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Kingswells, consumption dykes 415m north and 685m NNE of Home Farm

A Scheduled Monument in Kingswells/Sheddocksley/Summerhill, Aberdeen City

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Coordinates

Latitude: 57.1535 / 57°9'12"N

Longitude: -2.2289 / 2°13'44"W

OS Eastings: 386247

OS Northings: 806976

OS Grid: NJ862069

Mapcode National: GBR XJ.P6FB

Mapcode Global: WH9QN.QGSF

Entry Name: Kingswells, consumption dykes 415m N and 685m NNE of Home Farm

Scheduled Date: 19 December 1933

Last Amended: 5 November 2008

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM108

Schedule Class: Cultural

Category: Secular: consumption dyke

Location: Newhills

County: Aberdeen City

Electoral Ward: Kingswells/Sheddocksley/Summerhill

Traditional County: Aberdeenshire

Description

The monument comprises two separate clearance or consumption dykes dating to the mid-19th century AD. The dykes are visible as six upstanding, deliberately truncated drystone wall sections; the W group is surrounded by cultivated land, woodland and amenity paths; the E group survives among amenity parkland, residential boundaries and scrub woodland. The dykes are located just over 2km SSE of Brimmond Hill, on the western outskirts of Aberdeen, and they sit at approximately 155m above sea level.

The monument was first scheduled in December 1933 and is now being rescheduled to bring the scheduling to modern standards.

The westernmost dyke (known as Broad Dyke) comprises four sections, each of which has dressed terminals that include access steps built into the structure of the dyke. In total, Broad Dyke measures approximately 440m long by 10m wide and 2m high and is generally oriented WSW-ENE. Each of the four sections comprises two inward-leaning side walls (built using progressively smaller stones) that contain a rubble core. The upper surface of this rubble core has been formed into a paved way that connects each set of end steps.

The easternmost section of dyke (known as East Dyke) comprises two much smaller sections of walling that are roughly orientated E-W. In total this dyke is approximately 290m long by 2m wide (the E end is approximately 14m wide) and 1m high. A modern access path cuts across the dyke and each terminal facing this path contains the same stepped arrangement as in Broad Dyke. The W end of the W section has no distinctive terminal and fades into modern domestic walling. A bend in the wall to the S and rougher coursing mark the end of this section of the dyke. At the E end of the E section the dyke appears to splay outwards in a less formal, dispersed arrangement as if partly dismantled and the material spread sidewards. The dyke's top paved way (which shares the same uncommon design as in Broad Dyke) converges with the surrounding landscaped ground at its E end, where it is visible at ground level.

The area to be scheduled is irregular on plan, comprising six linear sections, to include the remains described and an area around within which evidence relating to their construction and use may survive, as shown in red on the accompanying map. The scheduling specifically excludes the above-ground elements of modern paths and post-and-wire fencing to allow for their maintenance.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Statement of Scheduling

Cultural Significance

The monument's cultural significance can be expressed as follows:

Intrinsic characteristics

The six sections of consumption dyke survive in a well-preserved state with the majority of the structural elements intact. They survive as deliberate, individual sections, complete with terminal features in the form of a facing wall, in-built steps and a paved way along the upper surface. Together these elements may reflect a development sequence, marking the transition from a simple clearance function to wider amenity use. These consumption dykes therefore have good potential to tell us more about the construction, use and reuse of these types of monuments.

Contextual characteristics

This monument represents a post-medieval version of clearance and improvement works that for millennia have been necessary to improve the conditions for agriculture in Scotland. What separates this monument from other forms of clearance (which traditionally have resulted in heaped stone, located away from tilled land) is that it belongs to a post-medieval phenomenon unique to NE Scotland, the clearance or consumption dyke. Sections of carefully built walling (typically being wider at their base than their original height and faced on both sides) started to appear in the late 18th century across Strathdon as a simple and effective way of improving land. At the same time, these dykes were set out to demarcate land and create boundaries for developing agricultural systems, many of which were pioneered in Aberdeenshire. Over 100 individual sections of consumption dyke are known, and Broad Dyke and East Dyke are two of the largest examples of their class. Their width and height (especially in Broad Dyke) are impressively large and, although both sets share several uncommon architectural features such as the paved ways and in-built steps, early map evidence suggest that Broad Dyke is the earlier of the two systems.

Documentary records show that the first dyke may have been built by the mid-1850s when a Dr Edmonds owned the Kingswells Estate. It is not clear whether Dr Edmonds commissioned their construction and researchers are still debating whether the paved ways and inbuilt access steps at each dyke terminal are a later addition or part of the original scheme. Either way, this combination of amenity as well as agricultural function is an uncommon feature for this type of monument.

Consumption dykes were a common feature of the Eastern Strathdon landscape by the late 19th century and, because of their sheer size and visibility, they become a visually impressive component of the landscape in this part of Scotland.

The monument therefore has good potential to help us understand the development of agriculture after these clearance works, the wider significance of their presence in the Strathdon countryside and the role they have played in shaping the landscapes of NE Scotland today.

Associative characteristics

A visible connection survives today with the builders of these dykes because of their evident quality of build, structural integrity and overall design. This reflects the scale of work, skilled effort and attention to detail of those who commissioned and built them. Their presence as characteristic elements of NE Scotland's landscape continues in the national consciousness today.

National Importance

The monument is of national importance because it has an inherent potential to make a significant contribution to our understanding of the past, in particular the agriculture improvements that took place in the 19th century and the changes in landscape character that these monuments brought. The study of these consumption dykes can help us understand the origins of modern farming, the division of land and the development of boundary features in NE Scotland. The loss of the monument would impede our ability to understand the nature of improvements that were the forerunner to modern farming and the development of landscape in Scotland's NE coastal plain.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Sources

Bibliography

RCAHMS records the monument as NJ90SE 123 while Aberdeen City Council SMR records the monument as NJ80NE 0015 and NJ80NE 0045.

References:

Aberdeen City Council Archaeology Service 2002, CONSUMPTION DYKES SURVEY PROJECT. DRAFT REPORT, Aberdeen: Aberdeen City Council Archaeology Service

Batey C E and Ball J (eds) 1991, 'AN ANNUAL SURVEY OF SCOTTISH ARCHAEOLOGICAL DISCOVERIES, EXCAVATION AND FIELDWORK', Discovery Excav Scot, Edinburgh: Council for Scottish Archaeology.

RCAHMS 2007, IN THE SHADOW OF BENNACHIE: THE FIELD ARCHAEOLOGY OF DONSIDE, ABERDEENSHIRE, Edinburgh: Society of Antiquaries of Scotland.

Shepherd I A G 1986, EXPLORING SCOTLAND'S HERITAGE, GRAMPIAN. Edinburgh: RCAHMS.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

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