Ancient Monuments

History on the Ground

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Tillyorn, moated homestead 130m east of

A Scheduled Monument in Westhill and District, Aberdeenshire

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Latitude: 57.1126 / 57°6'45"N

Longitude: -2.4067 / 2°24'24"W

OS Eastings: 375465

OS Northings: 802476

OS Grid: NJ754024

Mapcode National: GBR X7.YTT8

Mapcode Global: WH8PN.0H78

Entry Name: Tillyorn, moated homestead 130m E of

Scheduled Date: 4 March 2008

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM12161

Schedule Class: Cultural

Category: Secular: homestead moat

Location: Echt

County: Aberdeenshire

Electoral Ward: Westhill and District

Traditional County: Aberdeenshire


The monument comprises the remains of either a motte or moated homestead. It survives as an earthwork mound encircled by a broad ditch and external bank. The remains lie in a field currently used for light grazing, at the foot of Meikle Tap, in a valley north of the River Dee, at around 70m above sea level.

The earthwork remains are visible both on the ground and on aerial photography. The mound measures around 68m ESE/WNW by around 56m transversely. Despite the probability of the mound having been much more substantial and since eroded by natural and agricultural forces, it still stands at least 2m above the surrounding land surface. The surrounding ditch measures around 9m across and completely encircles the central mound. The external bank flanking the ditch appears around 12.5m in thickness, and survives currently to a height of around 1.5m in the south-west, where a modern field dyke runs over it. The entrance to the monument is uncertain, but is likely to have been on the W side where the construction of a dyke may have obscured it.

The area to be scheduled is a clipped circle, centred on the centre of the earthwork, to include the remains described and an area around within which associated deposits may be expected to 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 similarities between mottes and moated homesteads can sometimes make it difficult to determine the difference without excavation evidence. Mottes represent the earthwork substructures of a type of fortified lordly dwelling that became common across the British Isles from perhaps as early as the later 11th century, and that archaeologists now think to have been still under construction in some parts of Scotland into the 14th century. They are mainly associated with the spread of feudal society, and in Scotland usually relate to attempts to settle an immigrant aristocracy to control the land. Moated homesteads are a type of earthwork enclosure of later medieval date that commonly appears rectilinear on plan, so the oval form of this particular example would be more unusual. The form of the site makes it naturally defensible but we think the primary function was domestic. Sites such as this may well have formed an administrative and economic focal point for the region around them. They may also have filled a multi-functional role, similar to or comprising manor houses, monastic granges, hunting-lodges, strategic garrisoned forts and/or seats of local government and justice, or combinations of the above. A broad ditch surrounds the central mound, which may have been water-filled when the monument was in use. The good survival of this site is particularly notable, as sites like this often do not survive above ground. They are commonly located on good quality agricultural land where cultivation has significantly reduced their form over time. The site is likely to retain deposits and features sealed by the monument, and so can contribute to our understanding of how people built these types of site and their wider significance during the later medieval period. The surrounding ditch, if formerly filled with water, may still contain waterlogged deposits in its subterranean layers, giving potential for the survival of organic material. It is also possible that the mound contains deposits related to the structures that formerly stood upon the site. The structures were likely timber-built, and so have been lost to decay above ground, but may survive within the mound itself.

Contextual characteristics

Mottes and moated homesteads fall into a group of monuments classed as 'earthwork castles'. This group of monuments represent the local centres of lordship during the feudalisation of Scotland, and while both belong to the later medieval period, moated homesteads are certainly later than the earliest mottes, which in Scotland date from the 12th century. The number of moated homesteads in Scotland is significantly less than other areas of Britain, with only 122 known Scottish sites. Despite this low overall number, the construction and occupation of moated homesteads continued for a longer period here than most, if not all, of the rest of Europe. Of the known sites in Scotland, the largest concentrations are in the NE and SW of the country, and in both these areas, the distribution of the sites reflects the advance of royal control in the region through military campaigns. Thirty-three of these are found in the former Grampian region, and Aberdeenshire has one of the highest concentrations, although there is some difficulty in making a distinction between moated homesteads and mottes in this area, as in this example. This pronounced concentration includes the mottes at Heugh, Caskieben, Lumphanan and Fichlie and the moated homesteads at Old Rayne (very similar to the Tillyorn example), Leslie Castle and the Castle of Esslemont among others. The monument has the potential to inform us not only of the process of construction and use of such sites, feudalisation across Scotland at the time, and the role of this type of site in it, but also more specifically the feudalisation of this smaller area in greater detail, thanks to the concentration of similar sites nearby. It also has potential to provide information on the differences between mottes and moated homesteads in this area, and may inform us about other sites where the type remains uncertain.

National Importance

The monument is of national importance because it has an inherent potential to contribute to our understanding of the past, in particular the construction techniques and design of mottes or moated homesteads, the daily lives of the people who occupied them and the differences between the two site types. It also has the potential to inform our understanding about the feudalisation process in Scotland, particularly in the north-east. Spatial analysis of this and other related sites can tell us about the location of such sites within the landscape and the relationships between them.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland



RCAHMS records the monument as NJ70SE 1.


McNeill P G B and MacQueen H L 1996, ATLAS OF SCOTTISH HISTORY TO 1707, Edinburgh.

Yeoman P 1995, MEDIEVAL SCOTLAND: AN ARCHAEOLOGICAL PERSPECTIVE, London, B T Batsford Ltd/Historic Scotland.


RCAHMS 2007, IN THE SHADOW OF BENNACHIE: THE FIELD ARCHAEOLOGY OF DONSIDE, ABERDEENSHIRE, Edinburgh: Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland.

ORDNANCE SURVEY NAME BOOK (ABERDEENSHIRE) 1866, Original Name Books of the Ordnance Survey, Book No. 28, 49.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

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