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Cromal Mount, mound and earthworks

A Scheduled Monument in Culloden and Ardersier, Highland

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Coordinates

Latitude: 57.5736 / 57°34'24"N

Longitude: -4.0382 / 4°2'17"W

OS Eastings: 278201

OS Northings: 855551

OS Grid: NH782555

Mapcode National: GBR J8DP.WHD

Mapcode Global: WH4FZ.YW7X

Entry Name: Cromal Mount, mound and earthworks

Scheduled Date: 29 October 1969

Last Amended: 14 December 2011

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM2823

Schedule Class: Cultural

Category: Secular: earthwork

Location: Ardersier

County: Highland

Electoral Ward: Culloden and Ardersier

Traditional County: Inverness-shire

Description

The monument consists of the earthwork remains of a late medieval fortification. The remains comprise a re-shaped natural hillock overlooking the Moray Firth to the west. The monument is known locally as Cromal or Cromwell's Mount and lies 70m WSW of Hillhead farm.

Approximately 5m in height, Cromal Mount is a steep-sided mound with sharp inclines on the W and S approaches. The sides and summit appear to have been scarped from a natural feature. The remains of an earth bank enclosing the flat summit survive best on the N and W sides where they stand about 1m high. The bank enclosed a substantial roughly D-shaped area, approximately 35m NNW-SSE by 25m transversely. A possible entrance survives on the south.

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. The above-ground remains of all post-and-wire fences within the area are specifically excluded from the scheduling to allow for their maintenance, as is the modern water tank on the summit. The scheduled area extends up to but does not include the property boundary with Gilwood cottage and the post-and-wire fence on the south.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Statement of Scheduling

Cultural Significance

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

Intrinsic characteristics

Although previously considered as an entirely artificial motte, Cromal Mount is more likely a re-shaped and enhanced natural feature, exploited for its naturally strong defences and a dominating position in the landscape overlooking the shore of the Moray Firth. Small-scale excavations and survey work in 1989 confirmed the mound is mainly natural and is not a man-made motte. However, there is good evidence for re-shaped natural hillocks being used as strongholds during the later medieval period. For example, at Garpol Water in Dumfries and Galloway the motte is shaped from the highest point of a hillock while the bailey is a naturally occurring terrace. Earthworks extending from the base of the mound probably relate to 18th- or 19th-century quarrying for sand and gravel, a process that appears to have destroyed any earlier remains around Cromal Mount.

While a modern water tank on the flat summit of Cromal Mount has caused some disturbance, the potential for in situ archaeological deposits remains good. In particular, the earthworks offer potential for the preservation of artefactual and environmental remains. Similarly, the remaining rampart may seal historic ground surfaces with the potential to inform our understanding of past land use and the local environment. As a whole, the monument offers us good potential to understand the emergence of motte and bailey castles in northern Scotland. Artefactual material from the site can enhance our understanding of the daily lives of its inhabitants and the extent of their contacts with the wider world. Through comparison with similar sites in the area as well as elsewhere in Scotland, we can begin to identify regional trends and traditions.

Contextual characteristics

Broadly speaking, motte and bailey castles provide a tangible link to the spread of feudalism. Throughout the 12th century, the Scottish monarchy settled an immigrant aristocracy as a way of exerting greater control over the nation. As a result, Scotland's collection of mottes represents an opportunity to understand the impact of feudalism, patterns of land tenure and the evolution of the local landscape. Because of their association with the ruling classes, mottes are relatively rare in comparison to other settlement sites, with only around 300 such sites known in Scotland.

At the time mottes first began appearing in the north, the region was a near independent province, both culturally and politically distinct from the Anglo-Norman society flourishing in the south. Caithness and Ross were under the rule of the Norwegian Earls of Orkney and they sought to further expand their territories. Mottes built by the incoming aristocracy served as a physical and political barrier against Norwegian ambitions and can be found running northwards through the Black Isle and along the Moray Firth.

Mottes often represented the administrative centre of lordships and they can tell us where local power centres are to be found, in many occasions directly linked to the historical records. These estates formed the basis of the modern parish structure. Therefore, their placement in the landscape and their relationships with other mottes are important factors in understanding the evolution of the local landscape.

In the case of Cromal Mount, its location was in part influenced by geography as its builders drew upon natural topography to maximise its defensive strength. The stronghold built on Cromal Mount almost certainly enjoyed commanding views that gave control over the surrounding land.

Associative characteristics

Originally known as Cromal Mhoit or Tom Mhoit, the site's name has variously been corrupted into Cromwell's Mount and Cromal Mount.

Records from the 19th century report the discovery of a brass pin from 'Cromwell's Fort' around 1827, although the whereabouts of this artefact are now unknown.

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 later medieval defensive strongholds, their role within the wider landscape and as a means to measure the emergence of feudalism in northern Scotland. Deposits preserved within the mound may present valuable information about the function of this site as well as its date and duration of occupation. Additionally, artefactual and environmental remains preserved here can offer an insight into the daily lives of the occupants of Cromal Mount and the range of contacts they had with the wider world. This site is particularly valuable as relatively few monuments associated with the spread of feudalism survive in northern Scotland. The loss of the monument would significantly diminish our future ability to understand the pattern and character of later medieval lordships in this area and the degree to which feudalism impacted upon the pre-existing culture.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Sources

Bibliography

References

Carter, S 1989, 'Cromal Mount (Ardersier parish), motte, probable', Discovery Excav Scot 1989, 28

NSA 1845, Inverness-shire, Vol. 14, Inverness-shire, 470-1

Yeoman, P A, 1988, 'Mottes in Northeast Scotland', Scot Archaeol Rev, vol.5, 131-2

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

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