Ancient Monuments

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Unenclosed settlement and enclosure, 240m SSW of Three Mile Wood Cottage

A Scheduled Monument in Arbroath West, Letham and Friockheim, Angus

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Latitude: 56.5394 / 56°32'21"N

Longitude: -2.6473 / 2°38'50"W

OS Eastings: 360293

OS Northings: 738786

OS Grid: NO602387

Mapcode National: GBR VT.GTCJ

Mapcode Global: WH8S7.9WNP

Entry Name: Unenclosed settlement and enclosure, 240m SSW of Three Mile Wood Cottage

Scheduled Date: 23 February 1998

Last Amended: 15 February 2022

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM7071

Schedule Class: Cultural

Category: Prehistoric domestic and defensive: enclosure (domestic or defensive)

Location: Arbirlot

County: Angus

Electoral Ward: Arbroath West, Letham and Friockheim

Traditional County: Angus


The monument comprises an unenclosed settlement and rectilinear enclosure of prehistoric date that has been recorded as cropmarks on oblique aerial photography. It comprises the remains of at least seven roundhouses with associated features and a large sub-rectangular settlement enclosure. The monument is located on low-lying arable land approximately 1.2km inland from the east coast of Angus at around 20m above sea level.

The settlement has two main elements: seven roundhouses and a large rectilinear enclosure, as well as other features including linear ditches, small curved features associated with the roundhouses and pits. The roundhouses are represented by dark areas on aerial photography, indicating construction and occupational deposits. The roundhouses measure between 13m and 19m in diameter and are set out in two roughly parallel, northeast to southwest alignments. In close proximity to four of these houses are a further four smaller, curved features, likely associated with occupation and wider activity at the settlement. Around 15m to the southeast of this group of houses is a large sub-rectangular enclosure, measuring 60m by 50m. The enclosure has roughly parallel sides, however, it's northeastern side is significantly longer. Two breaks in the west-northwest and east-southeast of the circuit of the enclosure may represent the position of entrances. Within the enclosure and to its southwestern side there is visible evidence of three pits. Linear features interpreted as ditches are also visible in aerial photography running across the monument in a northeast to southwest alignment.    

The scheduled area is square, measuring 150m by 150m. It includes the remains described above and an area around within which evidence relating to the monument's construction, use and abandonment is expected to survive, as shown in red on the accompanying map. 

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Statement of Scheduling

The national importance of the monument is demonstrated in the following way(s) (see Designations Policy and Selection Guidance, Annex 1, para 17): 

a.   The monument is of national importance because it makes a significant contribution to our understanding or appreciation of the past as an unenclosed settlement with a dense group of round houses, a large rectilinear settlement enclosure and associated features, identified through oblique aerial photography, and dating to the Iron Age. 

b.   The monument retains physical attributes which make a significant contribution to our understanding of the past. The plan of the monument is clear and understandable through the cropmark evidence, and excavations of similar monument suggest that there is likely to be significant potential for the survival of buried archaeological deposits. The monument can significantly add to our understanding of domestic settlement, agriculture and economy during the Iron Age. Additionally, the archaeological remains indicated by the cropmarks are likely to hold evidence for the construction, use and abandonment of the settlement.   

d.   The monument is a particularly good example of an unenclosed settlement with seven roundhouses, a rectilinear settlement enclosure and associated features which suggest that there may be more than one period of activity on the site.

e.   The monument has research potential which could significantly contribute to our understanding or appreciation of the past. The buried remain could provide material for carbon dating which when compared with similar monuments could contribute to a better understanding of the chronological development of settlement during this period of Scottish prehistory. Additionally, environmental material surviving within these buried features, particularly the ditches, could also provide information on diet, agricultural practice, local environment and social status of the occupants as well as contemporary economy and society.

f.   The monument makes a significant contribution to today's landscape and/or our understanding of the historic landscape by providing evidence of settlement patterns density, distribution and size of individual settlements; land use and the extent of human impact on the local environment over time.

Assessment of Cultural Significance  

This statement of national importance has been informed by the following assessment of cultural significance: 

Intrinsic characteristics (how the remains of a site or place contribute to our knowledge of the past) 

This monument has been recorded as cropmarks on oblique aerial photographs and survives as buried deposits below the ploughsoil. The settlement is comprised of seven unenclosed roundhouses, a rectilinear settlement enclosure, curved features associated with the settlement, three pits and a series of interrupted linear ditches.

Roundhouses are a common and well understood monument type that originated in the Bronze Age (c.2400BC-700BC) and continued to be used into the Iron Age (c.700BC-AD500). In 2008, it was estimated around 4,000 roundhouses have been excavated across Britain; that number has increased in the intervening period (Current Archaeology 2008). Scottish examples include Glen Coy, Arran (Canmore ID215297), Ardownie Farm, Angus (Canmore ID68212) and Hawkhill, Lunan Bay, Angus (Canmore ID35807).

