Eday, Castle Of Stackel Brae
- Council Orkney Islands
- Parish Eday
- Former Region Orkney Islands Area
- Former District Orkney
- Former County Orkney
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.
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
Orkney Smr Note (March 1984)
The gale of February 1984 did great damage all along the
shoreline below and to E of Maltlbarn. The sea has scoured out
the red clay underlying the archaeological deposits leaving a
near-vertical bare face beneath the massive stonework, which
itself however seems to have escaped damage. Some 10m extended E
from the main wall, the grass has slumped down and on falling,
will expose more stonework which can be glimpsed behind it. A
further 10m E beyond this length, the turf has been completely
removed, exposing, immediately below clifftop turf level, 0.6m of
shell and animal bone midden overlying 0.6m of soft sand, below
which is an 0.2m thick buried soil above the natural clay.
Further E still, the banks are much undercut, but turf has
slumped down, concealing deposits. - This face has receded some
2m since the above record (Oct 81) was made.
Information from Orkney SMR (RGL) Mar 84.
Ground Survey (April 2006)
HY 564 288 Following on from previous coastal surveys of structures and associated deposits at Stackbrae 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. 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. The assessment highlighted the extensive erosion damage along the length of the shoreline for approximately 100m. This erosion has caused the disturbance and collapse of sections of archaeology since the last monitoring works in 1996 (DES 1996, 81). Geophysical survey, both within and beyond the scheduled area, demonstrated the existence of high resistance anomalies extending N 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. W of the scheduled area, further archaeological deposits were visible in the shoreline section under Maltbarn steading. These were also recorded in detail.
Report lodged in the Orkney SMR and the NMRS.
Sponsor: Orkney College; Orkney Islands Council; Orkney Archaeological Trust.
A Brent, J Moore and J Robertson 2006
Excavation (1 September 2008 - 19 September 2008)
HY 5641 2884 Stackelbrae is a large mound at the S end of Eday, the main core of which is rapidly being destroyed by coastal erosion. The site spans the medieval to post-medieval periods. Following previous recording and severe storm damage in 2007 that scoured the natural clay and undermined and destabilised the archaeological deposits, a small-scale ‘tapestry’ excavation was undertaken from 1–19 September 2008. This involved the cleaning and recording of the exposed section face, which measured approximately 40m, and in key areas the excavation of 1m2 blocks against the section face. The erosion presented an opportunity to clarify the relationships between features which had previously been recorded as discrete erosion scars. The core of the eroding mound consisted of a multi-phase series of structures and deposits, the majority of which were too unstable to investigate.
Diagnostic artefacts were recovered from a suite of midden deposits at the E end of the site, including two pieces of glazed pottery. Clay pipe stem fragments were recovered from a drain next to the multi-phase structural features in the core of the mound. Wherever possible environmental samples were taken.
Five main phases of activity were recorded in the section:
Phase 1: The construction of paved areas onto an old ground surface, extending along most of the recorded section and directly overlying the natural boulder clay. The paving was overlain by windblown sand up to 1.20m deep along the whole of the recorded section.
Phase 2: The windblown sand was scalped before a dry stone building consisting of a combination of orthostats and coursed masonry was constructed.
Phase 3: The dry stone building was infilled.
Phase 4: The infilled building was built over and incorporated into a series of later buildings, with clay bonding and lime mortar. Clay pipe stem fragments, dating to at least the 17th century, came from a drain associated
with these structures. To the E of these structures, a series of thick midden deposits had accumulated and been modified. It is difficult to ascertain when these deposits accumulated but they may represent fairly long-term deposition during Phases 2 and 3. Two sherds of glazed pottery, provisionally dated to the 16th century, were found in the midden. The midden deposits were capped with substantial paving, which may have been laid concurrently with the construction of buildings to the W.
Phase 5: The later, clay-bonded structures were infilled, and the paving to the E was capped by a rubble layer.
Archive: RCAHMS (intended)
Funder: Historic Scotland, Orkney Islands Council, ORCA
Amanda Brend (ORCA), 2008
Excavation (27 April 2009 - 22 May 2009)
HY 5641 2884 Following a small-scale tapestry excavation (DES 2008, 129) which identified five main phases of medieval / post-medieval activity in the eroding coastal section, a larger scale excavation of features immediately behind the section was undertaken from 27 April–22 May 2009.
The excavation consisted of a 4 x 4m trench with six extension slots (placed off the main trench). It was possible to relate features in the trench to one of the main portions of walling previously recorded in the section. However, due to the instability of the coastal section an area of turf was left in place between the section and the trench edge, which made it difficult to relate the trench features directly to some of the
structural elements recorded in 2008.
The excavation revealed a series of walls forming a room or building, the S end of which has been lost to the sea. The structure was oriented cN–S, with an entranceway in the SE portion of the trench and measured 3.5m E–W by 5m N–S. The walls were clay-bonded with some traces of lime render on the exterior wall face. The building was floored with beautifully laid flagstones and a raised area or platform, up to 1m wide, extended around the N and W sides of the building. The platform on the N may represent a portion of an earlier structure that was incorporated into this building. This follows the sequence of construction seen in the coastal section, with later phase buildings being built over and integrating earlier structural elements.
A subsequent deposit of large stone, including a carved architectural fragment, was laid across the interior, lying against and over the western platform and abutting the threshold slab in the entranceway. This surface may have been introduced to level up a floor surface of rough flags. A thick, loose homogenous layer, rich in organics, and containing mortar fragments, roofing slates, several sherds of green glaze pottery and a fine bone comb, overlay the rough paving. This deposit covered almost the entire interior of the structure and is likely to represent material dumped in from elsewhere rather than an accrued occupation layer. The structure was then infilled through a combination of deliberate action and collapse and deterioration of the surrounding walls. Among these infill layers was an intervening rough clay surface visible against the northern wall, which probably represents another re-use of the building. The recovery of substantial architectural fragments, out of character with this building’s masonry, support the local tradition and documentary sources indicating the presence of a relatively high status building in this area.
This structure is clearly just one component of a much broader farmstead/settlement complex, the occupation
and use of which spanned a period of at least 200 years, roughly from the 17th to 19th centuries. The earlier structures glimpsed in this year’s work and visible in the coastal section may suggest that settlement and activity at Stackelbrae was rooted in the medieval or possibly earlier periods.
Archive: RCAHMS (intended)
Funder: Historic Scotland, Orkney Islands Council and ORCA
Amanda Brend – ORCA