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Sae Breck

Broch (Iron Age)

Site Name Sae Breck

Classification Broch (Iron Age)

Alternative Name(s) Eshaness

Canmore ID 495

Site Number HU27NW 2

NGR HU 21056 78033

Datum OSGB36 - NGR


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

  • Council Shetland Islands
  • Parish Northmavine
  • Former Region Shetland Islands Area
  • Former District Shetland
  • Former County Shetland

Archaeology Notes

HU27NW 2 2105 7803.

(HU 2105 7806) The remains of a broch, partially excavated by Calder in July 1949, occupy the summit of Sae Breck - the position, a former trig. station, being marked by a modern hut.

C S T Calder 1954; R W Feachem 1963.

The remains appear as a stony mound the north and south sectors of which are formed by stretches of a wall some 15' thick surrounding an area 25' in diameter. The entrance was probably in the east. Two mural chambers survive among each principal part of the debris, more than 120 sherds of pottery being recovered from the one near the hut.

The broch lies within a garth, formed by a wall about 10' thick, and measuring about 120' in length and 110' in breadth. The earlier sherds probably date from the first century BC/AD.

Scheduled as 'Cairn'.

RCAHMS 1946, visited 1931

The remains of a broch and outer defences generally as described and illustrated by Calder, but now obscured by turf, and the construction of a trig pillar, etc.

Divorced survey at 1/10,000.

Visited by OS (NKB) 27 April 1969.


Field Visit (4 August 1931)

Cairn (?), Sae Breck, Esha Ness.

On the summit of the hill overlooking the site of the Cross Kirk at Esha Ness, and at an elevation of 205 ft. above sea-level, is a much dilapidated construction, perhaps representing a cairn but apparently utilised as a station by the Ordnance surveyors at some fairly recent date. The central mound stands about 8 ft. 6 in. above the bottom of an enclosing ditch, outside of which again there has been a circular bank with a diameter of II2 ft. from crest to crest. Except along the E. side, where the ground slopes steeply downwards and where the outer face has accordingly been strengthened by a series of large stones set end to end, the bank has apparently been of earth. It is nowhere more than from 18 in. to 2 ft. high, but that it was originally a good deal higher is evident from the debris, which here and there extends over a width of as much as 16 ft.

RCAHMS 1946, visited 4 August 1931.

Excavation (July 1949)

A previously indeterminate site at SAE BRECH, ESHANESS, was identified as a broch with a defensive rampart and probable outer ditch. The diameter of the tower is about 56 feet over walls 15 feet in thickness. The wall of the rampart measured 11 feet thick and was built of a sandy core contained within a stone revetting wall on each face. At parts diametrically opposite in the broch walling two cells were cleared of debris and silt. From the southmost one much pottery was recovered from a deep layer of peat ash on the floor. The relics consisted of pottery, rude stone implements, pumice stone, a whorl and some bones.

DES 1949, 12

Publication Account (2002)

HU27 3 SAE BRECK (‘Saebrig’)

HU/211781 (visited 4/6/63)

A partially excavated, probable solid-based broch in Northmaven, on the summit of a high but shallowly sloping hill next the sea (Ill. 4.24). This site was thought to be a cairn by the Commission's investigators [2] but was identified as a broch in 1949 during two days excavation by C. S. T. Calder [3]. A watchtower had been built exactly on top of the main structure and the foundations for this prevented any examination of the interior.

However two opposing sections of the main wall were uncovered, on the north and south sides, and in each was a mural cell of the usual sort found in solid-based brochs. Each was a curved, parallel-sided structure with a door to the interior nearer one end than the other; the sill of the door of each was well above its floor and presumably above the floor of the central court.

In the case of Cell A on the south the sill was 2 ft. 4 ins. high, and 4 ft. in the case of Cell B. Both sections of wall exposed were still standing about 5 ft. high and most of the corbelled domes of the cells had disappeared. The north cell was empty but the one on the south was found to have a clay floor covered by an irregular layer of peat ash up to 8 ins. thick. In the ash were some limpet shells and many potsherds. The latter were diagnosed by J R C Hamilton as a mixture of the Class I and II wares then being found at Jarlshof (HU30 1); they were fragments of tall, situlate jars with slightly everted rims and made of hard, gritty dark grey or buff-brown ware. [3, fig. 3]. Some of the sherds appear to be of true everted rim ware [3, no. GA 1206].

An outer wall was traced around the broch at various distances from it; 15 ft. on the north, 20 ft. on the west, 48 ft. on the south and 30 ft. on the east. The masonry faces of this outer wall were traced on the north-east for a short distance and the outer face on the SW for a few feet.

Dimensions: overall diameter 55 ft.; the two sections of the wall exposed were 15.5 ft. thick, so the internal diameter is about 26 ft.; the walls proportion is therefore about 52.7%. The remains are now hidden by turf.

Sources: 1. OS card HU 27 NW 2; 2. RCAHMS 1946, vol. 3, no. 1361, 94 ("cairn"): 3. Calder 1952.

E W MacKie 2002


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