Ancient Monuments

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Nesting Parish Church, broch 30m south of

A Scheduled Monument in Shetland North, Shetland Islands

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Latitude: 60.3014 / 60°18'4"N

Longitude: -1.12 / 1°7'12"W

OS Eastings: 448736

OS Northings: 1157795

OS Grid: HU487577

Mapcode National: GBR R1LH.TPL

Mapcode Global: XHF9C.TBWN

Entry Name: Nesting Parish Church, broch 30m S of

Scheduled Date: 25 June 1934

Last Amended: 30 March 2012

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM3599

Schedule Class: Cultural

Category: Prehistoric domestic and defensive: broch

Location: Nesting

County: Shetland Islands

Electoral Ward: Shetland North

Traditional County: Shetland


The monument comprises a broch of Iron Age date, built probably between 500 BC and AD 200, surviving as a series of upstanding walls and earthworks on a cliff edge in South Nesting Bay, at 10m above sea level.

The broch itself consists of a penannular wall, measuring 16m in diameter across walls 4m thick. There is a possible entrance on the SW and two intramural cells are visible. There are possible cellular structures immediately to the NNW and SE of the broch and the remains of two concentric ramparts to the SW. To the NE is a flat 'apron' of ground that may be the remains of an associated enclosure.

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 N and NE, the scheduling extends up to but does not include the post-and-wire fence.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Statement of Scheduling

Cultural Significance

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

Intrinsic characteristics

The monument is an example of a broch and associated remains, dating to the Iron Age. The broch mound is impressive and it is very probable that substantial buried remains of the broch's lower courses and foundations are preserved within and beneath the mound. There is a strong likelihood that buried archaeological deposits associated with the monument's construction, use and abandonment are preserved. The presence of an adjacent enclosure immediately NE of the broch, as well as possible cellular structures in the vicinity of the broch, enhance its potential and could inform our understanding of the activities that took place around the broch at different times during its use.

The site and its buried remains has considerable potential to enhance our understanding of the use and function of brochs and roundhouses and the daily lives of the people who occupied them. There is high potential for the recovery of significant assemblages of artefacts and ecofacts that could illuminate the diet, economy and social status of the occupants, and the extent to which this varied over time.

Contextual characteristics

This broch is one of over 130 brochs known in Shetland. Brochs have been viewed as having a defensive or offensive function, or simply as being the prestige dwellings and farms of an elite keen to display its status. Many brochs in Shetland, including this one, seem to have been sited to afford wide-ranging views of the sea and they are sometimes inter-visible. This broch is 3.5km NNE of another broch at Brough, on the S side of South Nesting Bay, and 2km W of an Iron Age fort on Hog Island, and therefore forms part of a pattern of fortifications in Iron Age Shetland. This broch has high potential to enhance our understanding of the relationship between brochs and related structures, the extent to which they were contemporary, and their relationship with the wider landscape.

Associative characteristics

It is said that the adjacent church is built from stone robbed from the broch. The site is labelled 'Brough' on the first edition Ordnance Survey map.

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 Iron Age Shetland and the role and function of brochs. The monument offers potential to study the relationship between brochs and other broadly contemporary structures in the vicinity. The loss of the monument would significantly diminish our future ability to appreciate and understand the development and use of brochs in Shetland.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland



RCAHMS record the site as Housabister, broch, HU45NE16, Canmore ID 1132. The Shetland Amenity Trust SMR records the site as Housabister, PrefRef 998, MonUID MSN1038.


Anderson, J 1890, 'Notice of the Excavation of the Brochs of Yarhouse, Brounaben, Bowermadden, Old Stirkoke, and Dunbeath in Caithness; with remarks on the period of the brochs, and an appendix, containing a collected list of the brochs of Scotland and early notices of many of them, with a map showing sites of the brochs'. Archaeol Scot 5, 181.

Armit, I 2003, Towers in the North, Stroud: Tempus.

Fojut, N 1982, 'Towards a Geography of Shetland Brochs', Glasgow Archaeological Journal 1982, 48.

Mackie, E W 2002, The roundhouses, brochs and wheelhouses of Atlantic Scotland c.700BC-AD500: architecture and material culture, Part 1: The Orkney and Shetland Isles. BAR British Series 342: Oxford.

RCAHMS 1946, The Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland: Twelfth Report with an Inventory of the Ancient Monuments of Orkney and Shetland. Edinburgh.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

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