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Record details

ID:MHG1593
Type of record:Monument
Name:Broch, Nybster
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Summary

A broch settlement situated on a cliff promontory with an enclosing rampart. The site consists of an Atlantic roundhouse with numerous external outbuildings.

Images

Photo by Ranger Service.  © Please contact Highland Council for detailsPhoto by Ranger Service.  © Please contact Highland Council for detailsPhoto by Ranger Service.  © Please contact Highland Council for detailsExcavations at Nybster broch, May 2011  © AOC Archaeology GroupBroch during community excavations in May 2011  © AOC Archaeology GroupBroch during community excavations in May 2011  © AOC Archaeology GroupBroch during community excavations in May 2011  © AOC Archaeology Group

Reports

Scans of old SMR paper file  © Highland Council (File size: 893 KB)
Grid Reference:ND 3702 6314
Map Sheet:ND36SE
Civil Parish:CANISBAY
Geographical Area:CAITHNESS

Monument Types

  • BROCH (Iron Age - 550 BC to 560 AD)

Associated Finds

  • VESSEL (Roman - 100 AD to 199 AD)
  • VESSEL (Roman - 100 AD to 199 AD)
Protected Status:Scheduled Monument 569: Nybster, broch on Brough Head

Other References/Statuses

  • Historic Environment Record: MHG1593
  • NMRS NUMLINK Reference: 9329
  • NMRS Record Details: ND36SE4 NYBSTER
  • Old SMR Reference Number: ND36SE0004

Full description

RCAHMS Canmore description:

Nybster Broch was excavated by Sir Francis Tress Barry about 1900, revealing neither guard chamber nor mural cells. It has in internal diameter of 23ft and a wall thickness of 14ft. In 1910 the max height of the walls was 5ft 3ins. The broch is defended by a possibly later forework and the whole is fronted by a ditch about 20ft wide which cuts off the promontory on which the broch stands. To seaward of the broch practically the whole promontory is covered by well-built out-buildings, ablong, circular, and irregular in plan. Finds include a fragment of 2nd century Samian ware, as well as the more usual bone and stone objects.
A Young 1964; RCAHMS 1911, visited 1910. <1><2>

Nybster Broch is as described and planned above. Although there is no trace of a ditch cutting off promontory, there are remains of secondary defensive banks and walls, probably contemporary with the broch forework. A modern monument to Sir Francis Tress Barry has been constructed immediately E of the broch, destroying several outbuildings. Two mounds at seaward end of the promontory are probably excavation spoil heaps.
Resurveyed at 1:2500. Visited by OS (R D) 14 September 1965

A promontory broch with a ditch. In good condition due to recent renovation. <3>

Several sherds of 'broch' pottery were recovered from the upcast from illicit digging within broch interior. Finds with investigator. <4>

A site of major signifcance in study of development of broch in that it comprises the ground-galleried block-house of a pre-broch promontory fort, a solid-based broch, and a post-broch settlement. The block-house, which displays broch-like features, including a passage checked for two doors, is probably to be dated not much before the first century BC if not within it. <5>

ND36SE 4 3702 6314.
Broch (NR) OS 1:10,000 map, (1973)
Nybster or Mervyn Tower, ND36SW0004

Classification of Roman material. <6>

Nybster Broch is generally as described and planned by the previous authorities. The excavations were not backfilled and most of the walling is exposted, albeit heavily overgrown. The previous field investigator noted 'secondary defensive banks and walls' immediately W of forework. These have been completely levelled, but they were almost certainly fairly modern, perhaps spoil heaps, as RCAHMS did not plan them, and they formed no logical pattern with the broch and its outer defences.
Revised at 1:2500. Visited by OS (N K B) 22 July 1982.

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Application for Scheduled Monument Consent letter received from HS dated 2/9/04. See Assoc. Docs. File
J Aitken: 2/9/04

Substantial remains of broch, that has not been backfilled since excavation. 2 large spoil heaps lie between the broch & the sea. Although overgrown, Main tower & ancillary chambers around are visible, and the walls are several metres high. The Nicholson Mem now lies inland from the broch. - HAW 9/2002

(7m/11.2m/1.6m)
Armit, I., 1997. Celtic Scotland. Edinburgh: Batsford.
RCAHMS. 1911. Caithness. Edinburgh: HMSO, 159-60, No. 518.
Information from SCRAN Project, March, 2000

Nybster broch, sitting on a high, narrow promontory above the sea is one of the most impressive brochs in Caithness. It is surrounded by buildings, some of which have now tumbled over the edge of the cliff. A monument to its excavator, Sir Francis Tress Barry, sits on the landward side of the broch. (54)
[SMR: ND36SE0049 = child record] - no 51 (HAW)

A massive wall cuts across the promontory. The entrance through this is in the centre, but to actually enter the broch tower, the visitor would have to walk around almost its entire circumference, through the narrow spaces between the associated buildings, to reach the doorway. (45)

East Caithness Local Plan, May 1987: P61/3.42.
POLICY - Proposed Improvements.
J Aitken : 22/05/01.

