Friday, June 29, 2007

The Legacy of Nateby

Okay...this one's for John as requested over at the forum. (Yes...the link's still there in the right hand column and you still don't need to register to leave a comment, start a subject, post a response or ask a question etc. Well...I'm nothing if not optimistic.)
Anyway...few residents of the Fylde and Wyre (despite our best efforts to inform them otherwise) realise that Nateby is sitting on top of an archaeological goldmine. But it is, and examples of our ancient history beneath this village can be found in banjo-shaped earthworks (most likely Iron Age settlements), a Romano/British road, a henge ten times the size of Stonehenge and even a rare prehistoric construction known as a pile settlement. (We’ve even produced a slideshow of some of the more prominent earthworks that can be found on the right hand side bar of this website, but somehow we get the feeling that nobody’s bothered to look yet.)
Let’s start with the road.
In 1995 several sections of it were excavated by John Salisbury and Neil Thompson of the Pilling Historical Society. It was eighteen feet wide, cambered and surfaced with cobblestones. True to the construction of Roman roads everywhere it had a ditch running along either side. In October 2003 two denarii, a silver ‘Tiberius’ and a bronze ‘Claudius’, were discovered on its surface thus confirming its antiquity.

The road originally ran from Garstang, through Nateby and Out Rawcliffe towards Hambleton before reaching an old ford across the Wyre that once connected Wardley’s Creek to Stanah.
Because it’s underground, of course, it’s difficult to spot.
The henge, on the other hand, is plainly on view. Or at least, part of it is. In the field to the east of Nateby Lodge on the corner of Hoole Lane is an embankment, approximately six hundred and fifty feet in diameter. This earthwork loops around the lodge, creates a dip in Rawcliffe Road and then continues back on itself in a perfect circle.
Hopefully the aerial photograph below should help explain matters.

In February 1996 P. Johnson of the University of London Archaeological Unit took a look, and recorded it as a henge, estimating its age as roughly 2,500 BC.
Also in 1996 a team of excavators, once again under the guidance of the Pilling Historical Society, dug into another suspicious mound close to Humblescough Farm. About two feet below the surface they unearthed a large amount of timber, as can be seen in the photograph below.

What they’d discovered (at least in Neil Thompson’s view) was a pile settlement that had once stood at end of a stretch of water known as Ainspool Lake. (Personally we’re more inclined to believe that it was lakeside settlement similar to Star Carr, but that's a debate that'll no doubt run forever.)
It seemed that our local tribe had felled the trees around the lake and placed them on the bed in rectangular sections. Once their artificial island had been constructed, they threw up a bank of earth for additional defence. Still visible in this embankment today are three entrances that the Celts left open to accommodate wooden causeways.Later that same year Pilling Historical Society conducted a second excavation. This time post holes belonging to a round house were discovered.

It was estimated that the pile settlement could have held up to twenty such buildings. This was obviously either a sizable village or the home of an important chieftain.Numerous other discoveries have been made around Nateby, from Roman brooches to Celtic Axes, mediaeval signet rings and Neolithic hammers. And no doubt there are hundreds more still waiting to be excavated. So next time you’re driving home please try to remember that that annoying bump in the road that keeps damaging your exhaust might have been put there thousands of years ago, and wasn’t designed to annoy you personally.


Unknown said...

Thanks, Brian,

What an awesome site... it appears to be on the level with Avebury, at least, although it's hard to tell if there are/were any standing stones. People seem to be impressed with standing stones, although the amount of varying structures and possible age groupings all in this one area definitely make this a place historically significant.

I'm very surprised that this site, once established by the archeologist that you mentioned, hasn't become athe big deal that it deserves to be.

Too bad the public doesn't show more interest in real history... this site should be studied and protected, as Avebury and other places are.

Then again, you'd be overwhelmed with tourists, and suddenly you'd have Nateby Henge Shops selling t-shirts with saying like "I'm nutty for Nateby" or some such. Your local councils would be thrilled, of course, but the local peoples might not be so pleased with busloads of Americans snapping photos left and right. :0)

Cheers, and thanks so much for making a site like this known to the world. JOHN :0)

Brian Hughes said...


What appear to be have once been standing stones (possibly entrance pillars to the lake settlement) were dug up by one of the farmers. I think they're currently supporting the roof of his barn.

We're doing our best to get the site more widely acknowledged (Neil's been touring a lot this year with his slideshow lecture) but we still live in the North West of England, which, of course, doesn't have any history and is full of dark satanic mills and people in cloth caps with ferrets down their trousers and therefore isn't important.

As for Nateby Henge shops, I like that idea. It's an improvement on the American gas pipe line currently planned to be pushed through the earthworks and it'd help increase our book sales...which can only be regarded as beneficial to our bank balance.


Unknown said...


I do hope that you are kidding about the gas pipeline.

Only a greedy money-loving selfish pig would disturb ancient earthworks like these with a pipeline.

Don't you have archeologists or anyone there that could designate this area as an important site, and therefore in need of protection?

We need to take action... I don't think I could take anymore of humanity's blundering over its very own history. I've had enough.

Maybe THIS will get intelligent people over to your forum for serious discussion on this matter? Maybe you need a poll of some sort, to see what kind of support you could drum up.

Keep me posted... maybe I'll make that trip to the Wyre sooner than planned!

Sign me.... disappointed.

Brian Hughes said...


The American gas pipeline has been an ongoing cause of concern for the residents of the Wyre for some time now, if not because of the archaeology then because of the firm's track record. (Apparently they blew up a whole town in America due to incompetance.)

We have, of course, already taken action, sending the committee dealing with the matter a huge report detailing the numerous sites of archaeological importance that the pipeline would disturb. The response was, in a nutshell, that if the people laying the pipeline found anything of archaeological significance they would report it.

Er...yes. I'm not sure if pipe-layers would know an Iron Age artefact from their elbow to be honest. You can rest assured that the issue hasn't been put to bed yet.


Ann ODyne said...

re "that annoying bump in the road that keeps damaging your exhaust might have been put there thousands of years ago,"

Nope. the local council stole the idea from the Nateby Iron Agers and rebadged it 'speedhump'.

keep digging, there more denarii where those came from

Anonymous said...

Fight the good fight, Brian, and let me know if there's anything I can do.

Once a site is disturbed, it's lost forever.


Brian Hughes said...


It's difficult to speed through Nateby. Take one corner too tightly and you're likely to end up in a ditch full of surprised looking sheep.


The pipeline is, as far as I can gather (and I have to be careful what I write here for legal reasons) a 'done deal'. The local meetings to discuss concerns appear to be just for show. Obviously the government line is that local opposition will be taken into consideration (via the bin no doubt).
Whatever the case, we checked through the plans some months ago and, to the best of our knowledge (with the possible exception of a collection of hut-circles in Pilling), the pipeline's route comes extremely close to (but not actually through the middle of) several earthworks.
By law, under the circumstances, the company laying the pipeline will have to pay for an archaeologist to oversee all the work in the sensitive areas. Major disturbance to anything important will therefore result in a full scale excavation, paid for by the Gas Company.
And believe me, we'll make sure the law is enforced. We might not be able to stop 'em, but we're sure as hell going to make 'em play by what pathetic rules the government has in place.


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