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Elbeckhill, fort and farmstead 345m ESE of

A Scheduled Monument in Annandale North, Dumfries and Galloway

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Coordinates

Latitude: 55.2287 / 55°13'43"N

Longitude: -3.3495 / 3°20'58"W

OS Eastings: 314265

OS Northings: 593551

OS Grid: NY142935

Mapcode National: GBR 571Z.NG

Mapcode Global: WH6X0.JT7Z

Entry Name: Elbeckhill, fort and farmstead 345m ESE of

Scheduled Date: 27 January 2010

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM12708

Schedule Class: Cultural

Category: Prehistoric domestic and defensive: fort (includes hill and promontory fort); Secular: farmstead

Location: Wamphray

County: Dumfries and Galloway

Electoral Ward: Annandale North

Traditional County: Dumfriesshire

Description

The monument comprises a fort of probable later prehistoric date within which lie the remains of a pre-Improvement farmstead. The defences of the fort survive best to the north as a double bank and ditch; elsewhere, natural slopes largely define the extent of the site but there are traces of a rampart to the west and a possible entrance to the south. Further defences may have been levelled by subsequent occupation and cultivation. The later farmstead comprises remains of at least eight rectangular buildings laid out in a relatively irregular pattern; there are also banks defining several subrectangular enclosures. The site is located in rough pasture on a small spur projecting from the S side of a broad ridge. It lies between 230m and 240m above sea level, overlooking the upper reaches of the Hazelbank Burn whose source lies 15m to the south-east.

The fort earthworks define an internal area measuring about 70m N-S by 50m transversely. The inner bank measures up to 6m wide and 1.2m high, the medial ditch 6m wide and the outer bank 3m wide and 0.4m high. The later buildings and enclosures occupy most of the enclosure interior and range in size from around 16.5m by 6.8m to 10m by 5.2m.

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 and use may survive, as shown in red on the accompanying map. The above-ground elements of a post-and-wire fence that is aligned N-S and crosses the E side of the scheduled area are specifically excluded from the scheduling to allow for its maintenance.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Statement of Scheduling

Cultural Significance

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

Intrinsic characteristics

The earthworks defining the N end of this fort are well preserved and the two upstanding banks remain prominent landscape features. The later remains of the farmstead and enclosures are relatively slight and can be difficult to identify in certain conditions. However, the remains are extensive, in good condition, fill most of the earlier enclosure and stand sufficiently high to reveal a coherent plan. The layout of the buildings appears relatively irregular but at least one pair of parallel buildings is present, separated by a hollowed yard or trackway. The irregular layout may indicate a relatively early date for the farmstead and it has been suggested that these remains are of medieval origin. The subrectangular enclosures may have been for penning stock, or keeping animals out of garden areas.

Buried archaeological remains relating to the defensive circuit are undoubtedly preserved in addition to the visible upstanding features. It should also be noted that buried remains contemporary with the earthworks may exist in the interior of the site, among or beneath deposits relating to the later farmstead. These remains can help us to understand more about both the defensive structures and contemporary activities conducted in the interior. Ecofacts preserved in wet conditions within ditches or as a result of charring may give information about the physical conditions, environment and land cover at the time. The upstanding banks may contain evidence relating to the creation of the enclosure, helping to inform our understanding of the character of late prehistoric earthworks, in particular local variations in construction. Potential also exists for the survival of buried land surfaces beneath the ramparts. Evidence for any phases in the prehistoric remains may also survive below ground.

Buried archaeological remains also have the potential to inform the date and character of the later farmstead and reveal details of the building ground plans and functions, as well as details of the techniques used in their construction. Again, artefacts and ecofacts may enable partial reconstruction of the material culture and economy of the settlement. This may be of particular interest as the farmstead has the potential to be of medieval origin. However, while both the original earthworks and subsequent farmstead are interesting in their own right, the multiphase character of the occupation adds significance to the site. There is potential to study the extent to which the former use influenced the latter, to quantify the lengths of occupation, and to define the length of any periods of abandonment.

Contextual characteristics

Forts 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. In eastern Dumfries and Galloway, archaeologists have identified 450 sites as forts and defended settlements. Most known later prehistoric settlements in the area are relatively small enclosures sited along the sides of the valleys, but aerial photography is now revealing an increasing number of ditched enclosures on the low knolls and ridges in the lowlands. This site, which lies in a elevated position and offers considerable views over the upper Annandale, is one of several enclosures in the vicinity. Direct parallels may lie with the fort on Broomhill Bank Hill, around 2.6km to the SSW, which also has a double rampart of earth-and-stone with medial ditch, although its earthworks were laid out in a complete circle. The monument thus has the capacity to contribute towards a better understanding of prehistoric defended settlements in this area, particularly those sited in elevated positions. 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. Nearby sites of broadly comparable date include a probable ring-ditch house and scooped settlement on the flanks of Matthew's Hill, 600m to the south-east and another scooped settlement at Elbeckhill Linn, 500m to the north-west.

The farmstead is one of comparatively few in upper Annandale known to survive as an upstanding monument. Farmsteads in the area show considerable variation in the arrangement of their buildings, adding to the significance of each surviving example. Some sites show an orderly plan, with buildings laid out on a rectilinear pattern of alignments, and may be late in date. This farmstead, potentially medieval, is much less regular in plan, though the layout may be determined in part by its location within an earlier enclosure. Parallel buildings exist on at least one other site in the vicinity, but are a common feature of pre-Improvement farmsteads elsewhere in southern Scotland. Two further farmsteads lie in relatively close proximity to this site, 650m to the SSW and 300m to the WNW. The former lies in a similarly elevated position and comprises two buildings and three rectilinear enclosures on the edge of an extensive area of turf-banked fields and rig-and-furrow.

Associative characteristics

The site is shown on the Ordnance Survey 1st edition mapping as 'fort'.

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 to the study of later prehistoric forts and enclosures and pre-Improvement farmsteads in SW Scotland. It survives to a marked degree and displays well-preserved field characteristics in its structural evidence. The lack of significant later disturbance indicates the high potential for survival of buried material such as the artefacts and ecofacts that were either sealed when the monument was built, or relate to its use and abandonment. Farmstead remains are comparatively rare in upper Annandale and this example may be medieval in origin. The monument can help us understand patterns in, and underlying reasons for, landholding and the exploitation of natural resources in two different periods. Its loss would significantly diminish our future ability to appreciate and understand the later prehistoric and medieval/post-medieval pre-Improvement occupation of SW Scotland.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Sources

Bibliography

RCAHMS records the site as NY19SW 12. Dumfries and Galloway Council's SMR records the monument as MDG7323.

References:

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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