Prehistoric Roseberry

I wrote the other day that the name Airyholme (the farm in the centre of the photograph) derives from the Old Norse ǽrgum meaning ‘at the shielings’. That’s the seventh and eighth centuries, but what of earlier times?

The Romans seem to have had Cleveland under control, perhaps they felt the Brigantes, the local tribe, were no threat. Sure they kept watch along the coast at Huntcliff and some cavalryman lost a helmet in Guisborough but life in the villa at Ingleby Barwick must have seemed fairly safe. The fort at Cawthorn was not maintained.

It stands to reason, there must have been continued farming activity at Airyholme both during and before the Romans arrived. Iron Age ditched enclosures have been detected from cropmarks to the east (left) of Aireyholme Farm1Enclosure east of Aireyholme Farm HER No: 6479. “HER Map: North York Moors National Park.” North York Moors National Park, 2021, www.northyorkmoors.org.uk/discover/archaeology/her-map. Accessed 6 Apr. 2021., to the north (left) of Aireyholme Cottage2Enclosure to the south of Roseberry Topping HER No: 6478. “HER Map: North York Moors National Park.” North York Moors National Park, 2021, www.northyorkmoors.org.uk/discover/archaeology/her-map. Accessed 6 Apr. 2021., and to the south of Roseberry Topping3Field system and enclosures south of Roseberry Topping HER No: 6475. “HER Map: North York Moors National Park.” North York Moors National Park, 2021, www.northyorkmoors.org.uk/discover/archaeology/her-map. Accessed 6 Apr. 2021.. Nearby a beehive quern stone has been found in a hedgerow4“Roseberry Topping”. Great Ayton Community Archaeology Project. ISBN 978-0-9554153-0-2 2006. These are contemporary with the enclosure on Great Ayton Moor, the hut circles of Percy Rigg and the hillfort on Eston Nab.

It is not clear if the enclosure to the south of Roseberry was occupied or just used for corralling livestock but hidden close by during this time close to a spring was a hoard of Bronze Age implements, axes, a knife, a mould in two halves, a spearhead, a chisel, and gouges. Fourteen objects in all.

This hoard was discovered in 1826, I’ve posted about it before. A similar photo actually. It seems that some items may have gone missing but a substantial part of the hoard eventually ended up in Sheffield Museum where it, as I understand it, remains to this day5“Roseberry Topping”. Great Ayton Community Archaeology Project. ISBN 978-0-9554153-0-2 2006.

Apparently, Sheffield Museum allowed replicas of the hoard to be made for the County of Cleveland Schools Archaeology Service which went on display in the Dorman Museum. It is suggested that comparison of these replicas with drawings made by Victorian antiquarians raise some doubts about the provenance of the hoard, but that is another story6“Roseberry Topping”. Great Ayton Community Archaeology Project. ISBN 978-0-9554153-0-2 2006.

Last month, I had an email from a gentleman who claimed that he had “bought most of the Dorman Museum’s Roseberry Topping Hoard reproductions” from a dealer in Kettering, and proposes “to make reproductions of the mould and the axe for educational use”.

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