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Outh Hill, buildings and field system 275m north east of Lethans Muir Lodge

A Scheduled Monument in West Fife and Coastal Villages, Fife

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Coordinates

Latitude: 56.1427 / 56°8'33"N

Longitude: -3.5168 / 3°31'0"W

OS Eastings: 305846

OS Northings: 695476

OS Grid: NT058954

Mapcode National: GBR 1W.JV6B

Mapcode Global: WH5QB.YVHT

Entry Name: Outh Hill, buildings and field system 275m NE of Lethans Muir Lodge

Scheduled Date: 2 November 2011

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM13038

Schedule Class: Cultural

Category: Secular: settlement, including deserted, depopulated and townships

Location: Dunfermline

County: Fife

Electoral Ward: West Fife and Coastal Villages

Traditional County: Fife

Description

The monument comprises the remains of at least three rectangular buildings visible as low turf banks, several square or rectangular folds again defined by turf banks, turf-walled field boundaries, and upstanding rig and furrow cultivation features. The structures and field systems were in use probably in the 18th century, but it is possible that earlier medieval remains also exist. The site lies on SW-facing ground between 275m and 315m above sea level, to the NE of the A823 road at North Lethans. A small watercourse fed by a spring lies around 80m south of the core of the monument.

The turf building to the west has two compartments and measures about 12m SW-NE by 6.5m transversely with walls 0.5m high. There may be an entrance on the NW side of the NE compartment. The other two buildings lie 110m and 162m to the ENE of the first. They also have two compartments but are slightly smaller, measuring about 10m SW-NE by 5m transversely with walls 0.5m high. Six probable folds, typically measuring about 11m square, lie to the south and east of the smaller buildings. These structures may conceal the buried remains of a farmhouse. The buildings and folds are surrounded by at least four turf-walled fields that display a variety of shapes, including sub-rectangular and oval. The fields contain extensive areas of rig and furrow cultivation features of varied width and character. An approximately oval field to the east of the field system has two banks at its W and E margins and contains reverse 'S' ridge and furrow with a width of between 5m and 8m.

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, as shown in red on the accompanying map. On the SW and NW sides, the scheduled area extends up to but excludes modern boundaries comprising walls and post-and-wire fences.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Statement of Scheduling

Cultural Significance

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

Intrinsic characteristics

The monument is in excellent condition and there is extensive survival of upstanding remains. This indicates a lack of previous disturbance and demonstrates that there will also be good preservation of buried archaeological deposits. The buildings may have been small domestic houses with two rooms and detailed investigation of their foundations offers the opportunity to clarify the details of their construction and function. There is potential for the survival of significant assemblages of artefacts and ecofacts, including pottery, charcoal and carbonised plant remains such as barley and oat grains. These can allow us to 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. They can further our understanding of society, economy, and agriculture. The potential presence of remains from different periods gives the possibility of exploring issues such as the duration of occupation, the extent to which occupation of the site was continuous and the nature of abandonment processes. There is also potential to explore the development sequence demonstrated by the surrounding fields and cultivation features. There are clearly stratigraphic relationships between some of the field boundaries, for example, the double banks that surround parts of the oval field towards the east suggest that the shape and size of this field was modified. There is also potential to explore the relationships between the rig and the field banks and to determine whether there was a period when areas of cultivation were unenclosed.

Contextual characteristics

This monument is part of a wider cluster of pre-improvement agricultural remains that survive east of the A823 road. Turf-banked field systems and cultivation remains extend intermittently south-east for about 1.1km, comprising mainly sub-rectangular fields, but with some more oval enclosures and occasional smaller rectilinear enclosures that probably represent folds. There are also other possible buildings near Outh around 600m to the south-east of this monument. A stone-built farmstead surrounded by turf-banked fields, with possible pre-improvement origins, lies 1.3km to the ENE at Park Hill. It preserves evidence for both specialised sheep farming and for arable cultivation. On its NE side is a length of bank and ditch that may represent part of a medieval deer dyke. The upstanding turf structures and field boundaries at this monument and in this vicinity are very rare in a Fife context: after two centuries of intensive agriculture, few comparable sites survive in Fife. However, we can compare these remains with another surviving cluster of pre-improvement features at Wester Ballo in the Lomond Hills. Published research on Menstrie Glen, 22km to the west, helps to illuminate the historical context in which the turf structures and field systems developed.

Associative characteristics

Documentary sources show that Outh was a royal forest held by William the Lion in the late 12th century, but had passed to Dunfermline Abbey by the mid 13th century. North Lethans is depicted on Gordon's map of Fife (Fife Vicomotatus, Blaeu 1654), suggesting that the settlement adjoining this monument to the south-east was occupied at least as early as the 17th century.

National Importance

This monument is of national importance because it has an inherent potential to make a significant addition to our understanding of the past, in particular of pre-improvement agriculture and settlement in Fife. It represents a very rare survival of upstanding turf structures, field systems and cultivation features in one location. It offers the potential to illuminate how agriculture expanded into more marginal areas during the 18th century and to assess the extent to which this activity built on earlier settlement and agricultural activity. The loss of the monument would significantly diminish our future ability to appreciate and understand the pre-improvement agriculture and settlement of upland Fife.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Sources

Bibliography

RCAHMS records the site as NT09NE19.

RCAHMS Aerial photographs: F13121-F13124 and F11438-F11442

References

RCAHMS 1989 'Pre-afforestation survey, 1989', unpubl rep.

RCAHMS 1991 'Afforestable land survey, 1989-91', unpubl rep.

RCAHMS 2008 'Well Sheltered and Watered': Menstrie Glen, A Farming Landscape near Stirling. Edinburgh.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

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