Garton on the Wolds

Garton on the Wolds


The rural parish of Garton lies on the eastern edge of the Yorkshire Wolds, a gently rolling landscape situated on the dip-slope above the low-lying ground of Driffield and the Holderness Plain to the south-east. The gentle valleys dissecting this part of the Yorkshire Wolds are known as ‘slacks’ (a Scandinavian place-name element) as at Garton and Wetwang to the west. Natural springs and becks, including a Gypsey Race (distinct from the main stream in the Great Wold Valley), are located in the south-eastern corner of the parish on the low ground close to Little Driffield. These sources of water would have been an important natural resource for humans looking to settle in the area: needed for drinking for themselves and their livestock. As with the rest of the Yorkshire Wolds, we have no evidence for any human activity during the Palaeolithic, but humans have been living, and utilising the natural resources, in this area from the Mesolithic to the modern day, a period of around 10,000 years. 


Mesolithic people led mobile lives, moving between different parts of the landscape as the seasons influenced their lives and the resources they could access. This lifestyle meant that little immediately obvious trace of their activities was left behind, isolated flint scatters are often the only evidence we have. The Mesolithic story of Garton mirrors the activity seen across the Yorkshire Wolds. Worked flints have been found near Garton Grange and Garton Wold, on the higher ground in the northern half of the parish. These flints provide insights into the daily lives of the people moving across this landscape. Flint cores would have been used to create flint tools, knapping flint flakes off the core to create tools such as scrapers and smaller flints, known as microliths. Scrapers were used for cleaning animal skins in the process of making leather, and microliths would have been used as barbs for arrows and other composite tools. 


The gradual adoption of a more settled lifestyle can be seen in the archaeological record from approximately 4000 BC, when the first farming techniques and processes reached Britain and Ireland from continental Europe. People cleared woodland to create spaces to live and farm, and used waterways and the coast to move around the landscape. Across Garton parish there is little evidence for Neolithic settlements; the most commonly recorded sites from this period are funerary monuments. Despite the lack of archaeological evidence for settlements, worked flints found across the area can provide us with an indication of the lives of the Neolithic people living in this landscape. Barbed-and-tanged arrowheads would have been used to hunt animals and birds, while stone axeheads would have been secured to wooden handles and used to chop down trees for wood and to clear areas for cultivation. 

Although there is not much archaeological evidence for the settlements of the Neolithic communities in this area, we know how they were burying their dead. Archaeological excavations on the northern side of the modern A166, between Garton Slack and Wetwang Grange, revealed the remains of a Neolithic long barrow, underneath a Bronze Age round barrow, the raised mounds of which had been ploughed away. Long barrows were constructed during the Early-Middle Neolithic (3400-2400 BC) and were earthen or stone mounds, with ditches along the sides. They were constructed as communal funerary monuments for the burial of early farming communities, and represent the oldest surviving architectural tradition. Long barrows would have been visible monuments in the landscape, acting as commemorative and territorial landmarks. The archaeological evidence does not indicate a settled population from the Neolithic period onwards, over 1000 years separates the construction of the long barrows from their re-use in the Bronze Age. 

The long barrow at Garton Slack was excavated by J.R. Mortimer in 1865 and 1876, and by Brewster in 1965. It measured between 180ft long and 60ft wide, with an outwardly curving southeast-facing façade represented by two conjoining ditches separated by a shallow causeway. In front of this was a later pit, with traces of carbonised wooden flues, interpreted as a cremation furnace. Inhumations were placed just inside the entrance, and a cremation had been placed within a shallow pit halfway along the centre line of the long barrow. Charcoal from the pit was radiocarbon dated to the Early Neolithic. The eastern end of the long barrow, and part of the sides, were enclosed by causewayed ditches, and the southern side had a palisade trench which contained sherds of Windmill Hill pottery and worked flints. 

Another long barrow may have been constructed in the Garton Slack area by the Neolithic communities burying their dead here. It was excavated in 1870-71 by J.R. Mortimer, who revealed a crematorium trench containing burnt human bones, as well as a circular hole with trenches extending north-south, which may have been a façade bedding trench connected with the crematorium trench. 

