It is widely recognised that the area covered by the East Lancashire town of Nelson
has never been the subject of anything but the odd cursory attempt to uncover its
To the south of the town are the Burnley uplands of Thursden, Extwistle, Worsthorne
and Mereclough and within this combined district are a relatively large number of
prehistoric features. These range from Mesolithic transient camps, probable Roman
enclosures and Bronze Age burial barrows through to Medieval water mills.
However, as this upland area skirts Boulsworth Hill to the east the number of known
prehistoric sites diminishes rapidly. Once the tumuli at Monk Hall, and the earthwork
at Burwains Camp (both in Thursden) are left behind the next officially recognised
feature is the Class A hillfort of Castercliffe, on the Nelson and Colne boundary.
THE PROJECT SO FAR
From its inception on the 5th January 2013 the Project has acquired 10 LIDAR tiles
covering the area of Briercliffe (Burnley) and Nelson around the hamlet of Catlow,
Southfield, Castercliffe and Shelfield.
The results from studying the LIDAR images have been nothing short of astounding!
It is fair to say that the results have yet to be officially qualified but there
is firm evidence for the area surveyed to the end of January 2013 containing formerly
unknown features in the shape of at least two minor hillforts, an Iron Age enclosure,
two hilltop enclosures (possibly Bronze Age), a lost Medieval village, two lost Medieval
farmsteads, two square enclosures possibly containing inner buildings (Roman?), a
lost major roadway and numerous other features of interest.
In short - one month has provided a wealth of new archaeological evidence - extrapolation
of this volume of lost features suggests that the LIDAR element of the survey will
rewrite the history of our area!
It is a primary aim of the project to provide valuable evidence to enable a study
of the movement and development of each individual culture through prehistory and,
hopefully, through the early Medieval period.
Although it is apparent from flint working camps that communities of Mesolithic people
moved in and out of our area following the Glacial period it is not clear when the
transitionary adoption of more permanent settlement and land cultivation manifested
within the Neolithic period.
The Neolithic and Bronze Ages are reasonably represented in the Worsthorne area but
it is not clear from the extant evidence what the population levels of these periods
would have been or to what spacial extent their territory covered.
The settlements to the south of Boulsworth Hill (Hebden Bridge etc.) appear to have
practised the art of rock carving - many examples exist on the moorlands in the Yorkshire
district. This is not the case in our subject area and this would suggest that a
boundary existed on the routeway between Hebden Bridge and the peoples within our
50 SQ K
Burial and monument culture indicates certain patterns of prehistoric migration within
Lancashire and the people of our highland area appear to have been distinct from
our lowland coastal neighbours to the west.
What, then, was the level of Neolithic, Bronze and Iron Age occupation of the land
around Burnley, Nelson and Colne?
Where did these people live and farm? Was there a particular ‘Pendle’ culture in
contrast to the known cultures within Lancashire?
What was the level of status within our local population - we assume that the defence
of Castercliffe was built by the Iron Age people of the Nelson and Colne district
to oversee the important routeway passing through here but was this to protect from
invaders or simply to police a valuable trade route?
It is hoped that, in time, these questions will be answered to some degree at least.
The aim of the Project, then, is to facilitate this process as far as is possible
within the constraints of an unfunded venture.
HOME SUPPORT THE PROJECT MONTHLY REPORT
The Survey Area covers some 50 square kilometers
An enclosure (Bronze/Iron Age?) in Nelson. This is one of the many early successes
of the Project