Fimber Cursus, East Yorkshire

Cursus Monument:  OS Grid Reference – SE 893 610

Archaeology & History

Very little appears to have been written about this site, due no doubt to lack of archaeological investigation aswell as the destructive powers of intense agricultural practices hereby.  It was first described in the Yorkshire Archaeological Register and told about by a Mr. H.G. Ramm, who told us of,

“a probable cursus in the Scales, Fimber Grange and Fimber Station area. An aerial photograph taken by John Dent has entended parallel ditches previously known in fragmentary form and enabling them to be interpreted as a cursus running along the valley floor, the north ditch from SE 8939 6106 to SE 9075 6104 and the southern ditch from SE 8937 6103 to SE 9068 6102. The distance between the ditches varies from 18-27m west of Fimber Grange to 30-37m east of the Grange.  A trapezoidal enclosure, 30m by 15m, possibly a small long barrow, has been identified at SE 9008 6104, oblique to the north cursus ditch, which bends to take in account of it.  A group of five ring ditches, three of which are in the cursus, lies to the west of Fimber Grange, but indicate a wartime searchlight post.”

This makes the length of this monument pretty short, but the faint remains of this possible cursus are visible on aerial shots.  A number of other large ancient earthworks were charted here by the famous archaeologist, J.R. Mortimer (1905), though he made no mention of this particular site.

More info please!


  1. Edmondson, T., History of Fimber, H. Smithson: Malton 1857.
  2. Gutch, Mrs. E., Examples of Printed Folk-lore Concerning the East Riding of Yorkshire, David Nutt: London 1912.
  3. Moorhouse, S., ‘Yorkshire Archaeological Register: 1976,’ in Yorkshire Archaeological Journal, volume 49, 1977.
  4. Mortimer, J.R., Forty Years Researches in British and Saxon Burial Mounds of East Yorkshire, Brown & Sons: Hull 1905.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

High Street Barrow, Towthorpe, East Yorkshire

Tumulus:  OS Grid Reference – SE 881 637

Also Known as:

  1. Towthorpe Barrow 1

Getting Here

Mortimer’s sketch of Towthorpe-1 barrow

The faded remains of this old burial mound can vaguely be seen just off the right-hand (east) side of the B1248, across the road from the track which leads down to Burdale North Wold farmhouse, between Fimber and Wharram-le-Street.

Archaeology & History

Known as Towthorpe Barrow No.1 in the Mortimer survey (1905), there are a number of prehistoric tombs and other remains close to this site (which will be described on TNA as time goes by).  Some of you might think the lengthy description here a little unworthy, but I believe the extensive archaeological notes on this site by an archaeological legend, J.R. Mortimer, is a good indicator of the dedication and interest to which he gave each and every tomb that he opened (this’ll be the first of many). His slightly edited account told:

“This mound is situated near the centre of the (Towthorpe) group, close to High Towthorpe. Here the green lane…is crossed by the high road from Malton (B1248), through Wharram-le-Street… Part of this road, for some distance south and north of the barrow, is called ‘High Street’ by the old inhabitants of the neighbourhood…

“On 4 May, 1863, the writer, with the assistance of R. Mortimer and two workmen, commenced to open this mound. It was the first British barrow he had the pleasure of examining. A trench 10 feet wide was cut across its centre from the northern to the southern margin…

“The upper portion E, to a depth of 16 inches, consisted chiefly of the surface soil of the neighbourhood, the bottom part of which was reddened as if by the action of fire. Close below this was a stratum of wood and ashes and other dark matter, 2-3 inches in thickness; and then a lenticular bed of tough drab-coloured clay, 29 feet in diameter, and 12-14 inches thick in the centre, gradually thinning towards the circumference. The upper part of this bed of clay, which was in contact with the stratum of wood ashes, was reddened by fire; its under surface had a similar appearance and rested upon what seemed to be a second stratum of burnt and decayed matter, 2-3 inches in thickness, similar to that already described. The clay forming this lenticular bed contained numerous small fragments of grey flint, characteristic of the chalk of the neighbourhood. It must have been obtained from one of the valley bottoms (either Burdale, Wharram-le-Street or Duggleby), in which are exposures of the Kimeridge clay. In these places, angular pieces of flint and chalk crumble from the hillside, and mix with the clay, imparting a greyish colour to it. This is especially the case at Burdale, where there is a fine spring at the base of the chalk, and a small pond resting on the Kimeridge; and it is probably from this place that most of the clay for the construction of this barrow was obtained. It is not easy to explain the method by which the clay was transported, but several tons had evidently been used in this case. Many other instances in which material from a distance has been used in the erection of the barrows of this neighbourhood are recorded in (the Yorkshire Wolds).

“In the centre of the mound, at the base of the lenticular bed of clay and below the ashes (which probably represent the residue of a funeral pyre) stood two food vases, close together, and near to these, decayed bones (the remains of a human body) and a chipped flint. The smaller and more ornamented vase was situated to the south of its fellow. It measures 4.5 inches in neight, 5.5. inches in diameter at the top, and about the same across the shoulders. The ornamentation had been impressed on the plastic clay by a thin square-ended tool, about half-an-inch in length, which showed in the impression of a fine notched structure, and was equally divided into ten ridges about the size of the indentations on the milled edge of a shilling, and almost as truly cut. In the lower groove which runs round the vase are four pierced projections.

“The other vase is about 5 inches high and about 6 inches in diameter at the top and across the shoulders. Three encircling lines of short vertical cuts, rudely and apparently hastily made, previous to baking the vase, represent its entire ornamentation.

“During the excavation we collected from the material of the mound a dozen hand-struck flint flakes of various sizes, and a small splinter from the cutting-edge of a green-stone celt.”

Mr Mortimer returned to do further excavations here on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day in 1865, with the hope of finding more — but apart from a finely-cut knife made of black flint, nothing else was located. This was the first of Mortimer’s hundreds of diggings into the tombs and dykes of East and North Yorkshire.


  1. Marsden, Barry M., The Early Barrow Diggers, Tempus: Stroud 1999.
  2. Mortimer, J.R., Forty Years Researches in British and Saxon Burial Mounds of East Yorkshire, A. Brown: London 1905.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian