Ancient Monuments

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Tanlawhill Cottages, farmstead 865 m east of

A Scheduled Monument in Annandale North, Dumfries and Galloway

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Latitude: 55.2066 / 55°12'23"N

Longitude: -3.184 / 3°11'2"W

OS Eastings: 324749

OS Northings: 590902

OS Grid: NY247909

Mapcode National: GBR 6867.GC

Mapcode Global: WH6X9.2D2C

Entry Name: Tanlawhill Cottages, farmstead 865 m E of

Scheduled Date: 3 June 1986

Last Amended: 25 March 2010

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM4386

Schedule Class: Cultural

Category: Secular: farmstead

Location: Westerkirk

County: Dumfries and Galloway

Electoral Ward: Annandale North

Traditional County: Dumfriesshire


The monument comprises the remains of a farmstead, visible as a series of earthworks and probably dating to the pre-Improvement period. The earthworks reveal the presence of at least two rectangular buildings showing as turf-covered stone-wall footings, within an associated enclosure. The monument is located on a terrace on a moderate, NE-facing slope around 45m west of the Black Esk and around 175m above sea level. The monument was first scheduled in 1986 but an insufficient area was included to protect the remains. The present rescheduling rectifies this and updates the documentation.

The monument consists of a roughly oval enclosure around 36m NNW-SSE by 16m transversely within a stony bank up to 1.8m thick and 0.3m high. The enclosure is scooped into the slope in the south-west. Within the enclosure are two building platforms, the larger of which measures 10.8m NE-SW by 3.5m internally within substantial stone wall footings up to around 3.5m thick. This has an entrance in its NE end around 1.5m wide. The other building platform is located to the east of the first and is oriented NNW-SSE. It measures 8.6m by 3.5m internally within less substantial stone wall footings. There is an entrance in its NW end that measures around 1.5m wide. On the NE side of the farmstead, adjacent to the large building platform and on the same orientation are the traces of a third possible building, around 4m wide internally and at least 6m long from what remains.

The area to be scheduled is irregular in plan, to include the visible remains and an area around them within which evidence relating to their creation and use may survive, as shown in red on the accompanying map. Specifically excluded from the schedule to allow for their maintenance are the above-ground elements of a post-and-wire fence that crosses the SE part of the scheduled area.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Statement of Scheduling

Cultural Significance

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

Intrinsic characteristics

A farmstead is a small-scale settlement, defined as a farmhouse and associated farm buildings that would have been occupied by one tenant or owner and labourers. The settlement was rural in nature and may have been associated with cultivated fields, the limits of which may be delineated by a head dyke.

Aside from the main farmhouse(s), associated buildings can include barns, byres, kilns, kiln-barns, bull-sheds, cart-sheds, pig sties and mills as well as structures such as hay stack bases, kailyards and flax pits. Such structures may have been constructed of turf, timber or stone with those of turf being particularly vulnerable to later ploughing. The settlement may have been in use for a number of generations and domestic dwellings may have been used for other functions as their condition deteriorated and they were replaced, causing the potential preservation of earlier settlement remains beneath later structures.

The degree of preservation of the structural elements here indicates that land use in the immediate vicinity since the settlement was abandoned has not significantly impacted on the monument. There are also no records of excavation at the monument increasing the likelihood it is undisturbed. The monument has survived well as a series of earthworks and potentially associated deposits and artefacts. These have an inherent potential to inform our knowledge of pre-Improvement rural vernacular architecture and our understanding of domestic living arrangements, potentially over a period of some time. There is also potential for the survival of archaeologically significant deposits within and around the monument. These deposits have an inherent capacity to further our understanding of contemporary society and its associated material culture and can inform our knowledge of social, religious and economic activities that formed the daily lives of the inhabitants.

The potential to indentify the functions of individual buildings within the farmstead can inform our understanding of the organization of rural settlement and further our knowledge of the provision for various domestic, agricultural and industrial practices to be undertaken at such locations. The monument also has the capacity to contribute to our knowledge of the development of rural settlement through time and the reasons for and chronology of its eventual abandonment.

