Atlas of Hillforts of Britain and Ireland

SC3408: Woden Law  

(Woden Law, 'Siege Works')

Sources: Esri, DigitalGlobe, Earthstar Geographics, CNES/Airbus DS, GeoEye, USDA FSA, USGS, Getmapping, Aerogrid, IGN, IGP, and the GIS User Community

HER:  Scottish Borders 58068

NMR:  NT 71 SE 15 (58068)

SM:  2125

NGR:  NT 7677 1254

X:  376777  Y:  612547  (EPSG:27700)

Boundary:  

Summary

The summit of Woden law is crowned by a complex of earthworks, at the core of which is a large Iron Age fort. Oval on plan, it measures about 120m from NNE to SSW by 45m transversely (0.45ha) within a belt of up to four ramparts some 25m deep along the E flank and around the ends. This belt of defences, however, is composite, and the innermost rampart is clearly the latest, with entrances reusing earlier gaps on the NNE and SW, but blocking the earlier entrance in the middle of the ESE side. Its entrance in this side is a little further south, approached obliquely through gaps cut through the outer ramparts to expose the visitor's left side; RCAHMS investigators in 1952 identified by probing that the medial ditch of the outermost ramparts was continuous across this gap. Excavation by Ian Richmond and J K St Joseph in 1950 showed that the innermost rampart is stone-faced, about 2.7m in thickness, with a shallow quarry scoop to its rear, and overlay deposits in the quarry behind the rampart immediately in front. This latter, in accordance with the interpretation of Mrs C M Piggott's work at Hownam Rings (Atlas no.3401), was considered the perimeter of a free-standing enclosure, taking in a rather larger area of about 0.59ha, to which the two outer ramparts flanking a medial ditch had subsequently been added (RCAHMS 1956, 169-72, no.308; Richmond and St Joseph 1982, 278-9, fig 2). While these two outer ramparts may be an addition, perhaps reflected in the deflection of their lines at the entrance on the ESE, it is as well not to impose the supposed sequence found at Hownam Rings elsewhere, and the divergence of their circuit on the SSW at Woden Law could as easily indicate that this was a yet earlier enclosure. At each stage in the evolution of the defences, there were probably three entrances, the roadways through the three outer ramparts on the NNE and ESE approaching obliquely to expose the visitors left side. This is particularly noticeable at the ESE entrance, where the terminals of the inner of the earlier ramparts, the second rampart of the four visible on this side, are offset to either side of the gap. Likewise, one of the terminals of this rampart at the SSW entrance appears to turn inwards, though in this case to expose the visitor's right side. In addition to what may be a single stone-founded round-house adjacent to the innermost rampart on the W, there are traces of numerous large timber round-houses throughout the interior, though these do not appear on any plan. The relationship of the complex of earthworks outside the fort to the defensive sequence is not understood. At the SSW end they include elements that have been described as annexes, occupying the space between the fort and an outer belt of banks and ditches that appears to invest the southern and eastern flanks of the defences. The inner of the supposed annexes forms an enclosure against the defences, but plainly overlies the outermost rampart and ditch of the fort, while the outer seals off the gap between the defences and the outer belt. In 1950, these latter, and further earthworks to the S and E, were postulated to be the remains of Roman siegeworks. On the E the main belt comprises three ditches with intermediate banks, but close examination shows that at the southern end it is made up of three separate banks and ditches, the inner of which blocks an entrance in the middle one. Sections by Richmond and St Joseph (1982) revealed evidence of turf-work in their construction and re-cutting of the ditches, but was unable to demonstrate their date. While Roman activity may have taken place here, these earthworks may have other explanations more directly associated with the use of the fort (Halliday 1982, 80-3).

Status

Citizen Science:  ✗  

Reliability of Data:  Confirmed

Reliability of Interpretation:  Confirmed

Location

X:  -263637  Y:  7441130  (EPSG: 3857)

Longitude:  -2.368296  Latitude:  55.406333  (EPSG:4326)

Country:  Scotland

Current County or Unitary Authority:  Scottish Borders

Historic County:   Roxburghshire

Current Parish/Community/Council/Townland:  Hownam

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:  421.0m

Boundary

Boundary Type:  

Second HER:  

Second Current County or Unitary Authority:  

Second Historic County:  

Second Current Parish/Community/Council/Townland:  

Dating Evidence

The reasoning behind the attribution of the latest period of defences at Woden Law, the innermost rampart, to the early medieval period, does not stand close scrutiny and can no longer be sustained.

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:  ✗  

None:  No details.

