Stackstands excavation begins

A small but determined team of staff and volunteers braved the rain and wind earlier this week to break ground on the Dairy Days dig at Floshes Hill near Hardraw.

Day 1 removing the turf
Day 1 removing the turf

We hope to discover the relationships between two stackstands and possibly an adjacent field boundary as well as finding dating evidence.

Day 2 trowelling the top soil
Day 2 trowelling the top soil

The dig will continue until the end of next week and there will be an opportunity for the public to visit the site – get in contact if you are interested in a tour.


Stackstands: staff survey day and latest research

Alongside our Archaeological Surveying Techniques training days for community volunteers, we have also recently run a Staff Development Day in survey techniques to give national park staff a taste of the work that we are doing as part of the Dairy Days project. We had wonderful sunny weather for it, and the stackstands stood out really well in the bright light.

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Continue reading “Stackstands: staff survey day and latest research”

More Dairy Days volunteers trained

We have had a busy week starting with five more local people trained in the art of oral history recording by Tracy Craggs and now all set to interview people around Wensleydale – one or two already had people lined up including a woman who was a Land Army girl and several retired farmers.

Tracy Craggs with volunteers learning oral history recording techniques for the Dairy Days project

The next day we had our first Archaeological Surveying Training day led by our Community Heritage Officer Douglas Mitcham. Six people enjoyed a day studying the theory and practice of surveying using the plane table and also tape and offset techniques, both easy for community groups to undertake as they don’t require expensive equipment. Read more about it on our main blog ‘Lumps seen in Upper Wensleydale.’

We have another archaeological survey training day lined up on 26 September. Contact Douglas Mitcham on 01969 652353 to book a place.


Digging at the Hagg in 2018

SWAAG, the Swaledale and Arkengarthdale Archaeology Group, recently completed their excavations at the Hagg for this year. SWAAG have been working at the site since 2009, which comprises a Romano-British farmstead. This year the dig took place for two weeks and made a number of interesting discoveries. The excavations are adding a wealth of new information about Romano-British life in the dales. At present our understanding of these sites in the dales generally is rather limited.

Continue reading “Digging at the Hagg in 2018”

Dairy Days Training Day: archaeological field surveying

Dairy Days Archaeological Field Survey training day
Tuesday 4th September 2018

A really exciting aspect of the HLF-funded Dairy Days project is the archaeological field surveys and excavation we have planned for the coming year.

For our first training day we will be learning to survey and record the enigmatic archaeological features known as stackstands. Read our blog post on ‘Stackstands and stackgarths‘ for background information on these important sites.

Stackstands and field barns near Askrigg

Our Community Heritage Officer Douglas Mitcham has sent us the following short summary of the aims of the day:

This Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority-led one day training event aims to teach local volunteers basic archaeological survey techniques. It forms part of the HLF-funded Dairy Days project, which is currently investigating the heritage of dairying in Wensleydale. The course aim is to equip people with the skills needed to help us survey a number of key dairying sites in the dale. Participants will be given an introduction to the Dairy Days project and the role that archaeological survey will play. The course then comprises five main sessions which will focus on understanding survey, planning and reconnaissance; understanding earthworks; conducting reconnaissance and level 1 survey; undertaking plane table survey; undertaking tape and offset survey. A final open session will give participants the chance to undertake further practice in whatever techniques they wish. The day will conclude with a re-cap on what the course has covered, including forthcoming opportunities to take part in archaeological surveys for the Dairy Days project.

If you would like to join us then contact Douglas Mitcham to book your free place. Lunch will be provided.

Phone: 01969 652353

Geophysical Surveys of Bainbridge

We Dig Community is coming to an end in Bainbridge, but one last piece of fieldwork has been completed, a geophysical survey by Swaledale and Arkengarthdale Archaeology Group (SWAAG). Geophysical surveys (often referred to as ‘geophys’) are usually undertaken at the beginning of a project as they give you an overview of the site and can give you an indication of where to place your archaeological trenches. However, test pits, by their nature, should be a random snapshot of the archaeology of an area, so in this case the geophysical survey was being used to ensure that no large features were missed. Continue reading “Geophysical Surveys of Bainbridge”

Excavations at Hagg Farm, Swaledale

Hagg Farm was excavated in July 2017 by Swaledale and Arkengarthdale Archaeology Group (SWAAG). The excavations were carried out by their members and a number of volunteers. The collective time spent planning and delivering this dig has been a staggering total of over 2,500 hours. This does not include the time yet to be spent on post-excavation work.

