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Cultivation Remains (Medieval), Fort (Prehistoric), Tower (Medieval), Township (Medieval)

Site Name Lour

Classification Cultivation Remains (Medieval), Fort (Prehistoric), Tower (Medieval), Township (Medieval)

Canmore ID 49810

Site Number NT13NE 1

NGR NT 1795 3570

Datum OSGB36 - NGR


Ordnance Survey licence number AC0000807262. All rights reserved.
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Administrative Areas

  • Council Scottish Borders, The
  • Parish Drumelzier
  • Former Region Borders
  • Former District Tweeddale
  • Former County Peebles-shire

Archaeology Notes

NT13NE 1 1795 3570.

(NT 1795 3570) Lour (NAT) Fort and Settlement (NR)

OS 6" map, (1967).

Fort. The fort at Lour has been almost entirely obliterated by a late medieval and post-medieval township. D-shaped on plan, it measures 370' along the chord by a maximum of 240' transversely. No defences are visible along the crest of the steep slope down to the burn, but elsewhere they consist of two ramparts with a medial ditch. The inner rampart is now represented for the most part by a mere scarp, about 3' in height, and the ditch has been filled in. The S sector of the outer rampart appears as a stony grass-covered bank standing to a height of 2'6", but the remainder is reduced to a low scarp. The entrance is on the SSW. Excavations carried out the the Commission in 1959 and 1960 revealed that the ramparts had been partly dismantled and the ditch filled in during the later occupation of the site. Among the small finds were a segment of glass armlet which has been assigned to the 2nd century AD, and part of the upper stone of a rotary quern, probably of Early Iron Age date. All the finds are now in the National Museum of Antiquities of Scotland (NMAS).

Tower and Township. Lour has formed part of the estate of Dawyck from the time when it first comes on record in 1543 until the present day. Pennecuik, writing in 1715, mentions "a tenant's house, called Lour", while sixty years later Armstrong refers to the ruins of a Peel-house, near to which, a stone axe was lately found, and marks the site on his map of Peeblesshire. Although the tower itself was ruinous in Armstrong's time, some of the other buildings may still have been occupied, but an estate plan of 1794 shows that the site had by then been abandoned.

The remains and the structures composing the township consist chiefly of two types - the foundations of rectangular or sub-rectangular buildings, and the remains of courts and enclosures. In addition there are several fragmentary banks of uncertain purpose. In the first group it is possible to include eight structures (numbered 1 to 8 on RCAHMS 1967 plan, fig.243). Number 7, proved by excavation to be the tower, is roughly rectangular and measures about 21' in length by about 18' in width internally.

The remaining enclosures and courts (numbered 10 to 16 on plan) vary a good deal in size, the largest (11) measuring 105' by 50', and the smallest (10) being about 30' square.

There are three entrances to the township. One, which pierces the SW arcs of the two ramparts, consists of a pathway some 5' in width which appears to date from the first period of occupation. There is a second entrance, in the E part of the settlement, where a hollow way leads up from the Lour Burn and crosses the lines of the vanished ramparts at a point between enclosures 10 and 11. It runs on past these and dies out in the open space between buildings 6 and 8. The dimensions of this road, and the fact that it terminates in the heart of the township, suggest that it formed the principal route of entry and egress during the second period of occupation. A third entrance breaks the NW arc of the ramparts at the point where a hollow way, 110' in length, runs up the NW slope of the hill to enter the township immediately S of enclosure 12. Between this entrance and the one first described there is a track through the settlement; this track serves no buildings directly, except number 1, but it borders enclosures 9, 12, 13, 14 and 15, all of which have entrances on to it, and it is probable therefore that it belongs to the second period of occupation.

Two enclosures lie some distance SE of the settlement, but are probably contemporary with it (see RCAHMS 1967 sketch-plan, fig.244). Traces of three systems of ploughing occur in the vicinity, and an attempt has been made on sketch-plan to illustrate their remains as observed both on the ground, and on A Ps. The oldest of the three systems is A, which is certainly later in date than the southern enclosure, and to judge from the manner in which the boundary bank D runs up into the settlement, probably also post-dates the township. System B obliterates part of system A and must therefore supersede it, while the straight furrows of system C are doubtless of even more recent origin.

The excavations of 1959-60 showed that the defences of the Iron Age fort originally composed two stone-revetted ramparts with a shallow ditch between them. These defences are thought to have been dismantled in late medieval or post-medieval times, the ditch being filled up and levelled for cultivation. The foundations of the tower (number 7) were revealed by trial trenching and the dimensions suggested that it has been erected in the late 16th or early 17th century. One of the rectangular buildings within the township (number 6) was excavated, and was found to have been occupied from about the middle of the 17th century to the end of the 18th century; its position and plan suggested that it was an out-building of the tower. Some of the other rectangular buildings with associated enclosures may have been dwelling-houses with attached kail-yards. Thus in late medieval and post-medieval times the site appears to have been occupied by a small tower-house with associated buildings, enclosures, and systems of cultivation.

RCAHMS 1967; J G Dunbar and G D Hay 1963.

Generally as described and planned by the RCAHMS.

Resurveyed at 1:2500.

Visited by OS(EGC) 21 August 1964 and (DWR) 11 August 1972.

Possible bun-shaped quern, formerly listed as lower stone.

E J MacKie 1971; L R Laing and E J Talbot 1974.

Photographed by the RCAHMS in 1980.

RCAHMS AP catalogue 1980.

The fort and other remains are visible on large scale vertical air photographs (OS 72/375/1060-1 and 1075-6, flown 1972).

Information from RCAHMS (RJCM) April 1992

NT 180 352 An archaeological survey was undertaken of roughly 50ha of moorland at Lour near Dawyck as part of a research project at the Department of Environmental Science, University of Stirling investigating the behaviour of pollen in soil. Sixteen features of archaeological interest were noted, only two of these had previously been recorded (as part of NMRS site NT13NE 1). Almost all of the sites were medieval or later in date but there were burnt mounds along one of the water courses. More recent features included areas of cultivation, turf banks, tracks and two areas of lead slag of uncertain purpose or origin. A full report has been deposited with NMRS.

Sponsors: NERC, University of Stirling.

S Carter 1995.


Note (7 October 2015 - 24 May 2016)

The deserted fermtoun around the stump of the old tower at Lour stands within and overlies the ramparts of an earlier fortification. D-shaped on plan, this earlier work encloses a low hillock backing onto the escarpment above the Lour burn on the NE and is defended elsewhere by an arc of twin ramparts with a medial ditch; these were sectioned during excavations in 1959-60, but revealed little detail of their construction (Dunbar and Hay 1961, 202-3). The interior measures some 87m from NW to SE along the lip of the escarpment by 53m transversely (0.44ha), but is entirely obscured by the buildings, yards and gardens of the fermtoun. Deeply worn trackways enter the fermtoun from the NW and SE, and there is also a gap leading through from the SW, but it is unknown whether any of these utilise an original entrance into the fort. A fragment of a glass bangle dating from the 1st or 2nd centuries AD and the upper stone of a rotary quern were recovered during the excavations.

Information from An Atlas of Hillforts of Great Britain and Ireland – 24 May 2016. Atlas of Hillforts SC3569

Sbc Note

Visibility: This is an upstanding earthwork or monument.

Information from Scottish Borders Council


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