Sleets Gill Top, Hawkswick, North Yorkshire

Enclosure:  OS Grid Reference – SD 95735 69145

Getting Here

Sleets Gill enclosure hillock

Go up the B6160 road from Grassington to Kettlewell and just a few hundred yards past the famous Kilnsey Crags, take the little road to Arncliffe on your left.  After ¾ of a mile, keep your eyes peeled for the small parking spot on the left-side of the road, with the steep rocky stream that leads up to the Sleet Gill Cave. Walk up to the cave, then keep going up the same steep slope to the wall/fence above. You can get over the wooden fence and keep following the wall until it just about levels out nearly 200 yards up.  From here, walk 100 yards to your right where the land rises up and you’re at the edge of the walled enclosure.  Look around.

Archaeology & History

Walled section, looking W

On top of a small rise in the land is this large, roughly rectangular walled enclosure measuring about 55 yards across at its longest axis (roughly WNW to ESE) and averaging 24 yards wide.  The walling is pretty low down and, in some areas (mainly on its eastern edges) almost disappears beneath the vegetation—but you can still make it out – just!  The southernmost edge of the enclosure is built upon a the edge of a natural rocky outcrop (typical of many enclosure and settlement sites in this neck o’ the woods) and when you stand on this section you see a very distinct rectangular enclosure, sloping down from here.  This would likely have been where animals were kept as it makes no sense as a human living quarter due it being on a slope.  But below this, where the land levels out, another low line of ancient walling reaches towards the high modern walls.  This is one of three lines of ancient walling running, roughly parallel to the more modern walls (which themselves may have an Iron Age origin) from the main enclosure.

Aerial view of site

The entire structure is Iron Age in origin, but the site would have been in continual use throughout the Romano-British period and possibly even into early medieval centuries (though only an excavation would confirm that).  Its basic architecture is replicated in the many other prehistoric settlements that still exist on the hills all round here (there are dozens of them).  You’ll see this clearly when you visit the High Sleets enclosure less than 400 yards southwest from here.

References:

  1. Raistrick, Arthur, Prehistoric Yorkshire, Dalesman: Clapham 1964.

© Paul BennettThe Northern Antiquarian

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