Friday, June 08, 2007

The Iron Age Settlement at Warbreck: Part Two

(For the first part of this posting, check out last week’s articles via the archives.)

Before we go any further, perhaps a word or two about the road system surrounding Warbreck might be in order. Below is a thumbnail (click on it to open up the larger version) for the 1840 Ordnance Survey map, showing the original layout of Warbreck’s roads overlaid on a modern day map so that, hopefully, you can get your bearings. (Incidentally, check out Mario Maps if you’re into overlaying maps of different time periods…there’s a link up in the sidebar.)

Because it might seem a bit confusing at first glance, we’ve coloured the original road system in red.

Now here’s the thing…the two roads leading from the southeast and the northeast into Knowle Farm (now long since demolished) are intriguingly familiar in the way in which they climb the hill before looping into the buildings. The Iron Age track surrounding Bourne Hill acts in much the same fashion, as does the equally ancient track surrounding the Iron Age farm at Fair Oak, Chipping. We can only assume that these roads were constructed for defensive purposes.
We’ve managed to trace (albeit filling in a few missing gaps along the way) the southeast road to Hoo Hill cemetery in Layton. It was here, during extension work, that a cobbled road, generally thought to be Roman, was discovered.

According, once again, to Reverend Bulpit: “Mr. Wray, at the Cemetery, has a remarkable stone hammer which formed part of a path below the surface level.” Alongside the hammer, also recorded by Bulpit, was: “…a curious stone ball”.

The latter of these objects is, predictably, lost, but probably formed half of a simple quern. The hammer can be found (if you ask very politely) in a locked room at the back of the Grundy Art Gallery. The photograph below was the best we could manage with our camera.

Objects such as these were often incorporated into Iron Age roads -- possibly for ritual purposes, possibly because the road builders just couldn’t be bothered carrying any more pebbles from the beach. Whatever the reason, the age of the artefacts tends to suggest that our roadway leading from Layton Cemetery to the top of Knowle Hill dates from the Iron Age.
The road to the northeast is even more intriguing.
After heading downhill past the former Greenland’s School (now Bispham High School) this ancient route swings around the base of Knowle Hill and heads off southeast. Before long, close to Higher Moor Farm, it sinks into a hollow way, as can be seen in the photograph below.

Most hollow ways were constructed by the Celts and later used for drove roads by the Saxons. To add weight to the idea that the hollow way at Higher Moor Farm was Celtic built rather than of Saxon construction (because, after all, the Saxons did, from time to time, build their own sunken roads) at Carleton railway crossing, where the track emerges, Catherine Rothwell’s 1986 book ‘Early Carleton’ records the discovery of a “…Bronze Age axe or palstave dug up…on land which once was near Scut House.”
We’ve illustrated the palstave below. Although we’re not certain of it’s exact location when discovered, it certainly counts as evidence for the track’s antiquity.

So, two ancient trackways leading to a suspiciously flat section on the summit of Knowle Hill. But again we appear to be running short of space so, one last break and we’ll conclude this article (you’ll probably be glad to hear) next week.


Bwca said...

I do hope the big rains have not washed you away.

Brian Hughes said...


We're used to the rain in these parts, living in what amounts to little more than a swamp, so a spot of drizzle doesn't bother us. The same goes for the wind. What southerners call a hurricane we prefer to think of a stiff breeze. Unless it reaches Force 25 the news stations don't even bother to mention it. Even the sheep round here are tethered to the ground and wear wellington boots...although that might have more to do with the farmers' romantic lives than the actual weather.

John said...

This is a great post... lots of cool stuff, and its neat to see how the layers of history intertwine.

I also watched some of your slideshows, and the one about Bourne Hill was great.

Keep up the good work! JOHN :0)

Brian Hughes said...


Ta very much.