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History Of Ryedale
The earliest evidence of life in Ryedale was discovered in caves at Kirkdale, near Kirkbymoorside, in 1821. Limestone quarrymen discovered bones and teeth, which were identified as the remains of between 200 and 300 hyenas. This hyena’s lair, when excavated, gave up other treasures. Bones and teeth were uncovered from hippopotamus, lion, elephant, woolly rhinoceros, mammoth and reindeer.
The earliest evidence of man in Ryedale goes back to the middle Stone Age, when nomads built a birchwood structure at the eastern side of the Vale of Pickering. When carbon dated, the wood was found to date from 7,500 BC. The Vale of Pickering is the site of the post-glacial Lake Pickering and is important for its archaeology, including Britain’s best known Mesolithic site at Star Carr. Recent excavation at West Heslerton has shown continuous human occupation since approximately 5000BC. A legacy of the Ice Age, this area of Ryedale is now a fertile patchwork of arable and grazing farmland. The Vale of Pickering is the subject of a recent Statement of Significance, which can be downloaded here.
Later, Neolithic people are known to have occupied the Yorkshire Wolds, leaving what is thought to be the largest Neolithic barrow (burial mound) in Britain at Duggleby. The subsequent Bronze Age also left distinctive barrows, this time on the moors at, for example, Rudland Rigg.
Rosedale, and the surrounding area of the North York Moors is a post-industrial landscape created by ironstone mining since Medieval times. Mining stopped in the 1920s, but many industrial ruins can still clearly be seen, and visited, throughout the valley. It is also possible to follow the spectacularly scenic route of the old ironstone railway on foot. For more information you can visit the Rosedale History Society website.
It is thought that the Romans arrived in Ryedale in the latter part of the 1st century AD. As they spread from York, any resistance from the Brigantes, the local farming tribes, was crushed. A fort, Derventio, was established on the bank of the River Derwent, now known as Orchard Fields. Today, visitors can see the layout of the fort and villas by viewing displays on the site. Archaeological excavations have revealed important finds, including pottery, jewellery and coins, the earliest dating back to Nero (54 – 68 AD).
Remains of a Roman road can be seen on Wheeldale Moor, above Stape, this stretch being all that remains of what was once an important link between Malton and Whitby. A Roman camp was established at Cawthorne, near Cropton, in 100AD. A display board gives details of how the site was used, and visitors walking around the plateau are rewarded with wonderful views of Cropton Forest.
Museums in Ryedale
The passing of time in Ryedale can be fully appreciated by visiting the areas museums. Ryedale Folk Museum, at Hutton-le-Hole, has collections dating from pre-history to the 20th century. This is an open air museum, with rescued and restored buildings, including a thatched cruck cottage, demonstrating the lives of Ryedale folk in days gone by. An Elizabethan manor house, the oldest daylight photographic studio in the country and a variety of shops and workshops are some of the many delights of this museum.
Social, domestic and working lives of the 18th century are displayed in Beck Isle Museum at Pickering. Housed in a Regency mansion, there are 24 rooms packed with displays, with workshops and a collection of farming equipment outside. A collection of local photographs by Sidney Smith is a focal point.
Eden Camp, near Malton, is situated in a former Prisoner of War camp and transports the visitor back in time to wartime Britain. The spirit of civilians during the blitz is represented through sights, sounds and even smells, with social, political and military collections from this time. Eden Camp is an excellent day out for visitors of all ages, with assault courses to keep the younger visitors amused.
There are also a number of groups who have an interest in researching local figures who are important regionally, nationally and, in some cases, internationally. These include Francis Nicholson, known as the Father of Watercolour Painting, Joseph Foord, an 18th century hydraulic engineer and and Sir Herbert Read, an anarchist, poet and literary critic. You will find more information about these “Local Heroes” at Ryedale’s museums and in local libraries.