Saturday, March 14, 2009

Moat, Ravenstonedale

Moated site

This is one of the intriguing sites with little history available to tell. Sited some two miles South West of Kirkby Stephen, just off the A685, the earthworks here are only really visible if you stop and take a 'slide' down the embankment. Once you've found them however, they're quite impressive. The site consists of a range of banks and ditches, and may represent the remains of a medieval moated manor. The Southern extremes of the site have undoubtedly been buried beneath the houses here, whilst the Northern extremes of the site have undoubtedly vanished beneath the bank upon which the A685 now runs.

The site is very large, covering all of the fields between the houses and road with an estimated width of around 120 feet and a total overall length of around 180 feet. The ditches and embankments are very well defined, some of them up to 4 feet deep in places. The remains are described as a moated site, or a motte with a gate, by Pastscape, and may represent the remains of a manor dating from before 1150. Philip Davis of the Gatehouse website labels this site as a 'questionable' fortification.....but whatever the history connected with these remains, they represent something fairly major.

Of course...there is always the possibility that these remains represent nothing more than the remains of a medieval garden that was built in the area. Interestingly, there are a number of dykes and earthworks to the North of these remains. Clearly marked on the ordnance survey map, and just discernible on aerial photos, they seem to represent the remains of either dykes or hollow ways. There are also a number of 'pillow mounds' (rabbit warrens), visible on aerial photos, positioned a few hundred metres to the North of the Ravenstonedale earthworks. Could the presence of these warrens indicate the presence of a manorial centre in the area? The area was once clearly emparked....the sheer number of pillow mounds still surviving and visible, would indicate that this was certainly the case. It also lends strength to the argument that the earthworks shown above, are in fact fish ponds....similar to the set up at Lammerside, where an emparked area also contains both rabbit warrens and fish ponds. As more information is discovered, it will be posted here.

Click on the photos for full size versions!

1 comment:

Philip Davis said...

An interesting site. My online comment was "Salter reports 'Motte probably site of pre 1150 manor-house.’ PastScape record reads 'Moated site or motte with gate. Since the manor was in the hands of absentee monastic landlords from the reign of Henry II, it seems that this site represents the pre-1150 manor house.’" (Refs Salter, Mike, 1998, The Castles and Tower Houses of Cumbria (Malvern) p99 and - who ref Perriam, Denis and Robinson, John, 1998, The Medieval Fortified Buildings of Cumbria (CWAAS) p304). I was stating it is questionable (ie very doubtful) that this was the site of a motte castle. It is clearly a manorial centre of some sort but the earthworks pictured and visible of the aerial photo look like fishponds to me, rather than a moat. The site needs proper investigation by a field archaeologist. If these are fishpond then they well date to after 1150 although the manorial site will have an earlier origin. I also wonder if Perriam and Robinson were writing about some other earthworks nearby which may now be lost to the major road embanking.