, apparently never ploughed in the history of the city, also form an important part of the city's pattern of husbandry.

Citizens of York held strips in open fields which by 1546 had been enclosed, and forty-one closes were available for leasing within the city. Citizens also had rights of stray (i.e. of pasturing cattle) on nearby moors and commons, often involving arrangements with neighbouring townships. This pasture was supplemented by fodder from 'ings' or water-meadows by the rivers. The expansion of the city and townships led to a gradual reduction in the area of arable land and common pasture. The city gradually acquired plots of land over which it had sole rights of stray, in return for surrendering its rights of intercommoning in other townships. From these it created the present strays, organised within the four wards, three of which are on the N.E. side of the river.

Remains occur within the mediaeval city limits, and in areas developed in adjacent townships but now taken into the modern city.

(a) York

In Walmgate Ward in 1772 (J. Lund, Map of Walmgate Ward Stray) there were North Field, Haver Garths, and Mill Field N. of Lawrence Street, and Chapel Flat to the S., all now obliterated by housing and refuse tips. Part of North Field, around 61455185, which existed until c. 1960, with broad ridges 30 ft. wide, was in selions in 1297 (ERAS, Trans., XIX, for 1912, 276). All the fields were subject to half-year commoning (i.e. common grazing after harvest) until 1824. On Heslington Road, the grounds of The Retreat were Siwards How Field in 1484.

South of Heslington Hill, the city's rights of stray formerly extended S. onto the Tilmire and rights were shared with both Heslington and Fulford. Rights within Fulford township were delimited in 1484 (YCA, E30, 74), and in 1759 Low Moor was given to the city in lieu of its rights. An additional area was added to this, bought from compensation obtained for loss of rights in the four fields off Lawrence Street, to give Walmgate Stray its present shape and size of 77 acres. Much of the stray has never been ploughed, but two enclosures were made in Napoleonic times (around 61665005 and 61305046), and the temporary cultivation has left narrow plough ridges 15–16 ft. wide. Traces of narrow ridges on one of the approaches to the stray (61425094) suggest that this was once one of a group of small fields off Heslington Road.

Monk Ward in 1736 (J. Lund (1772), Map of Monk Ward Stray, unaltered map based on George Smith, 1736) had halfyear grazing rights in the closes formerly called Grange Field and Hall Fields (Layerthorpe). Tang Hall Field is excluded on Lund's map; it was formerly the township of Tang, held by the prebendary of Fridaythorpe who constantly disputed the city's rights to common until the late 18th century. The surviving remains are in Grange Field. Here broad ridges, 30 ft. across, survived until 1965 between the railway and the River Foss (61075286), and they are recorded on the site of the railway in 1879 (J. Raine, Plan of Anglian Cemetery, Heworth, in YM). Narrow ridge-and-furrow survives on the lawns of Yearsley Bridge Hospital, and to the S. of it (61085359), all formerly one close.

The city's rights of stray formerly extended 6 miles N.E. of the city to Sandburn Cross (669586), a 17th-century boundary stone. These rights were exchanged at the time of the enclosures for 118 acres in Heworth, and 132 acres in Stockton, all of which remained outside the city boundary until its extension in 1884 and 1934 took in part of Monk Stray. This part is situated between two groups of Heworth's ancient enclosures along the Malton road. The wet clay land E. of the road (environs of 61675305) has always been pasture, but W. of the road the slightly better drained clays, now Heworth golf course, were ploughed in Napoleonic times and two large areas of narrow ridges, 14 ft. broad, and straight, survive to the N. (around 61655360) and S. (around 61555322) of Muncaster House

In Bootham Ward in 1772 (J. Lund, Map of Bootham Ward Stray) no rights of half-year commoning over the 'old enclosures' existed within the ward. No remains of cultivations survive but the layout of fields on the 1853 O.S. maps suggests consolidated strips. Bootham Stray lies beyond and N. of York and Clifton, and was formerly pasture intercommoned with Clifton, Huntington, Rawcliffe, and Wigginton, which began with gifts of pasture in the Forest of Galtres by William Rufus and Henry I to York and Clifton. In 1633, 60 acres, now called The Intake (environs of 60305495), was given by Huntington to York to end York's rights in the township. In 1769 Clifton Enclosure Award gave 91 acres, called The New Intake in 1772, adjacent to The Intake, in lieu of the city's rights in Clifton, together with 21½ acres for an outgang through the new closes from the Horsefair, preserved in part in fence lines and the shape of Clarence Gardens (60405292). Today the stray, based on these awards, has 180 acres, extensively covered with narrow ridges aligned on the 1769 boundaries and overlaid by the 1845 YorkScarborough railway line, again suggesting temporary ploughing in Napoleonic times.

(b) Parts of Incorporated Townships

Part of Fulford Field is now covered by the Broadway estate, in part developed within the limits of former hedge lines, and broad ridges survive in a block of four fields, formerly a parcel of strips aligned N.E.-S.W. and abutting onto Walmgate Stray (616498). The ridges are 27–30 ft. across, 800–1400 ft. long, and up to 2 ft. high with a slight aratral curve. The playing field off Cornwall Drive (612496) with reduced broad ridges 30 ft. across is part of the same field. A headland at the N. end of this field is referred to in 1484 implying a N.-S. direction to the furlongs at that end of the field.

Osbaldwick. Part of the open field called Slack Field is now within the city. Whernside Avenue and Penyghent Avenue (environs of 62455210) now cover parts of five fields which had groups of broad ridges in 1951. A playing field at Grange School (62855155) has broad ridges, 32 ft. wide and 2 ft. high, and was also part of the same field.

Parts of the fields of Huntington are incorporated near Yearsley Bridge, where fragments of narrow ridges survive on an overgrown plot (61055368), and on part of Rowntree's sports field (60925393) there were narrow ridges until 1966.

Formerly in Heworth township, fragments of broad ridges survived at Westlands Grove (62035335) but are now built on, and on a nearby playing field (61855325). These were part of old enclosures shown on the 1819 Heworth Enclosure Award map. A bungalow estate on Whitby Avenue (environs of 62355310) has recently obliterated a small parcel of broad ridges, each 30 ft. across, part of a parcel of ridges still extant in Heworth Without.

Formerly in Clifton, the largest surviving block of broad ridges within the city is on playing fields N. of Asylum Lane (around 60205300) measuring at least 300 by 200 yds. This clay area, at one time Laithe Close, has slightly sinuous ridges, 30 ft. wide and 1 ft. high. One parcel of ridges is aligned E.N.E. and another N.W. A less well preserved parcel of ridges survives off Kingsway (59655320). W. of Burdike and along the River Ouse are playing fields which may have been meadow. Between Burdike and Almery Garth there was a farm as late as 1796.