Ancient Monuments

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Bellshiel, fort 540m north of

A Scheduled Monument in Mid Berwickshire, Scottish Borders

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Latitude: 55.7417 / 55°44'30"N

Longitude: -2.2882 / 2°17'17"W

OS Eastings: 382005

OS Northings: 649847

OS Grid: NT820498

Mapcode National: GBR D2G1.DL

Mapcode Global: WH8X8.TYL7

Entry Name: Bellshiel, fort 540m N of

Scheduled Date: 5 January 2009

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM12536

Schedule Class: Cultural

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

Location: Edrom

County: Scottish Borders

Electoral Ward: Mid Berwickshire

Traditional County: Berwickshire


The monument comprises the remains of a multi-vallate fort, dated to the Iron Age (late centuries BC/early centuries AD), and extant as cropmarks visible within cultivated land. The monument is located at 75m above sea level on a gentle N-facing slope around 1.9km ESE of Blackadder Water.

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 visible traces of the monument consist of the partial circuits of three concentric ditches. The outermost ditch has a diameter of between 90m and 100m and measures between 2m and 5m in width. It is incomplete on the E side where there is a gap of 52m. It is likely that the entrance was located in this general area as there is a corresponding gap of around 11m within the circuit of the middle ditch at this point. The middle ditch is set between 6m and 8m inside the outer ditch and measures between 2m and 5m in width. The innermost ditch is semi-circular and is set parallel to the middle ditch in the W interior of the monument, at a distance of between 6m and 8m. It is generally narrower and measures between 2m and 3m in width. Within the E interior of the monument is a kidney bean-shaped negative feature around 29m in length from ENE to WSW. The monument is not visible at ground level.

The area to be scheduled is circular in plan, to include the remains described and area around within which evidence relating to the monument's construction and use 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

The monument has been identified from a series of oblique aerial photographs taken between 1989 and 1994 and survives as a number of clearly visible negative features interpreted as the two concentric ditches of an Iron-Age fort, and a third ditch, interpreted as a slot for an earlier palisaded enclosure. It is highly probable that the ditches and other surviving negative features contain archaeologically significant deposits as well as artefact and ecofact assemblages. Similar monuments, when excavated, have shown good survival of stratified deposits relating to occupation. The monument therefore has an inherent capacity to further our understanding of the activities undertaken within and around the fort and inform our knowledge of the people who lived within, their social structure and identity, domestic architecture and living arrangements, and the nature of contact with other groups of people from within the region, or from further afield, such as the incoming Romans.

Evidence from contemporary monuments of similar form indicates that the concentric ditches would have had banks of up cast between them, forming a further boundary element around the settlement. Vestiges of these banks, and other positive features, are likely to preserve traces of the land surface and soils upon which the monument was created. These have the capacity to inform our knowledge of the environment within which the monument was constructed and can further our understanding of the how the environment was used and altered through time.

The association of the palisade slot with the concentric ditches has been shown on similar sites to represent a chronological development in settlement form. Evidence suggests a sequence in which an initial, palisaded enclosure is succeeded, or augmented, by banks and ditches. The monument therefore has the capacity to significantly inform our knowledge of the development of such sites through time and to further our understanding of the relationship between the different forms of enclosure.

In addition the apparently defensible nature of the monument, whether symbolically or practically, in the form of banks, ditches and the palisade, would indicate that it has the capacity to further our understanding of how the occupants viewed the world in which they lived. There is an inherent potential for evidence represented within the monument to add to our knowledge of how society and social networks may have functioned and the ways in which power and influence may have been negotiated and resolved.

Contextual characteristics

The monument is located on a slight N-facing aspect of a gently undulating plain to the south of Blackadder Water. There are middle-range views to the north and south. The general locality has a number of drainage features and the site is known for its tendency to become waterlogged.

There a number of similar forts within the region, at least 15 of which survive as earthworks, and the monument would appear to form part of dispersed group between the Tweed and the Eye Water. However the monument type is relatively rare within the locality between Duns and Coldstream. It has an inherent potential to further our understanding of settlement distribution and patterns within the region in later prehistory. As part of the dispersed group it has an inherent capacity to further our knowledge of society, economy and identity within SE Scotland in later prehistory. Comparing and contrasting evidence from these broadly contemporary sites will further our knowledge of architectural form and function of such sites and the nature of their use and occupation.

As part of a group of similar monuments located within an area known to have been in contact and close proximity with the incoming Romans the monument has the potential to inform our knowledge of the mechanisms of contact and influence between the two cultures.

National Importance

The monument is of national importance because it has an inherent potential to contribute to an understanding of the past, in particular later prehistoric enclosed settlement and defensive architecture, as well as the nature of contact between Iron-Age societies and also with the Roman Empire. The loss of the monument would significantly diminish our ability to comprehend many aspects of Iron-Age society within SE Scotland and further afield.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland



RCAHMS records the monument as Greenknowe, fort NT84NW 4. The Scottish Borders Council SMR records the monument as 1110021.

Aerial photographs:

RCAHMS (1977) NT84NW 4 Greenknowe Fort BW 1872.

RCAHMS (1993) NT84NW 4,23 Greenknowe Fort; Bellshiel Plantation Bank, C 11026.


Dent J and McDonald R 1997, EARLY SETTLERS IN THE BORDERS, Scottish Borders Council.

RCAHMS 1980b, THE ARCHAEOLOGICAL SITES AND MONUMENTS OF BERWICKSHIRE DISTRICT, BORDERS REGION, The Archaeological Sites and Monuments of Scotland Series No. 10, 25, No. 192, Edinburgh, Society of Antiquaries of Scotland.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

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