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Castle Newe

Souterrain (Prehistoric), Armlet(S) (Bronze), Bead(S), Coin (Roman), Quern

Site Name Castle Newe

Classification Souterrain (Prehistoric), Armlet(S) (Bronze), Bead(S), Coin (Roman), Quern

Alternative Name(s) House Of Newe Policies

Canmore ID 16779

Site Number NJ31SE 3

NGR NJ 3797 1235

Datum OSGB36 - NGR


Ordnance Survey licence number 100057073. All rights reserved.
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Administrative Areas

  • Council Aberdeenshire
  • Parish Strathdon
  • Former Region Grampian
  • Former District Gordon
  • Former County Aberdeenshire

Archaeology Notes

NJ31SE 3 3797 1235.

(NJ 3797 1235) Erd House (NR)

OS 6" map, Aberdeenshire, 2nd ed., (1903)

This earthhouse was discovered in 1863 beneath an apparent occupation area marked by a fireburnt pavement with ashes, beads and quern fragments. It was fairly complete, but had been robbed to build a garden wall which ran for about 50ft along its whole length. Its walls were 4 1/2ft high and corbelled, and the width of its paved floor was 7ft It was very similar to the earth-house at Buchaam (NJ31SE 8).

A denarius of Nerva, and a pair of alleged IA bronze armlets (later classified by the British Museum as Roman - about 200 AD.) were found at the site of the entrance several years prior to 1863. The armlets were acquired by the British Museum in 1946.

Proc Soc Antiq Scot 1868; J Anderson and G F Black 1888; G Macdonald 1918.

'A rounded flattish pebble of quartzite, probably a boiling stone, found in an underground house at Castle Newe'.

Thornhill Museum Catalogue 1894.

All that can now be seen of this souterrain is the entrance, a dry-stone-lined rectangular pit, 1.6m N-S by 1.2m E-W and 0.8m deep situated in a dense wood and choked with undergrowth. A lintel stone at the base of the pit on the W marks the commencement of the passage which, though now impassable, is probably still intact.

Resurveyed at 1/2500.

Visited by OS (N K B) 29 August 1968.

Simpson states that the armlets were made by a proto-Pictish tribe in the period A.D. 50-150. The British Museum accession no. is BM 1946.4-2.2.

M Simpson 1968.

Two pairs of bronze armlets from Castle Newe (NJ31SE 3) and Drummond Castle (NN81NE 9) are held in the British Museum and form part of a group of some fifteen similar finds, almost all from Scotland. They were apparently cast flat by the cire perdue technique, and subsequently curved by annealing and hammering before consolidation and inlay decoration. The group has been tentatively assigned to between about 50 and 150 AD.

Scientific examination (n the British Museum Research Laboratory) of the Castle Newe and Drummond Castle examples has shown the inset decoration to be of glass and not enamel as previously thought. The bodies of all four armlets are of copper, zinc and tin allot with traces (probably fortuitous) of lead, silver, nickel and iron. The Castle Newe examples may be considered as bronzes and those from Drummond Castle as brasses. The chemical compositions of the Castle Newe pieces are sufficiently alike to suggest that they were cast from the same batch of metal, but this is not true of the Drummond Castle examples which display significant compositional differences. In all four cases, the process of fabrication apparently comprise (in sequence):

1. casting to (very roughly) U-shape, possibly with those parts of the design in highest relief indicated in the casting,

2. the rest of the design raised by repousse and chasing. There are signs of flow-over of metal and under-cutting at the crossover points in the X-shaped parts of the design and disturbed metal is associated with the oval-shaped protrusions, which were shown by metallographic examination to have a worked and annealed structure,

3. terminals bent round through roughly 45 degrees (as indicated by hammering-marks) and re-annealed.

Both the Drummond Castle armlets and one of the Castle Newe pair are inset with roundels containing yellow and red glass. The one surviving roundel in the Castle Newe armlets is constructed similarly to those from Drummond Castle but is retained against the inside surface of an opening on the terminal by three iron pins located in holes around the circumference. Notches cut into the edges of the armlets contain iron corrosion, possibly the remains of an iron strip which bridged the back of the settings. The colourants and opacifiers used were lead antimonate and cuprite in the yellow and red glass respectively.

