Bethecar Moor Community Landscape Survey

Cumbria

Client

The Lake District National Park Authority

Services

Landscapes

Community

NAA was commissioned by the Lake District National Park Authority (LDNPA) to undertake a second archaeological landscape survey project as part of the HLF-funded Rusland Horizons Landscape Partnership. During the first of these projects, we surveyed the woodlands of the Rusland Valley, whereas this project focuses on an area of moorland to the east of Coniston Water called Bethecar Moor. Local volunteers accompanied professionals from NAA on two survey seasons in October 2018 and March 2019, undertaking a total of six weeks of surveying. This was the first time an archaeological survey has been completed across Bethecar Moor, with the exception of a small area around High and Low Parkamoor (OAN 2010).

The first reference to the area in historical literature documents it as belonging to Furness Abbey, which was founded in 1123 and was one of the wealthiest monasteries in the country. The moorland would have been used by the Abbey for grazing sheep and cattle, in addition to hunting wild game (OAN 2010). During the late 13th century, the monks began to mine iron, and this would have substantially added to their income, especially as the iron industry was much more profitable than agriculture. Following this, the monks were able to enclose woodlands on their land to form parks. Two such parks are located on Bethecar Moor: Parkamoor and Lawson Park. Both are located in the northern end of the surveyed area. Following the Dissolution of the Monasteries, the land was owned by the Crown but rented to local tenants, who were able to continue using the woodlands around Bethecar Moor for the production of iron.

In the early 17th century, the land at Parkamoor was divided into two small farmsteads, High and Low Parkamoor, and the land of the Moor likely continued to be used for stock grazing. High Parkamoor is now highly ruinous, whilst Low Parkamoor remains standing, although it is now a holiday let rather than an active farm. The survey revealed that most of the archaeological features surrounding these farmsteads related to former agricultural activity, and comprised earthen bank field boundaries, trackways, relict walls and small quarries.

This was not dissimilar to what was seen across the rest of the Moor and the vast majority of archaeological features in the wider landscape provided insight into the activity of the people who resided here in the past. Such features included small quarries, which littered the moorland, mostly around small fields and the edges of the survey area, as well as features that would have required ready access to stone. Six intakes, which comprise small areas of land that were ‘taken in’ between the 16th and 18th centuries to create small cow pastures, were also recorded. Features in the walls of these intakes, such as sheepfolds and hogg holes, continue to hint at the past agricultural use of the land.

The volunteers also identified 13 cairns during the surveys. These ranged in use from walkers’ and clearance cairns to possible markers for routeways. However, one was of Bronze Age date, although a modern walker’s cairn had been built upon it. This latter cairn is recorded on the Lake District National Park’s Historic Environment Record but nevertheless proved to be a delight for the attendees of the survey.

In total, 292 features were recorded, which add a wealth of insight to our understanding of the history of this area. Overall, the survey was completed with the help of 59 volunteers, many of whom had taken part in the woodland survey previously and had returned to continue to improve their archaeological skills.

Oxford Archaeology North (OAN) (2010) East Coniston Woodland Cumbria: Historic Landscape Survey. Unpublished OAN Report 2009-10/1040.

In total, 292 features were recorded, which add a wealth of insight to our understanding of the history of this area.

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