Chapter 3: The Stone Age

Certainly in the Mesolithic or Middle Stone Age, Lake Pickering was in part still a shallow body of water as witnessed by the discoveries at Seamer Carr at the eastern end of the lake. It is therefore reasonable to suppose that the lower lying land around Gilling was still boggy. Hence for Stone Age remains dating from about 3000BC we must look to the higher ground to the south of the village. The only positive Stone Age remain within the confines of the parish is the Long Barrow, situated just inside the Gilling boundary on Yearsley Moor (Grid reference 6020 7417). According to Pevsner (The Buildings of England...North Yorkshire) this barrow is 150ft long, 40ft wide and 8ft high at its south-east end. Now it is bracken-covered and has several deep holes in the top indicating that in the past it has been ruthlessly excavated. Gill in his Vallis Eboracensis written in 1836 described the excavation of many barrows in the neighbourhood of Yearsley but none of those described seems to refer to this long barrow. Most of the barrows described are conical. However I think it is safe to assume that such a large and prominent feature would not have escaped the attentions of such an avid digger as Canon Greenwell and his like. More recently it was examined by Mrs. S. Brooks M.A. of Grimstone Manor; this within living memory. She found a later Bronze Age cist with a food vessel and flint tools.

The barrow is made of sand. This sand must have been deliberately transported to the site from a considerable distance. There is no surrounding ditch. There was no need if the material piled on top was imported. There was a stone retaining curb surrounding the mound to prevent the sand slipping away. Greenwell noted that when he excavated the barrow all traces of the burial had disappeared. However there was an area of stone paving on the original ground level. One can imagine a prominent site being chosen for the burial of the chief, a stone pavement being laid down, and the body of the chief laid on it. Food vessels would be placed by his side and the whole covered with sand. In some cases a layer of gypsum was placed on top to make the tomb shine out and look more prominent. The position of the site is a few yards from the Aldborough to Malton Roman Road. It leads one to suspect that this road was originally an ancient trackway from the interior to the coast, and that it was Romanised and probably metalled later. Further the track runs along a high ridge which makes it a good candidate for such a way. Regarding the finds, there is a local story that local hoaxers actually inserted objects into the barrow for Mrs. Brooks to find....a rather unkind and irresponsible trick.

In a report to the Yorkshire Archaeological Society, Susan Brooks reported the finding of a stone axe in good condition, about 60 yards north of the Yearsley Long Barrow. It was olive-green in colour, 102mm long, 62mm wide and 32mm thick in its thickest part. It has been identified as being a product of the stone axe factory in the Lake District. The axe could be Neolithic or Early Bronze Age as there was a considerable overlap in the transition from stone to bronze. It is suggested that as it is of such small size its purpose was of a ritual nature. Miss Brooks records that these stone axes were treated with some respect even as late as the 19th century, attributing to them magical properties. A similar axe to this was found by Mr. T. Harrison in a field near Coulton Mill. It is of similar colour and of beautiful workmanship, and again hails from the Langdale area of the Lake District. A third stone axe was found at Cawton, and is in the possession of Mr. Hicks of Cawton.

The fields around Gilling are rich in worked flints. The field at the top of Grimston Lane at the junction with the Hovingham road produces flints when ploughed. One worked flint was found at Low Warren Farm by Mr. G. Wood, and the author found an excellent, razorlike worked flint, probably a scraper, in the lower part of the village about 30 yards west of the milestone (York 18 miles). Considerable finds of Stone Age material were reputed to have been found on the north bank of the Holbeck below Lodgefield Farm. Where these items are I do not know. A good search when fields are ploughed would no doubt produce many more.

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