THE last of three Lottery funded digs has been completed at a WW1 prisoner of war camp in Skipton.

Professional archaeologists joined school children from local schools in a week-long excavation of the area around Raikeswood where up to 550 German officers and around 120 orderlys were held as prisoners of war.

The dig was set up by the Craven and the First World War project using a £97,000 grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund.

The camp had been originally set up as a training camp for the Bradford Pals in 1915. In January 1919 the prisoners were captured and brought in and released in October 1919.

The camp was made up of around 45 wooden barracks, a hospital block and an isolation block.

Outside the double fencing were barracks where the British guards were stationed.

The barracks were auctioned off by the war office in 1920 following the decamping and several of them found homes in the district.

One became the village hall in Tosside until it was replaced in the ‘60s.

Another became the memorial hall, in Rylstone, which remained serviceable until 1996 when it too was replaced.

A roof truss from one of the wooden buildings found its way to Peter Watson’s Garage, in Skipton.

“The roof truss is the only remaining part of the camp that we know about,” said project officer Rob Freeman,.

“We would love to know if any of the buildings which were sold at auction are still around. Maybe some farmers in the district bought them to keep livestock or things in and may still have them,” he added.

Mr Freeman said the week had gone very well and had rounded off the third and final dig perfectly with a couple of exciting finds to add to the collection.

“We were delighted with the finds and the number of visitors on our open day who got involved.

“The prisoners were not allowed to take anything in with them or take anything out so to find anything was brilliant,” Mr Freeman said.

“In terms of artefacts, a German shell fuse found in the garden of Clare Wycherley who lives in Raikeswood Drive, is our star find.

“This was found by builders two weeks ago who were building a wall in Clare’s garden, which is in the area of the camp where the British guard huts were located. “This leads us to believe that it was probably brought back from France as a souvenir item by one of the British soldiers,” said Mr Freeman.

The other exciting military find was a German army uniform button which matched one found in the same area during the group’s first archaeological dig in 2016.

The latest find has been added to a collection of items found which include a cap badge, trench whistle, belt support and buttons from British uniforms.

Mr Freeman said at the start of the digs, five local residents had offered their gardens for exploration, but then a further two came forward.

In one of the five gardens owned by Nina Wardleworth, in Raikeswood Crescent, there was evidence of a path.

“Those houses were built soon after 1920 so the path may be from one of the houses there, or it could be an original path linked to the camp. Experts are going back in a few weeks time to have a look,” he added.

At the dig site on the last two days youngsters unearthed wooden poles and a wooden plank about a metre below ground which are to be carbon dated by dendrocronologists.

“I really want to thank all the residents who have given us permission to dig in their garden and also to RW Wooler who provided the JCB and manpower to dig the large trench in the main dig site.”

Project director John Mitton, head of history at Upper Wharfedale School said the project had been a useful teaching tool.

“It has been fantastic. To be able to get out and explore something like this brings the historic past right to the pupils which is something you can’t do in the classroom.”

A student at the school, Harry Simpson, 15, has been so taken with the project he wants to study the subject at university.

“I enjoy history and I have enjoyed being involved in these digs and also the Big Dig archaeology project, in Hebden. I’d like to take up a subject involving archaeology and history at university,” he said.

As well as funding this summer’s dig, the HLF grant has allowed the project team to develop a new website exploring the history of the camp ( It will also fund an exhibition at Skipton Town Hall throughout November where the finds from the archaeological digs will be on public display.