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The view from Victoria Cave © YDNPA

Historic Highlights: Our Team’s Top 10 (Part 3)

Thursday 30 July, 2020, by Lily Mulvey

Welcome to the much anticipated final installment of our Top 10 countdown of the Historic Environment Team’s favourite sites in the National Park!

Don’t worry if you missed them, you can read Part 1 and Part 2 first here.

Remember that these are our personal choices and favourites. This is not an official list and it is not based on any official criteria for heritage significance, it is simply for fun. An explanation of the thinking behind our Top 10 list can be found in Part 1, and to join in fully we recommend reading the full countdown before delving into Part 3!

If you have already done so and are literally on the edge of your seat to discover what our Top 3 highlights are – including the coveted number 1 spot – we shall hold you back no longer. Reach for your favourite beverage and read on!

#3 Victoria Cave

Image shows the entrance and front section of the cave
The entrance (artificially widened) to Victoria Cave © YDNPA

Described as “an immense rock strewn cavern, 15m wide and 15m in estimated height, leading off into several small passages”, Victoria Cave has a long history of investigation, beginning in the 19th century.

A wide range of important material has been recovered, including artefacts associated with human activity and significant assemblages of late glacial faunal remains (primarily formed by scavengers like wolves), as well as a much older deposit belonging to an earlier temperate event (eg. period of warmer climate) before 114,000 yr BP. This included hippopotamus, extinct species of elephant and rhino, fallow deer and spotted hyaenas (Lord et al. 2007: 684). The excavations led to the discovery of what are, to date, the earliest known human artefacts from the Yorkshire Dales. Among other things, these included:

  • Two pieces of an antler rod dated to 11, 750 ± 120 yr BP (Hedges et al. 1992: 41; Lord et al. 2007: 686)
  • A grooved and double bevelled reindeer antler point dated to 10, 200 ± 1110 yr BP (Lord et al. 2007: 686; Pettit 2008: 47)
  • A biserially (ie. on both sides) barbed antler harpoon point, dating to 10, 930 ± 45 yr BP (White 1997: 16-18; Lord et al. 2007: 686)
  • A bone from a wild horse with cut marks made by a stone tool dated to 12, 325 ± 50 yr BP (Lord et al. 2007: 686).

These finds likely represent intermittent episodes of human activity (hunting and butchery) between c.12, 400 and c.11, 000 BP during the Final Upper Palaeolithic (Pettit 2008: 45-47).

Other finds from the cave include an unusual assemblage of Roman material dating from the 1st to the 4th century AD, interpreted as cultic activity within and outside the cave (Lord et al. 2007: 685; Dearne and Lord 1998). Evidence of Early Medieval activity has also been found, including a disc headed pin, bone comb and fragment of a rune marked stone (Swanton 1969).

Victoria Cave is a highly significant site with a long history of scientific study; this is reflected in both its status as a scheduled monument and in its designation as part of a Site of Special Scientific Interest. It is hard not to overstate the importance of Victoria Cave and the cave archaeology of the Yorkshire Dales generally. It fully deserves a high placing in this list. 

#2 Craven Limeworks

Image shows the exterior of the Hoffmann Kiln
The front of the Hoffmann Kiln at Craven Limeworks © YDNPA

Quarrying appears to have begun here in the early 1870s with two separate workings, Murgatroyd Works and Craven Limeworks (which quickly took over the neighbouring site).

The quarry operated until 1939, with a short closure during the 1930s. It was used as a chemical store during WWII and later a landfill site by Craven District Council. As such, the story of this site is almost a ‘rise out of obscurity’. The limeworks were disregarded as insignificant for many years, but, through the hard work and perseverance of several key groups (including the Ribblesdale Trust and the YDNPA), the site was eventually conserved and scheduled. Significantly, there is a large amount of oral history describing the site from those who worked it or visited.

