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Broch (Iron Age)(Possible)

Site Name Burness

Classification Broch (Iron Age)(Possible)

Alternative Name(s) Chapel Knowe

Canmore ID 1978

Site Number HY31NE 1

NGR HY 3882 1557

Datum OSGB36 - NGR


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

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

Archaeology Notes

HY31NE 1.00 3882 1557

HY31NE 1.01 3882 1557 Incised Slab

Chapel Knowe is a mound representing the remains of a broch, a section of whose inner wall, 14ft long and up to 9ft high is visible on the east side. A mural cell, ascarcement and interior secondary walling were noted. Quarrying on the south and west has removed part of the broch and any outbuildigs there may have been Among finds from the site is part of an incised stone, bearing a cloaked figure a mong other markings, which was donated to the National Museum of Antiquities of Scotland (NMAS) in 1922. (Accession no 1B 201)

H Marwick 1924; RCAHMS 1946. Visited 1928.

A much mutilated, turf-covered mound c 20m N-S by 23m by c 3m high, c ontaining broch-type stones and debris. Mr. Stevenson was responsible for the quarrying which produced the incised stone at HY 3881 1558 and he also has several socket stones in his possession. He removed a great amount of stones, forming thick walls...for field walls.(Mr Stevenson, Burness, Firth).

Surveyed at 1:2500

Visited by OS(RL) 29 May 1966.

Much-quarried, broch-size but featureless, the mound as defined by the OS field inspector rises from a broad platform which extends about 25m both NW and SE from the mound centre and nearly as far NE. The edge of the platform is quite distinct although on the NE and SE sides it is probably enhanced by ploughing.

R G Lamb, Visited July 1980.


Orkney Smr Note (July 1980)

In 1922 the mound was dug into for stone for dyke-building,

and a curiously carved stone was found and reported to Dr Hugh

Marwick who visited the site and found it to be a broch, which he

considered must later have been the site of a chapel although

this was no longer apparent. A breach had been made in the W

side of the mound and a portion of inward-curving wall, probably

broch wall, exposed. The carved slab has crudely incised

markings, most obvious of which is a cloaked human figure. It

was immediately donated to the National Museum. [R1, R2]

Mound recently quarried on S & W sides where remains of

building exposed at two points. Enough visible to confirm

identification as a broch. Inner face of E wall visible for

height of 9ft and length of 14ft, with traces of a secondary

facing wall 2ft thick. Traces also of a scarcement on the

primary wall. Low down at S end of exposed wall are the lintel

stones of a narrow passage giving access to a small cell; there

is a recess or void above the lintel stones. The cell is

beehive-vaulted. Boars tusks, pottery, found, allegedly in the

cell. [R3]

Much mutilated turfed mound 20m N-S x 23m x 3m high, in

pasture field, with much debris and broch-like stones. Now no

other visible evidence of a broch. A great amount of stones,

forming thick walls, was removed a number of years ago, mostly by

Mr Stevenson, who also found the incised stone at 3881 1558 and

several socket stones still in his possession. A much-disturbed

stony area extends 20m NW from mound, it is flat-topped and shows

vague indications of building outline, possibly the chapel.

Field called Chapel Park, name Chapel Knowe current, but no

local knowledge of chapel.

Mr Stevenson, Farmer, Burness. OS visit May 66.

Unaltered since OS visit; a much-quarried mound, broch-sized

but featureless. The mound as defined by OS measurements rises

from a broad platform which extends some 25m both NW and SE from

mound centre and nearly as far NE (ie. inland). The edge of the

platform is quite distinct although on the NE and SE sides it is

probably created by farmer ploughing up to it. But on the NW

side there is a visible straight wall the line of which is

continued by two big erect slabs disappearing under the shore

dyke. This wall forms the edge of the platform and is very

probably the side of the chapel enclosure, it looks very like

Peterkirk in St Andrews (OR 21). The two slabs going under the

dyke seem to be the inside face of the wall of which the stones

forming the edge of the mound, are the outer face. This gives

the wall a thickness of 0.4m.

Information from Orkney SMR (RGL) Jul 80.

Publication Account (2002)

HY31 3 BURNESS ('Chapel Knowe')


This probable broch in Firth stands near the Point of Backaquoy. It had been quarried recently when visited by the Commission and various structural features had thereby been revealed.

Signs of a scarcement ledge were visible on a stretch of inner wall face on the east which extended for 4.3 m (14 ft.) and rose up to 2.7 m (9 ft.) above the debris in the interior [4]. A secondary wall about 0.6 m (2 ft.) thick was built against this face. There is also a small mural cell with a lintelled door to the interior which has a void above it 0.84 m (2 ft. 9 in.) high and 0.6 m (2 ft.) wide.

In 1922 an incised sculptured stone was found in the ruins of this site during quarrying for stone [2: 4, fig. 72, plate vii: no. 347]. Most of the incised designs are of an uncertain character but there is one human figure apparently wearing a gown down to the knees [2]. Various finds, including potsherds and boar's tusks, are recorded.

Sources: 1. OS card HY 31 NE1: 2. Marwick 1924: 3. Fraser 1927, 52: 4. RCAHMS 1946, 2, no. 321, 91-2: 5. Hedges et al. 1987, 65.

E W MacKie 2002


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