Ancient Monuments

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Malls Castle, settlement 320m west of Mallscastle

A Scheduled Monument in Annandale North, Dumfries and Galloway

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Latitude: 55.103 / 55°6'10"N

Longitude: -3.3349 / 3°20'5"W

OS Eastings: 314923

OS Northings: 579545

OS Grid: NY149795

Mapcode National: GBR 594F.SJ

Mapcode Global: WH6XL.RZ4V

Entry Name: Malls Castle, settlement 320m W of Mallscastle

Scheduled Date: 31 December 1973

Last Amended: 8 February 2008

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM3361

Schedule Class: Cultural

Category: Prehistoric domestic and defensive: scooped settlement

Location: St Mungo

County: Dumfries and Galloway

Electoral Ward: Annandale North

Traditional County: Dumfriesshire


The monument comprises a scooped settlement of mid- to late Iron-Age date, situated on a gently sloping hillside above the valley of the Water of Milk, 320m west-north-west of Mallscastle Farm.

Set into and just below the crest of the SW-sloping hillside, the grass-covered and roughly circular enclosure measures approximately 60m in diameter within a stony bank 3m wide. The bank is preserved to a height of 2m above the interior and 1m above the exterior, diminishing to 0.4m high in the NE. The interior is slightly scooped, with a slight mound in the E side and a sub-circular raised area about 7m in diameter in the north-west. No entrance to the settlement is visible. A fence and hedge are situated on top of the bank to the west, another fence projects into the N arc of the bank, and the internal face of the W bank is covered in gorse scrub. A large mature oak tree is growing in the interior of the settlement. Stock has caused limited erosion of the bank, particularly to the west.

The area to be scheduled is circular on plan, to include the settlement, its enclosing banks, and an area around within which evidence relating to its construction and use may survive, as shown in red on the accompanying map. The scheduled area excludes the above-ground elements of the fences, 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

Visible as a series of turf covered banks enclosing a slightly hollowed interior, the monument is an excellent example of a large, well-preserved Iron-Age scooped settlement surviving in an area of agricultural activity. The presence within the scooped interior of two possible areas of higher ground suggests that there is space for up to six roundhouses to have occupied the settlement. Although the interior has been cultivated, evidence relating to the domestic structures and economy may be preserved as buried deposits inside the enclosure. The potential exists for an old ground surface or buried soil to remain preserved beneath the perimeter, which would provide evidence of the Iron-Age environment within which the settlement was built. The monument has the potential to further our understanding of Iron-Age farming life through analysis of the structural features of scooped settlements and through the preservation of deposits relating to domestic and agricultural practices.

Contextual characteristics

Scooped settlements are generally defined as being enclosures that are set into sloping ground and have a hollowed-out interior. The interior is often on two levels, and the perimeter defined by a boulder-faced, rubble-cored wall. Where there are two interior levels, the entrance (if defined) usually opens onto the lower level, which probably served as a farmyard. The upper level is usually assumed to be for timber roundhouses. Iron-Age scooped settlements are found widely throughout eastern Dumfriesshire, but they tend to occur in clustered intervals along the sides of valleys. It may be that more were originally located in low-lying areas, but once ploughing and agriculture have removed the perimeter bank the scooped interior is very difficult to recognise, even on aerial photographs. Of the approximate 180 known scooped settlements in the region, the majority enclosed an area of under 0.15ha, with only 60 enclosing an area larger than 0.22ha. Malls Castle is one of the larger examples, enclosing 0.26ha. Spatial analysis of Iron-Age scooped settlements and other settlement sites in the region may further our understanding of settlement location, the structure of society and the Iron Age economy. Information gained from the preservation and study of this site can be used to gain an insight into the wider knowledge of Iron-Age enclosed settlement across Scotland.

Associative characteristics

The name of the site - Malls Castle - suggests that at least since antiquarian times local residents have had an awareness of the significance and value of the site.

National Importance

This monument is of national importance because it is a well-preserved scooped settlement which characterises the wider Iron-Age domestic landscape, forming an intrinsic element of the later prehistoric settlement pattern along the Water of Milk. Domestic remains and artefacts from settlements have the potential to tell us not only about prehistoric architecture, but also about wider prehistoric society, how people lived, where they came from and who they had contacts with. The old ground surfaces sealed by the perimeter banks can provide information about what the contemporary environment looked like and how it was being managed by the prehistoric farmers who lived here. Its loss would impede our ability to understand the placing of such monuments within the landscape both in this region and across Scotland, as well as our knowledge of Iron-Age social structure, economy, and building practices.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland



RCAHMS record the site as NY17NW 9.


ORDNANCE SURVEY (NAME BOOK), Original Name Books of the Ordnance Survey Book No. 45, 21.



Source: Historic Environment Scotland

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