Eday, Castle Of Stackel Brae

Castle (possible)

Site Name Eday, Castle Of Stackel Brae

Classification Castle (possible)

Alternative Name(s) Maltbarn; Stackelbrae

Canmore ID 3118

Site Number HY52NE 6

NGR HY 5641 2884

Datum OSGB36 - NGR

Ordnance Survey licence number 100020548. All rights reserved.
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Administrative Areas

  • Council Orkney Islands
  • Parish Eday
  • Former Region Orkney Islands Area
  • Former District Orkney
  • Former County Orkney

Archaeology Notes

HY52NE 6 5641 2884.

(HY 5644 2886) Stackel Brae (NAT)

OS 6" map, Orkney, 2nd ed.,(1900).

A large, irregularly-shaped mound measuring about 80 yds by 30 yds, which is said to be the site of the 'Castle of Stackel Brae'. In the bank along its south margin, winter storms have laid bare walling, both dry-built and mortared, at irregular intervals, as well as some kitchen midden refuse which has produced pottery sherds, a piece of early glass and a piece of bronze.

The pirate Gow is said to have been held prisoner here while awaiting a ship to remove him for trial 'The Hammer' is another name for the site.

RCAHMS 1946, visited 1928.

At HY 5641 2884 are the remains of a building, locally believed to have been a castle. The N wall and parts of the E. and W. walls survive as turf-covered stony banks spread to c5.0m and c0.6m maximum height and measure c.13.0m E to W by c.10.0m transversely between wall centres. No wall faces can be seen. A confused mass of building stones, many bonded with lime mortar, are exposed by coastal erosion on the S.

The mound described by RCAHMS and published on the OS map is still known as 'Stackel Brae'. It measures c.35.0m E to W by c.20.0m tranversely and c.1.7m, maximum height. Mutilation has revealed a content of solid peat, and is locally believed to be the peat stack of the "castle", but is more likely to be a peat stack connected with the Eday peat industry. The pirate Gow's ship bell dated 1640 is still preserved in Carrick House, Eday.

Surveyed at 1/2500.

Visited by OS (RL) 24 July 1970.

A large but indeterminate coastal mound at Maltbarn is known by this name and in its eroded shoreline-section reveals structures that may be of medieval date.

There is one massive clay-bonded wall of three constructional periods, having in its latest phase at least, a lime render on both faces. This resembles, on a smaller scale, the buildings currently under excavation at Tuquoy, Westray (HY44SE 5). Local tradition hints that this may have been the location of the main aristocratic residence in Eday before the building of Carrick House. A successor to the medieval dwelling, possibly of seventeenth-century date, is suggested by architectural fragments incorporated within the buildings at Maltbarn. The face of the banks was taken back some 2m by the gale of February 1984. The main block of stonework remains in situ but now overhangs a bare, vertical face. There are new exposures of midden deposits and stonework over a stretch of 20m to the E.

Visited March 1984.

RCAHMS 1984.

Topographic and section recording was carried out at six coastally eroding sites, as part of a pilot programme to evaluate intermediate level responses to coastal erosion. Erosion of up to 17m has been recorded since 1881. Permanent markers were erected at five sites to assist in calculating future erosion damage.

HY 5641 2884 Medieval/post-medieval high-status settlement. The site name was originally given to an amorphous mound to the E of the farm at Maltbarn, but is suggestive of a high-status settlement. Previous work by Dr Lamb drew attention to the presence of reused dressed stone in the modern farm buildings and lime-rendered massive walls in the coastal exposure. It is thought likely that this was the site of a substantial building and the main high-status centre in Eday prior to the construction of Carrick House in 1633. In the recorded 37m long exposure, three phases of wall construction were evident, the latest wall was covered in a shelly lime render. The amorphous mound was found to be made up of deposits of burnt stone and shell midden reminiscent of a prehistoric burnt mound, but was so closely associated with the medieval/post-medieval remains that it is more likely to represent debris, possibly from an industrial process.

Sponsors: Historic Scotland

G Wilson and H Moore 1996.

HY 564 288 Following on from perious coastal survey projects of structures and associated deposits at Stackelbrae, Eday (Lamb 1984; Lamb 1996; Wilson & Moore 1996), a further assessment of the shoreline section was undertaken in April 2006. The site, thought to be medieval/post-medieval in date, is subject to aggressive coastal erosion that has been documented since the early twentieth century. The aims of this project were to extend previous survey and topographic information; to record any new features and identify the extent of any archaeological features through topographic survey and geophysical techniques; and to monitor the rate of erosion and identify possible mitigation and management strategies. This survey confirmed the existence of stretches of substantial masonry, floor levels and associated occupation deposits, which were observed during previous surveys. The assessment also highlighted extensive erosion damage along the length of the shoreline for approximately 100 metres. This erosion has caused the disturbance and collapse of sections of archaeology since the last monitoring work in 1996. Geophysical survey, both within and beyond the schedualed area, demonstrated the existence of high resistance anomalies extending northwards from the coast, which probably represent the continuation of structural remains visible in the coastal section. Topographic survey also confirmed considerable variation across the area, largely corresponding with the geophysics results. West of the scheduled area, further archaeological deposits were visible in the shoreline section under Maltbarn steading. These were also recorded in detail.

A Brend, J Moore and J Robertson 2006

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