Contextual characteristics

The monument is located on a NE-facing slope overlooking the Black Esk, which lies around 45m downslope. The location is 600m ENE of the confluence of the White Esk with the Black Esk to form the River Esk. A classic location for such settlements is on the break of a slope, which may mark the boundary between arable and pasture. In this case the monument is located on a natural terrace, which has been scooped to augment the level area, on a moderately steep slope. Views are restricted by rising ground to the west and south-west and there are limited views along the course of the river.

The monument is situated within rough pasture. On the opposite side of the Black Esk the land has been afforested, which may have masked the number of archaeological monuments identified. However on the S side there are a number of potentially contemporary monuments. A further scheduled farmstead consisting of three building platforms lies to the north-west around 175m away on a terrace following the same contour as this example. There are also cultivation remains, such as terraces, lazybeds and traces of rig-and-furrow recorded throughout the surrounding area. Vertical aerial photography of Camp Hill around 820m to the ESE shows a system of turf-banked fields apparently laid out over earlier systems of rig-and-furrow. The relationship of the monument with these other traces of the earlier agricultural landscape is at present poorly understood but together they have the potential to inform future research into the rural landscape of the pre-Improvement period.

Survival of rural settlement of a large scale is rare in eastern Dumfries and Galloway, with only two monuments classified as 'fermtouns' identified from physical remains. There are, however, a number of individual farmsteads and buildings, identified through field survey, as here. Hearth tax returns dating to the late 17th century also indicate that the landscape was populated by a number of small townships across both the uplands and lowlands. There has been one excavation of a farmstead in eastern Dumfriesshire, also in Eskdale at Dowglen. This too comprised at least three building platforms. However the excavation did not manage to recover any artefacts or dating evidence. There may often have been no single reason for the abandonment of a settlement, though a number of historically recorded episodes in the area such as conflict and disease may be accountable. A later 17th-century date has been put forward for the abandonment of many of the farmsteads that remain as earthworks when a series of years with poor weather created hardship for many upland farms, resulting in migration. The agricultural improvements of the 18th century, when many small farms were combined into larger units, are also thought to have been the cause of many abandonments. More research is needed on these monument types across Scotland to establish their dates of construction, use and abandonment. This monument has the potential to contribute to such research.

This monument is a significant and rare element in the surviving landscape of pre-Improvement settlement in this area. When compared and contrasted to other pre-Improvement settlement remains it can inform our knowledge of the nature of rural settlement at this time. This can further our understanding of where settlement was located, how the landscape was organised, used and controlled and how it may have evolved over time, as well as the impact of agricultural improvements and climatic deterioration on the landscape and rural population.

Associative characteristics

The farmstead is not depicted on the 1st edition Ordnance Survey published in 1863, on various Buccleuch estate maps from 1810 or on Roy's Military survey of 1747-55. This indicates that the settlement had been abandoned, and upstanding structural elements largely 'removed' some time before the mid-18th century. The monument has an inherent potential to inform our understanding of the practical effects of the 'Improvement' in this part of rural Scotland and the mobile nature of settlement as a result. There is a great potential for archaeological evidence held within this site to inform and complement pre-existing knowledge gained through documentary research.

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 pre-Improvement rural architecture, domestic arrangements, settlement pattern and land use, potentially over some period of time and developing as a consequence. It also has an inherent capacity to contribute to our knowledge of the practical effects that new farming methods had on a lowland rural landscape and population. The unusually good survival of the farmstead in a lowland setting enhances this potential, as much of the artefactual and ecofactual evidence is likely to survive. The loss of this monument would impede our ability to understand better the economic, agricultural and domestic changes in early modern rural eastern Dumfriesshire and Galloway and across Scotland as a result of new farming theory and practice.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland



RCAHMS records this monument as Downey Hill, Farmstead, NY29SW 21. Dumfries and Galloway Sites and Monuments Record note this monument as MDG7716.


RCAHMS, 1997, Eastern Dumfriesshire: An Archaeological Landscape, 89, 240, 316, no. 1460, Edinburgh: Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

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