Scarborough Integrated Transport Scheme

Project Profile

Project Title :

Scarborough Integrated Transport Scheme

Client :

North Yorkshire County Council, Highways Department

Type of Work :

Transport sector. Excavation, Post-Excavation

Project Gallery 

Cayton Bay barrow during excavation   Medieval stone building foundations, Osgodby  
Flints from Cayton Bay barrow   Mesolithic Flint, Cayton Bay barrow  
Bronze Age stone kerb  


Scarborough Integrated Transport Scheme

Settlement and burial on the North Yorkshire coast - Cayton Bay and Osgodby

Northern Archaeological Associates have undertaken and completed a major programme of post-excavation assessment and analysis on the results of excavations undertaken in advance of road improvements to the A165 south of Scarborough. The excavations at the east end of the Vale of Pickering encompassed a time period of over 6000 years, from the late Mesolithic to the medieval, comprising areas of settlement, ritual and burial archaeology. A complex and long-lived Neolithic and Early Bronze Age barrow and kerbed cairn was excavated at Mill Lane, Cayton Bay. Late Iron Age settlements were uncovered close by at Tenant's Cliff and at Park Hill, Osgodby, and the latter settlement was overlain by remains of part of the medieval village. Together, they add significantly to the corpus of archaeological information for the area.

The excavation at Mill Lane, Cayton Bay revealed two distinct phases of a Neolithic/early Bronze Age burial monument located on a natural mound, which had been the site of earlier activity, represented by a substantial assemblage of worked flint totalling over c.3,500 pieces. Detailed study of the flint showed that the assemblage comprised both late Mesolithic and early Neolithic material. The former was characterised by microliths, blades and blade cores, soft hammer struck flakes, a micro-scraper and one microburin, while the latter comprised flake cores and scrapers. Neolithic projectiles are absent from the site suggesting a change in emphasis from hunting to domestic use. The lithics were distributed throughout the mound and it would seem likely that the barrow builders at Cayton Bay were aware of the late Mesolithic and early Neolithic flint material at the time that they constructed the mound. The construction of the mound in this location may have sought to sanctify an 'ancient' place.

The Cayton Bay barrow appears unique among Yorkshire sites in having the kerb inserted into the silted-up ditch of the earlier phase. The earlier monument at Cayton Bay was an earthen barrow comprising a penannular ditch encircling a mound of approximately 18m in diameter. The barrow was constructed on a natural mound overlooking a small valley which may have helped to make the barrow more prominent. Following the silting up of the ditch and erosion of the earthen mound, the monument was redefined and rebuilt with the construction of a kerb and the addition of cobbles and stones to the fabric of the mound to create a kerbed round cairn. Four cup-marked stones were recovered from the barrow kerb. The stones were of sandstone, probably Moor Grit, which outcrops on the North York Moors but which also occurs as glacial erratics within the boulder clay.

While there were no human remains identified at Cayton Bay, it is probable that the central pit and possibly a second pit within the mound once held inhumations. Such absence of human remains is not unusual because bone easily deteriorates in the fine sandy silts and gravels which characterise the area. There is also the possibility that the antiquarians who excavated a pit in the centre of the mound may have removed the main burial, whilst plough-damage through the medieval period may also have removed or dispersed any secondary interments in the mound.

The remains of at least four timber roundhouses were identified within the late Iron Age/Romano-British settlements at Tenant's Cliff and Park Hill which were investigated during the scheme. The excavated evidence and the results of geophysical survey indicate clearly that these settlements lay within an ordered landscape and were linked by a series of trackways and fields. Finds recovered from the excavations included Iron Age and Roman pottery, saddle and rotary querns, animal bone, charred plant remains, a whetstone and artefacts made from antler, bone, iron, jet and wood. A large quantity of Iron Age pottery together with other items was recovered from the terminal of one of the roundhouse gullies, and the combination of items and the size of the sherds could suggest that these had been deliberately placed.

Analysis of the pottery appears to indicate that both sites were occupied towards the latter part of the pre-Roman Iron Age and this activity may have continued as late as the 3rd century AD although the small quantities of Roman material recovered perhaps might suggest that the intensity of occupation declined or the focus of settlement shifted away. Scientific analysis of the pottery points to local manufacture using local resources. This tends to confirm the evidence from other sites which suggests that pottery was made locally and presumably on a household basis using locally available clay and temper sources which were widespread and seemingly readily available.

