Ancient Monuments

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Bankburnfoot, settlement 375m north west of

A Scheduled Monument in Annandale East and Eskdale, Dumfries and Galloway

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Latitude: 55.2236 / 55°13'24"N

Longitude: -3.1571 / 3°9'25"W

OS Eastings: 326489

OS Northings: 592762

OS Grid: NY264927

Mapcode National: GBR 68D1.99

Mapcode Global: WH6X3.GYTX

Entry Name: Bankburnfoot, settlement 375m NW of

Scheduled Date: 2 October 1981

Last Amended: 17 March 2010

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM4333

Schedule Class: Cultural

Category: Prehistoric domestic and defensive: settlement

Location: Westerkirk

County: Dumfries and Galloway

Electoral Ward: Annandale East and Eskdale

Traditional County: Dumfriesshire


The monument comprises the upstanding remains of a prehistoric defended settlement or fort, visible as turf banks and a ditch. It lies north of the River Esk on the SE face of Bank Head Hill near the crest, 220m above sea level. The monument was first scheduled in 1981, but an inadequate area was included to protect all of the archaeological remains: the present rescheduling rectifies this.

The defences consist of two turf banks with a medial ditch. Stonework has been noted on the crest of the banks in the past. The interior of the 'fort' is sub-circular in plan. It measures around 65m NE-SW and covers 0.32ha. There are two entrances, one to the NE and one to the SSW. There may also be a possible earlier entrance to the NW. Within the interior is an unknown feature surviving as a mound.

The area to be scheduled is sub-circular in plan, to include the remains described above and an area around within which evidence relating to the monument's construction, use and abandonment 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 form and size of the monument suggests it represents the remains of a medium-sized defended settlement, probably of Iron-Age date. It is defended by a double ditch and medial bank and has two possible entrances. It is likely to have commanded good views to the south along the River Esk, however this is now obscured by modern forestry. The complex architecture of the fort may indicate a later date for the fort or that there is longevity at the site. For example, multiple phases could be suggested by the possible evidence of an earlier entrance to the north-west, in the outer bank. If this is an entrance then it would have to have gone out of use as there is no break in the ditch or inner bank. However, this could also conceivably be erosion of the outer bank in this section.

The potential exists for the good preservation of remains that can accurately define the course of the defences and archaeological deposits relating to the defensive circuit and settlement within the interior. Potential also exists for the survival of buried land surfaces beneath the banks and for environmental remains, possibly waterlogged, to survive within the fills of the ditches. These can provide information about the environment when the site was constructed and used. The upstanding banks may contain evidence of timber-lacing or a palisade, which would help inform our understanding of how the defences were built.

Preservation potential on such sites can often be high, due to their location being unsuitable for more recent agriculture. The monument therefore has the potential to reveal valuable information about the character of late prehistoric fortifications and potentially local variations in domestic architecture and building use if footings of structures survive in the interior.

Contextual characteristics

Forts were built at various times from at least the end of the late Bronze Age (around 800 BC) until probably the end of the early Middle Age (around 1000 AD). Previous excavation and research has indicated that the majority of forts date to the Iron-Age, ranging from the mid- to late 1st millennium BC, although evidence at a number of sites does indicate the first defensive systems begin to appear in the Bronze Age. The complex architecture of the fort, such as multiple entrances and ramparts, is relatively rare in eastern Dumfries and Galloway.

This monument lies within a forestry plantation on the River Esk. It is around 400m away from another prehistoric defended settlement to the south-east. Forts with multiple defences in this area appear where there is a high density of enclosed sites and the monument occupies a rich prehistoric landscape, with other defended settlements all along the River Esk. It has the capacity to contribute towards a better understanding of prehistoric defended settlements in this area, particularly those sited on the flanks of hills and along the sides of valleys, characteristic of the wider distribution of Iron-Age sites in eastern Dumfries and Galloway. Comparing and contrasting the settlement to other nearby examples (as Iron-Age settlements tend to be constructed in close proximity to each other) can enable an understanding of how such sites are positioned within the landscape, as well as provide enhanced contexts for the understanding of Iron-Age economy and structure of society.

The construction of forts, including size, number of entrances, design of defences and placement in the landscape are all important in understanding this type of monument. By comparing this monument to others of its type we can learn more about prehistoric forts in eastern Dumfries and Galloway and more widely throughout Scotland. The monument also complements the other types of prehistoric settlement sites identified close by in Eskdale, to provide a fuller picture of prehistoric landscape and society in the region over time.

Associative characteristics

The Ordnance Survey 1st and 2nd Edition mapping marks this site as a 'Fort'. This suggests an awareness of the site as a historical place and an attachment of value.

National Importance

This monument is of national importance because it is represents good surviving evidence of later prehistoric fortified settlement, an important element of prehistoric settlement along the river Esk. It has the potential to make a significant contribution to our knowledge of fortifications, contemporary architecture, landuse and society in this locality and the rest of Scotland in the later prehistoric period. Domestic remains and artefacts from settlements have the potential to tell us about wider prehistoric society, its architecture, how people lived, where they came from, who they had contacts with, and also to provide us with evidence of native-Roman interaction. Archaeological deposits preserved beneath the ramparts and in the interior of the monument may provide information about the nature of the contemporary environment and the use prehistoric farmers made of it. Spatial analysis of sites may inform our understanding of patterns of landholding and the expansion of settlement. The loss of this site in this area would affect our future ability to appreciate and understand the prehistoric landscape and its inhabitants.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland



RCAHMS records the site as NY29SE 10.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

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