Bronze Age

Towards the end of the 3rd millennium BC archaeological evidence suggests that new groups of people came to settle in Britain from Europe amongst the existing populations. They brought with them the first metal weapons and jewellery, initially in copper and then in bronze, as well as a style of pottery that archaeologists have called Beaker pottery. The archaeological story for the Bronze Age in Garton matches the rest of the Yorkshire Wolds. There is little evidence within Garton parish for the settlements that these Bronze Age communities lived in. One isolated find of a barbed and tanged flint arrowhead may indicate that people were moving across and using this landscape in the Bronze Age. 

Although we have almost no evidence for the settlements that the Bronze Age communities were living in, we do have evidence of a large reorganisation of the land in the later Bronze Age, suggesting that there may have been a more settled community in this area during that time. A series of large linear earthworks of banks and ditches were constructed across the Yorkshire Wolds, today called the Wold Entrenchments. These earthworks can be seen along the northern boundary of the modern parish, running from the head of Warren Dale towards Sledmere Field Farm, to the west of the parish. They are up to 36m wide and consist of a bank, between 5m and 10m wide and up to 2m high, flanked by ditches on either side, which are between 5m and 7m wide and up to 1.75m deep. The eastern end of the earthwork is thought to mark an original break in the boundary system, with the alignment continued further east by a separate earthwork. People were living more settled lifestyles and were reliant on livestock and crops as the main source of their food, and controlling the limited water supplies on the top of the Yorkshire Wolds may have been necessary, leading to the construction of these vast earthworks. 

As with the Neolithic, the majority of evidence for human activity during the Bronze Age is funerary. During the early Bronze Age people were being buried in individual graves with grave goods of flint and metal weapons, jewellery and Beaker pottery. Round mounds of earth and chalk were then constructed over their graves, creating visible monuments in the immediate landscape. This early Bronze Age landscape contained a large number of these monuments to the deceased, there are almost forty records of possible Bronze Age round barrows in the Garton parish in the Humber Historic Environment Record (although some of these may be duplicates). Excavation and aerial photographs indicate that a greater density of round barrows were sited on the floor of the valley than on the slopes. 

Local corn-merchant and archaeologist J.R. Mortimer excavated many of the early Bronze Age round barrows across Garton parish. At Garton Slack his excavations revealed that underneath one round barrow a central grave contained the skeleton of a male who had been buried with a jet button, a flint knife, and Beaker pottery. Nearby another barrow had been constructed over five crouched burials, with two later crouched burials and four cremations placed within the mound. Grave goods included bone implements, a flint knife, food vessel and incense cup. Both round barrows have been under the plough since Mortimer’s excavations and no upstanding trace of either now survives. As well as being buried with tools, weapons, jewellery, and food vessels, people were also buried with food items, perhaps an indication of some belief in an afterlife, in which the person would need sustenance. Near [placeholder], an inhumation burial had been placed in a grave with a fragment of ox leg bone, while at [placeholder] a youth had been buried with a small flint tool, a piece of ammonite, jet, two bronze rings, and an ornamented food vessel. Between the skull and the food vessel was the remains of a food deposit which contained an ox tooth. 

The excavation of these Bronze Age round barrows across Garton illustrate the changing burial traditions of this period. In the early Bronze Age individuals were buried and a round barrow mound was constructed over their graves as a visible monument on the landscape. In the middle Bronze Age, there was a shift away from this tradition, although some barrows had a small number of cremations placed within them. This marked the final use of round barrows at around 1500 BC. After this, people in the middle Bronze Age began to cremate their dead and bury them in flat cemeteries with no burial mounds, although no evidence of this has been found so far in Garton. 

Iron Age

In contrast to the Bronze Age, there is an apparent explosion in the visibility of the communities living and farming in the Garton area during the Iron Age. Aerial photographs reveal numerous possible Iron Age farming settlements, seen as the cropmarks of ditches, trackways and enclosures. The majority of these cropmarks have yet to be investigated archaeologically, so they cannot be firmly dated to the middle Iron Age, but the form of them is suggestive of at least a later Iron Age and early Roman date. An extended valley settlement and square barrow cemetery at Garton Slack and Wetwang Slack was excavated by T. Brewster in 1965 and 1968-73, in advance of quarrying. At Wetwang Slack a total of eighty round structures were found, spread out over 2km². The majority represent domestic roundhouses, dating from the early to late Iron Age, but some may have been used as tool-stores or shelters for livestock. The earlier phases of the settlement had no permanent boundaries, it was what archaeologists call an ‘open settlement’. The roundhouses that the Iron Age community in this area lived in were loosely clustered into zones within the open settlement, positioned in groups along the valley floor. At Garton Slack it appears that three roundhouses were positioned in a north-south arrangement, and further areas contained clusters of roundhouses. Despite being part of the open settlement, some roundhouses were demarcated by rectangular enclosures: did these distinguish the occupants or the use of this space or were they reserved for special functions such as metalworking or even mortuary use? The archaeological investigations also revealed that most of the roundhouses in the settlement had evidence for internal supports, and varied in diameter from 4-13m. The smallest structures may represent livestock shelters or pens, and those without obvious entrances may have been the outliers for hay-ricks. A trackway marked by intermittent ditches followed the floor of the valley by the middle Iron Age. By the late Iron Age, the settlement and valley had been divided into bounded enclosures by fence-lines, ditches and earthworks, suggesting that there was a significant change in the pattern of land division in this period, with an increasing number of stock enclosures created around a trackway leading to a water source at Elmswell. 

