Ancient Monuments

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Knockmade Hill, homestead

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

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Latitude: 55.8215 / 55°49'17"N

Longitude: -4.6314 / 4°37'53"W

OS Eastings: 235241

OS Northings: 661825

OS Grid: NS352618

Mapcode National: GBR 39.6B5V

Mapcode Global: WH2MY.TYQ1

Entry Name: Knockmade Hill, homestead

Scheduled Date: 24 February 2011

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM12861

Schedule Class: Cultural

Category: Prehistoric domestic and defensive: homestead

Location: Lochwinnoch

County: Renfrewshire

Electoral Ward: Johnstone North, Kilbarchan, Howwood and Lochwinnoch

Traditional County: Renfrewshire


The monument comprises the remains of a homestead, a small defended settlement occupied probably in later prehistory, sometime between 1200 BC and AD 400. A low grass-grown bank survives above ground, indicating the position of a roughly oval enclosure. Within the enclosure, the remains of two roundhouses also survive as low banks. The site lies in a prominent position next to the summit of Knockmade Hill at approximately 190m above sea level. The SE and SW slopes of the hill fall away steeply, limiting access to the summit. There are extensive views to the north and south.

The surrounding bank encloses an area measuring about 38m NE-SW by 23m transversely. The bank remains measure up to 4m wide and 0.2m high, but the feature is indistinct to the north and is elsewhere mainly visible as an enhancement of the natural slope. Archaeological excavations were carried out in 1959, 1960 and 1967. Four trenches were cut across the bank and showed that it had a stone core, 1m-1.5m wide, that included some massive stones. A break to the south-east marks the position of an entrance around 4m wide. Circular earthworks show the position of the roundhouses. The larger of the two measures around 11m in diameter and stands around 8m from the entrance through the enclosure bank. It has an entrance to the south-east, 2.5m wide, that aligns with the enclosure entrance. An earth and stone bank up to 0.3m high marks the position of the outer wall. Excavation of a small portion of the roundhouse revealed part of a central hearth, the outer wall surviving to a maximum height of three courses of stonework, and three postholes suggesting that timber posts stood just within the wall. A shallow depression bounded on the NW side by a semi-circular bank indicates the position of a second roundhouse, 3m to the SSW. It measures about 7m in diameter and excavations suggested a possible entrance on the NE side.

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 multi-phase internal structures. The hilltop setting and indications of a thick stone wall or bank around the site show defensive intention on the part of the inhabitants. Although the visible upstanding remains are relatively low, excavation suggests that complex archaeological deposits of the enclosure bank and at least two roundhouses survive below ground. These remains can help us to understand more about both the defensive structures and the design, construction, phasing and use of internal dwellings. There is no evidence for any disturbance in the settlement interior, which indicates potential for extensive buried deposits to exist, including both artefacts and ecofacts. The limited work done to date has produced indications of timber associated with a hearth in the larger roundhouse and part of a possible rotary quern from the smaller roundhouse, as well as charcoal, burnt bone and potsherds from outside the rampart. Further finds could help us build up a picture of the activities that took place on the site, the physical conditions, and the environment and land cover at the time. The upstanding banks and house footings may contain evidence relating to the creation, use and abandonment of the settlement, helping to inform our understanding of the character of late prehistoric defended settlement, including local variations in domestic architecture and building use. 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. Negative features, such as post-holes and pits, may contain archaeologically significant deposits that can further our understanding of society, ritual, economy, agriculture and domestic architecture, and may include human remains. Researchers have suggested that this larger roundhouse is particularly significant because the stone-lined drain suggests animals may have been kept inside. The wide doorway may support this theory. One of the postholes identified within the larger roundhouse appeared to be buried beneath the stonework whilst another was not, suggesting two phases of construction. The presence of house remains from different phases gives the potential to explore issues such as the duration of house occupation, and the extent to which occupation of the site was continuous, and the nature of abandonment processes.

Contextual characteristics

Defended settlements were built at various times from at least the end of the late Bronze Age (around 800 BC) until probably the end of the early Middle Ages (around 1000 AD). It is clear that at some sites the first defensive systems began to appear in the Bronze Age. However, 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. The known sites range from small settlements, often known as 'homesteads' and measuring less than around 50m in diameter, to larger forts. Most are characterised by relatively small-scale defences compared to other parts of Scotland, typically stone banks or walls built on or near to hilltops to enhance the natural relief. Knockmade Hill may be a relatively early example, potentially occupied before 800 BC in the later Bronze Age. Further excavation may clarify the date of its first use. A comparable site at Knapps near Kilmacolm may be of similarly early date. There, complete excavation produced evidence of a wooden palisade, erected early in the history of the site. Larger settlements also have the potential to be relatively early and Knockmade Hill can also be compared with the hillfort at Craigmarloch, 10 km to the north, where the palisade that pre-dated a timber-laced rampart may date to around 800 BC. Small homesteads appear to have continued in use through much of the late 1st millennium BC, at around the same time that larger hillforts were also appearing in the landscape. This is often interpreted as suggesting the emergence of small tribal units. The later defences at Craigmarloch and the hillfort at Walls, 10km south-east of Knockmade Hill and the largest hillfort in former Renfrewshire, provide local comparison. The stone wall at Craigmarloch was burnt and vitrified and excavation has also suggested possible traces of localised vitrification at Knockmade Hill. More locally, Knockmade Hill should be considered alongside the fort at Marshall Moor and enclosure at East Barnaigh (both around 2.5 km to the north-east) and the fort at Castle Hill (5km north). At all of these, relatively slight banks or walls appear to enhance the natural relief of hilltops. This monument thus has particular potential to contribute towards a better understanding of prehistoric defended settlements in this area, particularly those sited in elevated positions. The construction and layout of defended settlements and associated dwellings, including size and form, 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, both in the former county of Renfrewshire and more widely across Scotland. The monument also complements the other types of prehistoric settlement sites identified in the vicinity, which can together provide a fuller picture of the development of prehistoric landscape and society in the region over time.

Associative characteristics

The OS 1st Edition map published in the later 19th century depicts the monument, labelling it 'fort, supposed site of'.

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 defended settlement 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 roundhouses. The roundhouse banks and any associated pits and post-holes have high potential for the survival of buried material such as structural remains, and artefacts and ecofacts that were either buried when the roundhouses were built or relate to their use or abandonment. It has the potential to tell us about wider prehistoric society, its architecture, 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 different form and 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, economy and building practices.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland



RCAHMS record the site as NS36SE 6. The WoSAS SMR records the site as WoSASPIN 6896.


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

Newall, F 1962, 'Early open settlement in Renfrewshire', Proc Soc Antiq Scot 95 (1961-2), 159-70.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

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