Ancient Monuments

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5 Shethin Cottages, homestead moat 125m SSW of

A Scheduled Monument in Mid Formartine, Aberdeenshire

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Latitude: 57.3802 / 57°22'48"N

Longitude: -2.192 / 2°11'31"W

OS Eastings: 388551

OS Northings: 832208

OS Grid: NJ885322

Mapcode National: GBR N9Y6.VW7

Mapcode Global: WH9PJ.9RFN

Entry Name: 5 Shethin Cottages, homestead moat 125m SSW of

Scheduled Date: 30 March 2009

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM12565

Schedule Class: Cultural

Category: Secular: homestead moat

Location: Tarves

County: Aberdeenshire

Electoral Ward: Mid Formartine

Traditional County: Aberdeenshire


The monument comprises the remains of a homestead moat of late medieval date and visible as a cropmark within cultivated land. The monument is located at around 55m above sea level and around 140m to the north of the Yowlie Burn.

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 three sides of a ditched rectilinear enclosure measuring about 56m from NNW to SSE by 58m transversely. The ditch measures between 8m and 10m in width, the N section being consistently wider than the S and W portion. The N corner and the E side of the monument are not visible in available aerial photographs, though the SE corner is present. It is likely that any entrance was located in this area. The interior of the monument measures around 36m from NNW to SSE by around 43m transversely. The site is visible from the ground as a slight raised area and several large stones have been noted within its interior.

The area to be scheduled is irregular in plan, to include the remains described and an area around them within which related material may be expected to be found, 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 of as followed:

Intrinsic characteristics

The monument is a moated enclosure, the size, form and rectilinear plan of which indicates that it dates to the late medieval period and belongs to the category of moated homestead. Experience with similar excavated sites, and from documentary sources, indicates that the monument may have been in use for several generations.

In its original form the monument would have been enclosed by a broad water-filled ditch and would have functioned as a domestic, rather than a defensive, settlement. The cropmark survival of the site indicates that the ditch has become infilled. The potential for waterlogged archaeologically significant deposits within this feature is high and it is likely that they are well preserved. These deposits have an inherent potential to inform our understanding of the environment within which the monument was constructed, inhabited and finally abandoned. The ditch and other surviving negative features also have an inherent capacity to further our understanding of the forms of domestic activity upon the site. The interior of the site has the potential to contain traces of associated features relating to domestic structures, and these too have a capacity to inform our knowledge of the daily lives of the occupants over several decades, if not centuries.

Contextual characteristics

The monument is located at 55m above sea level in close proximity to the Yowlie Burn, 140m to the south.

Moated homesteads are relatively rare within Scotland as whole when compared to the frequency of those recorded in other parts of the UK and beyond. There are around 120 known sites in Scotland compared with 750 in Ireland and 5300 in England and Wales. 27% of the Scottish examples are found within the former region of Grampian; Aberdeenshire has the highest concentration of homestead moats in Scotland. Relatively few survive as upstanding monuments as they are generally located within agricultural land and the usually modest earthworks have been ploughed away and deliberately infilled and levelled.

This category of monument is interpreted as the local centres for feudal lords in late medieval Scotland and, when compared and contrasted with contemporary monuments, they have the capacity to provide an insight into the feudalisation of this part of Scotland. Of particular interest is the potential to determine patterns of distribution, and duration and phases of use, as well as previous or subsequent functions and consequent changes in form. Such patterns can aid our understanding of large-scale social changes through time and geographical variation in social systems.

Associative characteristics

The moat was formerly interpreted as Roman in date. The First Edition Ordnance Survey of the area notes it as a 'camp' while the Second Edition refers to it as a 'fort'. By 1955 it was presumed to be the site of the old house of Shethin, the present steading of that name being 420m to the north and, according to local tradition, incorporating the remains of a stone castle. Shethin is first mentioned in 1379 when it belonged to the Hay estates as part of the barony of Slains. The estate passed through several hands until 1600 when two thirds of the manor were bought by George Seton of Auchinhuive. In 1655 the Earl of Erroll, also Lord Hay of Slains, still held rights of superiority over Shethin.

The present steading of Shethin with its local tradition as the site of a castle also has an associated chapel site, dedicated to St John. The site of the chapel is noted on early Ordnance Survey maps. This association would merit further investigation as there is proven link between estate centres and churches founded by the local lord, many of which survive as parish churches through the introduction of the parochial system. In Donside, for example, there are 19 parishes in which the site of the medieval parish church lies within a short distance of some form of medieval estate centre.

National Importance

The monument is of national importance because it has an inherent potential to inform us of the construction techniques, defences and domestic life of a medieval moated homestead. It has the potential to shed light on the extent and nature of the feudalisation of Scotland, particularly in the north-east. The loss of this monument would impede our ability to understand the use of homestead moats, why there is a concentration of this monument type in central Aberdeenshire and how this related to the specific role and influence of the named nobility.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland



RCAHMS records the monument as NJ83SE 8. The Aberdeenshire SMR records the monument as NJ83SE0007.


Bogdan N and Bryce I B D 1991, 'Castles, Manors and Town Houses Survey', DISCOVERY EXCAV SCOT, 30.



Source: Historic Environment Scotland

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