The form and shape of the rectilinear enclosure indicates its likely prehistoric origin. Its proximity to the adjacent settlement suggests either that it is broadly contemporary or possibly a different phase of occupation of this site. However, the exact chronological relationship between the round houses and this enclosure remains unclear. Excavations of similar monuments have shown that the origins of this type of settlement was the middle centuries of the 1st millennium BC and many date to the last two centuries BC or first two centuries AD.

Cropmarked archaeological monuments often contain features that are not visible in aerial photographs and can have well preserved stratified layers of archaeological deposits. There is therefore potential for the survival of archaeological features and deposits, including occupation and abandonment debris, artefacts and environmental remains such as charcoal or pollen within the roundhouses and within the ditch of the enclosure. It has the potential to provide information about the function and date of the features and their relationship to each other. Study of the monument's form and construction techniques compared with other similar sites would enhance our understanding of the development sequence of this site. In addition, It has the potential to tell us about the wider prehistoric landscape; development of the settlement over time; the lifestyle of the inhabitants; the nature of the local economy, for example agriculture as well as trade and contact with other contemporary settlements. 

Contextual characteristics (how a site or place relates to its surroundings and/or to our existing knowledge of the past) 

Unenclosed settlements are found across Scotland and are a relatively common monument type. There are around 560 recorded in the National Record of the Historic Environment. Half of these, around 280, are located in Perth and Kinross and Angus and the majority of these are in agricultural areas and known through cropmark evidence. 

Rectilinear settlement enclosures are found across the east and south of Scotland, as well as the north of England. In form this enclosure can be compared to other rectilinear settlements in eastern Scotland, which are typically defined by ditches seldom wider than two metres, have rounded corners and are rarely strictly rectangular. Gateways are often uncovered during the excavation of rectilinear settlements and have been identified, for example, at Carronbridge (scheduled monument number 4093; Canmore ID 65197), Rispain Camp (scheduled monument number 90248; Canmore ID 63122) and Coxhoe West House in County Durham (Haselgrove 1982). However, they are often relatively simple constructions. Rectilinear settlement enclosures tend not to occupy defensive or highly dominant locations.

The monument is located on low lying fertile land close to the Angus coast. This is a relatively open agricultural landscape and close to the monument there are the remains of similar structures and features. Approximately 1km to the southwest of the monument, there lies a dense group of 15 roundhouses and a much earlier, Neolithic long barrow, indicating the long-lived exploitation of this coastal area for settlement, agriculture and commemoration (unenclosed settlement and long barrow, 320m SSW of Nether Kelly – scheduled monument SM6624). Closer by the monument at approximately 150m to the west-northwest there lies the remains of a further group of at least five roundhouses, two enclosures and underground storage structures (souterrains), truncated from the monument by the modern trunk road (enclosure and roundhouse, 220m SE of 6 Mains of Kelly Farm Cottages - scheduled monument SM6622 and Cotton of Balcathie, unenclosed settlement 700m WSW of – scheduled monument SM7068).

The monument is a good representative example of its class and a component of the wider contemporary settlement and agricultural landscape. It therefore has the potential to help us understand more of the nature, development and the interrelationships of prehistoric settlement and related activity, along this section of the Angus coastline.  

Associative characteristics (how a site or place relates to people, events, and/or historic and social movements) 

There are no known associative characteristics that contribute to the site's national importance. 

Source: Historic Environment Scotland



Historic Environment Scotland reference number CANMORE ID 35381 (accessed on 07/12/2021).

Angus HER: Reference NO63NW0006 (accessed on 07/12/2021).

Published Sources

Haselgrove, C (2009). The Traprain Law Environs Project: fieldwork and excavations 2000 – 2004.

Mudie, G et al. (2007). "Excavations on the site of a late Iron Age roundhouse and souterrain, Glen Coy, Brodrick, Isle of Arran' in Scottish Archaeological Journal, Vol. 29 (1), pp.1-29. (accessed online on 18/01/2021)

Rees and Cameron, A R and K. (1998)."A92 road improvement: Dundee to Arbroath (Arbirlot; Barry; Carnoustie; Dundee; Monifieth; Monikie; Panbride parishes), evaluation and excavation" in, Discovery Excav Scot, 1998. pp. 12

Rees, A (2009). "The excavation of an Iron Age unenclosed settlement and Early Historic multiple burial and metalworking area at Hawkhill Bay, Angus", in Tayside and Fife Archaeological Journal Vol. 15. pp. 22-72 (accessed online on 19/1/2021).

Wilson D R (2000). Air Photo Interpretation for Archaeologists. Tempus, Stroud.

Digital Sources

Current Archaeology 2008. Roundhouses. (accessed online on 15/01/2021).


HER/SMR Reference


Source: Historic Environment Scotland

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