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Warebeth Cemetery

Broch (Iron Age)

Site Name Warebeth Cemetery

Classification Broch (Iron Age)

Alternative Name(s) Stromness Cemetery

Canmore ID 1560

Site Number HY20NW 17

NGR HY 2373 0818

Datum OSGB36 - NGR

C14 Radiocarbon Dating


Ordnance Survey licence number AC0000807262. All rights reserved.
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Administrative Areas

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

Archaeology Notes

HY20NW 17 2373 0818

See also HY20NW 12.

Remains from an ancient inhabited site near Stromness, comprising; a human skull, animal bones and teeth, a circular slatey stone disc, 4 3/4 inches in diameter, part of what may have been a large sandstone vessel, the lower half of a sandstone quern, part of a bone implement, sawn at both ends, and a pointed deerhorn implement, were donated to the National Museum of Antiquities of Scotland (NMAS). by M.M. Charleson on the 9th May 1898. A large oval stone 17 1/2 inches in length by 14 3/4 inches in maximum circumference, possibly used for sharpening was also found.

M M Charleson 1898.

Neither the broch wall nor the mound remain, but the grave-digger states that, when digging graves, he has frequently come upon carefully built passages, into some of which he has penetrated for a considerable distance.

In the cemetery are fragments of two buildings of uncertain date (see HY20NW 12), one a gable end 10 feet long, 2 feet 10 inches thick, and about 10 feet 6 inches high, bearing an 18th century mural tablet; the other, some 20 yds. to the N., a wall 5 feet 3 1/2 inches thick, 24 feet 9 1/2 inches long, and some 7 feet 9 inches high.

RCAHMS 1946, visited 1 August 1928 and 23 July 1929.

The Accessions listed above are catalogued as HR 508-514 and 521-2 from Monkerhouse, Stromness. Five fragments of coarse pottery also from Monkerhouse are also listed (GA 132-6).

Accessions card index National Museum of Antiquities of Scotland (NMAS), 1964

A large fish hook 6 1/2" long made from deer horn was found in an old grave at the old kirk graveyard in 1851, a 4 1/2" long bone comb found in debris from the churchyard, formerly Monkers Green, are both in Stromness Museum.

Cat Nos A192, A194, Stromness Museum, 1964

There are traces of dry stone walling and a midden containing limpet shells and bones along the eroded coastline just south of the graveyard wall at HY 2373 0820. At various times Mr. J. Sutherland the gravedigger has found in the graveyard in the area traces of dry stone walling and midden material 3 feet below the surface. (Information from Mr J Sutherland, 24, Dundas Street, Stromness, Orkney.) Centred at HY 237 082.

Surveyed at 1/2500.

Visited by OS (RD) 16 September 1964.

In the low cliff immediately S of Warebeth cemetery (HY20NW 12), a broch and associated outbuildings have been exposed by erosion. A well inside the broch was cut into the bed-rock and was entered by an almost vertical staircase c3m high. Finds included a bronze pin, stone lamp, hammer- stones, quantities of grain, decorated & undecorated pottery, and masses of animal bones and shells. Only partial sections of the broch and other structures are visible in the escarpment, as well as remains of middens. The ?basal course of the N side of the entrance passage is exposed.

C Morris 1979; B Bell 1980

Midden material recovered from the broch well included a rare find of mineralised human coprolites. Fragments of barley grain and linseed were identified from the relatively sparse plant remains. The barley is degraded, probably from long cooking in broth to accompany the meat meals. Also present were rather poorly preserved hairs, including deer and sheep or goat. Associated with the coprolites were bones of sheep, ox, red deer and pig with cod and limpets present also.

The contemporaneity of the broch with it's surrounding village was established. Cattle bone gave a radiocarbon date of 1740-1530 BP Cal (GU 2385); this accords well with the stratigraphy of the site and with the typology of pot sherds recovered from the midden.

B Bell and C Dickson 1988

Mr O Tait (Burgh Surveyor): Stone structures found in the old (east) and middle yard, not in the new (west yard), but no proper record or plan exists; Mr J Wilson (former gravestone maker): stone structures, passages, upright flags found all over the area of the midle yard; some flags were so big that two men could barely move them in preparing a grave. Information compiled by Mr A Skene, Stromness.

B Bell and C Dickson 1989

'The Orkney Herald' reported the excavation of underground passages from the graveyard towards the 'monastery', in May 1879.


Publication Account (2002)

HY20 5 WAREBETH CEMETERY (‘Monkerhouse’, ‘Monkers Green’, Warebeth’, ‘Stromness’, 'Stromness Churchyard')


This probable broch is on the shore in Stromness and has been partly destroyed by the sea. Traces of a broch were seen in section by Laing and Petrie in 1866 [5] but the Royal Commission saw nothing [2]. In 1979 the broch was seen again, with associated outbuildings, in the low cliff immediately south of Warebeth Cemetery [4] and in 1980 the well was explored [6]; it was cut into the bedrock and entered by an almost vertical staircase c. 3 m high [7].

Various finds have been at various times, including plain and decorated pottery, hammerstones, a stone lamp, charred grain, a bronze pin and masses of animal bones and shells. Presumably these are from the broch: rumours of the presence of which, beneath the chapel and cemetery, were referred to in the earlier records. More finds may have been recovered from the site in the 19th century [3] including the lower stone of a rotary quern, a stone disc and a fragment of a large sandstone vessel.

A long-handled bone comb, two whalebone mattocks or hoes and a stone whorl are from “Stromness churchyard” and in the Hunterian Museum (B.1914.727, 730, 731 and 734: Cursiter collection). From "Stromness", and doubtless from the same site, are several potsherds, a boar's tusk, a whale vertebra vessel, a cut antler time and 2 disc or pot lids of slaty stone (B.1914.246, 295, 726, 728, 729 and 732).

Later material almost certainly from the same site includes a circular bronze brooch or mounting with the pin missing and decorated with gold plating on top [8 339, fig. 6: 9, 200] (B.1914.863). Obviously grave digging in the cemetery could have turned up some of the items.

In 1988 a C-14 date of 1740-1530 cal BP (AD 210-420) (GU 2385) was obtained for bones from the broch well and apparently "accords well with the typology of pot sherds also present in the midden" [7].

Sources: 1. OS cards HY 20 NW 12 and 17: 2. RCAHMS 1946, 2, no. 940, 327: 3. Proc Soc Antiq Scot 32 (1897-98), 236: 4. C. Morris in Discovery and Excavation Scotland, 1979, 24: 5. Laing 1868, 60-1. 6. Hedges et al. 1987, 91-2: 7. B Bell and S P Carter in Discovery and Excavation Scotland, 1980, 22: 8. Cursiter 1887, 346: 9. Shetelig 1940:

E W MacKie 2002

Orkney Smr Note

A green mound, said to be the site of a broch, half of which was still visible in 1866. It is situated immediately to the W of the graveyard (HY20NW 12 - Chapel, Graveyard, Broch) which were placed on top of the green mound formed by the ruins of the broch.

Grave digging has yielded a comb from the midden of the broch (see also HY20NE 9 - bone weaving comb from Stromness) and long-cist burials have been found on the outskirts of the midden.

Two sandstone flakes from the midden have been deposited in the RMS. The chapel also described as the Old Parish Church, is probably pre-reformation. [R1] [R2]

Information from Orkney SMR [n.d.]


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