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Smithwood, Helm Hill

Bastle(S) (Medieval)(Possible), Cairn(S) (Period Unassigned), Enclosure (Period Unassigned), Lazy Beds (Post Medieval), Sheepfold (Period Unassigned)

Site Name Smithwood, Helm Hill

Classification Bastle(S) (Medieval)(Possible), Cairn(S) (Period Unassigned), Enclosure (Period Unassigned), Lazy Beds (Post Medieval), Sheepfold (Period Unassigned)

Alternative Name(s) Daer Valley; Old Town Burn; Southern Upland Way

Canmore ID 47278

Site Number NS90NE 2

NGR NS 9585 0916

Datum OSGB36 - NGR


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

  • Council South Lanarkshire
  • Parish Crawford
  • Former Region Strathclyde
  • Former District Clydesdale
  • Former County Lanarkshire

Archaeology Notes

NS90NE 2 9585 0916.

(NS 959 093) Preliminary investigation of this site suggests it may fit the category of bastle house. The ruin is seen as the turf covered remains of a rectangular building measuring approximately 13.5m by 5.5m, built of lime mortared rubble-greywacke.

T Ward 1986.

Three sides of an unroofed building annotated 'Ruins of' is depicted on the 1st edition of the 6-inch map (Lanarkshire 1863, sheet liii), but it is not shown on the current edition of the OS 1:10000 map (1991).

Information from RCAHMS (AKK) 19 September 2000.

The Daer Valley has been resurveyed with a significant number of sites being recorded for the first time, of which the following are the most significant. The area is being used by Biggar Museum as a project base which will be the prototype for a series of similar projects in the coming years.

NS 9590 0920 Bastle house; enclosures; lazybed; secondary buildings.

The building at NS 9590 0920 was first interpreted in 1986 as a bastle house (DES 1986, 33) and is now under excavation to reveal the entire building, and to consolidate the remains as a visitor attraction beside the Southern Uplands Way. The lime-mortared, random rubble building is 13m long by 5m wide internally, with walls 1m thick. Curvature of the surviving walls indicates the building was barrel-vaulted. The only ground-floor entrance is in the N gable and was formed by dressed sandstone. The position of the internal stair is within the NE corner. There is a cobbled floor surface with an open central drain indicating the basement was used as a byre. An early 18th-century midden has produced most of the finds from the site, and these include a significant collection of wine and medicine bottle shards and decorated slipware pottery.

A first draft report on the project has been deposited in the NMRS, the final outcome, 'The History of the Daer Valley' will detail the history and archaeology of the valley from earliest times to the present.

Sponsor: Biggar Museum Trust.

T Ward 2002

NS 96095 09155 small cairn

NS 96115 09190 small cairn

NS 96022 09132 small cairn

NS 9562 0921 enclosure and bucht

Recorded in draft of forthcoming report, History of the Daer Valley, South Lanarkshire.

Biggar Museum Trust, T Ward 2002; NMRS MS 1774, 28-30

(NS 96 07) Work continues on the project (DES 2002, 110-11). Excavation of the Smithwood bastle house is complete and a programme of consolidation of the building has commenced.

Interim reports lodged with the NMRS.

Sponsors: HS, Biggar Museum Trust, Dalrymple/Donaldson Fund.

T Ward 2003

NS 9590 0920 centred

On the lower N slope of Hem [Helm?] Hill and straddling the Old Town Burn 150m downstream from where it flows under the track of the Southern uplands Way, there is a bastle house and associated buildings, enclosures and rig cultivation. The bastle house lies on an elevated bank on the W side of the burn. The remains are mostly grass-covered, with lime mortar masonry exposed at the southern end of the building. This exposed stonework is random rubble built, but the configuration of flat slab-like stones suggests the building was barrel vaulted. It would appear the entrance was on the E long wall, where the building is least preserved. The overall plan of the building is around 14m x 5.5m.

Stones showing through the grass to the N of the main bastle building indicate the presence of additional outbuildings, as depicted on the 1791 map by Joseph Udney (held at West Register House, Edinburgh). The map shows two buildings in this location and the remains in the field correspond approximately.

On the W side of the bastle is an enclosure, measuring around 30m x 20m. It was built in drystone and survives up to four courses in places to give a height of 0.6m externally and 0.4m internally. The walls are a metre thick and there appears to be an entrance in the W side of the structure. To the N is a similar enclosure, but it is semi circular. The enclosure makes up an area around 22m x 15m, and has a shallow crescentric scarp. The enclosure appears to have original gaps on the N and S sides. N of this are the scant remains of another possible building, although this may be a natural feature.

A patch of seven intermittent strips of lazy bed rig lie between two old burn courses, on the level, E side of the burn. The rigs are well defined and are round-topped, and are 3m apart. The short segments on the southern end are slightly higher up and may be a separate group.

Further to the E are the footings of another stone wall, which is likely to be contemporary with the rest of the remains. It runs for a distance of around 100m to the NE,where it terminates at a pile of stones. This stone pile may be part of the collapsed wall or may be an earlier cairn. The southern end of the wall has an obvious right angle bend to the NW, where it runs for a distance of 50m down to the burn. This wall appears to have enclosed another patch of lazy bed rig. A turf bank, with a gap in it, has acted as the western boundary of this cultivation patch. The twelve rigs are 3m wide with flat or slightly rounded tops. They run directly down the slope. Between the turf bank and the boggy ground towards the burn,there is a natural break in slope which forms a narrow level terrace. It is not certain whether this has any significance to the site as a whole. More recent drains, a wire fence and upstanding dyke are on the E side of the site.

A hundred metres to the NW of the bastle is a linear setting of boulders, the purpose of which is not clear. it is 1.5m wide and runs for 25m.

To the W of the bastle and enclosing the sheepfold (NS 9562 0921) are the traces of a rectangular turf built enclosure, 70m E-W x 45m N-S. The stell lies at the lower end of the enclosure,and its banks are about 1.5m in spread by 0.5m high.

The area around the bastle site indicates evidence of turf and peat extraction, the likely use for which was fuel. Extensive turf stripping has taken place between the bastle site and the houses of Hitteril to the NW. Peat hags and cutting is especially visible 300m to the N and ancient peaat stacks are seen as mounds in this area.

Recorded in draft of forthcoming report, History of the Daer Valley, South Lanarkshire.

Biggar Museum Trust, T Ward 2002; NMRS MS 1774, 28-30


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