Ancient Monuments

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Noss Sound, broch 200m SSE of Norther House

A Scheduled Monument in Lerwick North, Shetland Islands

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Latitude: 60.1498 / 60°8'59"N

Longitude: -1.0508 / 1°3'2"W

OS Eastings: 452803

OS Northings: 1140972

OS Grid: HU528409

Mapcode National: GBR R1RX.943

Mapcode Global: XHFB5.Q4ZT

Entry Name: Noss Sound, broch 200m SSE of Norther House

Scheduled Date: 24 May 1934

Last Amended: 31 October 2012

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM2061

Schedule Class: Cultural

Category: Prehistoric domestic and defensive: broch; Prehistoric ritual and funerary: standing stone

Location: Bressay

County: Shetland Islands

Electoral Ward: Lerwick North

Traditional County: Shetland


The monument comprises a broch of Iron Age date, built probably between 500 BC and AD 200, the remains of two ramparts on the landward side of the broch and a standing stone that lies around 45m NNW of the broch. The broch is visible as a very large turf-covered mound within which small areas of masonry are exposed. The ramparts also survive as substantial earthworks. The monument lies about 10m above sea level, on a low peninsula that protrudes SE into Noss Sound. The monument was first scheduled in 1934 but the documentation does not meet modern standards; the present rescheduling rectifies this.

The turf-covered mound stands at least 4m high and measures 18m in diameter. Few of the broch's structural features are exposed, although several courses of the inner wall face are visible on the NW side. In the early 19th century several cavities were noted in the walls, which are interpreted as internal wall cells. Each was around 3.7m long and 1.8m wide and traces of one are still visible on the SW side. The wall of the broch is around 5m thick. An earth and stone bank crosses the neck of the promontory, around 8m from the broch, and a second more massive bank lies a further 4.5m beyond to the north. Large edge-set boulders survive towards the E end of the outer bank and may have been part of its structure. Researchers suggest the banks may be the remains of stone walls that were originally 3.2m thick. The standing stone is situated beyond the banks to the NNW, and measures about 1.2m high, 1.5m long and 0.6m thick. It is aligned NNE-SSW and stands parallel to a low bank or wall base that lies 1m to the west.

Two areas are to be scheduled 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 larger scheduled area is irregular on plan and includes the remains of the broch and ramparts. A second smaller area is a circle, 10m in diameter, centred on the centre of the standing stone. The larger scheduled area extends to the mean high water mark to the south and east. On the SW side it extends up to but excludes a dry stone wall.

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, the surviving mound is in good condition and shows no sign of recent damage. Observations made in the 19th century indicate that substantial buried remains of the broch's lower courses and foundations are preserved beneath the mound. The ramparts and nearby standing stone suggest that this is a complex, multi-phase monument set in a landscape that preserves evidence for a long period of use. There is a strong likelihood that buried archaeological deposits associated with the monument's construction, use and abandonment are well preserved. These may allow future researchers to date construction of the broch, and compare this with the dates of the rampart defences and standing stone. In addition, 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 high potential for the presence of artefacts and ecofacts that may 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 around two hundred in Shetland. It has potential to enhance our understanding of the relationship between brochs, the extent to which they were contemporary, and their relationship with the wider landscape. Brochs have been viewed as having a defensive or offensive function, or simply as being the prestige dwellings and farms of an elite strata of society, keen to display its status. The buried remains at Noss Sound have potential to contribute to these questions and may provide insight into the nature and use of these structures and the landscape immediately around them. The standing stone may relate to much earlier activity in the 2nd millennium BC, or may derive from activity contemporary with the broch. The field bank adjacent to the standing stone, and others in the vicinity, may preserve evidence for land management contemporary with the broch, or may relate to later activity contemporary with the ruined agricultural buildings that lie between 65m and 145m W of the broch. The remains of an early Christian chapel lie 260m away on the opposite side of Noss Sound and its site may perhaps have been occupied in earlier years when the broch was in use.

Associative characteristics

The broch is depicted and labelled 'brough' on the Ordnance Survey first edition 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 there. The monument offers potential to study the relationship between the broch itself and two ramparts, and to compare the use of the broch with that of a variety of features in the vicinity, including a standing stone. The loss of the monument would significantly diminish our future ability to appreciate and understand the Iron Age in Shetland, especially the development and re-use of brochs.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland




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, 117.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

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