In the later Bronze Age and early Iron Age people across the Yorkshire Wolds were cremating individuals and placing them within earlier Bronze Age round barrows to create a connection with the previous inhabitants of the land. At Garton Slack there are examples of people being cremated and their remains placed within pottery urns, but they were not associated with the earlier Bronze Age barrows. Towards the middle Iron Age, c.400 BC, square barrow cemeteries started appearing across the Yorkshire Wolds. Square barrows were constructed as earth or chalk mounds, surrounded by a ditch. The main burial was placed in a pit and the mound constructed over it. Some elaborate burials from the Yorkshire Wolds are known, such as the ‘chariot’ burials found at Garton and Wetwang Slack. 

From this date until the mid-1st century BC in East Yorkshire, inhumation burials became the standard burial rite, marking a departure from the earlier practice of cremation. Small groups of square barrows or isolated graves contrast with the large cemetery at Garton and Wetwang Slack. Across the Yorkshire Wolds there is little evidence of a clear association between settlements and cemeteries during the Iron Age. Examples of later rectilinear field patterns overlie and ignore earlier square barrow cemeteries, but at Garton Slack and Wetwang Slack the extensive open settlement is contemporary with the cemetery. Lavishly furnished graves were discovered at Wetwang Slack and Garton Station/Kirkburn. At Garton Station excavation revealed four square barrows, the largest measuring 12m by 12.5m with a central grave 5.4m long and 1.25m deep. The dismantled wheels of a chariot had been placed on the floor of the grave and the burial placed over them, orientated north-south, on its back, with legs flexed and head facing east. In another grave at Kirkburn, the body had been covered by a coat of iron mail and two groups of pig bones were found, one over the centre of the iron mail and the other to the north-north-west of the skull. The use of pottery vessels as grave goods was rare at Garton and Wetwang Slack but they are better known from the adjacent open settlement. Some were tall and capacious, others were smaller and may have been individual cooking or drinking vessels. In other cemeteries, these jars often contain the left humerus of a sheep, with the joints frequently showing signs of disarticulation, suggesting that small portion of a funerary feast may have been set aside for the deceased. Front and hind limbs of sheep/goat were also sometimes buried with the deceased. Burials with pig involved parts of the skull or the front limbs and were usually reserved for chariot, weapons or other special burials. The burials with meat were all from adult graves, and a general lack of wider grave goods with juveniles suggests that they may not have been entitled to a funerary feast and mortuary gifts at such a young age. 

The large settlement and cemetery at Garton Slack and Wetwang Slack also provides us with the opportunity to investigate the farming practices of the Iron Age community living there. Animal bones indicate that cattle were raised and slaughtered late in life at Garton Slack, and beef was never included as a grave good in the contemporary cemetery. It is likely that cattle were used for dairy produce and traction, and only late in life were they culled for their meat, hides, bone, horn and sinew. Manure would have also been valuable and used to fertilise the fields. Food placed as an offering in the graves of the cemetery suggests that sheep was the main source of meat, although goat and pig were also present. The Iron Age community at Garton Slack and Wetwang Slack appears to have lived mainly off the livestock that they farmed, with little evidence for bird or fish bones. One limpet shell was found in a middle Iron Age context at Wetwang, and the occasional remains of boar, red and roe deer indicates that some hunting may have occurred on the lower-lying wooded grounds off the Yorkshire Wolds. A carbonised deposit of six-row barley was found at Garton Slack, along with wheat (possibly emmer and spelt), wild oats, and various ‘weed’ species which may have been edible or used for medicinal purposes. Saddle and rotary quern fragments were also found, indicating that the community were grinding wheat, or similar, to make flour. Pear, apple and wild cherry/sloes were also found in environmental samples taken from Garton Slack. 

