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Alternative Names: Smailholm Tower
Type of Site: Earthwork
NMRS Number: NT63SW 1
Map reference: NT 6398 3461
Parish: Smailholm
Council: Scottish Borders, The
Former District: Roxburgh
Former Region: Borders

Accessing Scotland's Past Notes

ASP Details
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This earthwork lies approximately 100m to the south-east of Smailholm Tower, occupying the tip of a spur which runs northeast from Lady Hill. Its location is not particularly defensive, as it is overlooked by higher ground to the south.

The site is enclosed by twin banks, separated by a medial ditch. The outer bank is the more substantial of the two, still reaching a height of 3m in places. Both banks are composed of earth and stone, but recent quarrying of the outer bank has revealed the presence of large boulders beneath the surface. This might suggest that the bank was once faced with a stone revetting wall which has since collapsed.

An area measuring 53m from north-west to south-east by 70m transversely is enclosed within the banks, but there is little evidence of occupation. The faint trace of a rectangular building can be seen, but this is probably of relatively recent date. The settlement itself probably represents the remains of a settlement dating to the first millennium BC.

This is a pilot project covering part of the Cairngorms (Aberdeenshire) and the Merse (Scottish Borders). This project, if successful, may extend to other parts of Scotland. For more information on this project, go to http://www.accessingscotlandspast.org.uk.
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Archaeology Notes

NT63SW 1 6398 3461.

(Centred: NT 63983461) Fort (NR).
OS 6"map, Roxburghshire, (1923).

Earthwork, Sandyknowe.
This earthwork (RCAHMS 1956, fig.537) is situated 100yds SE of Smailholm Tower (RCAHMS 1956, No.922) on the tip of a spur at the extreme end of Lady Hill. Its elevation is just below 600ft OD. The site is a roughly triangular plateau sloping from SW to NE and highest on the NW side, where it incorporates a slight rocky ridge. To the S and SE the ground falls sharply for 50ft from the edge of the plateau to the track bordering the cultivated land, and provides an extensive view across the Tweed valley to the Cheviots and on the SW to the Minto Hills. To the N the site is flanked by a gully which must have been waterlogged before it was dammed up to form the existing loch, but the outlook beyond is blocked by the adjacent Sandyknowe Craigs. The position of the entrance shows that the earthwork was easily accessible, at its lowest point, round the E end of the gully, while the SW side is devoid of any natural protection and is overlooked from the slightly higher ground on the summit of Lady Hill. In spite, therefore, of its commanding view to the S the earthwork depends for its strength on the character of its defences rather than on its tactical situation.
Largely as a result of the physical factors just outlined, the work is ovoid in shape, with the apex at the NE end. Except on one side it is enclosed by double ramparts and measures internally along the axes 160 ft from NW to SE by approximately 210ft from NE to SW. The outer rampart is reduced to a crest-line on the SE, where it runs along the margin of the plateau, and on the N is represented only by a slight bank set on the edge of a partly natural and partly artificial scarp. On the SW, however, it is in a better state of preservation, measuring up to 8ft 6in in height and 40ft in thickness at the base. The inner rampart is indicated on the N by a low bank up to 25ft thick at the base, but has been reduced to a crest-line on the SE and entirely destroyed on the SW. The remains of both ramparts are now turf-covered and, while the shape and massive proportions of the outer one on the SW suggest that they were constructed of heaped earth and stone, it is possible that they incorporated dry- stone revetting-walls as several large boulders are exposed in a quarry-hole dug into the outer rampart on the N side and others also appear through the turf at the S end of the SE side of the inner rampart. A slight hollow in the space between the two ramparts on the N suggests the presence of a medial ditch, while there is a similar indication of what may have been an outer ditch immediately NW of the entrance.
The entrance, situated at the apex of the earthwork, leads directly through both ramparts. It seems unlikely that the slight bank that is linked with the SE terminal of the outer rampart, or the narrow T-shaped ditch that partly blocks the approach, are contemporary with the earthwork since they are too insignificant to have formed part of a barbican, but their date and purpose are obscure. Except for some slight remains of a rectangular structure, probably intrusive, which are built against the inner rampart on the summit of the rocky ridge that dominates the site from the NW, the interior shows no signs of occupation.
RCAHMS 1956, visited 19 May 1947.

Miscellaneous Earthworks:
In the absence of excavation, over eighty earth-works in the county cannot be classified either because they do not conform to recognised types or because their plans are not sufficiently distinctive. A few of these, occupying commanding positions on hilltops or the crests of ridges, are unlikely to be later than the 11th century; such are Bonchester Hill (No.278), the group of earthworks on Whitcastle Hill (No.865), and five roughly D-shaped earthworks lying within a radius of two miles between the River Teviot and the Slitrig Water-Gray Hill 2 (No.999), Birny Knowe (No.995), Crom Rig (No.1000), Dodburn (No.160,ii), and Pen Sike (No.168)-which are characterised by ramparts massive in proportion to their size. The majority, however, are situated on hill- sides or in the bottoms of valleys, generally below the 800ft contour, and are probably mediaeval. Most of these lower-lying structures, of which the outstanding examples are Timpendean (No.435), Iron Castle (No.945), and Scraesburgh (No.466), were evidently designed for habitation and presumably contained wooden buildings; but a few of the simpler earthworks such as Huntly Burn (No.51) may have been enclosures for stock.
RCAHMS 1956.

Generally as described above.
Revised at 1/2500.
Visited by OS (RDL) 20 September 1962.


RCAHMS (1956 )
The Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland. An inventory of the ancient and historical monuments of Roxburghshire: with the fourteenth report of the Commission,
2v, Edinburgh, 418-19,

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Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland
NATIONAL Monuments Record of Scotland
John Sinclair House, 16 Bernard Terrace, Edinburgh EH8 9NX
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