Dry Stone Walls Man Made Wonders of Yorkshire

Yorkshire has more miles of Dry Stone Wall than any other county and these walls are an outstanding feature of the Dales. It is quite a craft to build such a wall and the techniques have been passed down for generations.


dry-stone-wall by Dave_S. CC BY 2.0

When first considering the list of the man made wonders of Yorkshire I failed to think back to the efforts of our predecessors. So I apologise to those who thought I was ignoring the efforts of farmers and stone masons who have created an enduring feature of our Yorkshire landscape. Our dry stone walls.


photo: Tejvan

One of the attractions of dry stone walls are the rural form. Some straight lines, but mostly free form, twisting across the country.

In recent years, farmers have strengthened stone walls with ordinary wire fence. But, some grants have been made available to keep dry stone walls because of their cultural significance.


Dry Stone Walls and The Enclosure Acts

  • Dry stone walling in Britain stretches back at least 3,500 years to the village of Skara Brae in the Orkneys, and the Iron Age. Yorkshire walls may not be so old and many may have been built as a result of enclosure or enclosure acts of parliament.
    Enclosure and numerous acts of parliament date back to 1201 but the process became a widespread feature of the English agricultural landscape during Tudor times and during the 16th century.
    Enclosure Acts were designed to fence and hedge in land to allow sheep to graze. In many cases this involved removing people from land and breaking up fields and families rights.
    Many landowners became rich through the enclosure of land that previously had been commons with the rights of village folk to use and enjoy them.


Seven Man Made Colours for Yorkshire Dry Stone Walls

The Dales are most famous due to the limestone walls that are so evocative. The light colour is less white than I remember as a child but is that due to my eyesight?
Around the ‘industrial revolution heart lands of Yorkshire’ the millstone grit that was used to build dry stone walls has absorbed the soot and smoke since Victorian times and many of the walls are now pitch (almost satanic) black.
I liked the picture of the moss covered walls (above) and this implies impressive age. Our dry stone walls act as habitats for many plants and creatures.
Light and shadows create many impressive pictures of Yorkshire dry stone walls and of the barns that often accompany them

Dry stone wall

Swaledale Barn, Gunnerside, Yorkshire Dales by freefotouk CC BY-NC 2.0

Shibden Hall Halifax
You can learn some of the techniques of dry stone walling at Shibden Mill in Halifax.


Thornborough Henge Scheduled Ancient Monument

‘As this was an unplanned visit, I hadn’t had the forethought to find the henge on the map first. So I started at Thornborough village and scouted around in all directions until I found something. In fact I found just one of the three substantial henges – each around 200m in diameter – in a close group, spaced around 800m apart on a line from NW to SE. Scattered around are tumuli, other elements in the ancient ceremonial landscape. This makes it one of the most extensive sites of its type identifiable in Britain.

The modern landscape strongly encroaches on the ancient. The area is being quarried for gravel, and the quarry has reached right up to the edge of this henge!’

Thornborough HengeRelated

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