Analysis of stable carbon and nitrogen isotopes in the bones of the community buried at Garton Slack and Wetwang Slack has also provided information on their diet. The people living in this area during the Iron Age had a diet high in animal protein, suggesting the consumption of meat and dairy products on a frequent basis. Milk and cheese may have been staple food items, although no food residues of these have been found. Analysis of the adult bones indicates that men and women of all ages appeared to be consuming similar diets, with no group getting preferential treatment though the fine condition of teeth in some individuals (including the Wetwang Slack female chariot burial) may suggest a more refined and less abrasive diet, showing small differences in the quality if not the nature of food ingested by these charismatic figures. 


There is plenty of evidence of human activity across the Yorkshire Wolds during the Roman period, and this is matched in the evidence that we have from Garton parish. Cropmarks of enclosures, ditches, roundhouses, and lynchets may relate to settlements dating to the 1st-4th centuries AD, as farming settlements were increasingly brought under Roman control in c.70 AD. The Roman conquest appeared to have no immediate impact on the character and pattern of settlement on the Yorkshire Wolds, although most of the established settlement sites were abandoned by the end of the 2nd century AD, at a time when fields became larger and corn-driers began to appear, indicating that large scale grain production may have been occurring across the region. Roads were constructed across the Yorkshire Wolds, with a possible road from Fridaythorpe to Bridlington running east-west across Garton parish. This would have provided transport links to Malton, Stamford Bridge, the port at Brough-on-Humber, and York. Villa sites began to be established, taking advantage of the fertile soils, water supplies and proximity to the newly established road system. 

Archaeological excavations at Elmswell have revealed a settlement site, occupied from the late Iron Age to the early Anglo-Saxon period, in contrast to other sites which appear to have been abandoned by the end of the 2nd century AD. Extensive cropmarks are visible on aerial photographs, showing a large field system which would have been used for agricultural purposes. Excavations in the 1950s revealed ditches and floors dating from the 2nd-4th centuries AD, with earlier excavations in the 1930s revealing evidence of structures, with rectangular stone floors with postholes, pits, hearths and wattle and daub, with pottery ranging from the 1st-4th centuries AD. A length of mortared wall dating from the late 4th century AD possibly represents a villa, and a possible corn-drying oven. Other finds included objects of bone, glass, jet, bronze and iron, spindle-whorls, querns, and Iron Age and Roman coins. The quern stones indicate that grain was being processed to create flour, and probably would have been grown in the fields surrounding the settlement. 

Excavations at Garton Slack uncovered a Roman farmstead which comprised a series of ditches and a homestead with granaries, a rectangular ditch system and a well. The granaries would have been used to store grain harvested from the surrounding fields. Pottery from the site appears to be from the 2nd– early 3rd centuries AD, suggesting that the settlement may have been abandoned after this period. The well was originally 95ft deep and contained pottery, a headless chalk figurine, fragments of a possible well boring drill, and human and animal bone. 

In contrast to the relative lack of evidence for where and how people were burying their dead across the Yorkshire Wolds in the Roman period, a possible Roman cremation cemetery was found during clay extraction at Garton brickyard in the late 19th century AD. Several cremations in plain pottery urns were revealed, accompanied by burnt wood. Some had been buried in pits, others were covered by stones. J.R. Mortimer investigated the south side of the site in 1884 AD, but found nothing. Further cremations were found by workmen at a later date, the cremation urns were destroyed. Mortimer saw a few sherds of them and classified them as Romano-British. 


The evidence for Anglian and Scandinavian settlements on the Yorkshire Wolds is sparse; they appear to have been located mainly along the wold-edge and around the Great Wold Valley. Settlement sites, farms and field layouts appear to have been completely abandoned at some point between the 4th-12th centuries AD. The excavations at Elmswell uncovered early Anglo-Saxon pottery, indicating that occupation continued in this area during the 5th century AD. Four lime burning pits were excavated near Garton in 1951 AD, Anglo-Saxon pottery was reported to have been found in the bottom of one pit, but these could have been residual, with the lime pits dating to a later period. In addition to the limited archaeological evidence, place-name evidence can provide us with an indication of the people living in this part of the Yorkshire Wolds during this period. Garton’s place name probably derives from the Old English Gara and tun, which meant ‘farmstead at the triangular piece of land’. Elmswell’s place name derives from the Old English words Helm and w(i)ella, which meant ‘Helm’s spring’. 

