Ancient Monuments

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Burnbank Water, settlement 1740m south of Hillside

A Scheduled Monument in Inverclyde East, Inverclyde

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Latitude: 55.8783 / 55°52'41"N

Longitude: -4.7254 / 4°43'31"W

OS Eastings: 229607

OS Northings: 668372

OS Grid: NS296683

Mapcode National: GBR 36.2LTR

Mapcode Global: WH2MQ.DH1Z

Entry Name: Burnbank Water, settlement 1740m S of Hillside

Scheduled Date: 25 March 2011

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM12824

Schedule Class: Cultural

Category: Prehistoric domestic and defensive: settlement

Location: Kilmacolm

County: Inverclyde

Electoral Ward: Inverclyde East

Traditional County: Renfrewshire


The monument comprises the remains of four hut circles, probably of late Bronze Age or Iron Age date (late second or first millennium BC). Each of the hut circles is visible as a roughly circular structure of earth and stones. The monument is situated about 730m south of Laverock Stone. The hut circles lie in close proximity to each other, set almost in a row over a distance of around 225m.

Situated in an upland moor, the hut circles are overgrown with rough grass, reeds and patches of heather. The first (westernmost) hut circle measures about 9m east-west by 10m north-south, within a wall standing up to 1m high and 1.5m thick, and with an annexe or outshot on the south that is approximately 6m square within a wall 1m thick and 0.3m high. Hut circle 2 is around 8m northwest-southeast by 6.5m transversely, within a wall 1.4m thick at its top and 2m at its base. Hut circle 3 is 9m northwest-southeast by 6.5m transversely, within a bank that is 1.25m thick and up to 1m high. Hut circle 4 (the easternmost of the group), situated in boggy ground, is about 10m in diameter within a bank up to 1.5m thick and varies from 0.3m to 0.6m in height. The remains of facing stones are visible at all but the third hut circle.

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. It comprises four discrete areas centred on each hut circle, 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 well-preserved group of hut circles probably represents a late Bronze Age or Iron Age unenclosed settlement. Surviving as a series of clearly defined earthworks, the settlement represents a fine example of a type of monument that is often difficult to identify unless seen in very specific conditions.

Given their good condition, the hut circles have excellent potential to tell us more about the way they were built and used. Hut circles 1, 2 and 4 preserve traces of internal stone wall faces, in the form of large stones set against the earth and stone banking, while a possible hearth made up of five stones is visible within hut circle 4. It is unclear whether all four houses were occupied at the same time, or if the site represents several generations of inhabitants who built, repaired and abandoned a number of houses along the banks of the Burnbank Water. An outshot or annexe attached to the southern wall of hut circle 1 may reflect prolonged occupation and expansion by its inhabitants or a change in use for the hut circle. Alternatively, hut circle 1 and its annexe may have been built at the same time and the structure functioned in a different way to its neighbours.

The excellent condition of the upstanding earthworks suggests that extensive archaeological remains of the roundhouses may also survive below ground. These buried remains can help us to understand more about the design, construction, phasing and use of the buildings. There is high potential for the survival of buried land surfaces beneath the roundhouse banks that could preserve information about the environment before and when the monument was constructed, adding to the time-depth represented by the remains. The upstanding banks may also contain evidence relating to the creation, use and abandonment of the buildings, helping to inform our understanding of the character of later prehistoric settlements, including local variations in domestic architecture and building use. Buried features, such as postholes and pits, and other archaeologically significant deposits are likely to survive inside and outside the buildings and offer high potential for enhancing our understanding of later prehistoric society, beliefs and rituals, the domestic economy and agricultural practices, and domestic architecture. Other buried remains may also exist within the immediate vicinity of the four known roundhouses, including other structures.

Contextual characteristics

The monument lies on Duchal Moor, an upland expanse of rough grazing and moorland west of Strath Gryffe, an area beyond the limits of medieval and more recent cultivation. To the north of the monument there is an extensive spread of other later prehistoric hut circles and possible settlements arranged along the courses of several small streams. In general, later prehistoric settlement remains usually only survive in this condition in upland or marginal land as centuries of development and intensive cultivation have destroyed similar remains in lowland landscapes.

Research suggests that the people who built and lived in hut circles organised the internal space of their homes in specific ways. Like the orientation of doorways and the position of the main hearth, the assigning of certain areas to specific activities is likely to have been based partly on practical considerations, as well as social conventions and spiritual or ritual beliefs. For example, excavation of Bronze Age and Iron Age roundhouses at Cladh Hallan on South Uist suggests interiors were divided into areas and different activities took place in specific parts of the building.

National Importance

The monument is of national importance because it has an inherent potential to make a significant addition to our understanding of the past, in particular late Bronze Age or Iron Age society and the nature of later prehistoric domestic settlement and farming practices. The excellent levels of preservation, the lack of recent cultivation and the survival of marked field characteristics greatly enhance this potential. The loss of the monument would considerably impede our ability to understand the later prehistoric period in this part of Scotland.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland



RCAHMS record the monument as NS26NE 3; West of Scotland Archaeological Service SMR as NS26NE 5829 (copies of their short reports are appended). The site lies in Clyde Muirshiel Regional Park (SNH Site code 8718) and within the Renfrewshire Heights Site of Special Scientific Interest (SNH Site code 8666). A copy of the SSSI citation is appended.


Newall F, 1955, 'Burnbank Water', Discovery and Excavation Scotland 1955, 25

Newall F, 1959, 'Burnbank Water', Discovery and Excavation Scotland 1959, 30

Pope, R 2007 'Ritual and the roundhouse: a critique of recent ideas on the use of domestic space in later British prehistory', in C Haselgrove and R Pope (eds), 2007, The Earlier Iron Age in Britain and the near Continent Oxford: Oxbow, 204-28.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

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