Map of Ravenstonedale Park, 1561. Reproduced with kind permission of the Lonsdale Estate
A late medieval park, located to the north of Ravenstonedale, encircles a number of earlier earthworks. The remains of a high dry stone wall, which enclosed a park belonging to Lord Wharton, can be dated to 1560. Lord Wharton enlarged his ancestral estate in the mid-16th century, which included purchasing the large manor of Ravenstonedale that was formerly Shap Abbey land in 1547. Machell, in about 1688, notes that the park was never stocked with deer. This seems likely, as Wharton had a deer park at Wharton Hall, and may have instead been for cattle-grazing.
It was enclosed through the ‘voluntary labour’ of tenants who were relocated from their homes for its creation. However, the tenants in fact made a formal legal complaint to the Court of Requests at Westminster, which listed a number of incidents of formal eviction by Lord Wharton’s men and even the imprisonment of some of them. Although the Interim Judgement was in favour of the tenants, eventually Lord Wharton responded to the charges and stated that it was his opinion that the land in question was all demesne land (this would mean that is belonged to him as Lord of the Manor and he could do with it as he wished). He also offered the tenants new ‘improved’ land to compensate for any which they would lose from the area of his new park. This was to his advantage as he could charge them a new rent for their new land. Although confrontations continued, all landholders had agreed to the settlement by 1561.
The park encloses a roughly circular area with an immense dry stone wall over three miles long, which stretched north from St Oswald’s Church to Smardale Bridge. Sections of the wall have been demolished for the construction of a road, while other sections have been reduced in height, however some sections still stand to nine feet. This wall has been surveyed to some degree, and Blackett-Ord states that ‘it differs from most later limestone walls not only by its height, but by its lack of any ‘throughs or top-stones’, as well as ‘an unusual foundation plinth’. A map notes that it was built in 1561 to a height of twelve feet. It appears that some sections have been altered, and repaired with later top stones, ‘that rest on one another diagonally’, but they also ‘protrude inwards two or three inches’.
Although the deer park at Wharton Hall is visible on the Joan Blaeu map of 1662, no park is shown near Ravenstonedale, which might suggest that the park had gone out of use by this time.
Within the park is a scheduled monument comprising of dykes and mounds on either side of Scandal Beck (MYD62399). The site comprises field systems that date from the Bronze Age to the end of the 5th century. There is a suggestion that some of the dykes were still in operation during the mid-16th century, however little archaeological or landscape study has been carried out.
The scheduling also includes 12 medieval pillow mounds. The mounds are referred to as ‘Gaint’s Graves’ on historic maps and by Reverend Nicholls in 1877 who states that, at that time, there were between 20 to 30 of them. It is suggested that they were already in use or created shortly after the granting of the ‘vill’ of Ravenstonedale and Newbiggin to the Gilbertine Priory of Watton in the late 12th century. In 1252 King Henry III granted the monks of Watton a free warren in Ravenstonedale among other areas.
Blackett-Ord, Mark, ‘Art. XI. – Lord Wharton’s deer park walls’, in Transactions of the Cumberland and Westmorland Antiquarian and Archaeological Society, 2, vol 86 (1986), pp. 133-139
Hoyle, R. W., ‘Art. X – Thomas first Lord Wharton’s parks at Ravenstonedale and Wharton’, in Transactions of the Cumberland and Westmorland Antiquarian and Archaeological Society, 2, vol 95 (1995), pp. 111-118
Leslie and Simon Neal, ‘Ravenstonedale Park’, Unpublished Report (2023)
Nicholls, R. (1877) The History and Traditions of Ravenstonedale, Westmorland. Manchester: John Heywood. Available from https://www.google.co.uk/books/edition/The_History_and_Traditions_of_Ravenstone/vbUHAAAAQAAJ?hl=en&gbpv=0 Accessed 19/10/22
Nicolson, J. and Burn, R. (1777) The History and Antiquities of the Counties of Westmorland and Cumberland. Volume 1. London: Strahan and Cadell. Available from https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=zeEuAAAAMAAJ&pg=PP7&source=gbs_selected_pages&cad=2#v=onepage&q&f=false Accessed 19/10/22
Robinson, J. R., Cook, G., Grice, K., Hardwick, B., Minchom, P. and Simpson, M. (2018) Pillow mounds of Westmorland. Unpublished report. Map of Westmorland by Joan Blaeu, printed in 1662 (National Library of Scotland 2022)