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Antonine Wall and motte, 75m south west of Antonine Primary School

A Scheduled Monument in Bonnybridge and Larbert, Falkirk

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Coordinates

Latitude: 55.9966 / 55°59'47"N

Longitude: -3.8863 / 3°53'10"W

OS Eastings: 282447

OS Northings: 679789

OS Grid: NS824797

Mapcode National: GBR 1F.V8WG

Mapcode Global: WH4PT.8JMS

Entry Name: Antonine Wall and motte, 75m SW of Antonine Primary School

Scheduled Date: 26 November 2009

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM12373

Schedule Class: Cultural

Category: Roman: Antonine Wall; Secular: motte

Location: Falkirk

County: Falkirk

Electoral Ward: Bonnybridge and Larbert

Traditional County: Stirlingshire

Description

This monument comprises a section of the Antonine Wall and a later medieval motte located within the grounds of Antonine Primary School. The monument lies 75m SW of Antonine Primary School and is immediately adjacent to an industrial estate to the east, formerly the site of Bonnybridge Railway station. The monument was first scheduled in 1975 and rescheduled in 2005; the present scheduling brings the scheduling up to modern standards.

Dating to the mid-second century AD, the Antonine Wall comprised five linear elements: an outer mound, a broad V-shaped ditch, an open area of ground, the rampart and an associated road known as the Military Way. In general the Wall ditch was a broad and V-profiled earthwork, measuring 12m wide at its maximum and around 3.6m in depth. The outer mound was formed with upcast on the N lip of the ditch that created an additional obstacle and heightened the N slope of the ditch. An open area of ground, known as the berm, separated the ditch from the rampart and excavations at several locations have revealed evidence of pits. These are interpreted as a defensive feature known as 'lilia', rows of pits containing sharp wooden stakes. A cluster of lilia pits are preserved at the fort of Rough Castle. Lilia pits were probably disguised and arranged in off-set rows to prevent attackers running straight across. The rampart was constructed of turf blocks standing on a stone base around 4.3m in width, except between Falkirk and Bo'ness where the rampart was composed of an earth core faced with clay cheeks. Generally, the stone base comprised a single course of roughly squared outer kerbs with a rubble core and incorporated culverts, box-like stone-lined channels that allowed water to drain through the rampart more efficiently.

Excavations in the 1930s demonstrated that this section of the frontier is well preserved as buried remains comprising the rampart, ditch, and the berm. The ditch survives as a gentle hollow running through the school playing field. The eroded Seabegs motte, the remains of a later medieval motte-and-bailey castle, stand on the N lip of the Antonine Wall ditch. The motte is formed from a substantially altered natural knoll and exploits the Antonine Wall ditch as its S defence. The motte is first recorded in a charter of 1542 as 'lie Mot de Seybeggis'. In the 1930s, the construction of a new road, cutting through the line of the Antonine Wall and across the NE corner of the motte, allowed limited excavation to take place. The foundations of the rampart were observed to be broken freestone rather than boulders, and were 4.3m wide. Few traces of the superstructure survived. The berm was recorded as 5.5m wide while the ditch was around 15.2m broad and approximately 3.7m deep. The fill of the ditch was found to include waterlogged contexts containing well-preserved organic matter. A band of mixed clay and earth on the N lip of the ditch was interpreted as remains of the upcast mound.

The area to be scheduled is irregular on plan, to include the remains described and an area around within which related remains may be expected to be found, as shown in red on the accompanying map. The scheduling extends up to but excludes the above-ground elements of the property boundary on the west.

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 well-preserved stretch of the Antonine Wall, partly overlain by a later medieval motte, which has been partially excavated. Running through an area that has undergone extensive development, the monument is an important survival as documentary evidence indicates that it was not disturbed by industry in the 19th and 20th centuries. The potential for the survival of buried deposits is high as excavation in the 1930s demonstrated the excellent preservation of the rampart base, berm and ditch at this location.

The monument possesses good potential to provide high-quality archaeological evidence relating to the date, construction, maintenance and subsequent abandonment of the Antonine Wall and Roman frontier systems in general. There is excellent potential for the recovery of environmental samples from the fills of the ditch and from ancient ground surfaces sealed by remains of the rampart as indicated by the 1930s excavations. Such evidence offers excellent potential to enhance our knowledge of the local landscape when the Antonine Wall was built and in use.

