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Broch of Benston, broch 380m north west of Nesting Primary School

A Scheduled Monument in Shetland North, Shetland Islands

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Coordinates

Latitude: 60.2652 / 60°15'54"N

Longitude: -1.1647 / 1°9'53"W

OS Eastings: 446316

OS Northings: 1153730

OS Grid: HU463537

Mapcode National: GBR R1GL.YT7

Mapcode Global: XHF9K.77VX

Entry Name: Broch of Benston, broch 380m NW of Nesting Primary School

Scheduled Date: 20 December 1974

Last Amended: 9 August 2012

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM3585

Schedule Class: Cultural

Category: Prehistoric domestic and defensive: broch

Location: Nesting

County: Shetland Islands

Electoral Ward: Shetland North

Traditional County: Shetland

Description

The monument comprises a broch of Iron Age date (built probably between 500 BC and AD 200), a later building constructed north of the broch, the remains of outbuildings, and a partly submerged causeway extending E from the Holm of Benston to the Ness of Benston. The broch is visible as a mound, 17.5m in diameter and standing 1.3m high, with basal stones of the outer wall face visible here and there. The monument stands less than 10m above sea level, on a small island around 100m from the NE shore of the Loch of Benston and 1km from the sea at the East Voe of Skellister. The monument was first scheduled in 1974 but the documentation does not meet modern standards; the present rescheduling rectifies this.

The area to be scheduled is irregular on plan, to include the remains described above 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 as follows:

Intrinsic characteristics

The broch has partially collapsed, but the surviving mound is in stable condition, though heavily covered by vegetation. Substantial buried remains of the broch's lower courses and foundations are likely to be preserved within the mound, together with occupation levels. The visible features demonstrate that this is a complex, multi-phase monument with evidence for a development sequence. The secondary structure to the north of the broch measures 4.8m in diameter and contains four orthostats 0.5m high; researchers have suggested it resembles a nearby homestead. This structure probably provides evidence for continued occupation of the site after abandonment of the broch tower. The outbuildings, noted as slight earthworks, also have potential to preserve evidence of secondary occupation, although two of them are overlain by modern sheepfolds.

The buried archaeological deposits associated with the monument's construction, use and abandonment may allow future researchers to date the various stages of the site's visible development sequence: broch, later structure and outbuildings. In addition, the buried remains have considerable potential to enhance understanding of the use and function of brochs and the daily lives of the people who occupied them. There is high potential for the recovery of artefacts and ecofacts which could illuminate the diet, economy, and social status of the occupants and the extent to which this varied over time. The presence of the curving causeway suggests that the site of the broch was already an island during its occupation.

Contextual characteristics

This broch is one of over 130 in Shetland. It has high potential to enhance our understanding of the relationship between brochs, the extent to which they were contemporary, and their relationship with the wider landscape. There are two other brochs in the vicinity of this monument, one 480m to the northeast, and the other 1.6km to the northeast, positioned 250m from the coast. Brochs have been viewed as having a defensive or offensive function, or simply as being the prestige dwellings and farms of an elite keen to display its status. The buried remains at Benston have the potential to contribute to these questions and may provide further insights into the nature and use of these structures and the landscape immediately around them. The secondary structure to the north of the broch has high potential to tell us about continued Pictish occupation on broch sites, and can be compared to other much larger structures erected within broch towers, such as that at Levenwick.

Associative characteristics

The broch is depicted and labelled 'Brough, Site of' on the Ordnance Survey first edition map.

National Importance

This monument is of national importance because it has an inherent potential to make a significant addition to our understanding of the past, in particular of Iron Age Shetland and the role and function of brochs. The monument offers potential to study the relationship between the broch itself, the causeway, a secondary structure and several outhouses. The monument also stands relatively close to two other brochs and there is potential to examine the relationship between the three structures. The loss of the monument would significantly diminish our future ability to appreciate and understand the development and reuse of brochs in Shetland.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Sources

Bibliography

RCAHMS record the site as HU45SE 18. The Shetland Amenity Trust SMR records the site as MSN1006 (PrefRef 966).

References

Mackie, E W 2002, The roundhouses, brochs and wheelhouses of Atlantic Scotland c.700BC-AD500: architecture and material culture, Part 1: The Orkney and Shetland Isles. BAR British Series 342: Oxford. 116.

RCAHMS, 1946 The Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland. Twelfth report with an inventory of the ancient monuments of Orkney and Shetland, 3v Edinburgh. 78.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

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