Prior to their conversion to Christianity in the 7th-8th centuries AD, some of the communities living in the Garton area started burying their dead in the earlier prehistoric barrows, which would have still been visible monuments in the landscape. At Garton Station some of the Iron Age square barrows contained later Anglo-Saxon burials. Thirty-five burials were excavated in 1985 AD, in a small group of eleven graves scattered amongst the Iron Age enclosures. Grave goods included a toilet-set, a gold filigree pendant, silver rings, small glass beads, a set of tools, a box, weapons, a hanging bowl, a bronze cauldron, an iron ladle, knives and jewellery (Stead 1991). The practice of aligning burials on existing linear earthworks or boundary ditches at this time is exemplified in the Sledmere and Driffield region. The Garton I cemetery was located along the rampart of the Double Dyke entrenchment and contained at least fifty-four burials accompanied with Anglo-Saxon pottery fragments, knives, a spearhead, an arrowhead and a bone comb. Close to the northern margin of a Bronze Age round barrow was Garton II cemetery, excavated in 1870-1 AD by J.R. Mortimer (1905). The cemetery consisted of two groups of approximately thirty inhumations each. Group 1 extended along the northern ditch of an earlier earthwork and finds included pottery vessels, annular brooches, gold pendants, bone combs, iron knives, spindle-whorls, buckles and bridle bits. The grave goods indicated that the cemetery was in use between 650-870 AD. A fragmented vessel contained a cremation revealing that at least two burial rites were used in the cemetery. The Group 2 burials had no grave goods, and it has been suggested that these may represent a ‘Christian’ cemetery. 

These burials in, or close to, the earlier prehistoric monuments may represent a deliberate association with the past inhabitants of the region and an assertion of ownership on the area. After conversion to Christianity burials within graveyards associated with churches appear. There is record of a church at Garton-on-the-Wolds in 1086 AD, but there is no record of when it was initially founded. 


The Yorkshire Wolds are rich in evidence for the centuries after the Norman Conquest in 1066 AD. Small villages with stone churches were established across the region. St. Michael’s Church at Garton-on-the-Wolds was mentioned in the Domesday Book of 1086 AD, but the present church building was built c.1132 AD for the Prior of Kirkham Abbey. Garton-on-the-Wolds had a recorded population of seven households in the Domesday Book, putting it in the smallest 40% of settlements recorded in the survey. It was also listed under four owners: the Archbishop of York; and Count Robert of Mortain (three entries). The lands of the Archbishop of York totalled five ploughlands (one ploughland was the area that could be ploughed by eight oxen in one year, approximately 120 acres). The value of the lands was £2.5s. in 1066 AD; it is recorded as waster by 1086 AD. Estates described as waste would not have paid tax. About 10% of all of the estates in the Domesday Book were recorded as waster, most located in the north of England, where they may have been destroyed in fighting after the Conquest. The lands of Count Robert of Mortain included two villagers, four freemen and one priest for the church. There are a total of twelve recorded ploughlands, one lord’s plough team and three men’s plough teams (a plough team was a group of eight oxen, sometimes belonging to the peasants and sometimes to the lord). Two of the three entries for Count Robert describe the lands as waste. 

Conditions on the higher parts of the Yorkshire Wolds were not favourable for farming: the area was almost treeless and there was little shelter for animals or crops. The gently rolling landscape of Garton parish, situated on the dip-slope above the low-lying ground of Driffield and the Holderness Plain to the south-east, and the natural springs in the south-east of the parish, made it (by contrast) a fertile area for agriculture. The remains of ridge and furrow earthworks can be seen on aerial photographs of Garton parish, evidence of the large amount of land that was being cultivated during the medieval period. At Elmswell the medieval landscape appears to have been similar to Driffield, with three open fields and a northerly area of Wold-land, with wet pastures to the south. This was the classic medieval open-field system of agriculture. Compared with the low-lying clay areas beyond, the Yorkshire Wolds was the foremost producer of wheat and barley. In addition to these crops, farmers may have been growing a variety of other crops such as rye, oats, peas, flax and beans. Produce grown in Garton parish would probably have been sent to the nearby market at Driffield, or by land and river to Hull. There is a reference to a mill in Garton in the late 13th century AD, probably a watermill located to the south-east by the springs and becks, used to grind corn to make flour. 

