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Witches Cleuch, fort 430m ENE of Chesterfield

A Scheduled Monument in Berwick-upon-Tweed, Northumberland

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Coordinates

Latitude: 55.7795 / 55°46'46"N

Longitude: -2.0908 / 2°5'26"W

OS Eastings: 394404

OS Northings: 654021

OS Grid: NT944540

Mapcode National: GBR F1VM.41

Mapcode Global: WH9Y9.VZKR

Entry Name: Witches Cleuch, fort 430m ENE of Chesterfield

Scheduled Date: 4 March 2009

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM12488

Schedule Class: Cultural

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

Location: Mordington

County: Northumberland

Civil Parish: Berwick-upon-Tweed

Traditional County: Berwickshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Northumberland

Description

The monument comprises the remains of a small inland promontory fort of later prehistoric or early-historic date. The site lies in a naturally strong defensive position at around 45m above sea level, with steep-sided slopes on all sides except the north, where it is approached across a narrow strip of level ground, and has strong views along the valley of the Whiteadder Water.

The monument survives as the earthwork remains of the N defence of the site, and the area it encloses. The N defence is visible as a ditch running E-W across the neck of the promontory, measuring around 6m in width and up to 1m in depth. To the south of this and on its W edge are the remains of the internal bank that would have previously run the length of the inside edge of the ditch. No definite internal features are visible on the ground, although an area of significantly firmer ground at the S tip of the promontory may indicate the presence of buried features, possibly those of Edrington Bastle, which is mentioned in documentary sources.

The area to be scheduled is irregular on plan, to include the remains described and an area around within which evidence relating to their construction and use may survive, as shown in red on the accompanying map. The scheduled area extends up to, but does not include, the post-and-wire fence at the N edge.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Statement of Scheduling

Cultural Significance

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

Intrinsic characteristics

The site survives as the earthwork remains of a later prehistoric or early historic promontory fort. The good survival of the ditch, along with the apparent lack of modern cultivation on the site suggests there is a high potential for buried remains to survive associated with the construction, use and subsequent abandonment of the site. The rampart may seal a buried land surface and will contain archaeological deposits that have high potential to provide valuable information on the environment in the area when the monument was constructed.

Contextual characteristics

Promontory forts are sites that rely on a defensive location for their strength. This site occupies a narrow promontory, with steep sides preventing or hindering access on all sides except the north. The site also holds a commanding view of the Whiteadder Water and its valley, running just to the west of the site.

Promontory forts and settlements, whether located in coastal or inland settings, exploit naturally inaccessible locations such as headlands or cliffs and use earthworks to restrict access on the easier landward approaches. While promontory forts are generally considered a feature of northern Scotland, particularly the Northern and Western Isles, promontory forts can be found across the Scottish Borders occupying both inland and coastal settings.

In the Scottish Borders, promontory forts that occupy good arable land are more likely to survive as cropmarks, while earthworks are often better preserved at sites located in marginal land. Many of the promontory forts and settlements of the Scottish Borders appear to enclose relatively small areas. It is likely that most of these monuments date to the late prehistoric period, although some may have been reoccupied or even constructed in the early historic period. As a group, relatively few promontory forts in the Scottish Borders have been excavated and this example, along with other similar sites, provides an excellent opportunity to enhance our knowledge of a poorly understood site type. In addition, although many prehistoric sites have been identified in the Scottish Borders, less work has been done in identifying the relationships between such sites in space and through time. This lack of comprehensive study in an area with an extensively surviving prehistoric landscape such as is the case in the Scottish Borders, leaves a large gap in knowledge of the patterns of settlement and the relation of this to the wider landscape and social and economic climate of the time. The monument to be scheduled offers potential to reveal a high level of information about these relationships, and about domestic life and the economic base in the later prehistoric communities of the Scottish Borders.

Associative characteristics

The 1st and 2nd edition mapping by the Ordnance Survey indicates this location as 'Bastile (Supposed site of)'. Bastles are a type of fortified farmhouse, found in the border regions of both Scotland and England. They are smaller than the tower houses typical of the period, and are commonly the dwellings of the tenant farmers of the area, providing some level of protection to them in an area where raiding and violence were common. While no clear visible evidence survives above ground for Edrington Bastle, the potential for buried deposits related to this possible reuse of the site is also high, and has the potential to enhance our knowledge of the later medieval period along the Anglo-Scottish border. There is also a supposed link to Edrington Castle, whose garrison allegedly utilised the site as a prison at one point.

The possible later reuse of the site for Edrington Bastle has the potential to not only inform us of the chronological relationship of the different aspects of this site, but also the relationship of the site with nearby Edrington Castle, located 715m SSW of this site. The example of Fast Castle, on the Berwickshire coast, indicates the likelihood of re-use for a strong defensive location such as this. At Fast Castle, artefacts recovered from excavations at the late-medieval stronghold suggest that it also overlies an Iron-Age promontory fort, in a similar manner to Edrington, demonstrating the high potential for survival despite the later re-use of the site. It also has the potential to provide valuable information about the network and sequence of defensive sites along the border with England, and of the lives of those who lived here at the time. Spatial analysis of this site and its position may help us understand the methods in place to deter invasion from England and defend routes to the north, as well as the social and economic situation at the time of its use and construction.

National Importance

This monument is of national importance because it has an inherent potential to make a significant addition to our understanding of the past, in particular late prehistoric or early-historic defensive sites settlement in the Scottish Borders and possibly also defensive sites of the later medieval period. Well-preserved buried deposits have the high potential to inform our understanding of the internal layout and development of this site as well as offer us with an insight into wider society at the time, where people came from and the groups they had contacts with. Spatial analysis of promontory forts and other forms of settlement in this area may enhance our understanding of settlement location and distribution as well as offering us an insight into the structure of society in the late prehistoric/early historic period and possibly the later medieval period, and the nature of the economy during these times.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Sources

Bibliography

RCAHMS records the site as Edrington Bastle: Bastle and Promotory Fort, NT95SW 10. The Scottish Borders Council SMR reference is 1220001.

References:

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

RCAHMS 1980, THE ARCHAEOLOGICAL SITES AND MONUMENTS OF BERWICKSHIRE DISTRICT, The Archaeological Sites and Monuments of Scotland Series, 10, 25, No. 191, Edinburgh, Society of Antiquaries of Scotland.

Maxwell-Irving A 2000, THE BORDER TOWERS OF SCOTLAND: THEIR HISTORY AND ARCHITECTURE, Stirling: A Maxwell-Irving.

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

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

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