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Yorkshire Dales stone circle investigated
The Hartlington Stones. Copyright: Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority.
The stones were originally thought to have been part of a corn drying kiln

A circle of stones in the Yorkshire Dales first discovered in 1896 have been uncovered again.

Archaeologists, in Hartlington near Burnsall, have been trying to establish fresh theories as to what the stones were.

Initially it had been thought they might have formed the floor of a corn drying kiln.

The fresh investigation has revealed that the stones might have formed part of an oven but not what kind.

In 2008 members of the Upper Wharfedale Heritage Group and the Ingleborough Archaeology Group excavated a corn drying kiln at Kilnsey.

This investigation prompted archaeologists at the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority to speak with representatives of the Hartlington Parish Meeting to see whether the Hartlington site was similar to the one at Kilnsey.

High temperatures

Now, thanks to financial help from the Authority, a team of volunteers from the Heritage Group have helped local archaeologist Dr David Johnson to uncover the Hartlington stones again.

Dr Johnson said a circle of stones on the site was definitely either a hearth or the base of an oven because the stones had been subjected to temperatures high enough to split most of them in two.

Now we are a little clearer about what was found in 1896 although, as ever, the excavation has thrown up more unanswered questions.
Robert White, Senior Conservation Archaeologist

A flue ran under the hearth and under the floor of the building, distributing hot air from there to the rest of the structure.

"What is not obvious is what it had been used for," he said.

"Corn drying seems out of the question, though, because that process needed low temperatures and gentle heat and the fire was always kept away from the drying floor.

"The team is now currently toying with the idea that it might have been a communal bread oven. Hartlington was part of the ancient parish of Burnsall and it is known that there was such an oven within the parish, but nobody knows where it was.

"The structure is also very near to the site of the medieval manor house and lords of the manor controlled bread baking in the community as they saw it as a source of income for themselves, so the oven's location fits."

The senior conservation archaeologist for the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority, Robert White added: "The archaeological sites of this part of the National Park are particularly poorly recorded and for years this site has been a bit of an enigma.

"Now we are a little clearer about what was found in 1896 although, as ever, the excavation has thrown up more unanswered questions."

Although the remains are not in a good enough condition to leave permanently exposed they will remain uncovered throughout the summer.

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