Multivallate Hillfort. Contour fort. Linear earthwork.
Arbory Hillfort is of an unknown date. There is a henge situated near Crawford which may have a connection to this, and other sites, in the area. This hillfort has not been excavated but has undergone some surveying and measuring including a Geophysical Survey in 1990. Until such a time that it can be investigated further the site holds onto its history. The following is what we do know about the site.
Arbory Hillfort sits upon a small hill overlooking the Clyde River and is naturally protected on three sides by steep slopes. On the fourth side, the east, it is approached by a gentler slope. There is no water supply, but this may be due to it not being discovered – could it have been an ancient spring that may have dried up? There is visual evidence of two phases of construction. Further archaeological investigation will let us know if there were more.
The first phase included an area measuring 82m by 69m which was defended by two walls/ramparts, outer ditches and a counterscarp. The walls included stone quarried from the digging of the ditches. One of the walls/ramparts measures 5.3m wide and stands 3m from the base of the ditch, however it is only 0.6m in height from the ground level on the inside of the fort. Originally these must have been larger in order to defend the site.
There are five entrance gaps – two to the south, two to the east and one to the north-west, which has a holloway measuring 7.6m by 3.7m. These five entrances all appear to belong to the first phase of construction.
Archaeological evidence from observation shows internally there were four structures, constructed of timber and measuring 6m, 4.6m and 3.7m in diameter.
The second phase of construction included a stone wall built within the earlier defences and which can today be seen as a mass of rubble. The diameter of this work is 43m.
Two entrances were incorporated into this stone wall. The eastern one measuring 2.1m wide and the second, smaller one, measuring 1.2m wide.
Internally the site is level, and there is visual evidence of three structures with ring ditches measuring 9.1m, 8.5m and 7.9m in diameter. There is also more modern evidence located to the north including a round stone building and a pile of stones which may be a cairn.
Located 75m away to the east-south-east of the site, and on the gentler sloping ground, a linear earthwork has been identified measuring 3.7m thick. Believed to be part of the defences as the site was approached from this direction, this linear feature may also have served as a territorial mark or even to control the movement of people to and from the site. It may also have been a land boundary, as we know there are several other defended sites within the area.
It has been suggested that Arbory may merely have been an observation post (Galloway 1866), however, would this attract the defences that it has? Maybe at a later date, but it definitely had good views over the Roman Road nearby.
A Roman road snakes its way in the lower ground between Arbory Hill, Raggengill Hill, and Castle Hill. The fort has a good view of this as do the other settlements and forts in the area. Roman Camps are sited at Crawford to the southeast of Arbury Hill and Wandel to the northwest. This may have been part of the Roman road which stretched between Carlisle and Glasgow, where the Romans had major forts and settlements.
At one point in time the site held a palisade, but the dating will not be ascertained until it is investigated further. This may have been added during the Roman period, or be of an earlier date.
The area measurements of the site are as follows,
The whole site covers 1.1ha including the linear earth feature.
Here is a timeline of the site.
NOTE: This is different from our other timelines in regards there is no available information about its occupants, construction dates or events.
1773 Shown on Charles Ross’s map.
1890 Field Investigation.
1931 Lithic (chert scraper) discovered at the site.
1932 Field Investigation.
1945 Aerial photograph.
1949 Aerial photograph.
1959 Surveyed and measured.
1968 Aerial photograph.
1976 Aerial photograph.
1975 Field Investigation.
1978 Field Investigation.
1980 Aerial photograph.
1982 Aerial photograph.
1985 Aerial photograph.
1990 Geophysical Survey.
2000 Aerial photograph.
2003 Aerial photograph.
2006 Aerial photograph.
As mentioned, the site has not been archaeologically investigated, however a lithic (stone tool – chert scraper) was found at the site and there is visual evidence of the internal structures.
Looking at the images and reading some of the descriptions , it is clear that Arbory was located in an important position, one from which the native occupants must have observed the Romans marching along their road and heading further north into Scotland.
Further questions –
References & Bibliography.
Beveridge. A. 1881. Clydesdale, a Poem, with Notes. Oxford University.
Canmore. 2023. Arbory Hill. Available at https://canmore.org.uk/site/47427/arbory-hill.
Christison. D. 1890. Forts, Camps, and Motes of the Upper Ward of Lanarkshire. Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries Scotland, Vol. 24, 1889-90. Pp. 302-304.
Frere. S. 2001. The Ravenna Cosmography and North Britain Between the Walls. Britannia, 32, 286–292. https://doi.org/10.2307/526962.
Galloway. A. 1866. Remarks On Ancient Agriculture, And on The Agricultural Condition of Clydesdale During The Roman Period And Subsequently. Transactions of the Glasgow Archaeological Society, 1(4), 399–419. http://www.jstor.org/stable/43913826.
Gardiner. The Rev. M. 1841. Parish of Bothwell. In Society for the Benefit of the Sons and Daughters of the Clergy. 1841. The Statistical Account of Lanarkshire. W. Blackwood. p. 818.
Groome. F. H. (ed.). 1883. Ordnance Gazetteer of Scotland: A Survey of Scottish Topography, Statistical, Biographical, and Historical · Volume 4. Grange Publishing Works.
Harding. D. W. 2004. The Iron Age in Northern Britain: Celts and Romans, Natives and Invaders. Taylor & Francis.
Harding. D. W. 2009. The Iron Age Round-House: Later Prehistoric Building in Britain and Beyond. Oxford University Press.
Harding. D. 2012. Iron Age Hillforts in Britain and Beyond. Oxford University Press.
Irving. G. V. 1855. On The Ancient Camps of the Upper Ward of Lanarkshire. Journal of the British Archaeological Association. Vol. 10., (Apr. 1854). pp. 1-32.
Irving. G. V. 1864. The Upper Ward of Lanarkshire Described and Delineated
Volume 1. Thomas Murray & Sons.
RCAHMS. 1978. The Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland. Lanarkshire: An Inventory of the Prehistoric and Roman Monuments. Edinburgh.
Ritchie. J. N. G. 2019. Scotland: Archaeology and Early History: A General Introduction. Edinburgh University Press.
Arbory_Hill_-_geograph.org.uk_-_78579 By Colin Kinnear, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=13455819
Arbory_Hill_fort_-_geograph.org.uk_-_2308727 By Arbory Hill fort by Richard Webb, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=107387614
Arbory_Hill_fort_-_geograph.org.uk_-_2316850 By Arbory Hill fort by Richard Webb, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=107429024
Looking_down_Arbory_Hill_-_geograph.org.uk_-_409425 By Chris Wimbush, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=12921682
Hill_fort_on_Arbory_Hill_-_geograph.org.uk_-_409434 By Chris Wimbush, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=12920718