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Coats Hill, Roman Signal Station 215m west of Moffat Golf Club clubhouse

A Scheduled Monument in Annandale North, Dumfries and Galloway

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Coordinates

Latitude: 55.3287 / 55°19'43"N

Longitude: -3.4605 / 3°27'37"W

OS Eastings: 307435

OS Northings: 604823

OS Grid: NT074048

Mapcode National: GBR 468T.LM

Mapcode Global: WH5VF.TB98

Entry Name: Coats Hill, Roman Signal Station 215m W of Moffat Golf Club clubhouse

Scheduled Date: 4 March 1977

Last Amended: 13 March 2010

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM3965

Schedule Class: Cultural

Category: Roman: signal station

Location: Kirkpatrick-Juxta

County: Dumfries and Galloway

Electoral Ward: Annandale North

Traditional County: Dumfriesshire

Description

The monument comprises the earthwork remains of a circular enclosure, representing the outer defences of a Roman watchtower. The enclosure stands in rough ground on Moffat Golf Course. The monument was originally scheduled in 1977 but an inadequate area was defined; the present rescheduling rectifies this and improves the associated documentation.

Oval in form, the enclosure is strongly reminiscent of watchtowers found in close proximity to Roman roads. The Roman watchtower sited on nearby White Type Hill is intervisible with this location and the two sites are very similar in size. A series of watchtowers probably followed the line of the Roman road extending north from Carlisle; they are likely to date to the late first or possibly the mid-second century AD. Internally the enclosure measures around 16.4m E to W and 14.2m transversely and is currently defined by a shallow ditch up to 2m wide and 0.2m deep. The ditch is most clearly visible on the WSW and appears to have been accompanied by a low bank that lay on its outer lip. An irregularly shaped hollow lies close to the centre of the enclosure and is the only visible internal feature.

The area to be scheduled is circular on plan, to include the remains described above and an area around them within which material 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

Through excavations we know that Roman watchtowers usually took the form of a square or rectangular observation platform supported by four substantial timber posts. The upper level of the tower comprised an upper room for shelter, cooking and eating and storage of equipment with a surrounding balcony providing an area for observation approximately 10m above ground level. The upper room was probably timber framed with wattle and daub walling, infilling the structural posts. Wattle and daub may also have been used to face the balcony. A V-shaped ditch with an outer bank enclosed the tower with a causeway allowing access from the nearby road. It is likely that the bank was built of upcast from the ditch and faced with turf or was wholly constructed of turf.

This monument displays evidence of its defences and retains intervisibility with the site of the watchtower on White Hill, underlining the functionality and proximity to the line of a major Roman road. This provides an insight into the ways in which Roman roads operated, both as lines of transportation and communication but also as the means to control and monitor movement. The survival of the earthworks indicates high potential for the survival of archaeological remains relating to the date, construction, occupation and subsequent abandonment of the tower, particularly from its ditch.

Contextual characteristics

Roman watchtowers, integral to observation and cross-country communication, closely follow the road network in Scotland. The most complete example of a watchtower system is to be found along the Gask Ridge running through Perth and Kinross and Angus, arguably the earliest surviving man-made Roman frontier. Developed in the late 1st century AD, the Gask Ridge comprises a series of forts and fortlets interconnected by a road protected by a series of regularly positioned watchtowers.

The Roman military usually sited watchtowers to exploit natural topography for widespread views although they also fulfilled a signalling function. Towers usually possessed intervisibility with adjacent towers or larger military garrisons such as fortlets and forts.

The soldiers manning a watchtower were drawn from a nearby fort and probably numbered around eight men. Surviving Roman military records, from sites such as the legionary fortress at Dura Europos in Egypt and from Vindolanda on Hadrian's Wall in England, suggest observation duty was probably one of many tasks on a garrison's roster of fatigues during peacetime.

Associative characteristics

Much of what we know about the appearance of watchtowers is based upon examples carved on Trajan's Column in Rome. Depicting the Emperor Trajan's successful campaigns against the Dacian kingdom in central Europe (dating to the early second century AD), several watchtowers appear as part of a frontier established along the River Danube. Towers played an integral role in the Rhine frontier, which is understood to have developed during the reign of Trajan. Similarly roads and watchtowers played an important role in controlling frontiers in North Africa and the Near East.

National Importance

The monument is of national importance because it has an inherent potential to contribute to our understanding of the past, in particular Roman watchtowers, signalling systems and their relationship with the road network. Surviving as an upstanding earthwork, there is high potential for the preservation of important buried remains, in particular dateable organic remains and artefactual evidence relating to the construction, maintenance, occupation and subsequent abandonment of the tower. Within the enclosure there is potential for the survival of occupation evidence and such remains help inform our understanding of the lives of the Roman soldiers who manned the tower. Organic evidence from the fill of the ditches around the camp is capable of providing information about the contemporary environment at the time of the tower's construction. The loss of the monument would impede our understanding of the placing of such monuments within the landscape, their position in the network of Roman remains in Scotland and the nature, purpose and methodology employed in their construction and use.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Sources

Bibliography

The RCAHMS record the monument as NT00SE 35; the Dumfries and Galloway SMR designation is MDG4633.

References

Breeze, D 2006, Roman Scotland, B.T. Batsford: London

Donaldson, GH 1988, 'Signalling communications and the Roman Imperial Army', Britannia 19, 349-56.

Hanson, WS 1987, Agricola and the Conquest of the North, B.T. Batsford: London.

Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland 1997, Eastern Dumfriesshire: An Archaeological Landscape, The Stationery Office Ltd: Edinburgh.

Woolliscroft, DJ 1993, 'Signalling and the design of the Gask Ridge system', Proc Soc Antiq Scot 123, 291-313.

Woolliscroft, DJ et al 2002, The Roman Frontier on the Gask Ridge, Perth and Kinross: An interim report on the Roman Gask Project 1995-2000, Brit Archaeol Rep Brit Ser 335.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

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