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Eweslees, watch tower 1980m north west of

A Scheduled Monument in Hawick and Hermitage, Scottish Borders

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Coordinates

Latitude: 55.2776 / 55°16'39"N

Longitude: -2.9893 / 2°59'21"W

OS Eastings: 337251

OS Northings: 598609

OS Grid: NY372986

Mapcode National: GBR 77KD.MY

Mapcode Global: WH7Y4.1LTZ

Entry Name: Eweslees, watch tower 1980m NW of

Scheduled Date: 27 January 2010

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM12750

Schedule Class: Cultural

Category: Roman: signal station

Location: Ewes

County: Scottish Borders

Electoral Ward: Hawick and Hermitage

Traditional County: Dumfriesshire

Description

The monument consists of earthworks forming an enclosed sub-circular mound interpreted as the remains of a watch tower, also sometimes known as a signal station, of the Roman period. The monument is located in a natural pass known as Ewes Doors, at the head of the Eweslees Burn, around 350m above sea level.

The monument consists of a circular earthen mound enclosed by a shallow ditch and counterscarp bank with a total diameter of around 14.5m. The ditch is 0.6m deep and 2.4m wide. The mound is up to 1.6m high and 11.2m in diameter, with a slightly dished top 5m in diameter and itself enclosed by a bank. The bank on the mound is 2.5m thick and between 0.7 and 0.3m high and has an entrance gap on the N side and there are remnants of a possible causeway at this point.

The area to be scheduled is circular on plan to include the visible remains of the monument, as well as an area around within which evidence relating to its construction, use and abandonment may survive, as shown in red on the accompanying map. Specifically excluded are the above-ground elements of a post-and-wire fence crossing the NW arc of the scheduled area, 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

The earthen remains of the monument display characteristics consistent with its interpretation as a Roman watch tower. The typical form of this type of monument consists of a square or rectangular tower of wood, often identified during excavation by four large post-holes, located within a surrounding bank and single or sometimes double V-shaped ditch that is commonly circular in form. The presence of a causeway is also typical and strengthens the interpretation as a watch tower. The function of this military structure would have been primarily to monitor the surrounding landscape and secondarily to use basic signalling as part of a wider system of communication.

The tower is thought to have had an upper room and balcony space for observation at around 10m above the ground. The walls were probably constructed of wattle and daub and these would have functioned as room divisions. It is believed that the tower would have been manned by Roman soldiers on a rotation basis. The mechanism for signalling is not fully understood but may have been confined to emergency situations with more everyday communications carried by mounted messenger.

The monument survives well as apparently undisturbed earthworks. The remote location beyond modern agricultural areas combined with lack of recorded excavation would indicate a high potential for the survival of archaeologically significant features, deposits and artefacts. These have the capacity to further our knowledge about the construction of the structure, the date and duration of its use, the way in which it may have functioned and the activities, lives and contacts of those who were stationed within. The upstanding remains may also overlie the contemporary land surface and contain important environmental evidence with the potential to tell us what the landscape that the monument was built in looked like and how it was used.

Contextual characteristics

The monument is located on a natural knoll at around 35m above sea level. It is at the head of Ewes Doors pass, around 210m NW of the head of the NW-SE oriented valley of Eweslees Burn. The monument is on the watershed and there are clear and long range views down this valley and also to the north along the valley of Wrangway Burn. Visibility was clearly an important consideration in the placing of this monument within the landscape.

Roman watch towers are found throughout those parts of Scotland formerly occupied by the Romans and are most often located close to Roman roads, though isolated examples are known. As in this example, the Roman army usually sited them to take advantage of the natural topography and visibility and intervisibility with other contemporary Roman monuments such as forts as key factors in their locations. The greatest concentration of watch towers identified to date is located along the Gask Ridge in Perth and Kinross, many of which survive as cropmarks and were identified through aerial photography. The exact date of the introduction of the watch tower to Roman Scotland is unclear but some of the earliest examples may date to the Flavian period in the first century AD. However, the amount of later Antonine infrastructure in this region could indicate that this particular structure is later (2nd century AD) in date.

Several of the Gask Ridge watch towers have been excavated and associated features such as post-holes, post-pipes, pits, ditches, and an oven have been discovered. Finds of artefacts were infrequent but archaeologists have found ceramic sherds, including a piece of Flavian mortarium and Samian, nails, whetstones etc. Evidence of potential rebuilding and multiple phases of some of the towers was also found, including replacement with a fortlet, as well as consistent evidence of deliberate demolition and burning at the end of use of the tower.

Eastern Dumfries and Galloway was highly significant during the Roman period as a gateway to the lowlands of Scotland. Its valleys are some of the shortest routes from the Roman province into the centre of Scotland. Consequently, strategic and tactical control of the landscape and its inhabitants were pivotal to the security of the established province. Four watch towers have been identified in eastern Dumfries and Galloway. These are dispersed along well-known Roman roads to the south and west, through Annandale. A routeway of some antiquity is located to the north of this example and runs NE-SW along the valley of the Wrangway Burn. It was in use throughout the medieval period until the 18th century. The exact age of the route is not established but there is a possibility that it is Roman in origin. The presence of the watch tower alone implies the existence of an as yet unrecorded Roman routeway into Scotland and by implication a chain of as yet undiscovered watch towers, temporary camps and other military installations extending northwards up Ewesdale and through Teviotdale. The nearest potential watch tower to this is around 9 km to the north-west, at Craik Cross, while the nearest fort is around 12 km to the west at Raeburnfoot. The monument is very important for the previously unrecorded evidence of Roman military activity in Ewesdale and Teviotdale and has the potential to inform our understanding of the disposition of Roman garrisons in this area.

Associative characteristics

The majority of our knowledge on the structure of watch towers derives from carvings of similar structures on Trajan's Column, Rome, although work has also been undertaken on watch towers of the Rhaetian Limes (in modern SW Germany).

The monument has been interpreted as a possible cairn in the past.

National Importance

The monument is of national importance because it has an inherent potential to contribute to the understanding of the past, in particular Roman watch towers, their construction, architecture and any patterns of development and distribution. It exhibits good field characteristics and is particularly important as previously unrecorded evidence of Roman military activity in Ewesdale and Teviotdale. As an element within a group of monuments defined by a limited time period and geographical distribution it also has an inherent potential to inform our knowledge of the relationship between this monument type and other contemporary monuments. Spatial analysis may reveal valuable information on the distribution of Roman watch towers and related remains within the landscape, and any patterns uncovered may aid the prospection of further examples. Associated artefacts have the potential to further our knowledge of the use of such monuments, their duration and different phases of activity and also have the potential to inform our understanding of interaction with the local population and to illustrate wider ranging and more complicated networks of contact and co-operation. The loss of the monument would impede our understanding of the placing of such monuments within the landscape, the nature of activity at the monument and their position in the network of Roman remains within this region, in Scotland and further afield across the Roman Empire.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Sources

Bibliography

RCAHMS records the monument as NY39NE 4, Ewes Doors; Watch Tower (Possible). Dumfries and Galloway Council SMR assigns the index number MDG8059.

References:

Breeze D 2006, Roman Scotland: Frontier Country, B. T. Batsford: London.

RCAHMS 1997, Eastern Dumfriesshire: An Archaeological Landscape, 168, 170, fig 182, 281, 309, no. 1220. Edinburgh: Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland.

Wooliscroft D J et al 2002, The Roman Frontier on the Gask Ridge, Perth and Kinross: An Interim Report on the Roman Gask Project 1995-2000, Brit Archaeol Rep Brit Ser 335.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

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