The medieval borough of Skelton
Creating a medieval borough was a way to try to establish a town. The intention was that people would earn money from crafts and commercial activity, rather than work the land. This would generate cash in the form of taxes for the lord of the borough (de Brus).
The borough of Skelton was established at the gates of the castle with the intention of providing a range of services for the castle inhabitants. At least sixteen properties were all laid out along the west side of a routeway that led away from the castle up to Skelton Green.
In 1301 a merchant, fuller, weaver, potter, tanner, baker, smith, butcher, carpenter and three carriers lived in the borough. Later records include an innkeeper and goldbeater.
This attempt to found a borough at Skelton was ultimately unsuccessful, and the site was slowly abandoned. The area reverted to farmland and now shows the ridge and furrow of medieval ploughing. However, the earthwork remains of houses and property boundaries can still be clearly seen. The Skelton Townscape Heritage project will be working with Tees Archaeology and volunteers better to understand how these earlier inhabitants of Skelton lived.
In May 2017, Tees Archaeology led a two week long survey of the earthworks that are visible in these fields. Each day, staff from Tees Archaeology worked with volunteers from the community, to produce a formal, detailed survey of the “humps and bumps”. This information will then be combined with the geophysical survey data from 2016 (see below), plus aerial photographs and other relevant sources, to allow a better interpretation of these earthworks, and to help with the selection of the locations for excavation activity next year.
The site cabin was delivered, with some difficulty; the activity being overseen by a four-legged health & safety inspector! The first morning’s survey work took place in bitterly cold conditions. But what a change 24 hours made!
A geophysical survey of the area was carried out in November 2016 by a team from the Archaeological Services unit at Durham University. Two techniques were used: geomagnetic and electrical resistance. The images below show some of the activities that were undertaken during the survey work. A copy of the report produced from the survey work is available for inspection in the Project Office.