Round Dikes, Addingham, West Yorkshire

Enclosure:  OS Grid Reference – SE 0552 5013

Also Known as:

  1. Round Dykes
  2. The Camp

Getting Here

Round Dikes on 1850 map

First highlighted on the 1850 Ordnance Survey map of western Addingham in the same year William Howson described it, this large oval embankment sits on the eastern side of Counter Hill, amidst its gigantic earthworks, with attending tumuli, cup-and-rings, buried standing stones and other enclosures, like one huge prehistoric family of ancient sites!  The earthworks here are in slightly better condition than the nearby ones at Marchup, as we can still make out the ditch marking the site.

There have been many literary visitors to the Round Dikes and its cluster of sites.  One of the early ones was by the renowned historians and antiquarians, Forrest & Grainge (1868) who, in the second part of their ‘rambles’ exploring the prehistoric sites on and around Rombald’s Moor in the 1860s, told us:

“The Camp—known locally as Round Dykes—is of an irregular oval shape, the longest axis measuring over all 300 feet, and the shorter 250 feet.  The trench outside the vallum is about 15 feet wide, and 4 or 5 feet in depth.  The area is level, showing no indications of buildings or works of any kind.  A feeble spring of water rises at one corner.  The trench is regular and even, and does not appear to have ever been used as a series of pit dwellings.  This work commands a large and splendid view of Wharfedale…”

Although suggested by Thomas Whitaker (1878) in his magnum opus on the history of Craven, to have been constructed by the Romans—who laid a road nearby on top of another earlier trackway—the site is obviously prehistoric.  But when the late great Harry Speight (1900) ventured over for a gander at the end of the 1890s, he too thought it might be Roman.  Finding the place to be “thickly overgrown with ling,” it was still in very good condition he said, telling “how its outline is almost as perfect as when made seventeen or eighteen centuries ago.” He continued:

“The form bespeaks a rather late date, having the characteristic angles, which makes the ordinary streight-sided rectangle into an octogan, giving it the appearance superficially of a round or oval.  Its dimensions are based on the most approved form of castramentation, the length being one-third greater than the breadth, namely sixty yards wide and eighty yards long.  A watch-mound has been thrown up within the southwest angle, and the whole camp defended with a double rampart having an intervening ditch.  There is an old and excellent spring of water on the east sie of the camp; the site having been well chosen, commanding as it does, a splendid view of the valley and Street as it runs towards Olicana.”

By the time Eric Cowling (1946) came and looked at these earthworks, the opinion had truly swayed to seeing Round Dikes as a prehistoric site and not Roman.  Cowling placed it firmly in the Iron Age!  His profile of the site told:

“On the Western slope of Counter Hill and with a wide view of Wharfedale to the east is a second enclosure with five sides.  Three of these form the three sides of a square and the remaining two bend outwards to enclose a spring on the lower eastern side.  This enclosure is one hundred feet across from east to west and in the opposite direction the greatest measurement is seventy-three feet.  The ditch is fifteen feet wide and varies in depth from three to five feet and there appears to have been an entrance in the eastern angle.  There is an unfinished look about the earthwork; the inner and outer banks vary in height and are not continuous.  The position is badly sited for defence, being overlooked from the higher ground to the west.  The site would be very suitable for excavation, for it has been untouched by cultivation and is undisturbed.”

E.T. Cowling’s plan

And as far as I’m aware, no such excavation has yet been done here; and as we all know the local archaeologist is pretty poor when it comes doing such things round here, so god only knows when the real explorers and scientists will ever get their teeth into the place!  However, the writers and archaeology consultants John and Phillip Dixon told that “a limited survey of parts of Round Dykes defined nine hut circles or parts of circles and possible hearth sites” in the 1980s.  And although they ascribe the large earthwork as being Iron Age, the tumulus which sits near the southern edge of the enclosure is ascribed as Bronze Age.

It’s likely that the internal tumulus (a separate profile of it is forthcoming) was of communal and religious importance at Round Dykes.  There was probably ritual function here within the enclosure, though only at certain times, when and where the ancestral spirits in the tomb awoke or were required to help the living.  The spring of water on the eastern side of the enclosure, above the tumulus, was obviously not just the main drinking supply for the people who stayed here, but would also have had ritual importance (water, forget not, is tantamount to blood in ancestral cosmologies, and not a ‘commodity’ as the half-witted retards in modern culture have profaned it in their shallow beliefs).  In the Lands of the Dead, water is vital for gods, spirits and the sustenance of the underworlds. (Eliade 1979)  You might not think that; judæochristians might not think that — but the worlds of experience are much wider and deeper than the failing beliefs of atheists and monotheists…

…to be continued…


  1. Bennett, Paul, The Old Stones of Elmet, Capall Bann: Milverton 2001.
  2. Bennett, Paul, The Prehistoric Sites of Counter Hill, Addingham, forthcoming 2013.
  3. Cowling, Eric T., Rombald’s Way, William Walker: Otley 1946.
  4. Forrest, C. & Grainge, William, A Ramble on Rumbald’s Moor, among the Dwellings, Cairns and Circles of the Ancient Britons in the Spring of 1868: Part 2 – Counterhill and Castleberg, W.T. Lamb: Wakefield 1868.
  5. Dixon, John & Phillip, Journeys through Brigantia – volume 1: Walks in Craven, Airedale and Wharfedale, Aussteiger Publications: Barnoldswick 1990.
  6. Eliade, Mircea, A History of Religious Ideas – volume 1, Collins: London 1979.
  7. Howson, William, An Illustrated Guide to the Curiosities of Craven, Whittaker: Settle 1850.
  8. Speight, Harry, Upper Wharfedale, Elliott Stock: London 1900.
  9. Whitaker, Thomas Dunham, The History and Antiquities of the Deanery of Craven in the County of York, (3rd edition) Joseph Dodgson: Leeds 1878.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

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4 thoughts on “Round Dikes, Addingham, West Yorkshire”

  1. Hi Jenny – Which book? My ‘Old Stones of Elmet’ was done a few years back. Others aint been done yet. Soz…

  2. It was in your references: Bennett, Paul, The Prehistoric Sites of Counter Hill, Addingham, forthcoming 2013. Or was that intended to be an article?

  3. Oh, that little thing! I’ll be publishing it on ‘Kindle’ sometime this year – and it’ll be the size of your average booklet, so will be cheap to download. I need to get back over to the sites to get some better photos of the relevant places.

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