South Lanarkshire

Piers Dixon (RCAHMS) – South Lanarkshire

South Lanarkshire ‘Contains Ordnance Survey data © Crown copyright and database right 2011’

South Lanarkshire ‘Contains Ordnance Survey data © Crown copyright and database right 2011’

Early Stone Castles of South Lanarkshire

I have been working as an Archaeological Investigator for RCAHMS since 1989 and currently as an Operations Manager in Survey and Recording. As a medievalist I have long been interested in castles in all their variety wherever they occur from Scotland to Greece, but opportunities for me to record and research them for RCAHMS only became available in 2000 with the Donside survey that led to the publication of In the Shadow of Bennachie (2007). This showed me that we have a lot to learn about the origin and development of castles, with a rash of motte-like structures, including the dramatic castle of Invernochty, Strathdon, with its ‘later’ stone curtain wall built by the ‘native’ earl of Mar, not all of which were medieval castles at all. Baileys, usually part and parcel of the castle earthwork, were absent, except at the Bass of Inverurie, but the mottes were often big enough to take a range of structures. More worrying was the absence of identifiable elite structures of the immediately preceding period.

View of Crawford castle from the air, showing the later stone castle on top of the motte. Copyright RCAHMS (DP153534)

View of Crawford castle from the air, showing the later stone castle on top of the motte. Copyright RCAHMS (DP153534)

The origins of castles in Scotland are generally assumed to derive from the influx of Anglo-French followers of King David and his successors bringing with them their notions of what was necessary for the centre of power of a lordship. Raising an earthwork or modifying a natural mound to make a place of strength was the quickest way of achieving this. South Lanarkshire provides a good test bed for this thesis since the documentation tells us that it was settled in the 12th century by Flemish knights, some of whom established themselves by building castles based on mottes or earthworks that defy easy definition. Some like Coulter motte in the care of Historic Scotland, or Crawford castle, a motte with a later stone tower, appear to have been typical conical mounded structures, but others like the earthwork at Castle Qua just outside Lanark, or that at Cadzow, not far from the later stone castle, take the form of promontories defended by earthworks with broad external ditches.  These were sites that were rejected as prehistoric settlement enclosures by the Royal Commission investigators in the 1970s, although a Roman coin found during excavations by Lanarkshire Archaeology Society of the Cadzow earthwork suggest a late Iron Age or Dark Age date.

Cadzow earthwork, showing the mound and south ditch. The old oak trees have been dated by dendrochronology to the 15th century when the site lay within a hunting park. Copyright Piers Dixon

Cadzow earthwork, showing the mound and south ditch. The old oak trees have been dated by dendrochronology to the 15th century when the site lay within a hunting park. Copyright Piers Dixon

Further investigation of these sites is clearly needed. That at Castle Qua has been the focus of some interest locally and the Commission has reviewed the possibility of further survey work at the site with Addyman Archaeology for the Clyde and Avon Valley Landscape Partnership.  The site itself is a dramatic one with a cliff on one side dropping down to the Mouse Water more than 100 feet below. A substantial earthwork that displays traces of stone facings lies within broad ditch enclosing an area some 30m across with traces of structures near the cliff edge. A second ditch suggests the possibility of a bailey.

Plan of Castle Qua showing the suggested line of the outer ditch as an overlay on the RCAHMS plan. (Addyman Archaeology overlay and RCAHMS DP152072)

Plan of Castle Qua showing the suggested line of the outer ditch as an overlay on the RCAHMS plan. (Addyman Archaeology overlay and RCAHMS DP152072)

Archaeology has also thrown up spanners in the dating of mottes, for example, excavations by Chris Tabraham at Roberton motte in the 1970s produced a sherd of imported pottery from France dated to the 14th century from the base of the mound. This contradicts the established wisdom of dating the construction of mottes and other earthwork castles to the 12th and 13th centuries by incoming Flemish lords. Although there is a good correlation between the documented Flemish incomers and the eponymous villages of Roberton, Thankerton, Symington, Covington, Lamington and Wiston, for example, all settlements of potentially medieval origin,  earthwork castles have yet to be located at all of them.  There is clearly much work to be done here in understanding the development of castles and this area provides an excellent location for doing just that.

Castle Qua earthwork and ditch, much overgrown. Copyright Piers Dixon

Castle Qua earthwork and ditch, much overgrown. Copyright Piers Dixon

 

 

This is what I’ve chosen for Day of Archaeology, but why not tell us your favourite archaeological sites in Scotland on Twitter using #MyArchaeology.

 

 

 

 

Ancient Tree Hunts: Linking the Cultural and the Natural, both Past and Present

Written by Sarah Sall, Volunteer and Outreach Coordinator, Clyde and Avon Valley Landscape Partnership

Having attended an excellent training day by the Ancient Tree Hunt I felt inspired to try and link two aspects of our Clyde and Avon Valley Landscape Partnership’s (CAVLP) work – the natural heritage and a newly understood aspect of its cultural heritage. As a result today I am sending out my second Ancient Tree Hunt schedule to some eagerly awaiting volunteers, who are going to help us record many special trees in the designed landscape of Dalzell Estate in North Lanarkshire and the neighbouring RSPB Scotland nature reserve of Baron’s Haugh.

Search Room

Looking at maps at the new Search Room at New Lanark World Heritage Site

This session will build on the success of my first attempt, which for me as a practical conservationist of the natural environment, involved guiding volunteers through the newly launched Search Room at New Lanark World Heritage Site. Thankfully I have a very knowledgeable archaeologist working alongside me, and so with her help and the wonderful induction by staff from the New Lanark Trust, myself and the volunteers learnt about the wonders of first edition maps, using famous artists paintings (admittedly with a pinch of salt in some cases) and photographs. Added to this I had the world of SCRAN and E-hive opened up to me. I obviously have an untapped enthusiasm for this sort of work and really enjoyed having hands on access. Of course the Ancient Tree Hunt pages on The Woodlands Trust website gives you access to first edition maps and modern aerial shots so as you can see if there’s the possibility of the trees of the past still being present in our landscape now, but having actual maps to run your fingers over makes for a more tactile link to the past – even if they were copies.

The following day we headed out to look for the ancient trees of the Falls Of Clyde National Nature Reserve, managed by the Scottish Wildlife Trust.  As suspected we found old Douglas fir trees and a wonderful Sessil oak, complete with “chicken of the woods” fungi.

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Chicken of the woods fungi

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Sessil oak

 

So here I am gearing up for our second Ancient Tree Hunt and I get to re-pay our archaeologist by sharing the data collection techniques of all this research, bring on the tape measures, GPS, clipboards and thermos.  Thankfully it’s not backbreaking work like digging and spending time out amongst the trees is always energising and enjoyable in my opinion.

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