Image shows an aerial view of the limeworks site. The Hoffmann kiln is visible in the centre just below the old railway sidings
Scan of an aerial image of the site © YDNPA

The limeworks complex is home to a range of buildings and features, which allow the visitor to explore the story of lime production. These include unusual rock-cut triple draw kilns, bowl kilns, an inclined plane, winding house, weighing house and Stainforth Sidings railway tracks.

The most significant feature of all is the Hoffmann Limekiln, which is one of the most complex and efficient forms of producing lime. The body of the kiln is virtually complete and in good condition, although the upper storey, roof and chimney have sadly disappeared. This is one of only two examples existing in this country.

The site is also home to some rare flora and fauna – a colony of bats, rare cave spiders, hawkweeds and bee orchids, along with ravens and a pair of nesting peregrine on the scar behind.

The range of features, rarity and intactness of the Hoffmann Kiln, diversity of wildlife and vegetation, and the protracted fight it took to get the site recognised and rescued, have all added to Craven Limeworks’ well-deserved second place on our list.

#1 Grassington Field Systems

Image shows part of the field systems from the air. Earthworks are clearly visible in the landscape
An aerial image of part of the field systems © YDNPA

The area north of Grassington forms a truly remarkable archaeological landscape. The earthwork remains of field systems, various settlements, enclosures, huts, trackways, field boundaries and barrows are extensive and there are multi-period finds collections known from the area.

The archaeology is extraordinary for its sheer density and complexity, with remains from activity in multiple periods overlying one another. The field systems cover more than 100ha with at least a major phase of their use thought to be of Late Iron Age and Romano-British date. There is also evidence of earlier activity in the Neolithic/Bronze Age.

Some phases of activity are likely difficult to recognise because of later activity covering or removing these traces and a lack of modern excavation (White 1997: 27). Raistrick identified three different groups: regular oblong fields on High Close and Sweetside; a group of smaller, less regular fields with square and circular enclosures south of Bank Lane; and large roughly square fields with irregular circular or oval enclosures on Lea Green (Raistrick 1937:168). A fine collection of Neolithic and Bronze Age surface flint finds, including an exceptional collection of arrowheads, strongly indicate that significant activity was taking place here earlier in prehistory, as does the presence of multiple barrows (Raistrick 1937: 171-173, figs 3 & 4).

Settlement remains within the area include the probable remains of Late Iron Age/Romano-British farmsteads comprising huts and enclosures. Much uncertainty remains as to their date, with evidence of multi-period occupation or re-occupation, including into the Early Medieval period, and it is possible some could have originated in the Bronze Age (White 1997: 27; Luke 2001: 23, 37; Martlew 2004: 41-43). For example, these comprise a large enclosed settlement containing huts and enclosures on Lea Green and other areas. 

Extensive settlement and farming also occurred here in the Medieval period, with the earthworks of a deserted village next to Bank Lane. Excavations of barrows, field banks and some of the huts were undertaken by antiquarians in the 1890s, but much information was lost (Raistrick 1937:166; Luke 2001: 6). Raistrick later worked on these collections and Luke investigated which finds could be attributed to their original contexts (Raistrick 1937; Luke 2001: 6). Roman pottery was recovered from the upper portions of field banks, rather than their cores, interpreted as the use of the field systems in the Late Iron Age and Romano-British period (Raistrick 1937: 168-169).

Raistrick undertook mapping using the records of previous finds and excavations, also later working with Ordnance Survey to interpret their phasing, but the dating and interpretation of the finds has since been questioned (Curwen 1928; Raistrick and Chapman 1929; Raistrick 1937; White 1997: 27; Luke 2001: 6; 22-24, 32, 39; Martlew 2004: 41-43). Sadly, the lack of surviving information about the exact context of earlier finds, as well as their loss, have hampered attempts at understanding the remains in more detail.

Earlier elements are also overlain by a Medieval field system which comprises trackways, drove roads and enclosures. The archaeological landscape of Grassington is fairly well known to archaeologists, but its archaeological landscapes are perhaps not so widely known to the general public.

There was an almost unanimous consensus from the Historic Environment Team that the landscape of Grassington should get the coveted number 1 spot in our Top 10 highlights!

