Ancient Monuments

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8 Aytonlaw Cottages, fort 210m west of

A Scheduled Monument in East Berwickshire, Scottish Borders

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Latitude: 55.8412 / 55°50'28"N

Longitude: -2.1421 / 2°8'31"W

OS Eastings: 391198

OS Northings: 660894

OS Grid: NT911608

Mapcode National: GBR F0HW.1Y

Mapcode Global: WH9Y3.2F7X

Entry Name: 8 Aytonlaw Cottages, fort 210m W of

Scheduled Date: 30 March 2009

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM12512

Schedule Class: Cultural

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

Location: Ayton

County: Scottish Borders

Electoral Ward: East Berwickshire

Traditional County: Berwickshire


The monument comprises the remains of a multivallate fort clearly visible as a cropmark in arable fields on oblique aerial photographs. The site is likely to date to the Iron Age or early historic period (late 1st millennium BC to early 1st millennium AD). The fort is situated in a naturally defensive position at the top of a steep S-facing slope approximately 65m above sea level overlooking the Eye Water.

The semi-circular fort is defined by a pair of concentric ditches, each likely to have been associated with a rampart. The fort's defences are arranged in a U-shape protecting the easier landward approaches to the N, W and E, while the S-facing side of the fort relies on the difficult natural terrain and the Eye Water for protection. There is a possibility that undulating ground at the SW corner of the site could represent evidence of the fort's defences as they cross the modern fenceline along the break of slope. An area of dark marks within the interior of the fort may relate to the occupation of the site. The interior of the fort measures approximately 75m E-W by 60m transversely within an inner ditch up to 6m wide. The outer ditch also measures up to around 6m wide. The inner and outer ditches are spaced between 4m and 7m apart. A possible entrance may be on the SE side of the fort, hard against the break of slope, appearing as a gap in the outer and inner ditches.

The area to be scheduled is semicircular on plan, to include the remains described above and an area around within which evidence relating to their construction and use may survive, as shown in red on the accompanying map. The scheduling specifically excludes the above-ground elements of all post-and-wire fences to allow for their maintenance, and extends up to but excludes the fence to the south of the fort.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Statement of Scheduling

Cultural Significance

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

Intrinsic characteristics

Preserved as a negative or buried feature and visible as a cropmark, the monument represents an excellent example of a multivallate defended fort, likely to be late 1st millennium BC or early 1st millennium AD in date. The significance of the fort is further enhanced as it survives in an area of considerable agricultural activity and its close proximity to another multivallate enclosure approximately 170m to the W. Although the interior of this site has been regularly ploughed, there is good potential for the survival of buried deposits relating to potential domestic structures and the economy of the fort's inhabitants and evidence; this may enhance our understanding of the social structures and domestic architecture of the Iron-Age people who built and used this monument. It is likely that a rampart would have lain behind each of the ditches and there is potential for the preservation of buried soil not only beneath the ramparts but also within the ditches, providing evidence of the environment within which Iron-Age people built the fort. The ditches and ploughed-out ramparts may also contain deposits and archaeological features relating to the construction and occupation of the site, and its association with the surrounding landscape where there may have been field systems. It is possible that the multiple ditches may represent more than one phase of construction.

Contextual characteristics

This monument forms part of a wider late prehistoric or early historic period landscape comprising forts, enclosed and unenclosed settlements and field-systems in the vicinity of the Eye Water. Several smaller sites are inter-visible with this fort, including the adjacent multi-vallate enclosure to the W. Although in close proximity, the relationship between these two sites remains unknown.

The site offers us the capacity to develop a better understanding of forts and defended settlements, particularly the choice of site in relation to natural features such as rivers and river valleys. Forts are often located nearby to smaller sites such as scooped or enclosed settlements, suggesting either a potential hierarchy if the sites are contemporary, or reflecting a change in social structure and economy and thus preferred settlement location if the sites are sequential. Comparing and contrasting the monument to other nearby forts can enable an understanding of how such sites are positioned within the landscape, as well as provide enhanced contexts for the understanding of Iron-Age economy and structure of society. We can use information gained from the preservation and study of this site to gain an insight into the wider knowledge of Iron-Age forts across Scotland.

Associative characteristics

The monument is described in 1921 by J H Craw as a circular earthwork defined by a much obliterated rampart. In 1969, the Ordnance Survey noted the site as a circular shallow area enclosed by a much-spread rampart.

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 forts and enclosed settlements of the late 1st millennium BC or early 1st millennium AD. The fort forms an intrinsic element of the Iron-Age or early-historic settlement pattern in the vicinity of the Eye Water, likely an important defensive feature as well as a transport and communication route. Domestic remains and artefacts from forts have the potential to tell us about wider prehistoric society, its architecture, how people lived, where they came from, who they had contacts with, provide us with evidence of native-Roman interaction, and may offer an insight into the function of forts. Archaeological deposits preserved beneath the ploughed-out ramparts and within the ditches and interior of the monument may provide information about the nature of the contemporary environment and the use prehistoric farmers made of it. Spatial analysis of similar sites may inform our understanding of patterns of landholding and the expansion of settlement. Its loss would impede our ability to understand the placing of such monuments (particularly those situated close to the valleys of rivers) within the landscape both in the SE Borders and across Scotland, as well as our knowledge of Iron-Age social structure, economy and building practices.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland



RCAHMS record the site as NT96SW 7. The Scottish Borders Council SMR designation is 1020013.


Craw J H 1921, 'Notes on Berwickshire forts', PROC SOC ANTIQ SCOT, 55 (1920-1), 242.

RCAHMS 1980, THE ARCHAEOLOGICAL SITES MONUMENTS OF BERWICKSHIRE DISTRICT, BORDERS REGION, The Archaeological Sites and Monuments of Scotland Series, Edinburgh, Society of Antiquaries of Scotland.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

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