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Beattock Hill, fort and unenclosed settlement 935m west of Braeside

A Scheduled Monument in Annandale North, Dumfries and Galloway

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Coordinates

Latitude: 55.3037 / 55°18'13"N

Longitude: -3.4733 / 3°28'23"W

OS Eastings: 306569

OS Northings: 602060

OS Grid: NT065020

Mapcode National: GBR 4753.VK

Mapcode Global: WH5VF.MY8G

Entry Name: Beattock Hill, fort and unenclosed settlement 935m W of Braeside

Scheduled Date: 15 October 1990

Last Amended: 26 March 2011

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM4748

Schedule Class: Cultural

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

Location: Kirkpatrick-Juxta

County: Dumfries and Galloway

Electoral Ward: Annandale North

Traditional County: Dumfriesshire

Description

The monument comprises the remains of a fort and an adjacent unenclosed settlement, both likely to date to later prehistory. The fort is oval in shape and is defended by a ruined stone wall with external bank. It has an entrance to the south-west and contains the remains of at least one roundhouse. The unenclosed settlement lies to the south and comprises the remains of at least three roundhouses visible as low earthworks. The fort is located in pasture on the summit of Beattock Hill at about 260m above sea level, in a commanding position overlooking the Annan Valley to the east. The monument was first scheduled in 1990 but an inadequate area was included to protect all of the archaeological remains: the present rescheduling rectifies this and improves the associated documentation.

The ruined stone wall that surrounds the fort interior is substantial, measuring up to 3.5m wide where the facing survives. This encloses an elongated oval area measuring 72 m N-S by 30m transversely. Remains of an outer rampart or wall survive to the north, east and south and an external ditch survives beyond the external bank on the N and S sides of the fort. The fort interior is subdivided by a linear hollow aligned WNW-ESE. This feature appears to cut both ramparts to the east and may represent a secondary ditch protecting an area of higher ground at the north of the fort measuring about 42m N-S by 18.5m transversely. Remains of a stone-walled roundhouse and other possible roundhouse sites survive in the S part of the fort interior.

The unenclosed settlement lies on a flat terrace immediately below the fort to the SSW. The remains of three roundhouses are visible here, two side by side, the other about 35m to the south. The two adjacent roundhouses survive as shallow platforms with possible ring-ditches and lie immediately north of a later stony bank. The example to the north-west is about 10m in diameter, a low back-scarp being the most visible feature. The house to the south-east is about 8.5m in diameter and is marked by a low back-scarp and by traces of an external bank. The roundhouse to the south of this pair is the best preserved of the group. It again measures 8.5m in diameter, being defined by a turf-covered stony bank up to 2.1m thick and 0.4m high. On the N side the interior has been terraced into the slope and an entrance is visible to the south-east. Two later structures are visible between the third roundhouse and the pair to the north; these are a horseshoe-shaped structure open to the south-east and a small subrectangular building.

The area to be scheduled is irregular on plan, to include the remains described and an area around within which evidence relating to the monument's construction, use and abandonment may survive, as shown in red on the accompanying map. The scheduling specifically excludes the above-ground elements of a post-and-wire fence crossing the monument from north to south to allow for its maintenance.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Statement of Scheduling

Cultural Significance

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

Intrinsic characteristics

Part of this monument is a well-preserved fort with double walls that show a measure of defensive intent on the part of the builders. In particular, the ruinous remains of the inner wall show that this was once a massive structure. The date at which the fort was constructed and used remains uncertain, but comparison with excavated examples elsewhere suggests occupation in the later first millennium BC or early centuries AD. The visible earthworks and associated buried remains can help us to understand more about the date, phasing, design, construction and use of defensive structures. Potential also exists for the survival of buried land surfaces beneath the enclosure walls. These could preserve information about the environment before the monument was constructed, adding to the time-depth represented by the remains. The upstanding walls/banks may contain evidence relating to the creation, use and abandonment of the fort, helping to inform our understanding of the character of late prehistoric defended settlement, including local variations in rampart construction. The linear hollow crossing the fort interior may indicate secondary defence of the north end of the fort, suggesting the potential for a long development sequence. Surface earthworks suggest the presence of roundhouses in the S part of the interior and additional buried remains may also exist here, with the potential to tell us more about the monument's occupation and use. A stony ring-bank, presumably the foundation of a roundhouse, is a particularly interesting feature. Building remains in this area may include wall foundations as well as cut features such as postholes, pits, ring-grooves and ring-ditches. These building remains, together with the ditches of the fort, may contain archaeologically significant deposits that can further our understanding of society, ritual, economy, agriculture and domestic architecture.

