Archaeology

Moving from the earliest of times, Rylstone has been a routeway up into the Dales, a hunting ground for nomadic hunter-gatherers and then a settled agricultural village with good connections to the north and south. The men and women who travelled through, and lived in, its upper reaches and more fertile lowlands have left their imprint in various ways, but the archaeological record for Rylstone and its surrounds is far from complete. As Raistrick has described in his chapter on pre-history in 'The Pennine Dales' (Raistrick, 1968):

 

  • flint implements  - arrow-heads, scrapers, axe-heads and primitive spears - were left scattered over local fields and fells

  • stone circles of religious or community significance are found on neighbouring Bordley Moor and Grass Woods

  • the basal stone remnants of primitive dwellings can still be seen above Bordley

  • the ancient remains of cave dwellers have been found in Elbolton Cave, less than two miles from Rylstone

  • scars and holes of uncertain age, arising from ancient mining and quarrying activity, are still to be seen in the Rylstone landscape

  • burial barrows have been unearthed throughout the Dales.

 

The main pre-historic find from Rylstone, which is described in the Pre-History section, is a Tree Trunk Burial within a Bronze-age barrow, located near Scale House, although Raistrick and others have said that further barrows are present around the southern Norton Towers and Scale House area of the township. 

 

There has been a fair amount of industrial activity within Rylstone. At various points between medieval and Victorian times, it has been said (see Long, undated) that up to about 40% of Rylstone parishioners were engaged in non-agricultural activity, including mining, quarrying, carting, weaving, spinning, milling and general service. Four sections present the available evidence on:

  • the Tilery, which was situated above Scale House and active between about 1790 and 1850, providing drainage tiles for the local area.

  • the Old Mills, one of which is situated in the middle of Rylstone village and fed by water from Rylstone Pond. The second, and better documented mill, is sited on the Rylstone side of Hetton Beck, below Hetton village and was shared by both parishes. This was an early corn mill and then a worsted or cotton mill in the early 19th century, after which time it was abandoned. There is confusion about these mills and we present all the available evidence as to their nature and purposes.

  • Rylstone Bloomery. The 'Bloomery method' was an ancient method of producing iron, using iron ore and charcoal. Little is known about Rylstone Bloomery, which is said to have been located near Norton Tower, but we describe what has been found.

  • Spinning, weaving and textile manufacture began as a house-based activity undertaken by both men and women in the Dales using local sheep's wool and imported linen and cotton. Production of woollen and cotton yarns and cloths was increased in the late 17th and 18th centuries and became centred on the local water-powered mills. The roll call of textile occupations in Rylstone's early registers, both bear witness to the scale of this activity, and the fact that it had all but died out by the mid 19th century.

These archaeological pages will be added to as more information comes to light about Rylstone's past.