What Is That Huge Puddle ?

The flooded field, off Church Street in Gargrave, known as the Garris, is an Ancient Monument and given protected status by Historic England. One would ask why? There is nothing which immediately points to what it could have been.
It is thought to be the site of a Saxon moated manor which was annexed by the Danes during their occupation of Northumbria and later fell into the hands of William the Conqueror.

Why is the Garris important?

The Garris on a map of 1909 (Image from Heritage England)

In 1066, William the Conqueror won the Battle of Hastings, but this was only the beginning of the Norman conquest of England.

Fifty years earlier, in 1016, Cnut the Great, son of Sweyn Forkbeard, completed his Danish invasion of England and, like his father, took the throne. But this time, Cnut made sure of his conquest and placed men he could trust in positions of power. One of these men was Thurbrand the Hauld, a powerful Scandinavian lord who had lands in York and controlled most of East Yorkshire. Holderness (Ness of the Hauld) takes its name from this Dane. Under the orders of King Cnut, Thurbrand slaughtered Uhtred of Bebbanburg (Bamburgh), the Anglo- Saxon earl of Northumbria, at a place called Wighill. (The BBC production, the fiction tale of ‘The Last Kingdom”, uses this event to start the series with Uhtred’s son as the hero.) This act of political murder started a blood feud which affected Gargrave itself, as Thurbrand’s grandson Gamel held the Garris manor in Gargrave.

However, in 1069, faced with the imminent threat of the Normans, Thurbrand’s grandsons and Uhtred’s great-grandson, Waltheof, set aside their differences and joined forces. Gamal and his brothers, together with other men from Gargrave, joined the Northern Earls, including Waltheof of Huntingdon, Edwin of Mercia and Morcar, in rebellion against the Normans. Supported by a Danish fleet sent by Cnut the Great’s nephew, Swein Estrithson, King of Denmark, the rebels occupied York and destroyed the Norman castles there.

William the Conqueror retaliated viciously, Harrying the North, destroying buildings, slaughtering livestock, salting the earth to prevent crops from being grown, and burning seed corn. He established the frontier Honour of Skipton to subdue Craven and push the Norman border into Lancashire. The entry for 1086 in the Domesday Book, records Gargrave as wasteland with the added comment of ‘destroyed’.

Domesday Book Entry on Folio LXIX (69)

The last act of the feud, started by Thurbrand in 1016, happened in 1074 when Gamal and most of his close family were murdered by Waltheof’s retainers, during a feast at his brother’s manor in Settrington.

Of the several manors recorded in Gargrave, the Garris is the last in existence. Thorfinn of Ravensworth held a manor which now lies beneath the area of North Street occupied by the Village Hall and Storey’s House. Edwin, Earl of Mercia held manor land where South Street now exists, and the manor of Holme, now occupied by Holme Farm. Extraordinarily little is known about the origins of the Garris, and no genuine archaeological survey documentation has been discovered.

Historical images from Google Earth show how the climate has affected the Garris. The ground appears to be sinking. There is a certain amount of levelling taking place with the banks of the moat collapsing inward. In the relatively near future, all visible evidence may be lost.
We need to record what we can find now before it is too late.

The Garris Mud Patch (Image – Don Slaven)

So What Can We Do?

Having gained permission and a licence from Heritage England to conduct a geophysical survey, the first scan of the site began on Sunday the 6th of February 2022, using Magnetometry, a non-intrusive method of collecting information on the variations the Earth’s magnetic field. Magnetometry reveals what lies beneath the ground without the need to dig down.The next stage, using a drone to make a Photogrammetric survey, took place on Sunday 10th of April 2022. This study needed only the permission of the landowner, which we had been granted. Combined with the information gathered from the magnetometric survey, the results may show what structures may have been on the site and the era when they may have been erected.

Could this be what was here? (Image – Don Slaven)

We will keep you informed of the findings.

We have a great deal of information on the holders of this site from the 11th century and its history from the 12th century, which will be presented at a date not too far in the future.

Keep a lookout for further information on this site and the various Gargrave Community Facebook pages!