Ancient Monuments

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Marshall Moor, fort 780m north west of Bower

A Scheduled Monument in Johnstone North, Kilbarchan, Howwood and Lochwinnoch, Renfrewshire

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Latitude: 55.829 / 55°49'44"N

Longitude: -4.6003 / 4°36'1"W

OS Eastings: 237223

OS Northings: 662588

OS Grid: NS372625

Mapcode National: GBR 3B.5Z56

Mapcode Global: WH3P3.9RM8

Entry Name: Marshall Moor, fort 780m NW of Bower

Scheduled Date: 24 February 2011

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM12862

Schedule Class: Cultural

Category: Prehistoric domestic and defensive: fort (includes hill and promontory fort)

Location: Kilbarchan

County: Renfrewshire

Electoral Ward: Johnstone North, Kilbarchan, Howwood and Lochwinnoch

Traditional County: Renfrewshire


The monument comprises the remains of a fort occupied probably in the late Bronze Age or early Iron Age, sometime between 1200 BC and AD 400. The fort occupies the top of a wide ridge. Low grass-grown ramparts are visible at either end of the ridge, separating the fort interior from the lower ground to the north and south. The sides of the ridge are extremely steep, limiting access to the fort interior. The site lies in a prominent position at approximately 170m above sea level and there are extensive views over the surrounding landscape.

The fort interior measures around 96m NNE-SSW and varies in width from around 30m to 49m transversely. At the S end, a low bank 2m wide, flanked by ditches 4m wide, extends for 18m from the very steep W side of the ridge, terminating at a S entrance. Beyond the entrance, a low scarp with possible external ditch extends to the steep E edge of the ridge. In the 20th century, researchers discerned a line of rubble representing a collapsed wall extending along the ESE edge hilltop, mostly just below the top of the slope. To the north, the fort's defences are visible as a scarp around 3m wide enhancing the natural slope. A possible entrance with outwork lies towards the eastern end of this N rampart. There is no visible trace of artificial defences along the very steep western edge of the fort.

The area to be scheduled is irregular on 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 as follows:

Intrinsic characteristics

This monument represents a later prehistoric defended settlement with good evidence for earth and stone ramparts to the north and south. In addition, the remains of a wall along the E side have been noted in the past. This probably still survives but is now masked by the tall vegetation that grows on the site. The hilltop setting and ramparts show that defence was a primary concern influencing the choice of site. Although the visible upstanding remains are relatively low, there is potential for complex archaeological remains of banks and ditches to survive below ground. These remains can help us to understand more about the construction, use and abandonment of the defensive structures, helping to inform our understanding of the character of late prehistoric defended settlement in this area. Internal dwellings have not so far been recorded, but the fort's situation on marginal unimproved land suggests that levels of preservation will be excellent. Buried archaeological remains are likely to exist within the interior and have the potential to provide evidence for the design, construction, phasing and use of buildings. Potential also exists for the survival of buried land surfaces beneath the rampart and other standing features. These could preserve information about the environment before the site was constructed, adding to the time-depth represented by the remains. Cut features such as post-holes and pits may contain archaeologically significant deposits that can further our understanding of society, ritual, economy, agriculture and domestic settlement and architecture.

Contextual characteristics

Defended settlements and forts were built at various times from the late Bronze Age (starting around 1200 BC) until probably the end of the early Middle Ages (around 1000 AD). Although excavation indicates that the first defensive systems in Scotland appeared in the Bronze Age, the majority of monuments excavated so far have produced evidence for Iron-Age occupation, ranging from the mid to late 1st millennium BC.

Researchers have identified relatively few defended settlements in the former county of Renfrewshire compared to other areas of Scotland. The known sites range from small settlements, often known as 'homesteads' and measuring less than 50m in diameter, to larger forts. Most are characterised by relatively small-scale defences, typically stone banks or walls built on or near to hilltops to enhance the natural relief. Homesteads such as Knockmade Hill and Knapps may have been occupied in the later Bronze Age and excavation at the latter produced evidence of a wooden palisade, erected early in the history of the site. Larger settlements also have the potential to originate at a relatively early date and the hillfort at Craigmarloch, 10km north of Marshall Moor, produced evidence for a palisade that predated a timber-laced rampart and may date to around 800 BC. Both small homesteads and larger hillforts appear to have continued in use through much of the late 1st millennium BC. Researchers have interpreted the hillforts as suggesting the emergence of small tribal groups. The hillfort at Walls, 10km south-east of Marshall Moor, which is the largest hillfort in Renfrewshire, may have had such a function. In the immediate vicinity, Marshall Moor can be compared with an enclosure at East Barnaigh, only 500m to the north, that contained at least one potential roundhouse. This monument has not yet been excavated and there is much to learn about its precise function. Nevertheless, its high archaeological potential means that it has particular potential to contribute towards a better understanding of prehistoric forts and defended settlements in this area, particularly those in elevated positions. Their construction and layout, including size, number of entrances, design and placement in the landscape, are all important in understanding this type of monument. By comparing this monument to others of its type we can learn more about defended settlements and associated dwellings in the former county of Renfrewshire and more widely across Scotland.

Associative characteristics

The monument is known locally as 'the Roman fort'.

National Importance

The monument is of national importance because it has an inherent potential to make a significant addition to the understanding of the past, in particular the study of forts and defended settlements in later prehistoric SW Scotland. It survives in good condition above ground and it is probable that extensive and complex archaeological remains exist below the surface relating to the construction and use of the ramparts and potential internal features. The defensive ditches have high potential for the survival of buried material, including artefacts and ecofacts that relate to the use or abandonment of the fort. The monument has the potential to tell us about wider prehistoric society, how people lived, where they came from and who they had contacts with. Its importance is increased by its proximity to other monuments of potentially contemporary date and the capacity it has, therefore, to inform us about the nature of relationships between monuments of similar function. Spatial analysis of sites may inform our understanding of patterns of landholding and the expansion of settlement. Its loss or diminution would impede our ability to understand the placing of such monuments within the landscape, both in the former county of Renfrewshire and in other parts of Scotland, as well as our knowledge of later prehistoric social structure and economy.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland



RCAHMS record the site as NS36SE 2. The WoSAS SMR records the site as WoSASPIN 6880.


Alexander, D (ed) 1996, Prehistoric Renfrewshire; Papers in Honour of Frank Newall, Renfrewshire Local History Forum.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

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