Atlas of Hillforts of Britain and Ireland

SC1330: Harpercroft  

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HER:  The West of Scotland Archaeology Service 6557

NMR:  NS 33 SE 6 (41986)

SM:  307

NGR:  NS 3600 3252

X:  236000  Y:  632520  (EPSG:27700)

Boundary:  

Summary

This fort comprises an inner and outer enclosure taking in the whole of the summit of the hilltop immediately S of Wardlaw Hill. Slightly oval on plan, the inner enclosure measures 105m from E to W by 90m transversely (0.7ha) within a rampart that follows a natural shoulder around most of the summit area to form a stony scarp about 1.6m in height; the crest of the rampart has itself provided the line for a later stone dyke. The outer enclosure follows a similar natural feature everywhere except on the SW, enclosing an area measuring about 320m from E to W by 260m transversely (6.5ha). The circuits of both ramparts are heavily denuded, with several large gaps, particularly where the track servicing the radio-station approaches from the E. Work in advance of the modernisation of the radio-station in 1985 recorded profiles across the inner rampart, which measures about 5m in thickness by 0.5m in height, and excavated an area within the interior, identifying the arcs of several shallow ditches, though their date and purpose were not determined (Halpin 1992). Finds included a small assemblage of pottery (mainly from one vessel) and five fragments of at least three shale bracelets and several pieces of unworked shale.

Status

Citizen Science:  ✓  John Lumley

Reliability of Data:  Confirmed

Reliability of Interpretation:  Confirmed

Location

X:  -512277  Y:  7471070  (EPSG: 3857)

Longitude:  -4.601865  Latitude:  55.558739  (EPSG:4326)

Country:  Scotland

Current County or Unitary Authority:  South Ayrshire

Historic County:   Ayrshire

Current Parish/Community/Council/Townland:  Dundonald

Condition

Extant:  
Cropmark:  
Likely Destroyed:  

Land Use

Woodland:  
Commercial Forestry Plantation:  
Parkland:  
Pasture (Grazing):  
Arable:  
Scrub/Bracken:  
Bare Outcrop:  
Heather/Moorland:  
Heath:  
Built-up:  
Coastal Grassland:  
Other:  

Landscape

Hillfort Type

Contour Fort:  
Partial Contour Fort:  
Promontory Fort:  
Hillslope Fort:  
Level Terrain Fort:  
Marsh Fort:  
Multiple Enclosure Fort:  

Topographic Position

Hilltop:  
Coastal Promontory:  
Inland Promontory:  
Valley Bottom:  
Knoll/Hillock/Outcrop:  
Ridge:  
Cliff/Plateau-edge/Scarp:  
Hillslope:  
Lowland:  
Spur:  

Dominant Topographic Feature:  

Aspect

North:  
Northeast:  
East:  
Southeast:  
South:  
Southwest:  
West:  
Northwest:  
Level:  

Elevation

Altitude:  145.0m

Boundary

Boundary Type:  

Second HER:  

Second Current County or Unitary Authority:  

Second Historic County:  

Second Current Parish/Community/Council/Townland:  

Dating Evidence

Small assemblage of pottery (mainly from one vessel) and five fragments from at least three shale bracelets and several pieces of unworked shale is not chronologically distinctive

Reliability:  D - None

Pre 1200BC:  
1200BC - 800BC:  
1200BC - 800BC:  
400BC - AD50:  
AD50 - AD400:  
AD400 - AD 800:  
Post AD800:  
Unknown:  

Pre Hillfort Activity:  ✗  

Post Hillfort Activity:  ✓  Ploughed down

Artefactual:  No details.

Investigations

First depicted on Andrew Armstrong's 'A New Map of Ayrshire' (1775), it appears in John Thomson's Atlas as a Roman Camp (1828), and the inner enclosure was subsequently shown on the 1st edition OS 25-inch map (Ayrshire 1860, sheet 22.11). In the early 1890s both David Christison and John Smith visited the fort (Christison 1893, 390, pl vi fig 1; Smith 1895, 121). It was described and the inner enclosure planned by RCAHMS in 1953 and part of an unfinished quernstone was donated to the National Museum of Antiquities of Scotland in 1955-6 (Proc Soc Antiq Scot 89, 460, no.28). The OS visited in 1954 and revised the 1:2500 depiction in 1982. RCAHMS revisited in 1985, and in the same year a trial excavation was carried out ahead of the modernisation of the radio station within the interior (Halpin 1992). A watching brief was maintained during the relaying of cables to station in 1992 in an existing trench traversing both ramparts on the E (CFA 1992). It was Scheduled in 1993.

