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Aberford Dykes: the first defence of the Brigantes? 1

  • Leslie Alcock

The Roman road from Legioliuna (Castleford) to Calcaria (Tadcaster), and its modern descendant, the Great North Road, cross the Cock Beck at Aberford, eight miles north-east of Leeds, Yorkshire (FIG. I). The crossing is defended by a triple system of southward facing banks and ditches which total some 4½ miles in length. The main bank, distinguished by the steepness of its scarp, still rises to 25 feet above the bottom of its ditch, and shows in places the stonework which originally revetted it.

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2 Ëadburg’s ford. Ekwall, Concise Oxford Dictionary of English Place-Names, s.v.

3 This, and all such subsequent measurements, express the vertical heights.

4 Hearne’s Leland’s Itinerary, 2nd Ed., I, 43.

5 Edmund Bogg, The Old Kingdom of Elmet, and the Ainsty of York, pp. 16, 157, 164.

6 F. S. Colman, A History of Barwick-in-Elmet (Thoresby Society Publications, 1908), p. 21.

7 V.C.H. Yorks., II, p. 57. The second ditch is almost certainly a sunken track.

8 O. G. S. Crawford, Archaeology in the Field, p. 247 : the first mention of the all-important revetment ! Dr Crawford informs me that his fieldwork was done in March, 1935, and was recorded at that time on the relevant O.S. 6 inch sheets.

9 E. T. Cowling, Rotnbald’s Way, p. 148.

10 E. S. Wood, Archaeological News Letter, 11, 3, p. 37.

11 Collingwood and Myres, Roman Britain and the English Settlements, p. 419.

12 ANTIQUITY, IX, p. 277.

13 Woodhouse Moor Rein on the O.S. 6 inch. Rein : a strip of land, a ridge : a division between lands or fields. O.E.D.

14 Crawford (loc. cit. note 8 above) found five courses, but between two visits on 11.7.53 and 2.8.53 the topmost course had been thrown down.

15 National Grid SE 424382.

16 Bogg, op. cit., p. 164.

17 Wendel Hill to-day appears simply as the bailey of a Norman motte, Hall Tower Hill; but it is not impossible that the Normans made use of a pre-existing hill-fort as they did at Almondbury, Yorks. On the other hand, Wendel Hill is not in a hill-fort area. Recent surface collecting has produced a pottery sequence back to the 12th century; but nothing earlier.

18 We agree with Crawford (loc. cit.) that the supposed entrenchments near Lead have nothing to do with the South Dyke, and had no military or defensive purpose.

19 Geological Survey, One Inch, Sheets 70, 78 (1951 edn.); details checked on MSS. 6 inch sheets at the Geological Survey. Mr Edwards, of the Survey, very kindly discussed the geology with me.

20 Edwards, Mitchell, and Whitehead, Geology of the District North and East of Leeds, p. 41.

21 ibid, p. 34.

22 Identified with Winn Moor, 4m. NE. of Leeds,

23 Myres, loc. cit.

24 Ekwall, op. cit., s.vv.; Mr Doyle-Davison has kindly commented on these attributions.

25 Colman, loc. cit.

26 There are accessible accounts in ANTIQUITY, III, pp. 135-54.

27 Ant. J., XXXII, p. 3 and Pl. v.

28 ANTIQUITY, VII, pp. 21-35.

29 Hawkes, C. F. C, and Hull, M. R., Camulodunum, pp. 12-13. Mr Hull very kindly supplied me with unpublished drawings of this and other Belgic turf-revetted dykes.

30 Geology . . . East of Leeds, p. 60.

31 D. Allen, Archaeologia, XC, pp. 40-3; Map VIII.

32 Annals, XII, 32.

33 ibid, 36.

34 ibid, 40.

35 Histories, III, 45.

36 J.R.S., XVIII (1928), 98-9.

1 I am most grateful to Reverend E. A. Page and Mr A. Wellings for local advice; to the British Electricity Authority for permission to view Becca Banks; to Dr D. E. Owen for help with the geology; and to Dr V. E. Nash-Williams for reading the typescript and for helpful suggestions.

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  • EISSN: 1745-1744
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