The 14th century AD saw a shift in the agrarian economy as a result of falling demand for grain following the Black Death and a series of epidemics, which drastically reduced the population. Areas devoted to grain production would have ceased to be economically viable as labour costs rose and prices fell. The result of this can be seen in the remains of villages which were either reduced in size or deserted. Earthworks of hollow-ways, toft boundaries, house platforms and trackways are visible to the west and south-east of Garton-on-the-Wolds village, when the village contracted after the 14th century AD. The same can be seen at Elmswell, where the earthworks include a moated site with fishponds. The main access road from the north-west no longer survives, but three internal roadways survive, together with croft banks and house platforms. Investigations in 1951 by C. and E. Grantham of Driffield found medieval foundations and floors, and 13th-14th century AD Staxton Ware pottery fragments. Another medieval settlement is visible as earthworks on aerial photographs to the south of Little Driffield. The earthworks represent crofts, tofts, hollow-ways and a stock enclosure. 

Post-Medieval and Modern

After the Dissolution of the Monasteries between 1536-1541 AD, Elmswell estate reverted back to the Crown. We have good evidence for the story of farming in Garton parish during the post-medieval period, from the accounts of Henry Best of Elmswell, whose uncle, also named Henry Best, bought Elmswell estate in 1597 AD. The ‘Farming and Memorandum Books of Henry Best of Elmswell’ date between 1617 to 1645 AD (see Woodward 1980), and record the different aspects of animal husbandry and arable farming, as well as the details of employees. Best records the different types of sheep, and detailed aspects of sheep husbandry, such as weaning, gelding, breeding and shearing. Best’s accounts also record that oats, barley and peas were the main crops produced on his land, which matches the rest of the Yorkshire Wolds during this period. A lot of land in this period was still open pasture for sheep, or if it was being cultivated for crops it would be rested after a few seasons to slowly revert back to pasture. The provision for pasture in the 17th century AD was well recorded by Best. As well as using wet meadow land, there were enclosure pastures alongside Elmswell and the fallow arable land or temporary leys (possibly on Elmswell Wold to the north). Best also claimed the right to graze 360 sheep “on a sheep rake in Cottam Field”. Disputes arose between Best and Cottam farmers over the right to graze here. “I claim there no propriety in the soil, but a rake for my own, or my tenants’ sheep who farm the demesnes… prescription or possession time immemorial”. While Elmswell estate relied on its neighbours land for grazing large numbers of sheep, it did have access to natural springs. In the late 18th century AD, Wetwang farmers were forced to drive their cattle three miles for water to the Elmswell springs after their natural mere dried up during dry summers. 

Analysis of farm inventories in the Yorkshire Wolds between 1688-1689 AD provides information on thirty-nine farms in the region. The average valuation per farm was £119, the largest valuation for a region in Yorkshire at this time. In contrast, farms in the Holderness region were valued on average at £83, the Plain of York at £72, and the North Yorkshire Moors at £47. The predominance of corn grown on the Yorkshire Wolds, even after the decline in the 14th century AD, can be seen in these records. Every region of Yorkshire had a larger percentage of its valuation in cattle than in any other item; however, on the Yorkshire Wolds 45.5% of a farm’s valuation was for corn, with cattle being only 19%. The average number of sheep per Yorkshire Wolds farm was 96.3, compared to 37.1, 26.2 and 72.5 in Holderness, the Plain of York and the North Yorkshire Moors. In contrast to the number of sheep, the average number of cattle per Yorkshire Wolds farm was only 13.1. 

Approximately 70% of the Yorkshire Wolds was enclosed by parliamentary act between 1760-1819 AD. Enclosure was encouraged by the owners of the larger estates, especially during the French and Napoleonic Wars (1793-1815 AD) when corn prices were high. It was thought that with proper management through careful rotation and more extensive use of manuring that the shallow soils on the Yorkshire Wolds would be capable of more prolonged arable cultivation. Enclosure by Act of Parliament took place in Elmswell in 1770-71 AD, but most of the open fields had already been enclosed by this time, probably during the 16th-17th centuries AD. Garton-on-the-Wolds was enclosed in 1774 AD, after which four farms, Garton Field, Garton Grange, High Field and Low Farm, were built outside the village. The large rectangular fields and Georgian farmhouses surrounded by shelter belts of woodland are a visible legacy of the work of the enclosure commissioners and surveyors. The east-west road from the village to Wetwang was diverted at enclosure and now takes a more northerly line. The main road through the village to Sledmere was already in existence, but it was probably straightened and widened upon enclosure. 