Copyright – Hagg Farm Dig 2017, SWAAG

SWAAG established the Fremington Project and subsequently The Swaledale Project: 7000 Years of a Landscape and its People. The aim is to study the archaeological landscape at Hagg Farm, and the adjacent Sorrel Sykes and Marrick Priory Farm. The landscape is thought to comprise of 9 settlements within a coaxial field system.

SWAAG have been exploring Hagg Farm since 2009 with survey work and some limited excavations. From these previous explorations it was known that the site was inhabited in the Romano-British period and likely abandoned at some point in the 4th Century.

The 2017 excavations were set up to uncover more about the site. It was hoped that the purpose and use of the site would become apparent with more extensive excavations. They hoped to find out more about the people who lived there and how they were living. As well as to see if the site was part of a larger complex of buildings, and if there were any indication of a settlement before the Romano-British times.

On day 7 of the dig SWAAG confirmed this Romano-British site as regionally important. By looking at the pottery that was being uncovered, it became increasingly clear that there were significant trading links between this settlement and Roman Catterick. You can have a look at their press release here:

On the site there is a roundhouse that faces east, with its back to the prevailing winds and weather. A path connects the entrance and porch to the north entrance. A large area of flagged yard has been uncovered to the south of the roundhouse, which includes a door sill. This door sill has raised many questions as to whether it is in its original position or whether it was reused when the area was paved. A wealth of crinoidal limestone flags have also been found, and it is unclear whether it was chosen for practical reasons or its aesthetic appeal.

Door sill
Copyright – Hagg Farm Dig 2017, SWAAG

Many finds have been uncovered including many sherds of pottery. This has comprised of local pottery (some of which are believed to have originated in Catterick), Romano-British pottery, and probable Samian ware. There have also been many fragments of querns. [Quern-stones are stone tools for hand-grinding a variety of materials. They are used in pairs, the lower, stationary stone is called a quern, and the upper, mobile stone is called a handstone.] One of the fragments is a collared hopper quern of the type used by the Roman army. It is possible that the quern stones were fragments reused as building material or were perhaps ritually broken when the site was abandoned. A beautiful piece of worked stone was found, which is believed to be a Roman cosmetic palette; a lady or her maid would have used this to mix and apply facial cosmetics. The edge of the piece was chamfered around the edge, perfectly smooth on one side and small enough to sit comfortably in the hand. Fragments of flint and arrow heads have also been excavated.

Quern fragments
Copyright – Hagg Farm Dig 2017, SWAAG
Cosmetic palette fragment
Copyright – Hagg Farm Dig 2017, SWAAG

SWAAG worked with two local schools on this year’s dig: Arkengarthdale Primary School and Reeth and Gunnerside Federation of Primary Schools. They provided workshops for both schools on “Finds, Flints, and Fossils”. Arkengarthdale Primary School also visited the site. They were given a tour, which included the finds tent where they were able to handle and discuss the finds. They were also treated to a workshop on Roman pottery by Graham Taylor, a heritage potter and experimental archaeologist. The children also produced sketches of the site, showing how it looked today as well as how it may have looked in the past.

Children with Graham Taylor
Copyright – Hagg Farm Dig 2017, SWAAG

Now that the excavations have come to an end for this year, the focus is on the post-excavation work. This includes a lot of processing and recording, as well as sending off finds and samples for further analysis.


A blog of the 2017 excavations was done by SWAAG and can be viewed here:

Excavations at St Helen’s Chapel, Malham

Dr David Johnson led an archaeological dig at Malham during the first two weeks of July. This was carried out by a number of volunteers, which included members of the Ingleborough Archaeology Group, as well as others from around the UK and from as far afield as Germany, America and Australia.

Copyright – Malham Chapel Dig 2017

The site in Malham contains St Helen’s Chapel, and has been excavated over the last three years. The site is of great historical and archaeological interest. This Chapel was an ancient religious foundation, first mentioned in monastic charters in the 12th Century. Kirkby Malhamdale was an extensive Pennine parish, with Malham being one of seven townships within this parish. Chapels of Ease, like St Helen’s, were essential for outlying districts and hamlets, as access to the parish church could often be difficult as it required such a long distance to travel. Surviving documentary evidence suggests that there were such chapels in Hanlith, Airton and Malham, however, to date, only the location of Malham chapel has been discovered.

