Ancient Monuments

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Burn of Selta, farmsteads, field system and associated remains

A Scheduled Monument in Stromness and South Isles, Orkney Islands

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Latitude: 58.9942 / 58°59'38"N

Longitude: -3.3561 / 3°21'22"W

OS Eastings: 322174

OS Northings: 1012683

OS Grid: HY221126

Mapcode National: GBR L42Y.WWD

Mapcode Global: WH69T.F62B

Entry Name: Burn of Selta, farmsteads, field system and associated remains

Scheduled Date: 4 July 2014

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM13419

Schedule Class: Cultural

Category: Secular: farmstead

Location: Stromness

County: Orkney Islands

Electoral Ward: Stromness and South Isles

Traditional County: Orkney


The monument comprises the well-preserved and extensive remains of an historic rural settlement, extending over an area of around 13.5 hectares. The settlement includes the remains of two farmsteads, various associated enclosures, a sheepfold and extensive areas of rig-and-furrow cultivation, mostly enclosed by an upstanding head dyke. The monument is located at Bight of Mousland, on an area of sloping ground dissected by the Burn of Selta, at about 50m above sea level, some 250m from the exposed W coast of Orkney Mainland.

The head dyke encloses an area measuring approximately 385m N-S by 420m W-E. It is visible as an earthen bank with edge-set stones in places, standing 0.5m high on average. Extensive areas of rig-and-furrow are visible within the head dyke, aligned mainly NE-SW or NW-SE. A roofless farmstead building with three associated enclosures lies some 130m N of the Burn of Selta, immediately outside and to the N of the head dyke. The building measures 6.6m SW-NE by 4.9m transversely and is constructed of roughly-hewn sandstone blocks laid in regular courses; the joints are pinned with small stones and clay-bonded. Another farmstead, of similar build to the first, lies around 130m S of the Burn of Selta. The main building is aligned E-W and divided into two rooms, within walls standing up to 1m high and 0.7m thick. The foundations of another structure of similar build are adjoined at right angles on the S elevation. The scant remains of a further small structure lie immediately to the W. Near the centre of the enclosed area, a rectilinear stone-built sheepfold overlies an earlier enclosure which survives as a circular platform enclosed by a turf bank. A probable prehistoric cairn lies some 150m WNW of the S farmstead.

The scheduled area is irregular on plan to include the remains described above and an area around them within which evidence relating to the monument's use, re-use and abandonment is expected to survive, as shown in red on the accompanying map. The scheduling specifically excludes the concrete sluice across the Burn of Selta and the upstanding elements of the stone building adjacent to the sluice to the SW. It also excludes the above-ground elements of all modern post-and-wire fences to allow for their maintenance.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Statement of Scheduling

The Burn of Selta farmsteads and field systems are of national importance as a well-preserved and rare example of an intact historic rural settlement and farming landscape in Orkney. The monument has high potential to make a significant contribution to our understanding of the past, particularly to our understanding of rural vernacular buildings, society, agricultural practices and economy in Orkney from at least the post-medieval period (and possibly earlier) through to the 19th century. There is good potential for the survival of important archaeological deposits and environmental evidence that can inform our understanding of the chronology and development of the farmsteads, land management and agricultural practices. This monument is a rare example of its type in Orkney and is impressive for its completeness, in particular for the survival of extensive and well-preserved remains of rig-and-furrow within a clearly defined area. The loss of the monument would affect our ability to understand historic rural settlement and land-use in Orkney and across Scotland.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland



RCAHMS records the monument as HY21SW 16, 26, 27 and 28.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

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