This broch is the focus of a programme of community archaeological research organised by Caithness Archaeological Trust working with AOC Archaeology Group. Excavations are planned in spring/summer 2011, from 26 April to 8 May and again from 1-13 August. Further details are available on AOC Archaeology Group's website (see link below). <7>

More information about this site is available in the old SMR paper file, which has been scanned and linked to this record. <8>

A condition survey was carried out as part of the preparation of a Conservation Management Plan for this site. The report concludes that although comparison of photos from 2004 and 2011 indicates there has been little recent change, several key areas can be considered fragile and at risk of further degradation. These include the broch wall and several of the best-preserved buildings. The threats to stability range from minor (missing stones from wall faces etc.) to severe (loss of structures to coastal erosion). <10>

Sources and further reading

---Text/Publication/Article: Anderson, J. 1901. 'Notices of nine Brochs along the Caithness coast from Keiss Bay to Skirza Head, excavated by Sir Francis Tress Barry, Bart., MP., of Keiss Castle, Caithness', Proc Soc Antiq Scot Vol. 35 1900-1, p.112-48. Proc Soc Antiq Scot. 112-48. 139-42.
---Image/Photograph(s): Nybster Broch. Colour Slide; Digital Image. .
---Image/Photograph(s): Nybster Broch. Colour Slide; Digital Image. .
---Image/Photograph(s): Nybster Broch. Colour Slide; Digital Image. .
---Image/Photograph(s): Nybster Broch. Colour Slide; Digital Image. .
---Image/Photograph(s): Nybster Broch. Colour Slide; Digital Image. .
---Image/Photograph(s): Nybster Broch. Colour Slide; Digital Image. .
---Image/Photograph(s): Nybster Broch. Colour Slide; Digital Image. .
---Image/Photograph(s): Nybster Broch. Colour Slide; Digital Image. .
---Image/Photograph(s): Nybster Broch. Colour Slide; Digital Image. .
---Image/Photograph(s): Nybster Broch. Colour Slide; Digital Image. .
---Image/Photograph(s): Nybster Broch. Colour Slide; Digital Image. .
---Image/Photograph(s): Nybster Broch. Colour Slide; Digital Image. .
---Image/Photograph(s): Nybster Broch. Colour Slide; Digital Image. .
---Image/Photograph(s): Nybster Broch. Colour Slide; Digital Image. .
---Image/Photograph(s): Nybster Broch. Colour Slide; Digital Image. .
---Image/Photograph(s): Nybster Broch. Colour Slide; Digital Image. .
---Image/Photograph(s): Nybster Broch. Colour Slide; Digital Image. .
---Image/Photograph(s): Nybster Broch. Colour Slide; Digital Image. .
---Image/Photograph(s): Nybster Broch. Colour Slide; Digital Image. .
---Image/Photograph(s): Nybster Broch. Colour Slide; Digital Image. .
---Image/Photograph(s): Nybster Broch. Colour Slide; Digital Image. .
---Image/Photograph(s): Nybster Broch. Colour Slide; Digital Image. .
---Image/Photograph(s): Nybster Broch. Colour Slide; Digital Image. .
---Image/Photograph(s): Nybster Broch. Colour Slide; Digital Image. .
---Image/Photograph(s): Nybster Broch. Colour Slide; Digital Image. .
---Image/Photograph(s): Nybster Broch. Colour Slide; Digital Image. .
---Text/Publication/Article: Hartley, B R. 1972. 'The Roman occupations of Scotland: the evidence of samian ware', Britannia Vol. 3 1972, p.1-55. Britannia. 1-55. 54, No. 2.
---Interactive Resource/Webpage: AOC Archaeology Group. 2011. The Nybster Broch Project: Excavation and Conservation of an Iron Age settlement in Caithness. Digital.
---Image/Photograph(s): B/W Negative. .
---Image/Photograph(s): B/W Negative. .
---Image/Photograph(s): B/W Negative. .
<1>Text/Publication/Article: Young, A. 1964. 'Brochs and duns', Proc Soc Antiq Scot Vol. 95 1961-2, p.171-98. Proc Soc Antiq Scot. 171-98. 184, No. 15.
<2>Text/Report: RCAHMS. 1911. The Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments and Constructions of Scotland. Third report and inventory of monuments and constructions in the county of Caithness. . 159-60, No. 518; plan.
<3>Text/Report: Batey, C E. 1981. Caithness coastal survey 1981: interim report. . No. 91.
<4>Text/Publication/Article: Gourlay, R B. 1981. 'Brough Head, Nybster (Wick p) potsherds', Discovery and Excavation in Scotland 1981, p.18. Discovery and Excavation in Scotland. 18. 18.
<5>Text/Publication/Monograph: Lamb, R G. 1980. Iron Age promontory forts in the Northern Isles. Brit Ser. 79. 11-75; plan.
<6>Text/Publication/Article: Robertson, A S. 1970. 'Roman finds from non-Roman sites in Scotland', Britannia Vol. 1 1970, p.198-226. Britannia. 198-226. table 2.
<7>Interactive Resource/Webpage: AOC Archaeology Group. 2011. The Nybster Broch Project: Excavation and Conservation of an Iron Age settlement in Caithness. Digital.
<8>Verbal Communication: Tilbury, S. Comment by Sylvina Tilbury, HER Officer.
<9>Text/Report/Management Plan: AOC Archaeology Group. 01/2011. Nybster, Caithness: Conservation Management Plan. Digital (scanned as PDF).

Related Monument/Building records

MHG29316Parent of: Mervyn's Tower (Nicolson Monument) (Monument)

Related Investigations

EHG3519Condition survey, Nybster Broch

Related thematic articles

Listed Buildings
Scheduled Ancient Monuments
Monuments/Buildings
Investigations