The village of Upper Denby (West Yorkshire, UK) sits high on the Pennine hills overlooking the Dearne valley. It is connected to the valley bottom town of Denby Dale by a trackway known as Bank Lane. The most steeply sloping section of the lane has been surfaced in Yorkshire setts. In the summer of 2011 I was asked to help Denby Dale First School carry out some small-scale archaeological work on Bank Lane as one element of a larger project aimed at raising pupils; awareness of the history of their community. The project was funded by the East Peak Industrial Heritage Support Programme.
The children worked mainly on clearing earth and debris away to reveal the stonework underneath. This proved a fascinating experience for the children, most of whom would have been happy to go on digging all day if only they’d been allowed. For myself and the other adults involved in the project it also provided a lot of food for thought. The children’s work revealed that the setts had been laid in a different manner in different sections of the trackway. Two of these were visible in the section of Bank Lane which they had cleared up. The first of these had kerbs and gutters to either side of the road bed. The second section did not and the individual setts were much smaller than in the first section.
These differences cased much speculation among the project team. We wanted to know whether this represented the work of two different gangs of workmen, whether the two sections represented two different landlords fulfilling their obligation to mention the road or whether the addition of kerbs and gutters had just proven too expensive and had had to be discontinued. Unfortunately none of these questions could be answered directly: archaeology has a habit of throwing up more questions than it answers.
We couldn’t event give an accurate date for the laying down of the setts. All the finds which were made were relatively modern and were found in layers of soil above the stonework. My best guess is that the Bank Lane was surfaced in the mid-1820s to provide access to the turnpike roads which were being built through the valley bottom at that time.
Dave Weldrake, November 2011
To view a full report of the project as a pdf click on the link below
The historic setting of the village of Upper Denby is described in the Upper Denby Conservation Area Appraisal published by Kirklees Council. Toview a pdf click here.