Ancient Monuments

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Littlehaugh Shiel, fort 400m WSW of

A Scheduled Monument in Duddo, Northumberland

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Latitude: 55.6878 / 55°41'16"N

Longitude: -2.2033 / 2°12'11"W

OS Eastings: 387317

OS Northings: 643835

OS Grid: NT873438

Mapcode National: GBR F21N.SX

Mapcode Global: WH9YV.492H

Entry Name: Littlehaugh Shiel, fort 400m WSW of

Scheduled Date: 26 September 2008

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM12401

Schedule Class: Cultural

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

Location: Coldstream

County: Northumberland

Civil Parish: Duddo

Traditional County: Berwickshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Northumberland


The monument comprises a substantial, trivallate, D-shaped fort that survives as a combination of upstanding earthworks and cropmarks visible on aerial photographs. It lies 400m WSW of Littlehaugh Shiel within an arable field and a small wood, adjacent to steep cliffs overlooking the River Tweed on the south and west. The fort is likely to date to the late prehistoric or early historic period (1st millennia BC/AD) and there is documentary evidence for late medieval re-use of the site as the setting for a fortified house.

The fort measures about 185m by 50m internally within an arc of three ramparts with medial ditches. Within the woodland plantation at the W end of the monument there is a well-preserved section of earthworks with ramparts, composed of earth and stone, that stand up to 3m in height The earthworks continue into the adjacent arable field for a short distance, although the innermost bank and ditch are better preserved than the others. Further east, ploughing has levelled a significant part of the fort's defensive circuit although the cropmarks suggest that traces of the earthworks survive as buried features. (Cropmarks represent negative archaeological features, the fills of which retain more moisture than the surrounding subsoil, resulting in the enhanced growth of the crops above.) The E and W ends of the fort's defensive circuit appear to have terminated short of the cliff edge suggesting the position of entrances into the fort's interior.

17th-century documentary sources describe events at an early 16th-century house, possibly a tower, which is thought to relate to this site. An 1863 notes the discovery of masonry during the construction of drains, believed to have been part of a window, with what may have been holes for iron bars.

The area to be scheduled is irregular on plan to include the fort, its defences and an area around within which evidence relating to its construction, use and subsequent abandonment may survive, as shown in red on the accompanying map. The scheduled area specifically excludes the above-ground elements of all post-and-wire fences and the upper 30cm of the footpath at the S edge of the 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

The monument is a fine example of a multivallate fort surviving as a combination of earthworks and cropmarks. Without excavation it is difficult to determine the monument's date but it is likely that the fort belongs to the late prehistoric or early historic period, although documentary evidence suggests that the earthworks remained sufficiently formidable to be re-used in the 16th century as outer defences for an important house, possibly a tower or some other form of defended dwelling.

The surviving earthworks offer excellent potential for the preservation of archaeological deposits that could inform our understanding of the fort's construction, occupation and abandonment and it is likely that the negative or buried features may also contain similar archaeological deposits. Such deposits could therefore enrich our understanding of the social structures and domestic architecture of the Iron-Age or early-historic people who built and used this monument, as well as defining the character and extent of 16th-century occupation. They could also enhance our knowledge of the character of the local landscape the monument occupied.

Contextual characteristics

The fort exploits the natural topography to considerable effect, relying on steep cliffs overlooking the River Tweed for its S-facing defence, and commands excellent all-round views, further strengthening the defensive function of the monument. In addition, a prominent location may have enhanced contemporary social perceptions of the monument and its occupants. In antiquity, the River Tweed represented an important communication route and a natural boundary. An 1863 description of the monument comments that the fort enjoyed a commanding view over a nearby crossing of the River Tweed.

A wider study of the landscape around the monument could enhance our understanding of how such structures fitted into late prehistoric/early medieval society. Often forts lie in close proximity to a range of smaller sites such as enclosed settlements, which suggests either some form of hierarchy, if the sites can be demonstrated to be of contemporary date, or may reflect a change in social structure and economy and preferred settlement location if the sites have sequential dates. By comparing and contrasting the monument to other nearby contemporary sites (as Iron-Age forts and defended settlements tend to be constructed in close proximity to each other), we can enhance our knowledge of how forts were positioned within the landscape, as well as our understanding of the Iron-Age economy and structure of society in the area. We can use information gained from the preservation and study of this site to gain an insight into the wider knowledge of Iron-Age and possibly early-historic forts across Scotland.

Associative characteristics

Hume of Godscroft, an early 17th-century historian, associates the monument with a violent incident in 1510 involving the Homes of Wedderburn. In Godscoft's history of the House of Douglas and Angus, George Home of Wedderburn set out with a body of men to apprehend a man named Garner residing at Graden. Aware of the imminent danger, Garner evaded capture and attempted to cross the River Tweed to seek safety in England. However, Garner finds the crossing of the River Tweed guarded by the Humes and sought refuge in a house owned by his superior that stood within a small fortification known as the Snook or Snuik. George Home and his men surrounded the house and, with Garner refusing to give himself up, set fire to the doors to gain entry. Hume of Godscroft ends by noting that Garner surrendered and that he was taken to Wedderburn Castle.

Sneuk appears on maps of Scotland by Joan Blaeu and Robert Gordon, which are the earliest maps of Scotland to have survived. The Barony of Snook is mentioned in the Coldstream parish entry for the New Statistical Account of 1845, while the 1st and 2nd editions of the Ordnance Survey 6-inch maps note the area of the fort as Snuke/Sneuk Field.

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 to late prehistoric or early historic forts and late-medieval period fortified dwellings. The fort forms part of the later prehistoric settlement pattern along the River Tweed and its earthworks represent an important and remarkable survival in what is a predominantly arable landscape, subject to intensive cultivation for several centuries. Domestic remains and artefacts from this site offer good potential to inform our understanding of wider prehistoric society, its architecture, how people lived, where they came from, who they had contacts with, and could offer some insight into the overall function of forts and the place they held in the landscape. Our understanding of the late-medieval re-occupation of the fort would be similarly enhanced through structural remains and artefactual evidence. Archaeological deposits preserved beneath ploughed-down ramparts and ditches, the surviving earthworks and the interior of the monument have the potential to inform our understanding of the local environment at the time the fort was occupied and the ways in which prehistoric farmers exploited it. Spatial analysis of similar sites may inform our understanding of patterns of landholding and the expansion of settlement in the late prehistoric period. The loss of this monument would impede our ability to understand the placing of forts within the landscape both in the south-eastern Scottish Borders and across Scotland, our knowledge of Iron-Age/early-historic social structure, economy and building practices, and our awareness of the character of late medieval lordship, land-ownership and defensive architecture along the border with England.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland



RCAHMS record the monument as NT84SE14.


Armit I 2005, CELTIC SCOTLAND, London: Batsford & Historic Scotland.

Home D M 1863, 'Notices of the remains of ancient camps on both banks of the River Tweed, near Milne Graden', HIST BERWICKSHIRE NATUR CLUB, Vol. 4, 1857-62, 454-5.


RCAHMS 1980, THE ARCHAEOLOGICAL SITES AND MONUMENTS OF BERWICKSHIRE DISTRICT, The Archaelogical Sites and Monuments of Scotland Series, 54, No. 469, Edinburgh: Society of Antiquaries of Scotland.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

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