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Battle of Myton
Details of historic terrain
Settlements & townships
The battlefield is divided between the townships of Myton, Milby and Ellenthorpe, with Humberton a little to the north. The latter two settlements are now shrunken to single farms, but in the early 14th century both will have been nucleated settlements, one at Humberton farm, the other adjacent to Ellenthorpe Hall. Undated settlement remains are also recorded at The Knowles, 700m to the north west of Clott Hill Farm.
The rectilinear plan form of Myton village and the place of the church within it is consistent with the layout being, in broad terms, the medieval plan form.
Roads and Bridges
The present Myton bridge is a cast iron construction built in 1868 and rebuilt in 2002, approached by a short causeway on the south side. Before this, from the mid 19th century, depicted immediately to the west of the present bridge in 1854-5, back into the medieval period the Swale was crossed by ferry. Earlier in the medieval period a wooden bridge is recorded, the site of which is believed to have lain about 250 metres downstream of the present bridge. The survival of a small strip of meadow on the north side of the flood bank on the north side of the river here may mean that any earthwork associated with a road leading from the bridge may still survive as an earthwork. The presence of an abandoned river channel (palaeochannel) immediately adjacent must however be kept in mind because this may have affected the exact positioning of the medieval bridge. On the south side of the river there is a slight earthwork leading out of the western end of Myton village street that might prove to be a medieval causeway to the possible bridge location. However when seen the area was under high grass and it was not clearly visible and could prove to have far more recent origins.
The present Ellenthorpe Lane, running west from Clott House Farm, is followed by several township boundaries, suggesting it is an early route, and the alignment is continued eastward along the north boundary of Myton Pastures. It is possible that this was an early road of some significance, leading to Myton bridge, perhaps a continuation of the route from York on the east side of the Ure westward towards Ripon. This would account for the presence of a bridge at Myton in the early 14th century, but might suggest it lay to the north not to the west of the village. The demise of the route would explain why the bridge was not maintained later in the medieval period. If this were correct then it might give a more coherent interpretation of the battle, but at present this is merely conjecture.
The floodplain of the Ure and Swale was almost certainly all meadow in the medieval period because of the regular inundations. Myton Pastures encompasses most of the floodplain of the Swale in this area and can be expected to have been meadow at the time of the battle. The high flood defence banks and associated drains together with the broad bands of trees which encompass Myton pastures on the north west and south sides have totally transformed the character of the landscape, blocking what were almost certainly wide open views across between Coney Hill and Myton village and bridge. In the small area of the preserved meadow on Myton Pastures there is an earthwork of one deep and wide palaeochannel, a former channel of the Swale. Further to the north, in an area now cultivated, there appears to be the slight trace of another former channel. Whether these were abandoned much earlier, or were still in existence in the medieval period will have had a significant influence upon the nature of the battlefield in 1319. On the unploughed pasture there are also a number of other, mainly very straight, shallow and narrow linear depressions but these appear to be drainage ditches of relatively late date.
Immediately to the west of Myton Pastures, on the floodplain next to the Ure was Ellenthorpe Ings and at its eastern end Clough Ings which were still unenclosed as late as the 1840s. On the south side of Myton, on the east side of the Ure, is another extensive area of floodplain, known as Myton Ings.
Much of the higher ground, above the floodplain, on the gravel terraces, silts and clays will have been mainly if not wholly down to open field arable in 1319. In such a low lying landscape as this the very slightest of slopes, bringing the ground above the floodplain will have been significant. There are a few places where fragments of ridge and furrow still survive from these fields. For example, on the south side of Clott Hill Farm barns, on either side of the house, are two small paddocks containing a tiny fragment of earthwork ridge and furrow survives, a tiny fragment of evidence for the medieval open fields of Ellenthorpe.
The hedged fields that have replaced the open fields, meadows and moorland in the Myton area were not generally created by Parliamentary Enclosure in the 18th and 19th centuries, but rather were enclosed by agreement, much of this perhaps taking place considerably earlier. Immediately south of Myton village, as seen in 1854-5, the enclosure pattern is one of long narrow parallel fields indicative of ancient enclosure of open field strips. However in 1319 little more than the tight knot of closes around the settlements is likely to have been enclosed. This was then essentially an open landscape at the time of the battle, only the major rivers providing a significant obstacle to military action.
There are a group of moor field names to the north west of Humberton which indicate that indicate the presence of moorland in the vicinity, which may well have existed as such in the 14th century. All the surrounding townships had tongues of land extending into the area to take a share of this moorland.
It is suggested that Coney Hill, adjacent to Clott Hill Farm, may have been the site of a rabbit warren, but this is not certain as the field name does not specify a warren, just the presence of rabbits.