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Rispain Camp

Settlement (Iron Age), Flanged Axehead (Bronze)

Site Name Rispain Camp

Classification Settlement (Iron Age), Flanged Axehead (Bronze)

Alternative Name(s) Glasserton

Canmore ID 63122

Site Number NX43NW 3

NGR NX 42930 39930

Datum OSGB36 - NGR

C14 Radiocarbon Dating


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

  • Council Dumfries And Galloway
  • Parish Whithorn
  • Former Region Dumfries And Galloway
  • Former District Wigtown
  • Former County Wigtownshire

Archaeology Notes

NX43NW 3 42930 39930

(NX 4293 3993) Rispain Camp (NR)

OS 6" map (1957)

'Formerly the camp was very wet; but some years ago it was thoroughly drained, and during operations a round plate of copper about the size of a soup plate, weighing 11 or 12 lbs., was upturned some two and a half feet from the suface. One of the drainers says that large flags or flat blocks of greywacke stone, in which was enclosed a quantity of decayed matter of a black or sooty colour, were also found, which emitted an indescribable stench.'

W M'Ilwraith 1877

Rispain Camp is described as a probable mediaeval homestead site (S Piggott and W D Simpson 1970) the RCAHMS, in 1954 describe it as a mediaeval earthwork of some kind, possibly a castle site rather than a homestead moat in view of the defensive nature of the ditch.

It consists of a rectilinear enclosure on the NE slope of an isolated ridge, measuring about 223' x 170' within double banks and ditches. There is no indication of the outer ditch on the ground, it was traced by excavation in 1901. Generally it measured 5' wide at top by 3'6" deep. The main ditch measured 25' wide at top by 17' deep at SW, and 15' at the NW and SE sides. The up cast from this ditch has formed a mound on each side of it, the inner is almost obliterated, while the other is only 3-4' above the ground level.

At the lowest point, in the E corner of the inner ditch, two bars, 'a' and 'b' on plan, the first, of uncut ground, 4' above the bottom, and 'b', of stone, finished with a stone coping of large flat undressed pieces. It was suggested that this may have been a water cistern. The entrance was in the centre of the NE side. The only relics found during the excavation were a stone ring and a skull.

A middle Bronze Age Coles' Class III, Auchterhouse type-flanged axe from this site was exhibited in 1911, and is now in the Hunterian Museum: Accession no B.1914- 276.

RCAHMS 1912, visited 1911; TS., visited 1953; Palace of History 1911; J M Coles 1966

Generally as described. The situation and construction is not typical of a homestead moat.

Resurveyed at 1/2500.

Visited by OS (DWR) 22 January 1973

Excavations were carried out in 1978-9 by G Haggarty for the SDD. In 1978 work concentrated on the area immediately outwith the E side of the rectangular ditch. The ditch was sectioned on the other three sides and a small portion of the interior was partially uncovered. In 1979 work continued on the interior uncovering approximately half of a structure, about 14 m in diameter, which may have been partly plank built; 300 sq m around the entrance was excavated and a section cut across the ditch near the E corner. A metalled road leading from two large stone-packed post-holes set in a stone-filled slot across the entrance seems to run towards the centre of the enclosure. Carbonised seeds, some animal bones, much cremated human bone and charcoal have been found. Three radiocarbon dates of the late Iron Age have been obtained from charcoal recovered from the 1978 excavation. It must now be considered extremely doubtful that this site has any association with the medieval period.

G Haggarty 1978; 1979; L E Webster and J Cherry 1980

(Flanged bronze axe of Balcarry type, provenanced by Schmidt and Burgess to 'Glasserton'). Single find. Flanged axe, corroded, black, casting seam trimmed, flanges broken where meeting blade; length 144mm, butt 22mm, cutting edge 50mm, weight 440 gms. Hunterian Mus, Glasgow (B.1914.276).

P K Schmidt and C B Burgess 1981.


Field Visit (28 September 1953)

This site was included within the RCAHMS Marginal Land Survey (1950-1962), an unpublished rescue project. Site descriptions, organised by county, are available to view online - see the searchable PDF in 'Digital Items'. These vary from short notes, to lengthy and full descriptions. Contemporary plane-table surveys and inked drawings, where available, can be viewed online in most cases - see 'Digital Images'. The original typecripts, notebooks and drawings can also be viewed in the RCAHMS search room.

Information from RCAHMS (GFG) 19 July 2013.

Publication Account (1986)

This rectangular earthwork on the slope of Camp Hill, north-west of Rispain Farm, is an object-lesson in the perils of archaeological fIeld survey and excavation. Long believed to have been of Roman origin, it was excavated in 1901 but yielded no evidence of date or character. It was later re-classifIed as a possible medieval moated site, although its size, situation, and deep V-shaped ditch were acknowledged to be untypical. With the assistance of radiocarbon dating techniques, excavations in 1978-81 were able to establish that it was neither Roman nor medieval, but a defended native homestead dating to around 60 BC.

The most impressive visible feature is the surrounding ditch, originally 5.8m in depth, whose upcast has provided material for earthen banks on each side. Infilled in the south-eastern quarter, the ditch runs almost straight along each side, and a solid bridge of uncut ground, 6.1m wide, forms the entrance in thenorth-eastern side. Excavation located a square-cut pit, possibly a water-cistern, in the east corner of the ditch; other ditches and drains around the south and west sides probably related more to fIeld drainage than defence.

Superficially featureless except for traces of a low perimeter bank, the interior covers an area of about 0.35 ha. At the entrance the recent excavations revealed possible evidence for a framed timber gateway, and traces of a metalled road led into the enclosure. An area on the north-western side, roughly one-eighth of the whole, contained at least one circular house, 13.5m in diameter, and probably originally of post, plank, and ring beam construction. The most noteworthy artefact for dating purposes was an enamelled bronze plate forming part of a bracelet ascribable to the late 1st or 2nd century AD.

Information from ‘Exploring Scotland’s Heritage: Dumfries and Galloway’, (1986).


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