Investigations

RCAHMS holds an extensive collection of aerial photographs, including in 1945, 1946, 1947,1948, 1958, 1967 and 1970 by CUCAP, in 1979 and 1983 by Dennis Harding, in 1991 by John Dent, and in 1984, 1987, 1992, 1994, 2000 and 2010 by RCAHMS Aerial Survey Programme

1st Identified Map Depiction (1755):  On General William Roy's Military Map of Scotland
1st Identified Written Reference (1836):  Noted (NSA, iii, Roxburghshire, 197)
Other (1859):  Annotated Camp on the 1st edition OS 6-inch map (Roxburgh 1863, sheet 27)
Other (1884):  Noted (Geikie 1884, 140)
Excavation (1950):  Directed by Ian Richmond and J K St Joseph (1982; RCAHMS RXD 126/8-9 P )
Earthwork Survey (1952):  Plan and description (RCAHMS 1956, 169-72, no.308, fig 197; RCAHMS RXD 126/1-7)
Other (1960):  Visited by the OS
Other (1969):  Visited by the Hill-fort Study Group
Other (1974):  Scheduled
Other (1976):  Visited by the OS
Other (1999):  Mapped by RCAHMS, but no description prepared

Interior Features

In addition to three ring-banks shown on the RCAHMS plan drawn up in 1952, the most recent mapping survey by RCAHMS in 1999 noted traces of large timber round-houses throughout the interior of the fort.

Water Source

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

Surface

Traces of large timber round-houses noted throughout the interior in 1999. Ring-grooves

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

Excavation

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

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

Aerial

Traces

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

Entrances

See main summary

Total Number of Breaks Through Ramparts:  

Number of Possible Original Entrances:  3:  Generalised into three at most stages of the evolution, but with different configurations and positions in the separate circuits. Three additional gaps in the outer belt of 'investing' works are included, on the grounds that these form part of the entrance architecture of the fort

Guard Chambers:  

Chevaux de Frise:  ✗  

Entrance 1 (Northeast):  Simple Gap:  Approached by a worn track at right-angles to the axis of the innermost wall
Entrance 1 (Northeast):  Oblique:  Staggered gaps in the outer ramparts. Oblique approach exposing left side
Entrance 2 (East):  Over-lapping:  Blocked by the innermost rampart, staggered gaps in the three outer ramparts. Oblique approach exposing left side, and the terminals of the inner of them also overlap.
Entrance 2 (East):  Blocked:  Entrance 3 is blocked by the innermost rampart
Entrance 2 (East):  Oblique:  Oblique approach exposing the left side
Entrance 3 (Southeast):  Oblique:  A gap apparently cut through the outer ramparts to service an entrance in the innermost. Oblique approach exposing left side
Entrance 4 (Southwest):  Simple Gap:  A simple gap in the innermost rampart. Oblique approach exposing left side from an earlier entrance (6)
Entrance 4 (Southwest):  Over-lapping:  The terminal on the S side turns sharply inwards. Oblique approach exposing right side
Entrance 4 (Southwest):  Simple Gap:  Through the two outermost ramparts of the defences, which here have diverged from the concentric position elsewhere
Entrance 4 (Southwest):  Oblique:  Oblique approach exposing right side
Entrance 5 (Northeast):  Simple Gap:  Through all three ditches and banks of the outworks on the slope below entrance 1
Entrance 6 (Southeast):  Simple Gap:  Through all three ditches and banks on the slope outside entrances 2 and 3
Entrance 7 (Southwest):  Blocked:  Through the middle of the three outwork lines, but blocked by the inner

Enclosing Works

Four ramparts, representing at least three periods of construction, with a belt of outer enclosures that should perhaps be considered part of the defences of the fort, though apart from the overall footprint they have been omitted from the data below

Enclosed Area 1:  0.45ha.
Enclosed Area 2:  0.59ha.
Enclosed Area 3:  
Enclosed Area 4:  
Total Enclosed Area:  0.6ha.

Total Footprint Area:  2.6ha.

Multi-period Enclosure System:  ✓  The overall footprint takes in the belt of investing earthworks, but not the outlying earthworks

Ramparts Form a Continuous Circuit:  ✓  

Number of Ramparts:  4

Number of Ramparts NE Quadrant:  4
Number of Ramparts SE Quadrant:  4
Number of Ramparts SW Quadrant:  4
Number of Ramparts NW Quadrant:  3

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

Ditches

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:  1

Annex

Annex:  ✓  Two elements at the SSW end of the fort were termed annexes by RCAHMS investigators in 1952, but only the inner, apparently accessed from within the fort, forms a coherent enclosure, but nevertheless appears to overlie the outermost defences. It measures a maximum of 70m from ESE to WNW by 15m transversely (0.1ha) within a single bank and ditch.

References

Geikie, J (1884) «List of hill forts, intrenched camps, etc. in Roxburghshire on the Scotch side of the Cheviots. Hist Berwickshire Natur Club 10 (1882_4) 139-44

Halliday, S P (1982) 'Later prehistoric farming in South-Eastern Scotland'. 74-90 in Harding, D W, Later Prehistoric Settlement in South-East Scotland, University of Edinburgh, Department of Archaeology, Occasional Paper No 8. Edinburgh

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. HMSO: Edinburgh

Richmond and St Joseph, I A and J K S (1982) 'Excavations at Woden Law, 1950'. Proc Soc Antiq Scot 112 (1982), 277-84

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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