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Over Cassock, fort and enclosures 40m SSW of

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

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Coordinates

Latitude: 55.3284 / 55°19'42"N

Longitude: -3.2142 / 3°12'51"W

OS Eastings: 323063

OS Northings: 604492

OS Grid: NT230044

Mapcode National: GBR 56ZT.YQ

Mapcode Global: WH6WP.LBNH

Entry Name: Over Cassock, fort and enclosures 40m SSW of

Scheduled Date: 11 August 1989

Last Amended: 13 March 2010

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM4723

Schedule Class: Cultural

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

Location: Eskdalemuir

County: Dumfries and Galloway

Electoral Ward: Annandale East and Eskdale

Traditional County: Dumfriesshire

Description

The monument comprises the upstanding remains of a fort and later enclosures, visible as a series of turf and stone banks and ditches and likely to date to the later prehistoric period. It lies between around 250m and 270m above sea level. The site lies on a promontory formed by the Barr Burn, Fosse Linn and an unnamed stream. The monument was first scheduled in 1989, but an inadequate area was included to protect all of the archaeological remains: the present rescheduling rectifies this and improves the associated documentation.

The monument comprises at least three distinct phases of development. The first and earliest phase is a promontory fort, formed by the construction of a bank and ditch across the neck of the promontory. This encloses an area of around 110m NW-SE by around 105m transversely at its widest point. The rampart bank now measures up to 8.5m in width and 1.2m in height with the external ditch measuring up to 9m in width and 0.6m in depth. An entrance to the fort survives roughly in the centre of the rampart. On the E side, a natural hollow appears to have been utilised in the defences, but it is unclear whether a ditch also existed here. Originally the rampart may have extended further than it currently does and may well have extended round the sides of the promontory. These sections may have been incorporated into or have been overlain by the later construction on the site.

The second phase of construction on the site is a large sub-circular enclosure built within the interior of the earlier fort. This enclosure measures around 83m N-S by around 77m transversely and is bounded by a bank around 6m in width and 1m high. Entrance features survive in both the E and W sides of this enclosure. The SW section of this enclosure is no longer clearly visible due to erosion but features survive that may be sections of the rampart and it is likely that buried deposits still survive as well. A break in the bank on the S side of the enclosure most probably relates to the third phase of construction rather than this phase.

The third phase of construction consists of a small enclosure constructed at the S end of the promontory. This enclosure measures around 27m N-S by around 39m transversely within a bank up to 7m in width by 0.6m in height, with an entrance in its N side. Outside the bank is a ditch up to 5.5m deep by around 0.8m deep. Between the bank and the ditch is a berm up to 1.8m in width. There are no definite internal features within any of the phases of earthwork, although two mounds within the second phase enclosure may have been used as building platforms.

A further stretch of dual banks with a medial ditch runs north from the W side of the site for around 95m. The banks are up to 9m in width and stand up to 2m above the base of the ditch, which is up to around 6m wide. Near the southern end of these banks is also a section of exposed stonework, showing distinct evidence of construction. While the precise relationship of these features to the main section of the site is unclear, it is clear that a relationship does exist, and buried deposits may be able to shed light on the nature of it.

The area to be scheduled is irregular 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. The scheduled area extends up to, but specifically excludes, the post-and-wire fence and drystone dyke that mark the boundary of the E side of the scheduled area. The scheduling also excludes the above-ground elements of those post-and-wire fences and drystone dykes that cross the scheduled area 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

This is a well-preserved example of a multi-phase fort and enclosure site. The form and size of the monument suggests it represents the remains of a defended promontory fort, possibly of Iron-Age date, which was subsequently adapted on at least two occasions to create new enclosures. It is defended by a series of ramparts and ditches, with evidence of entrances in all the visible phases. The individual elements of its design are similar to other prehistoric forts and enclosures in the area. However, the well-preserved condition of the site and the clearly visible multiple phases of construction and use make this example considerably more impressive.

Sufficient remains survive to accurately define the course of the defences and there is good potential for preservation of 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 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 their construction, which could 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 any local variations in domestic architecture and building use.

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 medieval period (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. However, evidence at a number of sites does indicate the first defensive systems begin to appear in the Bronze Age. Iron-Age forts are found widely throughout eastern Dumfries and Galloway, tending to occur on the crests of hills above 250m above sea level. Forts situated on promontories, like this one, are also relatively rare in this part of eastern Dumfriesshire. Its repeated phases of use presents an important opportunity to assess the occupation of this area over hundreds or even thousands of years and the importance of the monument's topographical location.

This monument lies on a promontory created by three water courses. Further outer earthworks associated with the monument stretch to the north-west along the side of the Barr Burn. The monument occupies a rich prehistoric landscape, with other defended settlements all along the River Esk and with numerous other enclosures within few kilometres of this example. It has the capacity to contribute towards a better understanding of the construction and position in the landscape of prehistoric forts and enclosures in this area, particularly promontory forts. The monument also complements other types of prehistoric settlement sites identified elsewhere in Eskdale, to provide a fuller picture 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.

Associative characteristics

The Ordnance Survey 1st and 2nd Edition mapping marks this site as a 'Fort' and indicate the layout of the earthworks present. 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 has an inherent potential to make a significant addition to the understanding of the past, in particular Iron-Age society, the design and construction of promontory forts and enclosures and the nature of Iron-Age domestic, defensive and ritual practice. Domestic remains and artefacts from this well-preserved and complex settlement have the potential to tell us about wider society at the time, its architecture, how people lived, where they came from and who they had contacts with. If later prehistoric in date, it could also 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 people 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 would impede our ability to understand the placing of such monuments within the landscape both in eastern Dumfries and Galloway and across Scotland, as well as our knowledge of Iron-Age social structure, economy, and building practices.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Sources

Bibliography

RCAHMS records the site as NT20SW 5: Over Cassock, fort and enclosures. Dumfries and Galloway SMR list the site as MDG474: Over Cassock / Barr Burn, enclosure and fort.

References:

RCAHMS 1997, Eastern Dumfriesshire: An Archaeological Landscape, Edinburgh: RCAHMS.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

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