1st Identified Map Depiction (1775):  Andrew Armstrong's 'A New Map of Ayrshire' (1775)
Other (1857):  Annotated Camp on the 1st edition OS 25-inch map (Ayrshire 1860, sheet 22.11)
Earthwork Survey (1891):  Sketch-plan and description by David Christison (1893, 390, pl vi fig 1)
Other (1895):  Description by John Smith (1895, 121)
Earthwork Survey (1953):  Plan and description during RCAHMS Survey of Marginal Lands (RCAHMS AYD 13/2 & DP 147615)
Other (1954):  Visited by the OS
Other (1982):  Revised at 1:2500 by the OS
Other (1983):  Visited by the Hill-Fort Study Group
Excavation (1985):  Halpin 1992
Other (1985):  Description by RCAHMS
Excavation (1992):  Watching brief (CFA 1992)
Other (1993):  Scheduled

Interior Features

Featureless on the surface, but several tight arcs of shallow ditches were observed in excavation and elements of the walls of several round-houses within the inner enclosure

Water Source

None:  
Spring:  
Stream:  
Pool:  
Flush:  
Well:  
Other:  

Surface

No Known Features:  
Round Stone Structures:  
Rectangular Stone Structures:  
Curvilinear Platforms:  
Other Roundhouse Evidence:  
Pits:  
Quarry Hollows:  
Other:  

Excavation

Purpose of the ditches is unknown

No Known Excavation:  
Pits:  
Postholes:  
Roundhouses:  
Rectangular Structures:  
Roads/Tracks:  
Quarry Hollows:  
Other:  
Nothing Found:  

Geophysics

No Known Geophysics:  
Pits:  
Roundhouses:  
Rectangular Structures:  
Roads/Tracks:  
Quarry Hollows:  
Other:  
Nothing Found:  

Finds

Small assemblage of pottery (mainly from one vessel) and five fragments from at least three shale bracelet and several fragments of unworked shale

No Known Finds:  
Pottery:  
Metal:  
Metalworking:  
Human Bones:  
Animal Bones:  
Lithics:  
Environmental:  
Other:  

Aerial

NO APPARENT FEATURES

APs Not Checked:  
None:  
Roundhouses:  
Rectangular Structures:  
Pits:  
Postholes:  
Roads/Tracks:  
Other:  

Entrances

None known

Total Number of Breaks Through Ramparts:  0:  Heavily mutilated in several sectors

Number of Possible Original Entrances:  0:  None recorded

Guard Chambers:  

Chevaux de Frise:  ✗  

Enclosing Works

Two independent circuits forming an inner enclosure of 0.7ha within a large outer enclosure of 0.65ha

Enclosed Area 1:  0.7ha.
Enclosed Area 2:  6.5ha.
Enclosed Area 3:  
Enclosed Area 4:  
Total Enclosed Area:  6.5ha.

Total Footprint Area:  6.7ha.

Multi-period Enclosure System:  ✗  

Ramparts Form a Continuous Circuit:  ✓  Univallate inner and outer circuits

Number of Ramparts:  2

Number of Ramparts NE Quadrant:  2
Number of Ramparts SE Quadrant:  2
Number of Ramparts SW Quadrant:  2
Number of Ramparts NW Quadrant:  2

Current Morphology

Partial Univallate:  
Univallate:  
Partial Bivallate:  
Bivallate:
Partial Multivallate:  
Multivallate:  
Unknown:  

Multi-period Morphology

Partial Univallate:  
Univallate:  
Partial Bivallate:  
Bivallate:  
Partial Multivallate:  
Multivallate:  

Surface Evidence

None:  
Earthen Bank:  
Stone Wall:  
Rubble:  
Wall-walk:  
Evidence of Timber:  
Vitrification:  
Other Burning:  
Palisade:  
Counter Scarp Bank:  
Berm:  
Unfinished:  
Other:  

Excavated Evidence

None:  
Earthen Bank:  
Stone Wall:  
Murus Duplex:  
Timber-framed:  
Timber-laced:  
Vitrification:  
Other Burning:  
Palisade:  
Counter Scarp Bank:  
Berm:  
Unfinished:  
No Known Excavation:  
Other:  

Gang Working

Gang Working:  ✗ 

Ditches

Ditches:  

Number of Ditches:  

Annex

Annex:  ✓  While the outer enclosure might be considered an annexe of some 6.5ha, it is more likely to represent the remains of a freestanding fortification.

References

CFA (1992) 'Harpercrofts, Wardlaw Hill (Dundonald parish): fort'. Disc Exc Scot 1992, 64

Christison, D (1893) 'The Prehistoric Forts of Ayrshire'. Proc Soc Antiq Scot 27 (1892-93), 381-405.

Feachem, R (1963) A guide to prehistoric Scotland. Batsford: London (p 110)

Halpin E 1992 'Harpercroft and Wardlaw hill', in Rideout, J S, Owen, O A, & Halpin, E (eds) 'Hillforts of southern Scotland'. Edinburgh, pp.121-6

Smith, J (1895) Prehistoric Man in Ayrshire. London.

Terms of Use

The online version of the Atlas of Hillforts of Britain and Ireland should be cited as:

Lock, G. and Ralston, I. 2017.  Atlas of Hillforts of Britain and Ireland. [ONLINE] Available at: https://hillforts.arch.ox.ac.uk.

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