Ancient Monuments

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Steel Knowe, medieval and later settlements and field systems

A Scheduled Monument in Hawick and Denholm, Scottish Borders

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Latitude: 55.372 / 55°22'19"N

Longitude: -2.5499 / 2°32'59"W

OS Eastings: 365246

OS Northings: 608800

OS Grid: NT652088

Mapcode National: GBR B6MB.R3

Mapcode Global: WH8Z2.S7YM

Entry Name: Steel Knowe, medieval and later settlements and field systems

Scheduled Date: 30 September 1997

Last Amended: 3 August 2020

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM7144

Schedule Class: Cultural

Category: Prehistoric domestic and defensive: platform; Prehistoric ritual and funerary: cairn (type uncertain

Location: Southdean

County: Scottish Borders

Electoral Ward: Hawick and Denholm

Traditional County: Roxburghshire


The monument comprises a group of farmsteads, enclosures and field systems dating to medieval and post-medieval periods. It survives as a series of earthworks on the east and west sides of the Jordan Sike.

On the east side of the stream are medieval and post-medieval round-ended buildings, turf huts, rig, stock enclosures and a prehistoric burial cairn, most of which are enclosed within at least three phases of boundary banks and ditches. On the west side of the stream are rig, stock enclosures, building platforms and a post-medieval farmstead which are enclosed also by boundary banks. Along the west side of the Jordan Sike from Croft Plantation in the north to the A6088 road on the south the monument comprises a broad swathe of rig, a farmstead, two possible building-platforms, a quarry and three phases of boundary (ditches and banks). The remains survive as turf covered banks of stone and earth standing up to a maximum height of 1m high in places. Later shooting butts are found across the monument.

The scheduled area is irregular. It includes the remains described above and an area around within which evidence relating to the monument's construction, use and abandonment is expected to survive, as shown in red on the accompanying map. The monument specifically excludes the above ground elements all modern post and wire fences and gates.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Statement of Scheduling

The national importance of the monument is demonstrated in the following way(s) (see Designations Policy and Selection Guidance, Annex 1, para 17):

a. The monument is of national importance because it makes a significant contribution to our understanding or appreciation of the past or has the potential to do so. It has the potential to contribute to our understanding of the character and nature of medieval and later rural settlement in southern Scotland  

b. The monument retains physical attributes which make a significant contribution to our understanding or appreciation of the past. It has the potential to increase our understanding of construction methods and materials of medieval and later domestic buildings through scientific study of the monument's structural remains

c. The monument is a rare example of a multi-period Scottish lowland rural agricultural settlement with both domestic and ancillary buildings as well as their associated field systems.

d. The monument is a particularly good example of a group of deserted medieval and post-medieval lowland farmsteads and is therefore an important representative of this monument type. Only a small number of deserted farmsteads with documented medieval origins survive in lowland Scotland. This monument has both domestic and agricultural buildings as well as associated yards and field systems. Their survival provides information on the morphology and use of space within these medieval agricultural settlements.

e. The monument has research potential which could significantly contribute to our understanding of medieval and later rural settlement, architecture, economy and social organisation. Its importance is enhanced by its potential to provide information on the development of rural settlement in an area that was a royal forest.

f. The monument makes a significant contribution to our understanding of the historic landscape as a well-preserved example of medieval agricultural landscape within the Royal Forest of Jedburgh. Comparison with other farmsteads and settlements within the Forest can add to our understanding of the composition and distribution of small medieval settlements. The monument's association with a prominent family (the Douglases) and study of other known landholdings belonging to this family can help us to understand the development of medieval and later land ownership in this part of lowland Scotland.


Assessment of Cultural Significance

This statement of national importance has been informed by the following assessment of cultural significance:

Intrinsic characteristics (how the remains of a site or place contribute to our knowledge of the past)

The monument survives as a complex of well-preserved multi-period earthworks of domestic and agricultural buildings and associated field systems. Evidence of earlier prehistoric land use also survives in the form of the remains of a burial cairn on the summit of Steel Knowe and a pair of possible house platforms near the head of the Jordan Sike.

