Ancient Monuments

History on the Ground

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Gallow Hill, prehistoric house and field system 390m south of Brouster

A Scheduled Monument in Shetland West, Shetland Islands

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Latitude: 60.2444 / 60°14'39"N

Longitude: -1.5372 / 1°32'13"W

OS Eastings: 425723

OS Northings: 1151211

OS Grid: HU257512

Mapcode National: GBR Q1KN.NC3

Mapcode Global: XHD2N.CRQW

Entry Name: Gallow Hill, prehistoric house and field system 390m S of Brouster

Scheduled Date: 30 March 2012

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM13028

Schedule Class: Cultural

Category: Prehistoric domestic and defensive: house

Location: Walls and Sandness

County: Shetland Islands

Electoral Ward: Shetland West

Traditional County: Shetland


The monument is a prehistoric house and field system, in use probably during the period 3000 BC to AD 500. The house is visible as an upstanding sub-circular feature, represented by a stone wall on the north side and a stone and turf bank to the south. It lies within one of at least five small fields, defined by low banks of earth and stone. Six clearance cairns lie in the NW corner of the field system, and smaller piles of stone clearance are visible across the area. The monument lies about 40m above sea level on a gentle NE-facing slope, some 400m west of the coastline at Bridge of Walls.

The house is sub-circular in shape and measures 10m in diameter. On the south side the remains of the stone wall survive to a height of 1.1m and are 1m thick, whilst on the north side the stony bank stands about 0.3m high and is 1.5m wide. The field system measures around 180m NW-SE by 90m transversely, but is subdivided into five or six, irregular, conjoined enclosures, some of them 'bag'-shaped. The largest measures around 80m by 50m. The house stands close to the western edge of the field system, on the line of a NE-SW aligned bank that appears to define two of the enclosures.

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.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Statement of Scheduling

Cultural Significance

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

Intrinsic characteristics

This monument survives in good condition below closely cropped grass. Significant buried archaeological remains can be expected to survive beneath and around the visible upstanding structures. The house offers potential for researchers to examine foundations, floor surfaces and associated pits and middens and can improve our understanding of how prehistoric houses were designed and constructed. The buried remains may include artefacts and ecofacts that can help us understand how people lived at this site, how they farmed and used the natural environment, and how they exchanged goods with other groups. Researchers may be able to date some of the buried remains and determine whether occupation of the site was interrupted by one or more periods of disuse. There is also potential to compare the building with the field systems and clearance cairns to determine whether these features are contemporary, and to ascertain how the inhabitants managed the landscape in the immediate vicinity of the house. There is particular potential to determine how the field system developed, whether the soils were improved, and if so how and at what dates.

Contextual characteristics

This monument lies within a landscape that is exceptionally rich in prehistoric archaeological remains and its importance is enhanced because it can be compared with several nearby sites. The prehistoric settlement at Scord of Brouster is centred about 480m to the NNW of this monument and comprises three houses, a kerb cairn and a field system that closely resembles this example. It is a particularly useful comparator because it has been partially excavated, which included scientific dating of the houses to between 2500 BC and 1300 BC and revealed information about the development and economy of the settlement. In the opposite direction, some 450m to the south on the southern slopes of Gallow Hill, there is a cluster of four cairns, three of which have evidence for chambers.

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 prehistoric settlement and land use in Shetland. The monument contains a prehistoric house and field system that enhance and augment our understanding of such sites, including Scord of Brouster, another important prehistoric settlement that lies close by. It has the potential to improve our understanding of the distribution of settlement, the structural techniques used to build houses, changes in settlement over time, and the relationship of houses to other features such as field systems and cairns. The loss of the monument would significantly diminish our future ability to appreciate and understand settlement in the west mainland of Shetland.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland



RCAHMS records the site as HU25SE 37. The Shetland Amenity Trust SMR records the site as MSN2364.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

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