Well, that concludes our Top 10 historic environment highlights blog. Hopefully, those of you that read Parts 1 and 2 have also stuck with us to the end of Part 3!

Remember, these are only our personal choices. It was very difficult to narrow it down to just ten and there were many other sites that are just as deserving of a place within this group.

Would you have ranked these differently, or do you have your own ideas as to what you would include? It is a lot more difficult than you might think to decide what to include or leave out and put them in an order.

A key reason for many of the choices in our list was the great memories people had of their first visit to the sites, and how they felt when encountering some of these rather special places. Perhaps you have a great memory of visiting a heritage feature that matters to you, that would have featured high on your own top ten list – if you do we’d love to hear about it in the comments!

We hope you have enjoyed this slightly different feature on our blog, and until next time… stay safe out there!

By Dr Douglas Mitcham and Lily Mulvey

Sources and further reading

Please note: the main source used for information was the YDNPA Historic Environment Record (HER). Additional sources are listed below. We have done our best to access information and look up relevant sources. However, please keep in mind that, due to the recent government restrictions, we have not been able to consult the physical HER or our reference library held at our offices in writing this blog.

Curwen, E. 1928. Ancient cultivations at Grassington, Yorkshire. Antiquity 2: 168-172.

Dearne, M.J. and Lord, T.C. (eds). 1998. The Romano-British Archaeology of Victoria Cave, Settle (British Archaeological Reports British Series). Oxford: BAR.

Hedges, R.E.M., Housey, R.A., Bronk, C.R. and Van Klinken, G.J. 1992. Radiocarbon dates from the Oxford AMS system: Archaeometry Datelist 14. Archaeometry 34: 141-159.

Lord, T.C., O’Connor, T.P., Siebrandt, D.C. and Jacobi, R.M. et al. 2007. People and large carnivores as biostratinomic agents in Lateglacial cave assemblages. Journal of Quaternary Science 22 (7): 681-694.

Luke, Y. 2001. A History of early antiquarian excavations on Lea Green, Park Stile, High Close Pasture and environs. Unpublished document in YDNPA HER SYD12813.

Martlew, R. 2004. Late Prehistoric landscapes of Upper Wharfedale: problems and potential. In White, R.F. and Wilson, P.R. (eds).  Archaeology and Historic Landscapes of the Yorkshire Dales (Yorkshire Archaeological Society Occasional Paper 2). Leeds: Yorkshire Archaeological Society. 39-50.

Pettit, P. 2008. The British Upper Palaeolithic. In Pollard, J. (ed.) Prehistoric Britain (Blackwell Global Studies in Archaeology). Oxford; Blackwell. 18-57.

Raistrick, A. 1937. Prehistoric cultivations at Grassington, West Yorkshire. Yorkshire Archaeological Journal Vol. 33 (130): 166-174. 

Raistrick, A. and Chapman, S.E. 1929. The lynchet groups of Upper Wharfedale, Yorkshire. Antiquity 3: 165-181.

Swanton, M.J. 1969. A Rune-Stone From Victoria Cave, Settle, Yorkshire. Medieval Archaeology vol.13: 211-214.

White, R. 1997. The Yorkshire Dales: Landscapes Through Time. London: B.T. Batsford/English Heritage.

Picture of Lily Mulvey

Lily Mulvey

Lily is the Authority's Historic Environment Apprentice

2 Replies to “Historic Highlights: Our Team’s Top 10 (Part 3)”

  1. Linda Dooks says:

    Thankyou for this, I wonder if you had contact details for future reference of anyone who could give a talk to us about the Grassington landscape and archaeology
    Linda Dooks Sec
    Boroughbridge Historical Society

    • Lily Mulvey says:

      Hi Linda,
      Thank you for reading, I’m glad you enjoyed these posts. Because of the current circumstances it is difficult to know about future availability. It may be best if you contact either myself ( or my co-author ( directly and we can advise you further.
      Lily Mulvey

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