Ancient Monuments

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Witchshaw Rig, unenclosed settlement 1290m north east of Heithatpark

A Scheduled Monument in Annandale North, Dumfries and Galloway

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Coordinates

Latitude: 55.2008 / 55°12'3"N

Longitude: -3.2745 / 3°16'28"W

OS Eastings: 318976

OS Northings: 590361

OS Grid: NY189903

Mapcode National: GBR 58K9.WG

Mapcode Global: WH6X7.NJXT

Entry Name: Witchshaw Rig, unenclosed settlement 1290m NE of Heithatpark

Scheduled Date: 27 January 2010

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM12755

Schedule Class: Cultural

Category: Prehistoric domestic and defensive: settlement

Location: Hutton and Corrie

County: Dumfries and Galloway

Electoral Ward: Annandale North

Traditional County: Dumfriesshire

Description

The monument comprises the remains of four roundhouses likely to date to later prehistory and an irregular enclosure that is probably of similar date. The monument is located on the summit of Witchshaw Rig at about 250m above sea level. It lies in open moorland but has views southwards down the valley of the Water of Milk.

Circular earthworks show where the timber roundhouses used to stand. The best-preserved roundhouse site lies to the east of a fence that follows the crest of the ridge. Here, a groove up to 1.2m wide and 0.1m deep forms a near-complete circle that probably represents the outer wall of a roundhouse 14.2m in diameter. Within lies a bank 1m wide and 0.1m high, with a well-defined gap that suggests the entrance was to the WNW. Traces of an internal ring-ditch exist within the circuit of the bank in the SW quadrant, extending south in an arc from the entrance. The feature is 2.2m wide and 0.1m deep. Remains of a second roundhouse of very similar design lie 15m to the south-west. It is 11.6m in diameter and also has the entrance to the WNW. The site of the third roundhouse is immediately south-west of the second and is marked by an outer groove with a partial ring-ditch 0.8m inside but no intervening bank. A fourth house site to the west of these two is marked only by an arc of bank 1.8m thick and 0.2m high. A grass-grown bank defines an approximately rectangular enclosure immediately west of the first roundhouse. At the NE corner the enclosure bank appears to start at the N side of the roundhouse entrance. The longer E-W axis of the enclosure measures about 22m across.

The area to be scheduled is irregular on plan to include the remains described and an area around within which evidence relating to the monument's construction, use and abandonment may survive, as shown in red on the accompanying map. The above-ground elements of a post-and-wire fence crossing the scheduled area are specifically excluded from the scheduling to allow for their maintenance.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Statement of Scheduling

Cultural Significance

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

Intrinsic characteristics

This monument is a later prehistoric unenclosed settlement in an upland landscape. The remains survive in very good condition and are easily visible beneath the closely cropped grass. The upstanding roundhouse remains appear to divide into two categories, probably reflecting different house designs and/or functions. The first and second house sites both show a bank about 1m wide between the outer ring-groove and the ring-ditch but the third house site shows no bank, the ring-ditch extending to within 0.8m of the groove. Furthermore, researchers have suggested that the cluster of buildings almost certainly represents three phases of construction. The good condition of the upstanding earthworks suggests that extensive archaeological remains of the roundhouses also survive below ground. These buried remains can help us to understand more about the design, construction, phasing and use of the buildings. Potential exists for the survival of buried land surfaces beneath the roundhouse banks. These could preserve information about the environment before the monument was constructed, adding to the time-depth represented by the remains. The upstanding banks may also contain evidence relating to the creation, use and abandonment of the buildings, helping to inform our understanding of the character of late-prehistoric defended settlement, including local variations in domestic architecture and building use. Negative features, such as postholes and pits, may lie within or outwith the buildings and have the potential to contain archaeologically significant deposits that can further our understanding of society, ritual, economy, agriculture and domestic architecture. Other buried remains may also exist within the immediate vicinity of the known roundhouses and have the potential to tell us more about the settlement's occupation and use.

Contextual characteristics

This settlement lies in the uplands between the Rivers Annan and Esk, overlooking a tributary of the Annan. It can be compared usefully with a small group of similar settlements in the region as well as with the many monuments of different form in its immediate vicinity. A recent survey of easternmost Dumfries and Galloway identified about 450 later prehistoric settlements of all types, but only 15 locations where remains of unenclosed timber roundhouses exist. The majority of these lie on the hills between the Annan and the Esk, in a 'survival zone' beyond the limit of medieval and later cultivation. Within the group there are variations in the roundhouse remains represented. In the majority of cases, the bank is relatively slight and may be associated with the outer wall of the house. However, sometimes the banks are more substantial and are interpreted as an internal feature of the house. This is perhaps best illustrated by houses at this monument and by those seen at Gibb's Hill some 13km to the SSE. Cleuchfoot, on the other side of the valley to Gibb's Hill, contains houses represented mainly by ring-ditches and gullies, though one house may belong to the type seen at Witchshaw Rig.

The significance of this monument is enhanced by its close association with an area of cord rig (narrow cultivation ridges). The distribution of cord rig is similar to that of unenclosed settlements in eastern Dumfries and Galloway and both seem to be early features of the landscape, though we cannot prove they were directly contemporary. Several enclosures lie within 1 km to the north-east, east and south-east of this site. In addition, this monument is part of a landscape in which a variety of other later prehistoric sites are known. These include the fort at Carterton 1.5 km to the south-east, the scooped settlement at Fenton Heights 2.3km to the north, and a string of forts and defended settlements about 4km to the east, above the valley of the Black Esk.

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 the study of unenclosed settlements in later prehistoric SW Scotland. It survives in good condition above ground and it is probable that extensive and complex archaeological remains exist below the surface relating to the construction and use of the roundhouses. The roundhouse banks and ditches and any associated pits and postholes have high potential for survival of buried material such as structural remains, artefacts and ecofacts that were either buried when the roundhouses were built or relate to their use or abandonment. This has the potential to tell us about wider prehistoric society, how people lived, where they came from and who they had contacts with. Its importance is increased because it is an example of a relatively rare type of monument but lies close to other monuments of potentially contemporary date. This gives it the capacity to inform us about the nature of relationships between monuments of different function. Spatial analysis of sites may inform our understanding of patterns of landholding, changes in the character and distribution of settlements through time and the expansion of settlement. Its loss or diminution would impede our ability to understand the placing of such monuments within the landscape both in Dumfries and Galloway and in other parts of Scotland.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Sources

Bibliography

RCAHMS records the site as NY19SE 56. The Dumfries and Galloway SMR records the site as MDG5222.

References:

RCAHMS 1997, Eastern Dumfriesshire: An Archaeological Landscape. Edinburgh, The Stationery Office.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

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