Regionally important archaeological finds unearthed in Swaledale

Phillip Bastow shows Julie Martin the c.2nd century door sill at the Haag Farm site.

An archaeological dig near Fremington – supported by the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority (YDNPA) – has unearthed a “regionally important” Romano-British site.

The major dig, at Hagg Farm, is taking place over two weeks (July 5-19), with more than 25 volunteers helping each day.

“It’s the civil engineering on this site that sets it apart – the quality and size of the flags, walls and door sills,” said on-site archaeologist Tony Liddell.

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“We’ve found ‘high status’ artefacts – such as pottery imported from Gaul and a perfectly-smooth stone cosmetic tablet.  Once everything has been documented, I’m sure that Haag Farm will come to be regarded as a regionally important Romano-British site.”

The YDNPA’s member champion for cultural heritage, Julie Martin, was given a tour of the site this morning.  The project has received a £9,449 grant from the YDNPA’s Sustainable Development Fund.

She said: “This dig is giving us a window into Swaledale’s past.  So many stories are emerging from it.  It is looking increasingly clear, from the pottery that has been found, that there were significant trading links between this settlement and Roman Catterick. I’m really pleased that the SDF is being used to support projects that are enhancing our understanding of the Yorkshire Dales’ cultural heritage.”

The project is being managed by Philip Bastow of the Swaledale and Arkengarthdale Archaeology Group (SWAAG).  He said he could not contain his excitement:

“I had a gut feeling that this was a really, really good site and that we’d not seen anything like this in Swaledale. We’ve found artefacts that suggest important people lived here – my theory is that it was a second century retired Roman Army engineer.

“Whoever shut the door on this settlement or farmstead in the fourth century abandoned it for good.  The great thing is that it has lain untouched – not  trashed by Saxons or Vikings – for us to discover.”

The SWAAG has been trying to work out what lies beneath the humps and bumps of Haag Farm for nearly a decade.  They’ve carried out geophysical surveys – to get a picture of what lies beneath the ground – and have dug test pits, or trenches.  But the only way to really find out was to undertake a large open area excavation.

“That’s when we came to the Sustainable Development Fund for help,” said the SWAAG chairman, David Brooks.  “The grant has enabled us to up our game.  This dig has become a community-wide project and a volunteering exercise, rather than being of interest only to a small group.”

The Haag Farm dig is only the second major archaeological dig to have taken place in Swaledale, the previous dig being in Healaugh in the 1970s.