The Castle Newe armlets were found in the entrance of a souterrain and are held under accession numbers BM 1946, 4-2, 2 (no. 1) and BM 1946, 4-2, 1 (no. 2) respectively. Both measure 145mm in diameter and are of 'oval' form, each armlet being formed of three ribs, the outer two of which continue around the end to form ring terminals.

No. 1 has ribs decorated with transverse lenticular ridges, the intervening spaces being filled by a pair of slender ridges separated to the width of the rib at each end but converging to touch in the middle. Between the main ribs there lies a pair of narrow 'cable-pattern' ridges. The inside bears a finish which suggests the moulding of a wax model. A circular medallion of red and yellow glass in a chequer pattern is set into the centre of one terminal while the glass itself is held in a frame of what appears to be sheet bronze with two concentric ribs. The surface is partly broken away revealing what appears to be a clay core while the frame and inset are held in position by a mass of dark material on the back, which overlies the edge of the circular hole containing the glass inset and its mounts. Slots at the top and bottom of the terminal probably indicate where securing wires were looped over the edges of the terminal.

No. 2 is of the same design as no. 1 and doubtless formerly contained two similar glass insets in the terminals; these have now disappeared. Small holes drilled into the inner edges of the spaces of the terminals presumably held pegs or wire to secure mounts and medallions of similar form to those in no. 1.

J Brailsford 1975.

Two massive cast bronze armlets found several years before 1864 embedded in earth over the entrance to a souterrain in the grounds of Castle Newe, apparently with 'Ashes, parts of stone querns, beads etc.'; a denarius of Nerva was subsequently found nearby. Both armlets are in excellent condition and held in the British Museum under accession number BM 1946.4-2.2.

239. Armlet of Smith's 'oval' type retaining a red and yellow enamel plaque in one terminal aperture; it measures up to 11.5cm in internal diameter, 12.5cm wide at the terminals, and 8.9cm wide at the back. The supposed weight is 3.75lb. The main body is divided by two feather-incised channels into three long ribs; both these and the terminals are decorated in moderately high relief with patterns based on the lyre palmette and waving saltire motifs, employing for the purpose graded ribbons, trumpet domes and broken-back scrolls. The enamel detail is a simple chequerboard within an oval frame. The solid casting is of considerable technical merit, the feathered details having been executed after casting and the champleve enamel having been laid upon a sheet bronze disc and subsequently mounted on an iron panel of larger diameter before the entire complex was inserted from the underside and secured by a (?) iron crossbar.

240. Massive armlet, the pair to no. 239, and of broadly comparable design.

M Macgregor 1976.

Glass bead of class 13 (North Scottish spiral-decorated beads). This bead is held in the Banff Institution museum.

M Guido 1978.

(Name cited as House of Newe). A beechleaf-filled depression (2m wide) running for no more than 10m along the top of the break of slope was taken to represent the souterrain. It is situated on a slight shelf on a moderate SE-facing slope at an altitude of 274m OD.

NMRS, MS/712/43, visited (IAGS), 25 May 1989.

The site of this souterrain is marked by a rectangular pit, measuring 1.7m from N to S by 1m transversely and up to 0.6m in depth. The pit is lined with dry-stone masonry, its N side possibly being part of the original wall of the souterrain. The E side is evidently of relatively recent date, as may be the other two sides. Accordingly, it is impossible to be certain which direction the souterrain extends or how big it is.

The armlets and the glass bead are still in the British Museum and Banff Museum respectively, but the whereabouts of the quern and the Roman coin found in the 19th century are not known.

Visited by RCAHMS (SPH), 5 March 1998.

The Glenkindle, Kildrummy and Strathdon Replacement Water Supplies (Phase 3) was recently carried out by Scottish Water. As a section of the water pipeline was to pass close to the remains of the Castle Newe, to the east of Strathdon, an archaeological watching brief was required. The work was carried out on the 20 April 2002. A section of approximately 100m of the pipe trench excavated was observed as it ran east to west and south of the few remains of Castle Newe and the modern house, Castle House, that now occupies the site. No archaeological features or artefacts were observed.

J C Murray May 2002


Field Visit (21 July 1943)

This site was recorded as part of the RCAHMS Emergency Survey, undertaken by Angus Graham and Vere Gordon Childe during World War 2. The project archive has been catalogued during 2013-2014 and the material, which includes notebooks, manuscripts, typescripts, plans and photographs, is now available online.

Information from RCAHMS (GF Geddes) 4 December 2014


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