During the 18th-19th centuries AD the parish of Garton was shaped by the Sykes family, based at Sledmere House. Tree plantations were added to the western side of Garton-on-the-Wolds by Christopher Sykes in the late 18th century AD when the Sledmere estate was expanded. Christopher and his wife Elizabeth bought and enclosed huge areas of land for cultivation and planted 1000 acres of trees, in order to make a six mile ride towards Beverley through their own grounds, planting the whole way as an approach to Sledmere House. By the mid-19th century AD the main approaches had been directed away from the parkland and skirted its western and eastern sides. Sir Tatton Sykes, 5th Baronet, restored seventeen churches across the Yorkshire Wolds, including St Michael at Garton-on-the-Wolds between 1856-7 AD. Sir Tatton Sykes restored the church, adding a vestry and decorating the interior. The decoration included an elaborate painted wall decoration to the nave and chancel, with Biblical scenes and months of the year, and a painted barrel vaulted ceiling. 

The Old Hall at Elmswell was one of the first brick buildings in the East Riding of Yorkshire, built by Henry Best in the 1630s. The Old Hall was built at a time when most houses would have been constructed from chalk, stone, mud or timber. Elmswell village was not fully depopulated until the mid-19th century AD and it was described in 1898 AD as “a hamlet, consisting……of a few cottages, several of which are mud-built and thatched, scattered in picturesque confusion….and nestling under the shadow of the Manor House”. It was not until the 19th century AD that other buildings began to be constructed from brick. There were few brickyards on the Yorkshire Wolds, with the bricks for the initial post-enclosure farmsteads brought in from brickyards on the claylands of Holderness, the Vale of York, or the Humber. The site of a brickyard owned by the Sykes family on Station Road, Garton-on-the-Wolds was an exception, and was in operation for much of the 19th -20th centuries AD. The Primitive Methodists built a chapel in Garton-on-the-Wolds in 1824 AD, which was replaced in 1871 AD. The new chapel was constructed from red brick with yellow brick and stone dressings. Manor House Farmhouse (formerly High Field Farm) was built in grey brick, and 19th century AD additions were added to the earlier 18th century AD farmhouses. 

The arrival of the railway across Garton parish had a large impact on the area. The Driffield to Malton line opened in 1853 AD, crossing the sparsely inhabited Yorkshire Wolds and enabling travel from the station at Garton-on-the-Wolds, between Malton and Driffield, and on to Bridlington, Filey and Scarborough. It swiftly became the most common form of transport for most journeys in the late 19th century AD and greatly enabled the transport of goods. Farmers were now able to send their produce further and quicker, and more cheaply, with livestock able to be transported to market without loss of condition, increasing profits. The Driffield to Malton line closed in 1964 AD. 

Little change has occurred to the Garton landscape over the 20th century AD. The remains of World War II pillboxes, bomb craters and underground nissen huts are present across the parish representing both inland defence measures and training facilities, but the area still remains an agricultural landscape. Arable farming dominates the present-day Yorkshire Wolds, with 73% of the farmed area being used for cereals and other arable crops. Large farms now dominate. Elmswell Farm now extends to over 500 hectares and is mainly arable in nature, primarily focused on seed wheat, rape and peas. The remainder of the area includes woodland, permanent pasture and a SSSI adjacent to Driffield Beck. 

Two of the major challenges facing the agricultural industry on the Yorkshire Wolds are climate change and soil conditions. Climate trends suggest increased rainfall, periods of drought, and more frequent storm events. Low groundwater levels in the Yorkshire Wolds are likely to result in lower river levels outside the region as they are spring-fed. The most vulnerable areas for soil erosion are on the steep valley slopes under arable production, particularly when there are high-intensity downpours when crops are establishing or harvesting. Planting green cover crops or permanent grasslands on field margins and slopes can reduce this erosion. New schemes of agricultural management have been introduced in the later 20th century AD to combat these issues. Elmswell Farm was in the Countryside Stewardship Scheme for ten years and is now in the second year of a combined ELS/HLS scheme. Through these schemes areas adjacent to the SSSI have been enhanced and include twelve acres of arable reversion. Fields now have six metre grass margins and hedgerows are sympathetically managed for wildlife.