The unenclosed settlement south of the fort contains two roundhouses with traces of what may be an internal ring-ditch as well as a third defined by a stony bank. Researchers currently believe that unenclosed roundhouses in this area are likely to date to the early to mid-1st millennium BC. Again, buried remains of cut features such as postholes, pits, ring-grooves and ring-ditches are likely to survive here, preserving important archaeological information about the settlement and its inhabitants. Ring-ditches are particularly likely to have acted as sediment traps, preserving significant groups of artefacts as well as charred or waterlogged plant remains. Although we cannot be certain, the unenclosed settlement may be earlier than the fort, giving the potential here to study the development of settlement over a long period. In particular, buried remains may support analysis of the extent to which one settlement type influenced the other, and allow archaeologists to quantify the lengths of occupation and to define the length of periods of abandonment.

Contextual characteristics

Forts and 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). Beattock Hill can be compared with four other forts in Upper Annandale. Beattock Hill and Park Hill are the only forts with clearly defined roundhouses in the interior and Beattock Hill is the most strongly defended of the group. The stone-walled roundhouse within its defences is a very rare feature in the former county of Dumfriesshire; in the eastern Borders, such structures are often attributed to reoccupation in the Romano-British period. It resembles other stone-walled roundhouses at Stanshiel Rig (1 km to the south-west) and examples at Mote Knowe, Chapel, Eyre Burn, and possibly Dinwoodie Mains and Mollin. The existence of four comparable forts in the vicinity enhances the research potential of this monument, helping it contribute towards a better understanding of prehistoric forts and defended settlements, particularly those sited in upland positions. The two possible ring-ditch roundhouses within the unenclosed settlement to the south of the fort belong to a house type that some researchers view as characteristic of the earliest Iron-Age settlement in southern Scotland. Examples are present elsewhere on the fringes of Upper Annandale at Stanshiel Rig, Park Hill (4.5km south) and within a stone-walled enclosure on the N flank of Beattock Hill (0.4km north).

This monument lies in an upland landscape containing a relatively high density of prehistoric remains, including cord rig in the immediate vicinity and the extensive grouping of cairns, enclosures, field systems and a rare embanked trackway at Stanshiel Rig, between 0.45km and 1.2km to the WSW. The monument itself also encompasses two distinct settlement types, one defended and one unenclosed. In consequence, it has a particular potential to provide a fuller picture of the development of prehistoric landscape and society in the region over time.

Associative characteristics

The Ordnance Survey 1st Edition map surveyed in the mid-19th century depicts the fort but not the unenclosed settlement, labelling the site as a 'fort'. The depiction of the site on the 2nd Edition map is almost unchanged.

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 unenclosed settlements in later prehistoric SW Scotland. It survives in good condition above ground and is one of five upstanding forts known in Upper Annandale. Extensive and complex archaeological remains probably exist below the surface and there is high potential for survival of structural remains and artefacts and ecofacts that were either buried when the monument was built or relate to its use or abandonment. The monument has a particular capacity to inform debate on changes in the character and distribution of prehistoric settlements through time, incorporating both enclosed and unenclosed roundhouses. It 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 proximity to other monuments of potentially contemporary date such as an area of cord rig, a second stone-walled enclosure to the north, and dense and varied prehistoric remains 450m to the SSW, giving an enhanced capacity to inform us about the nature of relationships between monuments of different function. Spatial analysis of sites in the vicinity may inform our understanding of the expansion and contraction of settlement. The loss or diminution of this monument would impede our ability to understand the development of prehistoric settlement in southern Scotland.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Sources

Bibliography

RCAHMS records the site as NT00SE 5 and NT00SE 34. The Dumfries and Galloway SMR records the site as MDG325 and MDG308.

Aerial Photographs

Prints from RCAHMS collection: B 16748, B 16749

References

RCAHMS, 1997, Eastern Dumfriesshire: An Archaeological Landscape. Edinburgh, The Stationery Office.

RCAHMS, 1920, Seventh Report with Inventory of Monuments and Constructions in the County of Dumfries, HMSO: Edinburgh.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

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