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Coldingham Loch, fort and settlement 530m south of Biter's Craig

A Scheduled Monument in East Berwickshire, Scottish Borders

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Coordinates

Latitude: 55.9112 / 55°54'40"N

Longitude: -2.1632 / 2°9'47"W

OS Eastings: 389897

OS Northings: 668690

OS Grid: NT898686

Mapcode National: GBR F0B2.GV

Mapcode Global: WH9XP.RP38

Entry Name: Coldingham Loch, fort and settlement 530m S of Biter's Craig

Scheduled Date: 3 April 1962

Last Amended: 5 March 2009

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM367

Schedule Class: Cultural

Category: Prehistoric domestic and defensive: fort (includes hill and promontory fort)

Location: Coldingham

County: Scottish Borders

Electoral Ward: East Berwickshire

Traditional County: Berwickshire

Description

The monument comprises the remains of a fort and later settlement dating to the later prehistoric period (first millennium BC/early centuries AD) and visible as a series of turf-covered stony banks. It lies on a natural rocky knoll at around 150m above sea level, midway between the E shore of Coldingham Loch, around 170m to the SW, and the precipitous Berwickshire coast around 450m to the north. The monument was first scheduled in 1932 but the documentation does not meet present standards: the present rescheduling rectifies this.

The fort is defined on its N side by a natural steep slope, the top of which has been artificially raised to form a rampart. Three further ramparts join this and extend to define the extent of the fort, a D shape on plan. The monument measures around 90m from WSW to ENE by around 72m transversely; its interior measures around 50m from WSW to ENE by 30m transversely. The location of the original entrance appears to be located in the south-east where there is a gap in the extant rampart, one end of which curves back upon itself.

The upstanding remains of a later settlement of round houses lies within the interior and over the ramparts. These consist of turf-covered circuits of stone and earth banks. A RCAHMS survey of 1915 recorded around 17 of these features, which range in diameter from 3m to 7m and cluster around and beyond the S and E ramparts. A number of additional scoops may represent quarrying activity.

The area to be scheduled is irregular in plan, to include the remains described and area around within which evidence relating to the monument's construction and use may survive, as shown in red on the accompanying map.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Statement of Scheduling

Cultural Significance

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

Intrinsic characteristics

The monument is an excellent example of a later prehistoric fort with evidence of subsequent use as a settlement of the early centuries AD. Excavated evidence from comparable sites indicates a potential for multiple phases of use, some of which may predate the construction of the ramparts. The precipitous nature of the topography has discouraged later destructive agricultural practices and the monument is consequently in marginal land and in a good state of preservation. The defensive ramparts are clearly visible as upstanding turf-covered stone banks and, on the N side, these accentuate and enhance the naturally defensive nature of the precipitous rocky topography. The exact nature of the function of forts is not currently well understood but theories include places for seasonal gatherings, perhaps for trade or religion, a focal point for the local community, refuge in times of danger, corrals for stock or permanently occupied places of defence.

It is highly likely that these ramparts overlie buried soils that could contain important information on the environment within which the monument was constructed and contemporary land-use practices. The ditches that would have lain between the ramparts, and other negative features associated with the monument, have the high potential to contain archaeologically significant deposits and important artefactual and ecofactual evidence relating to the use of the monument, the social and economic life of any occupants and the monuments final phase of use and eventual abandonment.

The turf covering of both the ramparts and the later domestic structures is likely to aid the preservation of structural features and the monument has an inherent potential to inform our understanding of later prehistoric defensive architecture and its refinement through time, as well as the architecture of domestic settlement.

Contextual characteristics

The monument is located on a naturally defensive rocky knoll on the Berwickshire coastal plain between the steep sea cliffs of St Abb's Head and Coldingham Loch. There are good views in all directions including to the sea to the north and across Coldingham Loch and Coldingham Moor to the west and south. The need to overlook and control the landscape and access to the knoll was clearly a consideration to the builders of the monument. There are four other small settlements in the vicinity.

Iron-Age forts are found widely throughout Scotland, with a particular concentration noted towards the E coast. SE Scotland, in the area between the Forth and Tyne, contains 90% of the identified Scottish hill forts. Excavation on similar sites suggests that the majority of forts are Iron Age, dating from the mid- to late 1st millennium BC. Some have later reuse into the beginning of the 1st millennium AD, and others may have Bronze-Age or early-historic origins. The apparent development of an enclosed, defensible monument to a more accessible settlement conforms to a known, but not exclusive, pattern of development at such locations and may suggest changes in society that meant the need to live in an enclosed place became less of a priority.

Potential evidence from this particular example, if compared and contrasted against such existing data sets, has the capacity to greatly enhance our knowledge of the use of this specific class of monument and contemporary society and economy in general. In particular, spatial analysis of the distribution pattern of contemporary monuments has the capacity to aid our knowledge of territoriality and power structures in the region in the later prehistoric period. Comparing and contrasting the monument to contemporary sites both within and beyond the region can also inform an understanding of regional identity, economy and society and has the potential to enhance our knowledge of contact with contemporary indigenous societies and those from further afield, such as the Romans.

Associative characteristics

The First Edition Ordnance Survey refers to the monument as 'Camp'. By the time of the Second Edition it is labelled as 'Fort' and on recent maps it is noted as 'Fort and Settlement'. The monument therefore has a long history of recognition as a place of antiquity.

National Importance

The monument is of national importance because it has an inherent capability to make a significant addition to the understanding of the past, in particular later prehistoric defensive domestic sites and their earlier and later use. The monument retains well-preserved structural and field characteristics, relating to at least two phases of use, and the prehistoric ramparts and natural defensive location make a significant contribution to the immediate landscape. The loss or damage of the monument would diminish its potential to contribute to our understanding of society in SE Scotland and further afield in later prehistory.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Sources

Bibliography

RCAHMS records the monument as Coldingham Loch Fort, Settlement, NT86SNE 12. The Scottish Borders Council SMR records the monument as 1060037.

References:

Dent J and McDonald R 1997, EARLY SETTLERS IN THE BORDERS, Scottish Borders Council, 34-6.

Feachem R W 1963b, A GUIDE TO PREHISTORIC SCOTLAND, Batsford: London, 112.

RCAHMS 1980b, THE ARCHAEOLOGICAL SITES AND MONUMENTS OF BERWICKSHIRE DISTRICT, BORDERS REGION, The Archaeological Sites and Monuments of Scotland Series, 10, 24, No. 185, Edinburgh, Society of Antiquaries of Scotland.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

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