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Burra Voe, broch 70m SSE of Wester Ayre

A Scheduled Monument in North Isles, Shetland Islands

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Coordinates

Latitude: 60.4938 / 60°29'37"N

Longitude: -1.0576 / 1°3'27"W

OS Eastings: 451882

OS Northings: 1179274

OS Grid: HU518792

Mapcode National: GBR R1R0.616

Mapcode Global: XHF8F.NH8N

Entry Name: Burra Voe, broch 70m SSE of Wester Ayre

Scheduled Date: 20 June 1934

Last Amended: 30 March 2012

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM2052

Schedule Class: Cultural

Category: Prehistoric domestic and defensive: broch

Location: Yell

County: Shetland Islands

Electoral Ward: North Isles

Traditional County: Shetland

Description

The monument comprises the remains of a broch of Iron Age date, built probably between 500 BC and AD 200, and the remains of an outer rampart. The broch is visible as a large turf-covered mound, about 26m in diameter. The outer wall face is visible in places and shows that the broch tower itself measures about 19m in diameter. On the S side of the mound a curving rampart is indicated by a low turf covered bank, 20m long, with remains of a stone revetment visible on the outer face. The monument stands less than 10m above sea level on a promontory lying immediately north of the mouth of Burra Voe, on the SE coast of Yell. The monument was first scheduled in 1934 but the documentation does not meet modern standards; the present rescheduling rectifies this.

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 sea defences and buildings in use lie outside the scheduled area and are excluded from the scheduling. The scheduling specifically excludes the above-ground elements of a modern building on the broch mound and the post-and-wire fences to allow for their maintenance. The scheduling excludes the sea defences that lie immediately beyond the S boundary of the scheduled area.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Statement of Scheduling

Cultural Significance

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

Intrinsic characteristics

Although the broch has partially collapsed and has been quarried for building stone, its remains are now in stable condition. It is very probable that substantial buried remains of the broch's lower courses, including walls and galleries, lie preserved beneath the ground surface. Descriptions in the 19th century refer to the discovery of underground passages, though no internal features can now be seen. Future archaeological investigation of buried remains may allow researchers to record the foundations and lower courses of the broch and to examine layers formed during its occupation. The buried remains have considerable potential to enhance understanding of the use and function of brochs and the daily lives of the people who occupied them. There is potential for artefacts and ecofacts that may illuminate the diet, economy and social status of the broch builders and occupants, and the extent to which this varied over time. There is potential to date construction of the broch and to compare this with the date of the rampart defences. Although the outer rampart is only clearly visible above ground to the south, slight undulations on the seaward (north) side of the broch suggest that further buried remains of the rampart may survive below ground level. Tradition suggests that this promontory was also the site of a medieval chapel. On the W side of the broch, in the supposed location of the chapel, a low bank extends ESE-WNW for 16.5m and a second bank runs southwards for 10m from its W end, terminating at a coastal erosion scar. It is possible that these remains relate to the chapel and that its foundations also survive as buried archaeological features.

Contextual characteristics

This broch is one of over 130 brochs known in Shetland. It has the potential to enhance our understanding of the relationship between brochs, the extent to which they were contemporary, and their relationship with other contemporary settlement types and with the wider landscape. Brochs have been viewed as having a defensive or offensive function, or simply as being the prestige dwellings of an elite keen to display its status. The buried remains at Burra Voe have high potential to help address these questions and may provide insights into the nature and use of these structures and the landscape immediately around them. There is also potential for this monument to contribute to our understanding of how broch sites might be reused in later periods. There is a tradition of a chapel here and this site can be compared with others where chapels appear to have been placed near former brochs, as perhaps at Nesti Voe, where an early Christian chapel was erected just across the Sound of Noss from a former broch.

Associative characteristics

The broch is depicted on the Ordnance Survey first edition map and labelled 'Brough, Site of'. A letter of Thomas Matthewson, a Shetland antiquarian of the late 19th century, records the local tradition that the church of Burravoe stood at the site of the broch. Researchers who visited the site in 1999 found that local people continue to believe that a chapel stood immediately west of the broch.

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 high potential to study the relationship between the broch, its rampart, and a putative chapel suggested by historical sources. The loss of the monument would significantly diminish our future ability to appreciate and understand the development and use of brochs in the Shetland Islands.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Sources

Bibliography

RCAHMS record the site as HU57NW 2. The Shetland Amenity Trust SMR records the site as MSN2315 (PrefRef 2198).

References

Brady, K, 2000 Yell Chapel-site Survey, Department of Archaeology Rep, University of Glasgow

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. 118.

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, 3v Edinburgh. 166-7.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

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