The first documentary evidence for Malham is contained in the Domesday Book. In the 12th Century major landholdings were given to Fountains Abbey and Bolton Priory, both monastic houses. After the upheaval of the dissolution of the monasteries, during the reign of Henry VIII, all monastic land in Malham was surrendered to the Crown, then sold and resold. By the late sixteenth century the Lamberts of Calton were the major landowners. Traditional religion came further under attack during the reign of Edward VI. In 1549, St Helen’s Chapel (despite being a chapel of ease, rather than a chantry chapel) was demolished and its contents and lead roof removed at the instigation of John Lambert of Calton and William Clapham of Beamsley, Chantry Commissioners for the West Riding, but both also landowners in Malhamdale.

In much of Craven, including Malhamdale, support for the religious reformations of Henry VIII and Edward VI was reluctant and slow. In fact, there had been widespread support in the region for the Pilgrimage of Grace in 1538. [The Pilgrimage of Grace was a popular rising in Yorkshire chiefly against Henry VIII’s break with the Roman Catholic Church, as well as other religious and political grievances.] During the time of the Catholic Counter-Reformation of Mary and Phillip, the inhabitants of Malham petitioned for St Helen’s Chapel to be rebuilt. However Mary died in 1558 and the Protestant Church of England was consolidated under Elizabeth I. This resulted in the chapel becoming a ruin and its location fading from people’s memories.

Potential sites of the chapel were investigated using a combination of documentary research and aerial photography. Once identified, surveys were carried out, which appeared to reveal a two-cell building which resembled known profiles of early churches. A dig was organised for summer 2015 to determine if the structure was the ancient chapel dedicated to St Helen.

Copyright – Malham Chapel Dig 2017

The previous excavations in 2015 and 2016 were undertaken by Mark Roberts and undergraduates from University College London. These excavations confirmed the location of St Helen’s Chapel. They also corroborated documentary evidence as to how the chapel was destroyed by the Edwardian chantry commissioners in 1549: tumble was found caused by the lead roofs and timbers having been removed; no dressed stone was recovered suggesting that it had all been taken from the site for recycling; two pits showing evidence of burning was discovered in the nave and excavated. [These pits had been used to melt the lead from the roof and windows to make it easier to transport from the site.]

The dig taking place this July was organised to address some remaining questions about the site, and they have found some interesting discoveries. This has included buttresses at the south-western and north-western corners. From the construction they have been dated to the 1300s, which means it is not contemporary with the building of the chapel. The fact that they were found at both corners suggests that the nave had possibly been heightened. They found a section of dressed stone, which means that not all of them had been taken to be used elsewhere. A burnt out area has also been found which has raised many questions about its use as it was not a lead melting pit.

Copyright – Malham Chapel Dig 2017

Children from Kirkby Malham Primary School visited the site on the morning of the last Thursday. They were able to take part in many activities organised by the YDNPA to stimulate their interest in archaeology. They were instructed in excavation practice and got to have a go at excavating for themselves. They also took part in activities that taught them about finds identification. Two members of the Harrogate 3D Archaeological Society also came, dressed in 16th and 17th Century costumes, and showed the children Tudor food and artefacts.

Copyright – Malham Chapel Dig 2017

In the afternoon, the site was opened up to the public. Small groups of visitors were given guided tours around the site, which enabled them to observe the dig in action, as well as seeing a small exhibition of finds on display.


You can find out more about the dig at this website:

A blog has been done of each day of the dig, which can be viewed here:

Excavations at Thorns, Ribblesdale

A three week archaeological dig has just been completed at Thorns, Ribblesdale. The excavation was under the directorship of Dr David Johnson, undertaken on behalf of the Ingleborough Dales Landscape Partnership under the Stories in Stone programme. ( The dig has been largely undertaken by volunteers from the Ingleborough Archaeology Group.

Thorns itself covers a large area, with a landscape of limestone and glacial deposits. It was first recorded as a settlement in 1190 and was connected to Furness Abbey. At the time of the Dissolution there were 6 inhabited tenements (farm units). Over the next 300 years the number of inhabitants decreased, and census records show that by the end of the 19th Century only 1 dwelling remained, but was uninhabited.