The excavation on Park Hill lay on the western edge of Osgodby and uncovered significant remains of the medieval village. Historical references suggest Osgodby was at its height during the 13th and 14th centuries, declining thereafter until it contained only a few isolated farmsteads by the mid 19th century. Extensive earthwork remains, which survived until the mid 20th century, suggested that the focus of the medieval village lay some distance east of Park Hill, around a series of rectangular road-side enclosures (tofts).

The excavated remains lay over an area of approximately 600m north to south, with a distinct concentration west of the site of Manor Farm. The majority of features were ditches and gullies, many intercutting, which formed a number of enclosures. The areas of enclosures were separated by sunken roadways, which appeared to define the layout of this part of the medieval village. Differences between enclosure forms in the excavated areas are likely to reflect differences in use and possibly in ownership. The eastern-most may have formed an extension to the regular tofts of the village seen further to the east, while the remainder may have belonged to the manor house.

Within the enclosures, seven rectangular buildings were excavated, ranging considerably in size and construction method. Their functions are unclear, though there are indications that two are more likely to have been dwellings, while the remaining five may have been ancillary or agricultural structures. Two buildings were of posthole construction, three were plank or post-in-trench, while the remaining two used stone ground-walls. The sizes and range of building techniques can be paralleled in other excavated structures from eastern Yorkshire and the lower Tees valley.

Although the excavation produced a large assemblage of medieval pottery, there was no evidence for pottery production within the village. The vast majority of recovered pottery was produced at Staxton or Potter Brompton, in the Vale of Pickering, with smaller quantities coming from Scarborough and elsewhere. The dominance of Staxton ware is however paralleled by previous work in the east of the village, and by excavation at Wharram Percy and Sherburn. Within the excavated site, variations noted in vessel types may reflect different activities between the areas. One area contained a higher number of bowls, often used in dairying and food preparation and this might reflect some degree of specialisation here, or could indicate the area was more domestic in character than other areas.

Analysis of charred plant remains recovered from soil samples from features across the site suggests the presence of a range of activities and habitats in and around the west of the village. The composition of the assemblage suggests the accumulation of domestic debris associated with occupation. Carbonised cereal remains indicate that the cultivated food sources of the inhabitants included oat, barley, rye and wheat. Some pea or bean and flax were also recovered. Taken as a whole, the medieval assemblages were too thinly distributed within the deposits for any firm conclusions to be drawn from the relative proportions of grains, chaff and arable weeds present (the remains perhaps accumulating over some time rather than representing discrete dumps of material). However, the relative dearth of chaff and weed remains could indicate that the cereal grains derived from a 'cleaned' crop, suggesting that primary processing of grain did not take place here. Remains of charred heather stems were identified in samples across the site and there were also occasional charred nutlets from sedge and sheep's sorrel. The carbonised remains may be indicators of the presence of burnt turves which are likely to have resulted from the cleansing of roofing and/or building materials or animal litter, or the direct burning of turves for fuel. The heather may have been harvested from a moorland environment, indicating exploitation of the higher ground to the north-west.

Documentary evidence shows that the villagers of Osgodby had the right to cut peat for fuel in the Vale of Pickering. Whilst the excavation recovered a number of wide, flat-based Staxton ware pottery vessels (known as peat pots), thought to be designed for use on peat fires, no peat remains were recovered from any of the samples. Many of the deposits yielded quite large quantities of charcoal, probably derived from the exploitation of local mixed deciduous woodland. Some of this included soft-fruit-bearing woodland species such as plum/cherry and elder, which together with hazelnuts, was evidence that the inhabitants were able to exploit supplementary food sources from the woodland margins and clearings.

The excavation at Park Hill has demonstrated that the settlement of medieval Osgodby was substantially larger than previously thought and that this area was a focus of intense activity during the medieval period. The presence of seven buildings here strongly suggests this part of medieval Osgodby did not simply serve as a series of stock enclosures or minor boundaries at the edge of the village. The seven excavated buildings double the number of known medieval structures from the village, and are a significant addition to the corpus of excavated medieval buildings in the region.