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Saddle Yoke, township 1100m and 1050m north east of

A Scheduled Monument in Annandale North, Dumfries and Galloway

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Latitude: 55.3822 / 55°22'56"N

Longitude: -3.3353 / 3°20'7"W

OS Eastings: 315494

OS Northings: 610617

OS Grid: NT154106

Mapcode National: GBR 5646.QF

Mapcode Global: WH6W7.QZY9

Entry Name: Saddle Yoke, township 1100m and 1050m NE of

Scheduled Date: 4 February 2010

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM12706

Schedule Class: Cultural

Category: Secular: settlement, including deserted, depopulated and townships

Location: Moffat

County: Dumfries and Galloway

Electoral Ward: Annandale North

Traditional County: Dumfriesshire


The monument comprises the remains of a pre-Improvement township. The monument is made up of at least 21 structures and associated enclosures, visible as a series of linear turf-covered stone and earthen, banks and depressions. The remains are dispersed over an area that measures a maximum of 295m SW-NE by around 200m transversely. The township is located at between 160 and 200m above sea level, in the bottom of the Moffat Water river valley, which lies adjacent to the immediate south-east of the monument. The township is bisected by the A 708 road.

The buildings are concentrated in the SE part of the monument, to the east of the road. In this area there are at least 15 rectangular or sub-rectangular structures, possibly not all buildings, disposed around three principal yard areas. The yards are defined by turf banks and are set apart by trackways. Most of the buildings are oriented SW-NE, set end on to the slope, with the remainder oriented SE-NW and terraced into the slope. The buildings range in size from around 7.7m by 4.6m up to 16.9m by more than 6.4m overall. The majority of the building walls have been reduced to a maximum of 0.3m in height. Some appear to have been substantial and have spread to a width of 2m. Three of the structures, spread across the site, are sub-square on plan and measure around 5.2m across, however their function is unknown.

To the north-west of the road are traces of a further six buildings and the fragmentary remains of a field system, defined by a system of turf banks. The buildings in this area range in size from 9.5m by 6.6m to 11.5m by 5.3m overall.

The area to be scheduled is irregular in plan, divided into two by the A708, to include the visible remains and an area around them within which evidence relating to their creation and use may survive, as shown in red on the accompanying map. The scheduled area extends up to but excludes the stone walls and wooden fences of the sheep pens to the east, and the post-and-wire fence along the road sides.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Statement of Scheduling

Cultural Significance

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

Intrinsic characteristics

A township is defined as a group of dwellings, associated with farm buildings and cultivated land, which would have been held by two or more joint tenants, usually working the land communally. The settlement was rural in nature and may have been associated with cultivated fields, the limits of which are often delineated by a head dyke. Aside from domestic structures associated buildings can include barns, byres, kilns, kiln-barns, bull-sheds, cart-sheds, pig sties and mills as well as structures such as hay stack bases, kailyards and flax pits. Such structures may have been constructed of turf, timber or stone, with those of turf being particularly vulnerable to later ploughing. The settlement may have been in use for a number of generations and domestic dwellings may have been used for other functions as their condition deteriorated and they were replaced, causing an agglomerative effect and the preservation of earlier settlement remains beneath later structures.

The degree of preservation of the structural elements indicate that land use since the settlement was abandoned has not significantly impacted on the monument. The monument has survived well as a series of earthworks and potentially associated deposits and artefacts. These have an inherent potential to inform our knowledge of pre-Improvement rural vernacular architecture and our understanding of domestic living arrangements, potentially over a period of some time. There is also potential for the survival of archaeologically significant deposits within and around the monument. These deposits have an inherent capacity to further our understanding of contemporary society and its associated material culture and can inform our knowledge of social, religious and economic activities that formed the daily lives of the inhabitants.

The potential to identify the functions of individual buildings within the farmstead can inform our understanding of the organization of rural settlement and further our knowledge of the provision for various domestic, agricultural and industrial practices undertaken at such locations. The township also has the capacity to contribute to our knowledge of the development of rural settlement through time and the reasons for, and chronology of, its eventual abandonment.

Contextual characteristics

The monument is located in the base of the valley of the Moffat Water, which itself runs adjacent to the east of the site. There are clear views across the valley floor, up the enclosing slopes, and along the valley from NE-SW. A classic location for such settlements is on the break of a slope, which may mark the boundary between arable and pasture. In this case there is a break in slope on the W side of the monument, where the slope becomes much steeper, which may form such a boundary, despite the absence of a convincing head dyke.

Survival of rural settlement at this scale is rare in eastern Dumfries and Galloway, with only one other monument classified as a 'fermtoun'. There are, however, a number of individual farmsteads and buildings, identified through field survey. Hearth tax returns dating to the late 17th century also indicate that the landscape was populated by a number of small townships, across both the uplands and lowlands. Moffatdale contains the greatest concentration of medieval and later settlement remains in Upper Annandale. However the fragmentary nature of survival of relict landscapes also indicates that the pattern formed by surviving remains is not a true reflection of what formerly existed within the landscape. Research into three other examples of rural settlement in Moffatdale, although much smaller, has indicated that settlements differed in nature and character over relatively short distances. In addition to the farmstead sites identified on the lower slopes, a number of individual buildings have also been identified dispersed on the upper slopes of Moffatdale. Their nature is unclear but they may be a mixture of cottar's houses, bothies, byres, sheepcotes and sheds.

This monument is a significant and rare element in the surviving landscape of pre-Improvement settlement in this area. When compared and contrasted to other pre-Improvement settlement remains it can inform our knowledge of the nature of rural settlement at this time. This can further our understanding of where settlement was located, how the landscape was organised, used and controlled and how it may have evolved over time, as well as the impact of agricultural improvements on the landscape and rural population.

Associative characteristics

The township is not depicted on the 1st edition Ordnance Survey or Roy's military Survey of mid-18th century, even as ruined buildings. This indicates that the settlement had been abandoned, and largely 'removed', some time before the mid-18th century, and probably due to changes in agricultural practice in the 18th century. The monument has an inherent potential to inform our understanding of the practical effects of the 'Improvement' in this part of rural Scotland and the mobile nature of settlement as a result. There is a great potential for archaeological evidence held within this site to inform and complement pre-existing knowledge gained through documentary research.

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 pre-Improvement rural architecture, domestic arrangements, settlement pattern and land use, potentially over some period of time and developing as a consequence. It also has an inherent capacity to contribute to our knowledge of the practical effects that new farming methods had on a lowland rural landscape and population. The unusually good survival of the township, in a lowland setting, enhances this potential, as much of the artefactual and ecofactual evidence is likely to survive. The loss of this monument would impede our ability to understand better the economic, agricultural and domestic changes in the early modern period in rural eastern Dumfries and Galloway and across Scotland as a result of new farming theory and practice.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland



RCAHMS records this monument as NT 11 SE 3; Spoon Burn, Fermtoun; Buildings; Structures; Enclosures; Cultivations Remains. Dumfries and Galloway Sites and Monuments Record note this monument as MDG8179.


RCAHMS 1997, Eastern Dumfriesshire: An Archaeological Landscape, 233-4, 315, no. 1419, Edinburgh: Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

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