Ancient Monuments

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No. 4 Ritchieston, enclosure 285m ENE of

A Scheduled Monument in Bishopton, Bridge of Weir and Langbank, Renfrewshire

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Latitude: 55.9157 / 55°54'56"N

Longitude: -4.4987 / 4°29'55"W

OS Eastings: 243934

OS Northings: 671994

OS Grid: NS439719

Mapcode National: GBR 3G.0BDR

Mapcode Global: WH3NR.VKYV

Entry Name: No. 4 Ritchieston, enclosure 285m ENE of

Scheduled Date: 11 February 2011

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM12807

Schedule Class: Cultural

Category: Prehistoric domestic and defensive: enclosure (domestic or defensive)

Location: Erskine

County: Renfrewshire

Electoral Ward: Bishopton, Bridge of Weir and Langbank

Traditional County: Renfrewshire


The monument comprises an enclosure, visible from the air as a circular cropmark and dating probably to the later prehistoric period. The monument is located in rolling farmland at 40m above sea level and around 825m SSW of the S shore of the River Clyde.

Cropmarks represent negative archaeological features, the fills of which retain more moisture than the surrounding subsoil, resulting in enhanced growth of the crops above. The visible traces of the enclosure represent a circular ditch. The enclosure measures 33m in diameter over the ditch, which is between 2-3m wide. A clearly defined entrance, measuring 6.6m wide, is located on the W side of the monument.

The area to be scheduled is circular on plan to include the visible remains of the monument and an area around it within which evidence relating to its construction, use and abandonment may survive, as shown in red on the accompanying plan.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Statement of Scheduling

Cultural Significance

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

Intrinsic characteristics

The monument is visible as a well-defined cropmark of a circular feature lying within cultivated land and shown on three aerial photographs taken in 1977. Transcription of the photographs clearly shows a circular area enclosed by a single ditch with one entrance. It is probable that the creation of the ditch formed a bank of upcast, most likely situated within the circuit of the ditch. The situation of the monument and the insubstantial single ditch indicate that the primary purpose of the enclosure was unlikely to have been defence. No internal features are apparent on the aerial photographs. The single appearance of the cropmark, after the prolonged drought of 1976, indicates that the feature may be deeply buried beneath a thick layer of colluvium, with the potential for internal features to be preserved. Based on its form and size, the monument is interpreted as an enclosure of later prehistoric date and was possibly an enclosed domestic site, such as a settlement or stock enclosure.

The clarity of the cropmarks and the potential depth of any associated features beneath the top soil indicate the potential for a high level of survival of archaeological deposits, the remains of structures, and also artefact and ecofact assemblages on and around the site. The waterlogged nature of the location may also indicate a high potential for good preservation of organic remains. Specifically, cut features such as the ditch are likely to preserve archaeologically significant deposits within their fill. These features have the potential to enhance our understanding of the construction and use of the monument, and if it was a settlement, to provide information on domestic architecture and activities within the enclosure. They also have the capacity to inform our understanding of the final phase of use of the monument and its eventual abandonment. Any artefacts may also have the potential to further our understanding of interaction with other communities in the area and contact with incoming people, such as the Romans. Originally upstanding elements of the monument, such as the bank of upcast from the ditch, would have been constructed over the contemporary ground surface. Where such buried soils exist they have the potential to inform our understanding of the environment in which the monument was constructed and land uses at the time.

Contextual characteristics

The monument is located on level ground at 40m above sea level. The relatively flat topography ensures good views in most directions, though now obscured by trees to the north. There is a rise in ground level to the east of the monument. This part of Scotland has few lowland prehistoric sites, of which only six survive as cropmarks. This may be a result of later land uses and the spread of urban areas, but may also reflect a lower original concentration of such sites. There are two other very similar sites in the region of identical form, both visible as cropmarks. The closest of these is situated around 985m to the SE at Drumcross at 30m above sea level, and has a diameter of 30m and a 4.5m wide entrance on the W side. The other example is located around 11km to the SSE at 25m above sea level and has a diameter of 60m and an 8.5m wide entrance on the SE side.

Excavations at similar cropmark sites have demonstrated the potential for well-preserved archaeological deposits and features to survive. At Shiels, in the parish of Govan around 10km to the SE, an oval enclosure visible as a cropmark was excavated in 1973-4 and revealed evidence of at least one rectangular structure and several possible roundhouses, none of which were apparent on the aerial photographs. Radiocarbon dating indicated that the site had been in use from the Iron Age into the early historic period. To the east of Shiels, another cropmark enclosure, with an enclosing circuit of three enclosing ditches, was excavated in 2001 and again revealed domestic structures within the interior which had not been apparent on the aerial photographs.

Settlements are the most common form of monument dating to the later prehistoric period and, in SW Scotland, the most frequent recorded type of later prehistoric site is enclosures. The nature of the development of settlement and the relationship between different types of settlement is a major area for research in southern Scotland. The nature and functions of enclosed sites is also little understood, although evidence would suggest that the majority of enclosures were not defensible in reality.

Further analysis of this monument and comparison with others may prove contemporaneity and evidence a system of settlement hierarchy. Spatial analysis of unenclosed settlements and other settlement types in the region may further our understanding of settlement location, changes in architectural practice through time, the structure of society and economy. The monument has the potential to further our understanding of the nature of enclosed settlement. We can use information gained from this monument to gain wider knowledge of later prehistoric enclosed settlement across Scotland.

National Importance

The monument is of national importance because it has an inherent potential to contribute to an understanding of later prehistoric sites. Specifically, this monument has the capacity to provide information about a particular settlement type, which characterises certain parts of the later prehistoric domestic landscape and forms an intrinsic element of the later prehistoric settlement pattern in SW Scotland. Domestic remains and artefacts from settlements have the potential to tell us about wider prehistoric society, its architecture, how people lived, where they came from and who they had contacts with. The old ground surfaces sealed by upstanding remains can provide information about what the contemporary environment looked like, how the farmers who lived there managed it and how field systems may be related to structures. Its importance is increased by its proximity to other monuments of potentially contemporary date and its capacity to inform us about the nature of the relationships between these monuments.Spatial analysis of sites may inform our understanding of patterns of landholding and the expansion of settlement. The loss or diminution of this monument would impede our ability to understand the placing of such monuments within the landscape, both within Inverclyde, Renfrewshire and East Renfrewshire and in other parts of Scotland, as well as our knowledge of later prehistoric social structure, economy and building practices.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland



Aerial photographs used:

RCAHMS 1977 RE990

RCAHMS 1977 RE991

RCAHMS 1977 RE992


Alexander, D 1996 Prehistoric Renfrewshire: Papers in Honour of Frank Newall. Renfrewshire Local History Section.

Alexander, D Forthcoming. The Iron Age of West Central Scotland.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

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