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Alton, moated site 530m ESE of

A Scheduled Monument in Annandale North, Dumfries and Galloway

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Latitude: 55.3399 / 55°20'23"N

Longitude: -3.4189 / 3°25'7"W

OS Eastings: 310105

OS Northings: 606014

OS Grid: NT101060

Mapcode National: GBR 46KP.ML

Mapcode Global: WH6WL.G16N

Entry Name: Alton, moated site 530m ESE of

Scheduled Date: 24 March 2010

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM12723

Schedule Class: Cultural

Category: Secular: homestead moat

Location: Moffat

County: Dumfries and Galloway

Electoral Ward: Annandale North

Traditional County: Dumfriesshire


The monument comprises the remains of a moated site of medieval date and visible as a series of earthwork banks, grass-covered wall footings and ditches, forming a yard and two buildings, and situated within grazing land. The monument is located at around 170m above sea level on a gentle SW-facing slope, around 2km SE of the River Annan. A tributary of the Crosslaw Burn runs through its NW side.

The visible traces of the monument consist of a yard measuring around 30m NNW-SSE by up to around 38m SSW-NNE internally, and with earthwork evidence of internal subdivision. The yard is defined by earthwork banks and grass-covered stone wall footings, and on the NW and NE sides the addition of an external ditch up to 7.5m broad and 1.5m deep. Turf-covered wall footings define two, two-compartment buildings, each oriented ENE-SSW located within the yard. The first is located along the interior of the SE side of the yard and measures around 22m by around 7.2m overall. The second is located against the interior of the NW side of the yard and measures around 23.7m by around 6.7m overall. At the ENE end of the latter building is a rectangular platform measuring 5.4m by 3.8m. At the WNW terminal of the ditch are traces of a possible dam and a rectangular platform measuring 8.7m by 4.2m may indicate the position of a mill.

The area to be scheduled is irregular in plan, to include the remains described and an area around them within which evidence relating to the monument's construction, use and abandonment may survive, as shown in red on the accompanying map.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Statement of Scheduling

Cultural Significance

The monument's cultural significance can be expressed of as followed:

Intrinsic characteristics

The size, form and rectilinear of the visible remains indicates that the monument is a moated enclosure, likely to date to the later medieval period. Experience with similar excavated sites, and from documentary sources, indicates that the monument may have been in use for several generations.

In its original form the monument would have been enclosed by a broad, water-filled ditch and would have functioned as a domestic, rather than a defensive, settlement.

The monument survives partially as earthworks and grass-covered wall footings. There is no evidence that the site has been excavated or significantly disturbed. The partial survival of the earthworks indicates that the ditch may have become infilled, or had its banks denuded on some sides. Waterlogging suggests a high potential for well-preserved, archaeologically significant deposits within the monument. These deposits have an inherent potential to inform our understanding of the environment within which the monument was constructed, inhabited and finally abandoned. The ditch and other surviving negative features also have an inherent capacity to further our understanding of the forms of domestic activity upon the site. The upstanding remains, the wall footings and earthwork banks, may also preserve environmental evidence within and beneath them. This has the capacity to inform our knowledge of the environment within which the monument was constructed and used, what the landscape was used for and how it looked.

The survival of structural remains also has the potential to further our understanding of domestic architecture on moated sites and changes in fashion and form through the active use of the site. The interior of the site may well retain traces of associated features, relating to the domestic structures and these too have a capacity to inform our knowledge of the daily lives of the occupants over several decades, if not centuries.

Contextual characteristics

The monument is located at around 170m above sea level on a gentle SW-facing slope, at the foot of Auldton Hill.

Moated homesteads are relatively rare within Scotland as a whole when compared to the frequency of those recorded in other parts of the UK and beyond. There are around 122 known sites in Scotland compared with 750 in Ireland and 5300 in England. Twenty-five percent (30) of the Scottish monuments are found within the Dumfries and Galloway region, the second highest concentration by council area in Scotland. Of these, a relatively high proportion, 80%, survive as upstanding remains. In eastern Dumfries and Galloway archaeologists have identified six moated sites from surviving remains. However, experience with documentary sources has indicated that recorded examples where physical remains survive are only a fraction of the original number of such sites. There are some issues of positive identification in this area, due to similarities in form with some later prehistoric rectilinear settlements. However, the associative characteristics of this site (see below) and the good preservation of surviving interior features confirm the likely date of the monument.

Of considerable interest to this monument is its close proximity to Auldton Motte, around 765m to the WSW. This is the remains of an impressive motte-and-bailey castle of the de Brus lordship, built on demesne land and located to observe the Tweedale and Yarrow routeways. The castle is thought to have played a role in facilitating hunting in the hills of northern Annandale. The relationship of the moated site to the castle is unclear; prior to the introduction of castles it is thought that there was a pattern of senior families holding sizeable estates in the region. Moated sites are often interpreted as a local centre for feudal lords in medieval Scotland but this particular site may have developed to serve the castle, perhaps as a hunting lodge, additional accomodation or with an agricultural or ecclesiastical function. The site may have been in use for a considerable period of time during which its functions were adapted and altered. When compared and contrasted with contemporary monuments this monument has the capacity to provide an insight into the feudalisation of this part of Scotland. Of particular interest is the potential to determine patterns of distribution and duration and phases of use, as well as previous or subsequent functions and consequent changes in form. Such patterns may aid our understanding of large-scale social changes through time and geographical variation in social systems.

Associative characteristics

The First Edition Ordnance Survey of the area notes the monument as 'Chapelry of the Knights Templar'. This would appear to come from the Ordnance Survey Name Book of 1857 which references 'old writings' for this information and states that the monuments was known as 'Walls'. Further investigation of the available documents by the Ordnance Survey in 1972 found no evidence of any monastic connection but noted a certain similarity in form of the courtyard arrangement to known grange sites. Recent work by RCAHMS in 1997 suggests that the builders of the site were probably the French family, who are recorded as holding land in the vill of Moffat in the 13th century.

National Importance

The monument is of national importance because it has an inherent potential to inform us of the construction techniques, defences and domestic life of a late medieval moated homestead. Artefacts and environmental evidence contained within its extent, especially any waterlogged organic remains, have the potential to inform our understanding of the daily lives of the inhabitants, what they wore, how they worshipped and what they produced and consumed. It may also shed light on the extent and nature of the feudalisation of Scotland and particularly the south-west of Scotland. The concentration of this monument type in eastern Dumfries and Galloway may relate to the specific nature of this process in this area and perhaps the specific role and influence of the named nobility, in this instance the French family in medieval society. Its loss or diminution would impede our ability to understand the pattern of higher status settlement in eastern Dumfries and Galloway, as well as how such sites relate to one another and the landscape.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland



RCAHMS records the monument as NT10NW 11. The Dumfries and Galloway SMR records the monument as MDG395.

Aerial Photographs used:

RCAHMS 1991 Rogermoor moated site, NT10NW 11, B 71680

RCAHMS 1991 Rogermoor moated site, NT10NW 11, B 71681

RCAHMS 1991 Rogermoor moated site, NT10NW 11, B 71682

RCAHMS 1991 Rogermoor moated site, NT10NW 11, B 71683

RCAHMS 1991 Rogermoor moated site, NT10NW 11, B 71684


RCAHMS, 1997 Eastern Dumfriesshire: An Archaeological Landscape, Edinburgh: Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland, 206, 208, 233, 311 no 1268.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

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