Seabegs motte represents the remains of an Anglo-Norman motte-and-bailey type timber castle, specifically sited to exploit the Antonine Wall ditch. A series of smaller ditches extended around the N, W and E sides of the motte, creating a quadrangular outer defence that was mistaken by antiquaries as being a Roman fortification. Motte-and-bailey castles were a type of lordly fortified dwelling that became common across the British Isles from perhaps as early as the later 11th century and archaeologists believe that mottes were still under construction is some parts of Scotland until as late as the 14th century. Mottes are mainly associated with the spread of feudal society, and in Scotland represent attempts by the crown to control the land through the introduction of an immigrant aristocracy. It has excellent potential for the survival of buried deposits that could enhance our understanding of its construction, development and subsequent abandonment. In particular, remains of the timber tower that stood on top of the motte may be represented by negative evidence such as post-holes and foundations of associated structures while artefactual evidence may illustrate the date and duration of occupation, as well as highlighting the range of contacts those resident at Seabegs Motte had with the wider world. The associated ditches, particularly the Antonine Wall ditch on the south, may contain valuable artefactual evidence that could inform our understanding of the character of occupation at the site and highlight maintenance regimes. Additionally, environmental evidence from these waterlogged deposits could help us build a better understanding of the local landscape at the time Seabegs Motte was occupied.

Contextual characteristics

The Antonine Wall, established in the years following 142 AD, represents Scotland's most significant Roman monument. Measuring 60km in length, the Wall spans the narrow neck of land between Bo'ness on the River Forth and Old Kilpatrick on the River Clyde. Incorporating a continuous system of wall and ditch, the Wall is accompanied at regular intervals by forts, fortlets and other structures linked by a road system. Archaeologists believe the layout of the frontier underwent alteration either during or immediately after construction with more forts being added, reducing the distance between garrisons. The Wall is one of only three linear barriers to be found along the 2000km European frontier of the Roman Empire, the other examples being Hadrian's Wall and the Rhine limes, and these are unique to Germany and Britain. However, the Antonine Wall is unique in the disposition of its forts at such close intervals and in the use of a turf superstructure on a stone foundation, an adaptation unparalleled elsewhere in the Roman Empire.

Like other Roman frontiers, the Antonine Wall was intended to control and monitor cross-border movement into Roman-controlled territory rather than acting as a fortification to halt massed attack. However, it is likely that the frontier's physical presence in the landscape, a continuous barrier spanning central Scotland, discouraged small-scale local raiding.

The Antonine Wall has a close relationship with the topography of central Scotland. Much of the frontier occupies the southern edge of the valley formed by the Rivers Kelvin and Carron, a position that offered the Antonine Wall wide-ranging views over the Kilsyth Hills, the Campsie Fells, and Kilpatrick Hills and meant that it was widely visible in the landscape. The route of the Antonine Wall also has commanding views over natural communication routes.

The Antonine Wall formed part of the wider Roman reoccupation of Scotland. This comprises a web of roads interconnecting the forts and fortlets controlling the area to the south of the Wall. To the north of the frontier a chain of outpost forts, linked by a road, extended from Camelon on the outskirts of Falkirk to Bertha on the outskirts of Perth.

Seabegs motte is one of several later medieval fortifications that lie on the line of the Antonine Wall, exploiting what were likely to have been substantial fortifications. Although not sited in a particularly elevated location, it is clear that Seabegs motte drew its defensive strength from the earthworks of the Antonine Wall. Defence may not have been the primary factor for the construction of Seabegs motte as a crossing of the Bonny Water lies nearby. As a result, Seabegs motte may have controlled a key communication and transport route through central Scotland, perhaps yielding important economic benefits for the Lordship of Seabegs.

Associative characteristics

The Antonine Wall was established by the Emperor Antoninus Pius (AD 138-61) after successful campaigning in AD 139-42 by the Governor of Britain, Quintus Lollius Urbicus. It replaced Hadrian's Wall as the Empire's most northerly frontier. The Wall remained in use until it was abandoned in the years after 158AD, when the Roman army withdrew from Scotland and the frontier line shifted again to Hadrian's Wall. The construction and purpose of the Antonine Wall exemplifies the wider system of military frontier management, termed limes, which stretched over the whole of the Roman Empire.

