The Broadwood Project

A community excavation of a Romano-British enclosure and 17th century lime kiln in Thornton in Lonsdale. The site includes a rectangular earthwork enclosure about 65 by 50 metres, surrounded by a single bank. The inside of the enclosure is divided into smaller enclosures and there are the possible remains of buildings. Excavations in 2003 provided evidence that the settlement dates to the Romano-British period. A 17th century lime kiln was also discovered on the site.

The Project

The reason for the Broadwood Project was based around a desire to find firm evidence of the enclosure's function, phasing and dating. It was carried out by members of the Ingleborough Archaeology Group, a voluntary and amateur organisation based in Ingleton, with professional supervision and back-up from Oxford Archaeology North. With the support of the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority's Senior Conservation Archaeologist, the group was able to secure a maximum grant from the Local Heritage Initiative, and a further grant from the North Craven Heritage Trust. The life of the project was from September 2003 to December 2004, and included a three-week excavation. The first practical step, prior to this, had been a full geophysical survey of the site. This revealed that the enclosure contained the following features: four sunken pounds on its eastern side; an oval feature (a hut) in the southern part; and various mounds and hollows in the north-west quadrant. All of this is then bounded by a low embankment with traces of a ditch beyond the south embankment. In addition, geophysics highlighted a prominent positive anomaly just outside the enclosure to the north-west, and the topographic survey showed possible lynchets to the north.

The Excavation

The original intention had been to open up four small trenches within the enclosure. Two were designed to investigate the southern boundary bank and possible ditch, one the hut circle, and one a mound or bank feature in the northern part. Five similar sized trenches were also earmarked for features outside the enclosure. All excavation work was to be carried out manually with no machinery whatsoever.

As excavation proceeded, it became obvious that nine trenches had been an unrealistic target, given time constraints and the unexpected richness of the archaeology revealed in early trenches. Efforts were thus concentrated on the embankment, the hut circle and the magnetic anomaly (a lime kiln).

Embankment- On the south side of the enclosure there was a U-shaped ditch, and the material from this had been used to form the embankment. No trace of any postholes was found on the embankment, and there was no evidence of either a live or dead hedge. It is thought that the bank and external ditch could not have had any defensive function and had probably been designed as a stock control measure.

Hut circle- In the southern part of the enclosure an oval feature, roughly 12m by 8m internally, proved to have been a building (a hut) bounded by a stone wall. Near the centre of the hut was excavated a hard­-packed grey clay pad with a rim. It was roughly circular with a slightly dished cross-section and charcoal specks were collected. Given these characteristics, and its position just off-centre within the hut, the pad has been interpreted as a hearth.

Lime kiln- The high magnetic anomaly to the north-west of the enclosure proved to be a buried lime kiln. Before excavation it appeared on the surface as a low circular earthwork, slightly hollowed, with an extension projecting to the east. It had the appearance of a typical sow, or sod, kiln. Half of its surface extent was excavated to full depth. The internal form and mode of operation of sow kilns were unknown so excavation of this kiln has proved to be of exceptional importance in advancing knowledge of how sow kilns functioned. Because of its significance, archaeomagnetic specialist Professor Mark Noel was brought in and a date range for the kiln's final firing episode was established at 1650-95. This date was backed up by artefact-based evidence. An almost complete ceramic tankard was unearthed within the flue, clearly deposited there after the kiln's abandonment. The tankard was embossed with the royal cipher of William III (1694-1702), and was firmly identified as an excise measure resulting from the Ale Measures Act 1699. The kiln had been last used towards the end of the 17th century and abandoned soon afterwards.

Dating evidence

An impressive amount of pottery sherds were gathered from the excavation. Two small fragments of Roman Samian Ware were found in the upper ditch fill, and on the inside of the external bank two 2nd - 3rd century Black Burnished Ware pots were discovered. These were shattered but more or less complete, and seem to have been deliberately and carefully placed where they were found. Fragments of Romano-British grey ware and Huntcliff pottery were found in the hut, together with part of a quern stone dated to the early Romano-British period. A cow bone was found in the lower ditch fill and this was radiocarbon dated to AD237. Charcoal samples taken from the base layer of the bank and from within the hut produced dates of 20BC, AD81 and AD105. When looked at together, these finds indicates continuous occupation of the enclosure from the late Iron Age to the later years of the Romano-British period.

Phases, chronology and function

Dating evidence suggests that the enclosure was established in the early 1st century AD; a date which, in northern England, places it in the late Iron Age. The early function of the site was stock management and the four internal pounds have been interpreted as stock corrals. Phase 2 was concerned with secondary metal-working in the Romano-British period. The local farmers recognised the opportunity offered by Roman occupation, and its consequent economic growth, to add an industrial element to their life. The start of this phase was in the 2nd century AD.

There is then a long gap in the record at Broadwood with further activity not being recorded until the medieval period. Excavation of a lynchet, and artefacts, suggest agriculture was being practised to the immediate north of the earlier enclosure in phase 3.

The final phase focussed on the lime kiln of the 17th century.


The excavation process itself, and the results of post-excavation analysis, far exceeded initial expectations in terms of the range and quantity of finds, discovery of the kiln, and success in dating the site's chronology. Though it is only a single example of a complex enclosed settlement, it does provide a clue to understanding this type of monument. It is now known that Broadwood pre-dates the Roman military advance to the north, and it demonstrates that the native population here had adopted the rectilinear planform before the advent of Roman occupation. There is now also a far greater knowledge of early lime kilns and almost unique evidence of how such kilns were filled and operated.

Information provided by Dr David Johnson.

Dr David Johnson finding the William III tankard

Dr David Johnson finding the William III tankard

Aerial view of the Broadwood site showing many of the features later excavated

Aerial view of the Broadwood site showing many of the features later excavated

The complete William III tankard, now on display at Craven Museum & Gallery

The complete William III tankard, now on display at Craven Museum & Gallery

Royal cipher of William III on the tankard found at Broadwood

Royal cipher of William III on the tankard found at Broadwood