Bolton Priory sheephouse, Priory Raikes

  • Home
  • Bolton Priory sheephouse, Priory Raikes
Historical Environment Record No:
OS Grid Reference:


Reconstruction of Bolton Priory sheephouse, Priory Raikes (c) YDNPA, 2023

Reconstruction of Bolton Priory sheephouse, Priory Raikes (c) YDNPA, 2023

This site was excavated 1952-3 and has been identified as the location of a sheephouse or bercary belonging to Bolton Priory. The sheep farm appears in Bolton Priory’s records from 1290 until the Dissolution. The farm buildings and associated enclosures of the sheephouse lie in a shallow valley taking advantage of the limestone scars on either side. The main area is enclosed by boulder walls and the interior is subdivided into a number of different sized enclosures. On the northern boundary, a rectangular building probably used for housing sheep was excavated measuring around 14.5 by 5.5 metres. There are several accounts of timber being sent to the farm for repairing buildings so it is assumed that this building had timber walls resting on stone foundations. A building of this sort may well have been used to overwinter breeding ewes who could be let out for supervised grazing in the larger enclosure whenever the weather allowed. Other buildings lay on the western side of the enclosure. On the grazing lands around there are also remains of isolated shepherds’ huts and sheepfolds often with run-in walls, all used in the management of the flocks in the summer months. The farm sent a regular supply of ewe’s milk cheese to Bolton Priory and food and other supplies for the shepherds are recorded as being sent back in return.

Bolton Priory sheephouse, Priory Raikes (c) YDNPA, 2023

Bolton Priory sheephouse, Priory Raikes (c) YDNPA, 2023


Moorhouse, Stephen (2003) ‘The anatomy of the Yorkshire Dales: deciphering the medieval landscape’ in Manby, T G et al (eds) (2003) The Archaeology of Yorkshire: an assessment at the beginning of the 21st century. Yorkshire Archaeological Society Occasional Paper No 3 pp298-362 [‘Monastic landscapes’ pp336-341]

Raistrick, Arthur (1956) ‘The great sheephouse at Malham’ Bradford Textile Soc. J. 1954-5 pp70-76

White, Robert (2002) The Yorkshire Dales. A Landscape Through Time. Ilkley: Great Northern Books [‘The monasteries’ pp56-62]


Take Raikes Road north east out of Malham for 2 miles. Then take public footpath on left signed 'Watersinks'. After 3/4 mile, paths divide and site lies in between them.

Public Transport Details

Nearest town/village: Malham. Call Traveline on 0870 608 2 608 to plan your journey. After the welcome message key in 885 for North Yorkshire information.


Rough, stony path. Stone step stile at roadside end.