Since May last year, survey work has been undertaken in the area. This has included a geophysical survey to map the area, and a survey of the dry stone walls, among others. The walls were surveyed as part of Stories in Stone to help determine the chronology of the enclosure of the land. Some walls were found to date to the 16th Century. The remains of a network of ditches and banks, the original medieval boundaries, were found to cover the area, along with the remains of 7 trackways that converged at Thorns.

The dig focused on 3 fields, which contain a number of ruined buildings and earthworks.

The first building to be excavated was a ruined shippon (cattle shed). It remains today as mainly earthworks and rubble but there is still a small section of wall. Two trenches were excavated and turf was peeled back to expose the extent of the building, and if there was any interior divisions. A cobbled floor 85cm below current ground level was uncovered, suggesting it was for animals rather than domestic use. They also uncovered the remains of a cross wall, which might suggest a domestic purpose to the building at the east end, however this can not be definitively determined.

A house has been excavated, that is likely to be the oldest house in the settlement due to it having the thickest walls of the site (700mm). (Thickness of the walls can often indicate age.) It was probably demolished before the first edition 6” map was produced, as it does not appear on the map. Features that have been uncovered suggest that there were three bays, the first with the door and porch was the main living area, remains of a flagstone floor were found, along with a fireplace with part of the front grate still in situ and a small oven. The next bay was probably the parlour and a smaller fireplace was found there. The third bay was cobbled and was 30cm lower than the rest of the house, it has been interpreted as an outhouse. There is also an additional outshot to the rear that was the dairy. Artefacts have also been found that include part of an iron cooking cauldron, fragments of pottery and glass, and a door hinge (likely dating to the 17th Century).

The last building to be excavated was a long rectangular building, which had also been demolished at some point, however it was present on the first edition map. Artefacts found include part of a mullioned window (possibly dating to the late 18th Century), fragments of pottery and very fine glass, along with various bits of metal. The west end of the building possibly had an agricultural use.

On the site there is also the ruin of the last house to be inhabited, with a ruined privy nearby. The remains of this house and the privy are going to be consolidated at a later date as part of this project.



Public rights of way pass through the site, from which earthworks and remains of buildings can be seen. However, the site is private property and a working farm so please stick to the footpaths.


Swaledale Archaeology Group Seek Volunteers to Excavate Romano-British Site

The Swaledale and Arkengarthdale Archaeology Group (SWAAG) wish to invite volunteers to help explore a site at Hagg Farm, Fremington, and to further understanding of a Romano-British site that may have links to the Roman centre at Catterick.

SWAAG has explored different areas on the site and revealed evidence of possible roundhouses, enclosures and walls.  The finds suggest that the site was Romano-British and abandoned towards the end of the 4th century AD.  However, there is no evidence as to when the site was established, how it was developed or what it was for.

SWAAG are confident that this is a major site and of great significance for Swaledale.  They are hoping to link the site to the era of trade and prosperity that arose following Roman development at Catterick.  This is very much a community project and SWAAG would like as much support as possible from local volunteers with an interest in archaeology.  All training will be provided, all you need is enthusiasm.

The dig will be held from Wednesday 5th July to Wednesday 19th July.  Anyone interested in taking part should contact SWAAG at or call Philip on 01748 884555.

There are no charges for participation and all equipment and training will be provided.

There will be an opportunity to learn more about the site, the opportunities for participation in the dig and to talk to members of SWAAG, on Saturday 24th June between 2pm and 4pm in the Reeth Memorial Hall.

If you do not wish to dig but would like to visit the site please join the guided walk. It will leave from the Reeth bus shelter at 10.00 am on Sat 15th July and is a round trip of some 4 miles.  Please contact for details.

For more information on any aspects of the SWAAG and the dig please visit our website at

SWAAG have been awarded a grant from the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority’s Sustainable Development Fund to undertake the dig. The Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority’s Sustainable Development Fund is open to individuals, business, community groups or voluntary sector bodies. It provides an accessible source of money for a range of projects that result in positive benefits for the National Park’s environment, economy and communities, while enhancing and conserving local culture, wildlife and landscape. For more details, please go to