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Souterrain (Prehistoric)

Site Name Grainbank

Classification Souterrain (Prehistoric)

Alternative Name(s) Grain Earth House; Hatston; Savrock

Canmore ID 2527

Site Number HY41SW 19

NGR HY 4413 1161

Datum OSGB36 - NGR


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

  • Council Orkney Islands
  • Parish Kirkwall And St Ola
  • Former Region Orkney Islands Area
  • Former District Orkney
  • Former County Orkney


Field Visit (5 April 1964)

The roof of the curving passage and chamber of this earth house at HY 4413 1161 protrudes 0.2m above the surface. At the southern end a mound has been raised to incorporate the modern entrance.

Surveyed at 1/2500

Visited by OS (NKB) 5 April 1964.

Desk Based Assessment (10 March 1964)

HY41SW 19 4413 1161.

Earth-house, Grainbank was first discovered about 1827. It was re-opened in 1857 (see The Orcadian, August 3rd 1857) and taken into the custody of the Ministry of Works in 1908. The structure is approached by a stair which enters a passage 15ft 6in long and 2ft 6in wide by 3ft high. The roof of the chamber is supported on four free-standing upright stones. When opened in 1857 the chamber contained charred wood, bones of domestic animals, and shell fish.

Information from OS (SW) 10 March 1964

Sources: RCAHMS 1946., No. 409; AMs Scot 1961, 32

Publication Account (1996)

This earth-house has rema ined in excellent condition, probably because it was constructed so deeply underground. Some 2m of earth separates its roof from the ground-surface, and a flight of steps leads down into the passage (the upper part of the stair is modern but the lower part is original). The passage curves in a gentle arc, lined with drystone walling and roofed by flat lintels at a height of about 0.9m, so that it is impossible to walk upright, but it opens into a well-built oval chamber which is just high enough, at 1.6m, for most people to move about upright or almost upright. As a cellar for storing food supplies, comfort was not an important factor. The flat lintelled roof is supported on four free-standing pillars of stone.

When it was discovered in the 19th century, the earth-house was empty, but clear evidence was found of there having been a domestic settlement it ground-level: the basal courses of walls and a large pit full of ash, burnt good, animal bones and shells. In 1982 a second smaller earth-house was discovered about 6m to the west, which presumably belonged to the same settlement, but this is no longer visible.

Information from ‘Exploring Scotland’s Heritage: Orkney’, (1996).

Orkney Smr Note

See also OR 2329 [HY41SW 24] for adjacent earth-houses

Information from Orkney SMR [n.d.]


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