A community-based test pitting project within a historic village settlement to further understanding of village history. The project will raise awareness and interest in local history, build links to the past and bring together different generations to share an appreciation in local history and gain skills.

Project lead: Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority

The medieval villages in the Westmorland Dales provide ideal locations for community archaeology projects. Many of the villages have local history groups, primary schools and active parish councils who would be keen to get involved in this unusual opportunity which they can see through from beginning to end. 

Through a process of elimination a number of villages will be considered for the ‘Digging the Past’ project.  The strongest candidates have schools and active Parish Councils and History groups who would support the project.  Further research still needs to take place before a decision is made on the project location, although some settlements have been discounted including Tebay (which is relatively modern) and Maulds Meaburn which is constrained by a large area designated as a scheduled monument. Key candidates include Crosby Ravensworth, Great Asby, Ravenstonedale and Crosby Garrett.  There are also a number of smaller medieval settlements that could feature as an addition to a larger project. e.g. Raisbeck 

Many villages in the project area exhibit evidence of late medieval shrinkage, and could make interesting test pit locations. The two villages which stand out the most are Crosby Ravensworth and Ravenstonedale. Crosby Ravensworth stands out because of the late medieval pele tower and moated site at Crosby Hall. There are a number of vacant crofts, so permissions assuming, the practicalities of locations for test pits could be met easily. Ravenstonedale is the other strong contender because of the early medieval church and cemetery (St Oswalds Church) and later Gilbertine monastery. Just to the west of the village there is earthwork evidence of a settlement that is alleged to be Iron Age. 

Project Purpose

  • To increase knowledge and understanding enabling people to discover their shared history, engendering a sense of pride.
  • To provide ‘hands- on’ training in archaeological excavation and recording of test pits, finds interpretation, processing, identification and teamwork.
  • To inform interpretation for both visitors and locals.
  • To provide accessible archaeology to local people and new audiences which provide health and wellbeing benefits.
  • To support the work of local history and archaeology groups.
  • To deliver curriculum linked educational activities for local Primary Schools.
  • To undertake a minimum of 25 1m2 test pits throughout the village.
  • To improve understanding, both spatial and chronological, of village development.
  • To create new records – and enhance the HER for the selected village
  • To inform planning and conservation work or enhance the need for designations.
  • To inform and involve local researchers and academics and encourage further heritage work in the future.