Atlas of Hillforts of Britain and Ireland

SC2845: Mainland, Yesnaby, Broch of Borwick  

(Yescanaby)

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HER:  Orkney Islands 1660

NMR:  HY 21 NW 1 (1660)

SM:  1418

NGR:  HY 2241 1678

X:  322410  Y:  1016780  (EPSG:27700)

Boundary:  

Summary

The Broch of Borwick is at first sight the stump of a relatively well-preserved broch standing spectacularly at the tip of a precipitous promontory, but it has not only suffered at the hands of an antiquarian excavator, and the cliff-faces are steadily receding on the N and SW where the wall is collapsing into the abyss. The broch measures about 8.2m in diameter within a wall between 3.5m and 4.6m in thickness and still presents up to 2.4m of neatly coursed outer face to either side of its checked entrance on the SE, which also has a guard chamber. There was evidently a settlement outside the broch, but it is difficult to make any sense of the remains visible today, and nor of any other defences barring access on the landward side. Nevertheless, in the account of his excavations, in which he dug down through a mound over 6m high, William Watt describes an outer wall cutting off the promontory that was 1.8m thick at the base and tapered upwards to about 1m at a height of 2.7m. Confusingly he asserts that this wall was 'founded in the moat' (Watt 1882, 447) 15m to 18m broad that he believed also traversed the approaches to the promontory, of which little coherent trace can now be seen. The enclosed area was roughly triangular, measuring perhaps 50m from NE to SW immediately to the rear of the wall by at least 40m transversely (0.11ha).

Status

Citizen Science:  ✗  

Reliability of Data:  Confirmed

Reliability of Interpretation:  Unconfirmed:  Conventionally regarded as the outwork to a broch, but it is possibly the remains of an earlier promontory fort reduced by erosion to below the 0.2ha threshold

Location

X:  -373308  Y:  8187109  (EPSG: 3857)

Longitude:  -3.353481  Latitude:  59.031087  (EPSG:4326)

Country:  Scotland

Current County or Unitary Authority:  Orkney Islands

Historic County:   Orkney

Current Parish/Community/Council/Townland:  Sandwick

Condition

Heavy erosion now eating into the broch

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:  25.0m

Boundary

Boundary Type:  

Second HER:  

Second Current County or Unitary Authority:  

Second Historic County:  

Second Current Parish/Community/Council/Townland:  

Dating Evidence

No distinctive finds from the excavations

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:  ✗  

Investigations

1st Identified Map Depiction (1880):  Named in Gothic type on the 1st edition OS 25-inch map (Orkney 1882, sheet 100.2)
Excavation (1881):  by William Watt (1882)
Earthwork Survey (1928):  Plan and description (RCAHMS 1946, ii, 252-3, no.679, fig 347; RCAHMS ORD 10/1-2)
Other (1935):  Further fieldwork by RCAHMS (1946, 252-3, no.679)
Other (1966):  Visited by the OS
Other (1975):  Scheduled
Other (1983):  eroding midden and other remains observed (Lynn and Bell 1983)
Other (1985):  Description by Eaun MacKie (2002, 217)
Other (1987):  eroding midden and other remains observed (Lynn and Bell 1987)
Geophysical Survey (2011):  Of environs reveals extensive anthropogenic soils (Moore 2011)

Interior Features

The broch and other structures

Water Source

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

Surface

Incoherent remains of multiple structures and the broch

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

Excavation

The broch and fragments of other structures, apparently including a lintelled passage

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

Assemblage includes: two long- handled bone combs; one composite, single-edged round-backed comb, 1 single-edged non-composite comb, one broken double-edged composite comb; one small whale vertebra cup; a socketed handle; three needles; a spindle whorl; a cetacean ivory toggle and a possible antler bridle cheek-piece. Stone objects include: some thin, round stone discs, probably pot lids; a polished gaming piece; a possible stone lamp; a perforated whetstone; hammerstones; Skaill knives and choppers; and querns. An iron rod was found and a single sherd of pottey. Ongoing erosion has led to the recovery of more pottery and midden (Now in Tankerness Museum; Lynn and Bell 1983; 1987)

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:  

Number of Possible Original Entrances:  0:  No entrance is known through the outer wall

Guard Chambers:  

Chevaux de Frise:  ✗  

Enclosing Works

Single wall across a promontory, possibly accompanied by a ditch.

Enclosed Area 1:  0.11ha.
Enclosed Area 2:  
Enclosed Area 3:  
Enclosed Area 4:  
Total Enclosed Area:  0.1ha.

Total Footprint Area:  

Multi-period Enclosure System:  ✗  

Ramparts Form a Continuous Circuit:  ✗  

Number of Ramparts:  1

Number of Ramparts NE Quadrant:  
Number of Ramparts SE Quadrant:  1
Number of Ramparts SW Quadrant:  
Number of Ramparts NW Quadrant:  

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:  Ditch claimed but not wholy convincing

Annex

Annex:  ✗  

References

Hedges, J W (1987c) Bu, Gurness and the brochs of Orkney, part 3: the brochs of Orkney, Brit Archaeol Rep, BAR British Series 165: Oxford (p 83-5)

Lamb, R G (1980) Iron Age promontory forts in the Northern Isles. Brit Archaeol Rep, British Ser 79. BAR: Oxford

Lynn and Bell, D and B (1983) 'Broch of Borwick (Sandwick p), broch'. Disc Exc Scot (1983), 19

Lynn and Bell, D and B (1987) 'Broch of Borwick (Sandwick parish), pottery and worked bone'. Disc Exc Scot (1987), 34

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

Moore, J (2011) 'Yesnaby-Skaill Landscape Survey, Orkney (Sandwick parish), walkover and geophysical survey'. Disc Exc Scot, New Ser, 12 (2011), 137

RCAHMS (1946) The Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland. Twelfth report with an inventory of the ancient monuments of Orkney and Shetland, 3v. HMSO: Edinburgh

Watt, W G T (1882) 'Notice of the broch known as Burwick or Borwick, in the township of Yescanabee and parish of Sandwick, Orkney'. Proc Soc Antiq Scot 16 (1881-2), 442-50

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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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