Archaeology in and around Hickleton is rare for only two chances have arisen in the parish during the last few decades to undertake rescue archaeology and all field walking finds are scattered in many lists and locations. These pages bring together some of this information for the first time.
The first of the rescue digs was in 1983 at St. Wilfrid’s church before the complete underpinning of the whole building, that was suffering from mining subsidence, could disturb any or all archaeological layers.
The second rescue dig in 1992 investigated crop marks in the field near the parish boundary with Goldthorpe in front of constructing the Goldthorpe bypass, which was part of the Dearne Towns Link Road Scheme, linking the M1, Junction 36 with the A1(M) at Junction 37.
Field-walking and metal detecting had been undertaken in an ad hocfashion across the parish and some of these finds are recorded in the Sites and Monuments Record in Sheffield, the Yorkshire Archaeological Journal, with some material finding its way into the museum at Doncaster, much more is in private hands.
Pre-historic archaeology of the Upper Palaeolithic age (up to 10,000 years ago) at Hickleton is represented by a single stone hand axe find.
The Mesolithic age (8,000 - 4,000 BC) at Hickleton is also represented by surface finds only but of a larger group.
This consists of the following sets of field walking finds of five flint scrapers and eight retouched flakes, with four flint scrapers and two retouched flakes close by. Another group of retouched flakes and two scrapers and one retouched flake were found a little distance away. Later field walking produced thirteen flakes and forty flint flakes at both locations. These find sites are situated between the crest of the limestone ridge and the A635 and would have made a favourable temporary campsite, for the site has good views over the Dearne valley and indeed across the Magnesian limestone area to the north. Ten flint scrapers and four retouched blades were found in another group showing Mesolithic activity near this ancient track way. One find consisting of a single microlith was found in the same area within a known enclosure. Flint flakes were also discovered in the field known as Great White Close about a mile further to the west of the track way, but still near the crest of the limestone ridge.
The Neolithic period (4000 - 2400 BC) at Hickleton has two finds from this same area on the eastern parish boundary, a leaf-shaped arrowhead and a transverse arrowhead. Another axe, this time Neolithic, is known from the west side of the parish, having a length of 103 mm, green in colour and consisting of volcanic tuff, group six material and a stone piece spalled from another Neolithic axe head. Finally, a flint knife measuring 55 mm long by 33 mm wide and 8 mm thick was also found in the same area. Faint crop marks of a ‘brickwork’ field pattern are just discernible on an aerial photograph near the cricket field area running obliquely to the present field boundaries. This gives us a glimpse of Neolithic boundaries, the first farmed fields in the Hickleton area.
Bronze Age Archaeology
The Bronze Age (2400 - 700 BC) is represented by a single shard of pottery, although dating is uncertain and it may belong to the Neolithic period. Just across the parish boundary in Marr was a long barrow monument, now ploughed out, but it may have been the origin or focus of two arrow heads found here with a broken lance point as well, dated as Neolithic/Bronze Age by the recorder of the find. Neolithic pots were found full of bones when the long barrow was destroyed in the 1820′s, although the broken pots and a knife tang were discarded, the human bones were buried in the churchyard at Marr parish church.
Iron Age Archaeology
Very little has survived of the Iron Age at Hickleton, the enclosure fields destroying any clear evidence of their way of farming, but, aerial photography has allowed a glimpse of what could be isolated farmsteads in the surrounding landscape around Hickleton.
On the west side of the parish is a crop mark consisting of a possible domestic enclosure with an associated linear feature and in the area of Mesolithic activity on the western side of the parish boundary towards Marr is a complex set of crop marks, one group near the A635 and the other at Barnburgh Cliff. Some of these are thought to be of the later Iron Age or Romano-British date, again hinting at continuity around the track way.
The Romano-British period has no Roman villas or bathhouses at Hickleton. However, field walking finds have produced a hint of their presence as Roman culture blended more into the indigenous population the further northwest of the area from the rich lowland eastern Britain. Again, in the track way region, Roman roof tiles were found and a coin of Constantine I dated 305-6 AD on the ploughed surface within a known enclosure. Also a 4th century AE coin and a scatter of Romano-British pottery and close by a quantity of Romano-British pottery (Dalesware, Derbyshireware and Samianware) and more Roman tile within another known enclosure. Slightly closer to the cliff was a Romano-British spindle whorl made from a shard of pottery. Edging further towards the cliff was a Roman coin Septimius Severus of c193-211 date. On the other side of the parish was found a Sestertius Marc A dated c161-4 AD and further north along the track, just before the main road to Marr, was a collection of pottery shards and also bowl and jar rims. Finally, north of Castle Hill, a scatter of Roman pottery was found.
More Romano-British finds are known for two finds consisting of a bronze oval ring and a bronze enamel brooch, these were found on the eastern side of the parish. A Romano-British bronze bracelet was discovered on Barnburgh Cliff and a bronze strap-end, undated by the recorder, but probably of this period, were found along with Romano-British pottery shards including a Samian DR31 rim, four Greyware rims, one flanged bowl rim, one cheese press and one large bowl rim, along with a bronze Roman coin, too worn for identification.
A find, which has since become known as the ‘Hickleton Hoard’ hit the newspaper headlines; for reported in the South Yorkshire Times and the Dearne Valley Weekender during April 2002 was news of a Roman coin hoard. This hoard consisted of nearly 400 Roman coins that were used as currency between 32BC and AD174 found alongside an old Roman cooking pot. The hoard consisted of 386 coins in all with 347 of them being silver and covered the reign of many Emperors including Nero, Hadrian and Marcus Aurelius. The exact location is unknown, but is believed to be in a field on the west side of Hickleton. The coins have been cleaned and dated by the British Museum, where at the time of the report they were being held.
Anglo-Saxon archaeology is scarce at any location in Yorkshire. At Hickleton it was none existent until the discovery of an Anglo-Saxon Senes B Sceatta coin in 1983 by a metal detectorist. It was lying 2.5 cm below the surface, in woodland, on disturbed soil. It is a rare find, putting Hickleton on the numismatic map. Around this time in the same year another coin was found during the excavations at the church. It was minted in York circa. AD910 and shows activity at the site of the Norman church, however, from information available to date, it does not appear to have evidence of an early Anglo-Saxon timber church, but it does confirm a stone-built structure of AD1050 – 1100.