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Oldcastles, fort 350m NNW of

A Scheduled Monument in East Berwickshire, Scottish Borders

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Latitude: 55.8205 / 55°49'13"N

Longitude: -2.2188 / 2°13'7"W

OS Eastings: 386389

OS Northings: 658599

OS Grid: NT863585

Mapcode National: GBR D1Y4.FC

Mapcode Global: WH9Y1.WYMV

Entry Name: Oldcastles, fort 350m NNW of

Scheduled Date: 17 December 1991

Last Amended: 31 March 2009

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM5228

Schedule Class: Cultural

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

Location: Chirnside

County: Scottish Borders

Electoral Ward: East Berwickshire

Traditional County: Berwickshire


The monument comprises the remains of a multi-vallate fort that is likely to date to the later first millennium BC. It survives as a series of concentric ditches and associated archaeological deposits that are visible on oblique aerial photographs. It is located in a mixture of cultivated and afforested land and is bisected by a farm track. It sits in locally high ground overlooking the S bank of the Billie Burn at 110m above sea level. The monument was first scheduled in 1991 but the documentation does not meet modern standards: the present rescheduling rectifies this.

The fort measures 150m at its widest diameter and is enclosed by three concentric ditches that are up to 5m wide. The well-defined breaks in its E and W halves are entrance features and while the W entrance appears as a simple causeway with inturned ditches, the ditches at the E entrance expand outwards and widen its defensive construction. Breaks in the N arc are less coherent as entrance features and may indicate deliberate works or be the result of later impacts. At the E side of the fort's interior, a crescent-shaped ditch suggests the position of an individual house, although no other internal features are visible on the aerial photographs.

The area to be scheduled is circular on plan centred on the fort, to include the remains described and an area around within which evidence relating to their construction, use and abandonment may survive, as shown in red on the accompanying map. The scheduling specifically excludes the above-ground elements of all modern fencing and the top 300mm of the track, 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 structural remains of this fort survive as significant plough-truncated features and represent the extensive earthwork defences of a fortified settlement. Excavation of similar examples in SE Scotland confirms that Oldcastles is likely to contain a range of artefactual and ecofactual material, both within the ditch fills and in the soil horizons of the fort's interior. The three ditches indicate an interesting development sequence here and researchers have suggested that the building of the two outer ditches to enclose an oval space represents one phase while the inner, more circular ditch, encloses the fort's interior as a second phase. The fort therefore has high potential in telling us about the building, use and re-use of these defended settlements and the daily lives of the people who lived here.

Contextual characteristics

Oldcastles is one example from a large and widespread class of Iron-Age enclosed settlement found widely throughout the country and with concentrations in E and SE Scotland. The form of this example has been interpreted as a defended settlement or fort and it belongs to a group of similar monuments located down from the uplands, along the water courses of the Merse. The majority of these forts are Iron Age in origin but earlier and later, early-historic examples are also known.

Such monuments are often situated in prominent rocky outcrops or summits that provide for good defence, a source of building material, greater visibility in the wider landscape, and they avoid the more productive, fertile lower-lying land. In this case, the fort is strategically positioned to cover ground between the Eye Water to the N and the Whiteadder Water to the south. Its position supports the idea that in SE Scotland these monuments were used to influence and control not just the surrounding landuse (in this case a fertile E-W corridor and water course) but also the passage of people northwards over the Lammermuirs and southwards towards the Tweed and Northumbria. Oldcastles sits in a landscape of broadly contemporary monuments that include a settlement 500m north and a palisaded enclosure 900m NNE of this site. This suggests continuity in landuse and settlement here and hints at the possible relationships, hierarchy and status that these forts commanded with wider communities. This monument therefore has the potential to contribute towards our understanding of forts and defended settlements, the reasons for their location and particularly those sited on low rises in or adjacent to the floors of valleys.

Associative characteristics

The name Oldcastles is referred to in the Old Statistical Account of Scotland and although the discovery of building foundations is recorded (for what is referred to as 'the baron's castle') it is not clear which monument or location is being recorded.

National Importance

The monument is of national importance because it has an inherent potential to make a significant addition to the understanding of the past, in particular the study of forts and wider Iron-Age society and economy in SE Scotland. Substantial and extensive archaeological deposits are depicted in aerial photographs and these have the high potential to preserve important artefactual and ecofactual evidence that can help us understand more of the architecture, living conditions, environment and interactions of the people who built the fort and lived here. The analysis of this and other forts in the region can help us understand the factors influencing the placing of these settlements, the wider landholdings to which they belong and social structure and economy during the Iron Age.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland



RCAHMS records the monument as NT85NE 25.


RCAHMS 1980, THE ARCHAEOLOGICAL SITES AND MONUMENTS OF BERWICKSHIRE DISTRICT, BORDERS REGION, The Archaeological Sites and Monuments of Scotland series No. 10, 26, No. 204, Edinburgh: Society of Antiquaries of Scotland.

OSA 1791-9, The Statistical Account of Scotland, drawn up from the communications of the ministers of the different parishes, Sir Sinclair J Edinburgh. 14, 34.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

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