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Gardie, house and field system 650m north of Little Heog, Unst

A Scheduled Monument in North Isles, Shetland Islands

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Coordinates

Latitude: 60.7821 / 60°46'55"N

Longitude: -0.8347 / 0°50'5"W

OS Eastings: 463555

OS Northings: 1211579

OS Grid: HP635115

Mapcode National: GBR S097.L2H

Mapcode Global: XHF75.K8N3

Entry Name: Gardie, house and field system 650m N of Little Heog, Unst

Scheduled Date: 28 August 2012

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM7660

Schedule Class: Cultural

Category: Secular: house

Location: Unst

County: Shetland Islands

Electoral Ward: North Isles

Traditional County: Shetland

Description

The monument comprises the remains of a Norse farmstead, including a longhouse and field system, in use probably some time between AD 900 and 1400. The monument lies at 20m over sea level on a gentle NE-facing slope at the foot of Little Heog, overlooking Gardie and Haroldswick.

The longhouse is aligned approximately S-N and defined by turf-covered stone walls. It measures 14m long by up to 4.5m transversely, with 1.5m thick walls up to 0.3m high; the long walls are noticeably bowed outwards. The southern end is partly cut into the foot of a slope and the floor surface slopes downwards along the length of the house. There are opposed entrances towards the downslope end of the long walls, and just downslope again from these is an internal subdivision. There are traces of a possible annex alongside the E side of the building, and there is a small enclosure adjacent to the NW. At the N end (which has been rebuilt in more recent times as a small drystone enclosure), there appears to be an opening in the gable wall, and N of this is a waterlogged hollow which may represent a gathering-pit for drainage from a byre within the longhouse. The remains of a yard are attached to the house in the form of a partly turf-covered stone dyke stretching S and W from the house. This adjoins a massive wall foundation forming a substantial sub-rectangular drystone enclosure, approximately 350m WNW-ESE by up to 190m SSW-NNE, which underlies the modern field system and appears to be contemporary with the house. The E end of the enclosure is subdivided by a later field boundary which also pre-dates the modern field system. There are at least two other small rectilinear subdivisions within the larger enclosure. The enclosing elements are best preserved on rocky ground to the W and E of the house; agricultural improvement has largely removed surface traces of the original northern boundary.

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 elements of the modern stone dykes within the scheduled area are excluded in order to facilitate their maintenance.

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 and significant buried archaeological remains are expected to be preserved beneath and around the visible upstanding structures, including wall foundations, pits and floor surfaces. There is potential for the recovery of artefacts and ecofacts that may illuminate the daily lives, diet, economy and social status of the people living in this farmstead, and the extent to which this varied over time. The monument may preserve a development sequence, particularly in the field system, and could show how farming practices evolved over the centuries. Much of the land enclosed within the upper part of the field system is stony and wet, although whether this reflects the quality of the land in the Norse period or is the result of poor medieval land management is unclear. Researchers may be able to date the buried remains and determine when the farmstead was established and how long it remained in use. There is also potential to examine how the inhabitants managed the landscape in the immediate vicinity.

Contextual characteristics

Norse houses are relatively rare in Scotland and Unst contains an unusually high number, including many of the best preserved examples. This Norse longhouse can be compared with others known in Unst, including farmsteads at Belmont, Haroldswick and Underhoull, as well as at Spoull only 580m to the W. The style of construction and the presence of annexes are relatively similar across this group. Unlike the neighbouring Norse house at Spoull, the Gardie longhouse is set within a contemporary and later field system. The two sites are therefore likely to have considerable potential to answer research questions regarding social status and the differing functions of longhouses. Such well-preserved field systems are rare in a Scottish or Shetland context and have high potential to provide insights into land management in the Norse and later periods. The site is likely to preserve evidence of cultural change associated with the Norse colonisation of the Northern Isles.

Associative characteristics

The Gardie site is not recorded on any edition of the 6-inch Ordnance Survey map of Unst, although the southern part of the field enclosure is recorded on the 2nd edition.

National Importance

This monument is of national importance as a rare occurrence of a Norse house identifiable on field characteristics, and has the added significance of an apparently contemporary field system. It has an inherent potential to make a significant addition to our understanding of Norse settlement and land-use in Unst and Shetland. It can also enhance and augment our understanding of the wider setting of Norse houses. It has the potential to improve our understanding of the distribution of Norse settlement, the structural techniques used to build houses, changes in settlement over time, management of the landscape and the varying social status of those who built and lived in these houses. The loss of the monument would significantly diminish our future ability to appreciate and understand Norse settlement in the Shetland Islands.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Sources

Bibliography

The NMRS record number for the site is HP61SW 55. The Shetland Amenity Trust SMR reference is MSN5615 (PrefRef 5615).

References

Stumann-Hansen, S 1995 Report no. 23 Brookpoint (Gardie I)

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

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