Ancient Monuments

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Catharine's Hill, settlement 620m north of Nether Murthat

A Scheduled Monument in Annandale North, Dumfries and Galloway

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Latitude: 55.2794 / 55°16'45"N

Longitude: -3.4099 / 3°24'35"W

OS Eastings: 310538

OS Northings: 599272

OS Grid: NY105992

Mapcode National: GBR 47MD.K8

Mapcode Global: WH6WS.LKGK

Entry Name: Catharine's Hill, settlement 620m N of Nether Murthat

Scheduled Date: 5 February 2010

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM12736

Schedule Class: Cultural

Category: Prehistoric domestic and defensive: settlement

Location: Wamphray

County: Dumfries and Galloway

Electoral Ward: Annandale North

Traditional County: Dumfriesshire


The monument comprises the remains of a defended settlement likely to date to later prehistory. A low grass-grown bank survives above ground, indicating the position of a roughly D-shaped enclosure. However, aerial photographs show that buried evidence survives for at least four round-houses within the enclosure. The site is located in improved pasture on a knoll above the E bank of the River Annan at approximately 105m above sea level. To the west the ground falls very steeply to the river and no man-made defences are visible on this side.

The low grass-gown bank encloses an area measuring about 70m N-S by 45m transversely. The bank measures up to 9.5m wide and 0.5 m high and a break in the east marks the position of an entrance around 6.9m wide. An internal bank aligned E-W crossing the N part of the enclosure is a later feature but may still be of considerable age. A shallow external ditch 7m wide is just visible to the south of the enclosure. Parchmarks visible on an aerial photograph augment the visible remains and suggest that further evidence exists below ground. The marks show the course of the external ditch and indicate the position of a second, outer ditch, further down the slope to the north. They also reveal the position of at least four round-houses within the enclosure bank, including two overlapping examples which demonstrate different phases of construction.

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 an electrified fence, which crosses the north part of 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 represents a later prehistoric defended settlement in a lowland context that has good evidence for multi-phase internal structures. The indications of an outer ditch to the north show defensive intent on the part of the inhabitants. Although the enclosing bank has been much reduced by later agriculture and the ditches largely infilled, aerial photography suggests that complex archaeological remains survive below ground that relate both to the defences and to internal structural features. These remains can help us to understand more about both the defensive structures and the design, construction, phasing and use of internal dwellings. The evidence suggests a lack of disturbance in the settlement interior and indicates potential for extensive buried deposits to exist, including both artefacts and ecofacts. These could help us build up a picture of the activities that took place on the site, the physical conditions and the environment and land cover at the time. The upstanding banks and house footings may contain evidence relating to the creation, use and abandonment of the settlement, helping to inform our understanding of the character of late prehistoric defended settlement including local variations in domestic architecture and building use. Potential also exists for the survival of buried land surfaces beneath the rampart and other standing features. These could preserve information about the environment before the site was constructed, adding to the time-depth represented by the remains. Negative features, such as post-holes and pits, may contain archaeologically significant deposits that can further our understanding of society, ritual, economy, agriculture and domestic architecture and may include human remains. The presence of house remains from different phases gives the potential to explore issues such as the duration of house occupation, the nature of abandonment processes and the extent to which occupation of the site was continuous.

Contextual characteristics

Defended settlements were built at various times from at least the end of the late Bronze Age (around 800 BC) until probably the end of the early Middle Ages (around 1000 AD). It is clear that at some sites the first defensive systems began to appear in the Bronze Age. However, the majority of monuments excavated so far have produced evidence for Iron-Age occupation, ranging from the mid- to late 1st millennium BC.

This settlement lies close to the valley bottom in a lowland context, where many curvilinear enclosures have single ditches between 2m and 3m in breadth. This site is thus unusual in this area as it preserves evidence for wide ditches and additional defences. It can be compared with other double ditched defended sites at Dornock Mains, Blackford, Dalton and Hayknowes. This monument is also rare because despite its lowland setting and history of intermittent cultivation, there is good evidence that complex internal features survive below ground. No other fort or ditched settlement in lowland Annandale has so far produced evidence for internal layout. The monument thus has particular potential to contribute towards a better understanding of prehistoric defended settlements in this area, particularly those sited in lowland positions. The construction and layout of defended settlements and associated dwellings, including size, number of entrances, design and placement in the landscape are all important in understanding this type of monument. By comparing this monument to others of its type we can learn more about defended settlements and associated dwellings in eastern Dumfries and Galloway and more widely across Scotland. The monument also complements the other types of prehistoric settlement sites identified in the vicinity, to provide a fuller picture of the development of prehistoric landscape and society in the region over time.

Associative characteristics

The OS 1st and 2nd Edition maps published in the later 19th century both depict the monument, labelling it 'Site of fort' and 'fort' respectively.

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 defended settlement in later prehistoric SW Scotland. It survives to a limited degree above ground but there is good evidence for extensive and complex archaeological remains below the surface, particularly within the enclosure bank. The quality of the parchmarks visible on aerial photographs indicates high potential for survival of buried material such as structural remains, artefacts and ecofacts that were either buried when the monument was built or relate to its use or abandonment. It has a particular capacity to inform debate on continuity and phases of settlement and changes in settlement type through time. It has the potential to tell us about wider prehistoric society, its architecture, how people lived, where they came from and who they had contacts with. Its importance is increased by any proximity to other monuments of potentially contemporary date and the capacity it therefore has 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 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, as well as our knowledge of later prehistoric social structure, economy and building practices.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland



RCAHMS records the site as NY19NW 1. The Dumfries and Galloway SMR records the site as MDG7252.


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

RCAHMS 1920, Seventh Report with Inventory of Monuments and Constructions in the County of Dumfries, HMSO: Edinburgh.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

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