MHG1693 - St John's Point Promontory Fort


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Type and Period (1)

  • PROMONTORY FORT (Early Bronze Age to Early Medieval - 2400 BC? to 1057 AD?)

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Full Description

Fort (NR) OS 1:10,000 map, (1976)

Fort, St John's Point: Across landward end of promontory of St John's Point, from cliff to cliff, has been dug a deep trench some 50ft in breadth, with a rampart some 10ft in height along the seaward side and a low mound crowning counterscarp to landward. The rampart has probably borne a wall along its crest on line of present modern dyke, as a small portion of an ancient wall is visible beneath latter near W end of the defence. Some 50ft from W extremity of rampart there appears to have been an entrance. The area is some 10 acres in extent. Within it, and in vicinity of the supposed site of chapel (ND37SW 2) is elevated ground which is possibly an artificial mound.
Comparisons with similar works suggest an Iron Age date - even though possibly re-used by Viking or later medieval overlords (RCAHMS 1911). RCAHMS 1911; R W Feachem 1963.

A fort consisting of a mutilated earth-and-stone rampart built between two geos and cutting off fairly level promontory of St John's Point. The rampart varies between 12m in width and 3m high in E, and 15m in width and 3m high in W. There is no trace of a wall surmounting it as suggested by RCAHMS. A gap towards W end marks entrance. About 10m outside rampart is a denuded turf dyke spread to 3.5m, suggested by RCAHMS to be an outer rampart, but this is partly if not wholly modern and contemporary with several acres of rig and furrow cultivation outside fort. There is no definite evidence of a ditch. Area between rampart and turf dyke appears slightly hollowed, but this is partly caused by a drainage ditch which occupies it, and is partly a false impression gained by position of turf dyke. It is actually at same level as field to S.
Within fort, promontory has been almost completely enclosed by a turf dyke, now spread to 2.5m and in places tumbled away over cliffs. On edge of cliff in E, about 100m NE of E end of fort rampart, this dyke stops short of a sub-rectangular grassy platform, some 9m NE-SW by 5m transversely, which appears to be site of a building, although no structural details are visible. The dyke encloses rig and furrow cultivation, which is less well defined than that outside fort.
Surveyed at 1:10,000. Visited by OS (RD) 26 2 1965 and (A A) 20 April 1972.

A broad cliff promontory cut off by a massive rampart about 3m high, fronted by a U-sectioned ditch c15m wide. The entrance may be represented by a gap towards W end but this is not certain. A modern drystone dyke runs along top of rampart. No structures are visible within rampart but against its rear is a well-constructed, rectangular building, locally said to be a chapel (ND37SW 2).
R G Lamb 1980.

An earthwork 10 acres in extent defined by a trench 16.5m wide and rampart c3m high. No evidence of occupation contemporary with rampart, but there are traces of later occupation.
C E Batey 1982

Dunmey is an alternative name for promontory (and may have some relevance to fort). The site is generally as described by the previous field investigator.
Orig Paroch Scot 1855.

The report correctly states "no definite evidence of a ditch" but impression is that there has been a ditch.
Visited by OS (J M) 6 July 1982.

The site is included in the Atlas of Hillforts of Britain and Ireland online database. See link below for site entry. <1>

Sources/Archives (6)



Grid reference Centred ND 3105 7515 (100m by 100m) (2 map features)
Map sheet ND37NW
Civil Parish CANISBAY
Geographical Area CAITHNESS

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