The monument highlights the advance and decline of agriculture over an extended period in an upland setting. The remains of two round-ended farmsteads with associated yards, buildings and enclosures are located on the east side of the Jordan Sike. Examples of similar buildings from elsewhere are thought to date to the 13th or 14th century and it is likely that these represent a spread of agriculture into the higher Cheviot foothills in the medieval period. A large head dyke encloses both the farmsteads; archaeological field survey has shown that this unusual earthwork has multiple periods of construction and appears from other examples to relate to control of land use under 'Forest Law' (RCAHMS 1994). The earthworks are surrounded by large areas of rig cultivation both medieval and post-medieval. Much of the rig that survives is medieval suggesting that there may have been a period of abandonment between the medieval use of the area and the post-medieval periods. This is likely to be as a result of climatic deterioration during the late medieval period (Parry 1975).

The grass covered earthworks which form the farmsteads and associated field systems are well defined and relatively undisturbed. Therefore, there is good potential for the survival of buried structures and archaeological deposits, artefacts and environmental information within, beneath and around the settlement. Buried archaeological deposits have the potential to provide information about the date and character of the site, while any artefacts and environmental information such as pollen or charcoal, would enhance understanding of the economy, diet and social status of the occupants, as well as provide information about contemporary land use and environment.

Contextual characteristics (how a site or place relates to its surroundings and/or to our existing knowledge of the past)

Deserted settlements are found throughout Scotland. The example at Steel Knowe is of significance as an upstanding and well-preserved example which shows multiple periods of activity from the medieval to post-medieval periods. The farmsteads are located within a landscape which holds a number of other deserted medieval farmsteads, settlement and tower houses which may be broadly contemporary. Some have similar features to this monument; enclosures, field systems and domestic buildings are all present, for instance at Martinlee Sike, farmstead, field system and assart bank (scheduled monument SM6144) and Crink Law (Canmore ID: 74608 and 74631). These farmsteads are located within the Royal Forest of Jedburgh Ettrick, where the land was administered to preserve the area as a hunting ground for the King.

It is likely that the farmsteads began as a 'forest-steads', which was a defined area of land that was let on an annual basis. The forest was in the hands of the Douglas family from 1320 and remained at least, in part, in their hands until the 18th century. In the 16th century the forest was increasing given over to feus - perpetual heritable tenures given in return for annual fixed payments. During this time many of the pele towers and bastle houses (such as Northbank Tower [scheduled monument SM3766: 700m northeast] and Slack's Tower [scheduled monument SM3770: 950m northwest]) recorded in this area were founded, often on site of earlier medieval farms.

Comparison with this monument and others in the Scottish Borders and with historic rural settlement sites in other parts of Scotland and within 'Jedburgh Forest', could enhance our understanding of regional variations in rural settlement in the medieval and post-medieval periods. It could add to our understanding of the structure of society and the form and nature of contemporary rural settlement. There may have been social, economic, community and familial links between other nearby farmsteads and tower houses/ bastles. Although based on a subsistence economy with each family supporting itself, resources may have been shared. This monument therefore has the potential to enhance and broaden our understanding of such agricultural and domestic practices.

Associative characteristics (how a site or place relates to people, events, and/or historic and social movements)

There are no known associative characteristics that contribute to this monument's cultural significance.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland



Historic Environment Scotland reference number CANMORE ID 74642 (accessed on 07/01/2020).

Historic Environment Scotland reference number CANMORE ID 74644 (accessed on 07/01/2020).

Historic Environment Scotland reference number CANMORE ID 74645 (accessed on 07/01/2020).

Historic Environment Scotland reference number CANMORE ID 74646 (accessed on 07/01/2020).

Historic Environment Scotland reference number CANMORE ID 74647 (accessed on 07/01/2020).

Historic Environment Scotland reference number CANMORE ID 74653 (accessed on 07/01/2020).

Historic Environment Scotland reference number CANMORE ID 74654 (accessed on 07/01/2020).

Historic Environment Scotland reference number CANMORE ID 74655 (accessed on 07/01/2020).

Dixon, P J (1998). "A rural medieval settlement in Roxburghshire: excavations at Springwood Park, Kelso, 1985-6" in Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland no. 128, pp. 671-751. (accessed 27/01/2020).

Gilbert, J M (1979). Hunting and Hunting Reserves in Medieval Scotland. John Donald, Edinburgh.

Parry, M. L. (1975). "Secular Climatic Change and Marginal Agriculture." in Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, no. 64, pp. 1–13. JSTOR, (accessed 21/01/2020).

RCAHMS (1994). The Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland. Southdean, Borders: an archaeological survey. Edinburgh. RCAHMS.


Source: Historic Environment Scotland

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