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Mar Hall, crannog 460m north east of

A Scheduled Monument in Bishopton, Bridge of Weir and Langbank, Renfrewshire

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Coordinates

Latitude: 55.9244 / 55°55'27"N

Longitude: -4.4746 / 4°28'28"W

OS Eastings: 245473

OS Northings: 672909

OS Grid: NS454729

Mapcode National: GBR 0Q.ZNQZ

Mapcode Global: WH3NS.7CH4

Entry Name: Mar Hall, crannog 460m NE of

Scheduled Date: 5 October 2011

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM12891

Schedule Class: Cultural

Category: Prehistoric domestic and defensive: crannog

Location: Erskine

County: Renfrewshire

Electoral Ward: Bishopton, Bridge of Weir and Langbank

Traditional County: Renfrewshire

Description

The monument comprises the remains of a marine crannog occupying the highest point on a sandbank in the River Clyde, approximately 460m north-east of Mar Hall Hotel. Visible at low tide, the monument appears as a seaweed-covered scatter of stones and well-preserved structural timbers.

Partly disturbed through archaeological investigations in 1985, the crannog survives as a spread of small, rounded boulders in sand and mud. Scattered across the site are numerous timbers, some large and substantial, which appear to lie on the surface as well as being partly or almost wholly bedded into the sand and mud.

The area to be scheduled is roughly rectangular on plan, with maximum dimensions of 50m NE-SW by 34m transversely, 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

Partially investigated in 1985, the remains of the crannog appear to survive in good condition. As part of a wider research programme, archaeologists extracted timber samples for dating to identify whether the site was associated with a suspected Roman crossing over the River Clyde. Although partly excavated, the quality of the visible remains strongly suggests that extensive buried archaeological deposits survive in situ.

The most striking quality of the site is the substantial number of exposed structural timbers, visible on the sands at low tide. Representing vertical supports and remains of the superstructure that rested on top, many of these timbers display obvious evidence of jointing and working. As a whole, the crannog's assemblage of timbers presents an excellent opportunity to develop our knowledge and understanding of later prehistoric building techniques and the tools they used. The excellent preservation of the visible timber strongly suggests that the remaining buried archaeology is in similar condition. Equally there is high potential for the survival of further organic artefacts and deposits that can tell us about the crannog's construction and maintenance, its function and its subsequent abandonment. The monument also has high potential to inform our understanding of the impact of Roman occupation of this area in the 1st and 2nd centuries AD.

Contextual characteristics

Five shore-side crannogs are known on the River Clyde. It is highly likely that more marine crannogs existed here originally, but their remains have been destroyed by later development. Marine crannogs are found on both sides of the river and cover an area from Old Kilpatrick to Langbank. All five marine crannogs lie just off promontories (for example, Langbank West), or occupy prominent sandbanks such as this example.

A crannog is a man-made platform or island, built of timber and stone, standing partly or wholly in a loch, river or estuary. Most Scottish crannogs are found in freshwater lochs and rivers, with a distribution spread from the Hebrides to southern Scotland. At present, only nine marine crannogs are known. Many crannogs date to the later prehistoric or early historic periods, some time between roughly 1000 BC and AD 1000. Some crannog sites appear to have been built and occupied as late as the 14th century.

Recent academic research suggests that marine crannogs served a different purpose to those found in freshwater lochs and rivers, although there are similarities in their construction and, in some cases, their dating. Instead, these sites are regarded mainly as crossing points or staging posts for larger coastal boats and for smaller craft used on the upper reaches of the Clyde.

Building a crannog would have demanded significant woodworking expertise, as well as a sizeable pool of labour and access to suitable timber. A site such as this stood on a mound of stones with substantial wooden piles driven into it. These piles supported a timber platform, usually oval or circular, on which there would have been a circular timber house. A stockade or fence probably enclosed the platform. A crannog may have had a dock or place for small boats to tie up, while some appear to have been linked to the shore by causeways. At Langbank East, a double row of boulders appears to mark the route of a causeway connecting it to dry land. Logboats (small wooden vessels) have been found on or close to several crannog sites across Scotland.

Associative characteristics

Of the five marine crannogs in the Clyde, Dumbuck remains the best known. Substantially excavated in the 1890s, Dumbuck captured public imagination through a series of illustrated reports prepared by its excavator, William Donnelly, for the London Illustrated News. However a series of forged artefacts 'recovered' from Dumbuck sparked a substantial and long-running controversy in the Scottish archaeological community.

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 the dating, construction and function of marine crannogs, which are a rare type of monument. Recent research suggests that marine crannogs functioned differently to freshwater crannogs and this monument has high potential to enhance significantly our understanding of their role in the Iron Age and, possibly, early historic period. The monument also has high potential to improve our understanding of Iron Age society and economy as it contains well-preserved organic and artefactual remains, while palaeoenvironmental deposits can assist in broadening our knowledge of the contemporary climate and landscape when the crannog was constructed and in use. The loss of the monument would significantly diminish our future ability to appreciate the relationship between marine crannogs and the wider landscape and the role of the River Clyde in the economy of the area at that time.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Sources

Bibliography

RCAHMS record the site as NS 47SE 56. The West of Scotland Archaeology Service SMR designation is NS 47 SE 7863. The monument lies within the Inner Clyde SSSI (1701).

References

Hale A, 2000, 'Marine crannogs: previous work and recent surveys', Proc Soc Antiq Scot, vol.130, 2, 549-51 fig. 10

Hale A and Sands R, 2005, 'Controversy on the Clyde', RCAHMS, Glenrothes

Hanson W S and Macdonald J, 1985, 'Erskine (Erskine p), crannog', Discovery and Excavation in Scotland, 1985, 50.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

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