The Antonine Wall forms an extension to the existing transnational 'Frontiers of the Roman Empire' World Heritage Site that includes the German limes and Hadrian's Wall. The UNESCO World Heritage Committee approved the addition of the Antonine Wall on 7 July 2008.

This section of the Antonine Wall appears on the several early maps of Scotland, notably those of Blaeu (1658), Roy (1747-55) and Moll (1745). Blaeu's map annotates the line of the Wall as 'Vestigia valli Romanorum quod videtur Agricolam aut Adrianum Primum posuisse' ('the remains of the Roman fortification which it seems Agricola or Hadrian first built'), a reminder that it was not until the 1690s that scholars were agreed upon the date, provenance and even location of the Antonine Wall.

Seabegs motte is likely to have been the original administrative centre of the medieval Barony of Seabegs although the only surviving documentary source for the site is a charter of c.1542 that records the transfer of ownership of the Barony of Seabegs. In the document the motte is specifically named as the place where the sasine (the document that gives legal possession of property or land) was to be formally handed over. This may have been in recognition of the site's former importance. The motte is named 'Castellum' on the 1st and 2nd editions of the Ordnance Survey map based on an erroneous antiquarian belief that the motte represented the remains of a Roman fortification. The motte, annotated as Chapel Hill, and the adjacent stretch of the Antonine Wall, are depicted on General William Roy's 'Military Antiquities of the Romans in North Britain', the first comprehensive and accurate record of the Antonine Wall to be made. This stretch of the Antonine Wall also appears on Scotland's earliest maps, notably those by Pont, Gordon, and Blaeu, which date to the 17th century.

National Importance

The monument is nationally important because it has an inherent potential to contribute to our understanding of the past, in particular the construction, function, maintenance and subsequent abandonment of the Antonine Wall and later medieval mottes. The monument represents a remarkable survival given the extent of industrial development in the surrounding area. Both Seabegs motte and the Antonine Wall appear as upstanding earthworks on a succession maps from the 17th to early 20th century and the site appears not to have been developed in the past. Limited excavation of the Antonine Wall and Seabegs motte in 1936 revealed a high degree of archaeological preservation in the areas inspected. This indicates there is high potential for archaeological deposits to survive relatively undisturbed. Organic evidence from ancient ground surfaces sealed by the motte and by the rampart of the Antonine Wall, as well as from the fills of the ditches of the Antonine Wall and the motte, are capable of providing information about the contemporary environment at the time of these monuments were built, occupied, and abandoned. The loss of the monument would affect our ability to understand the Roman frontier and would erode the overall importance of the Antonine Wall as a single linear monument spanning central Scotland. The loss of Seabegs Motte would affect our ability to understand the construction and function of such monuments, their placing in the contemporary landscape, and the social structure and economy of later medieval Scotland.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Sources

Bibliography

References:

Breeze D J 2006, THE ANTONINE WALL, London: John Donald.

Keppie L J F 1977, 'Bonnybridge, Antonine Wall, Section', DISCOVERY EXCAV SCOT, 1976, 35.

Keppie L J F 1976, 'Some rescue excavations on the line of the Antonine Wall, 1973-6',

PROC SOC ANTIQ SCOT 107, 63.

Keppie L J F 1979, 'Seabegs, Bonnybridge (Falkirk parish) Antonine Wall, sections', DISCOVERY EXCAV SCOT, 2.

Keppie L J F and Walker J J 1989, 'Some excavations along the line of the Antonine Wall, 1981-85', PROC SOC ANTIQ SCOT 119, 148, No. 9.

Murray J F 1982, 'Seabegs, Bonnybridge (Falkirk parish) Antonine Wall', DISCOVERY EXCAV SCOT, 1982, 4-5.

Robertson A S 2001, THE ANTONINE WALL: A HANDBOOK TO THE SURVIVING REMAINS, Glasgow, 74-5, 5th edition.

Smith S 1936, 'Note on the Antonine Wall and Ditch near Bonnybridge', PROC SOC ANTIQ SCOT, 70, 146-7.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

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