MHG35264 - Plantation bank - TARRADALE HOUSE


Area of uncultivated ground in the centre of a barrow cemetary at Tarradale.

Type and Period (1)

  • PLANTATION BANK (Unknown date)

Protected Status

  • None recorded

Full Description

Created automatically by NMRS Register Utility
User: Admin, Date: Wed 13 Oct 2004
NH54NW 122 5489 4888

Oblique aerial photographs (RCAHMSAP 1995) have recorded a plantation bank, 400m NW of Tarrasdale House (NH54NE 28). It is sub-rectangular and measures about 80m E-W by 50m transversely. The plantation bank is depicted on the current edition of the 1:10 000 map (1988) and it is situated in a field amongst a number of archaeological features (see NH54NW 23, 24, 25).
Information from RCAHMS (KJ) 14 June 1999.

A programme of archaeological evaluation including geophysical and metal detecting surveys, and open area excavation, was carried out at the Tarradale Barrow Cemetery, Muir of Ord, Ross-shire between the 28 August and 21 September 2019, by the Tarradale Through Time Project. The cemetery and associated features at Tarradale form one of the largest to be identified through aerial imagery in Scotland. The Tarradale barrow cemetery is located on a terrace overlooking the Beauly Firth, around 300 metres northwest of Tarradale House (see Figure 1) at an altitude of approximately 15-20 metres OD (NGR NH 5493 4895). Set within undulating ploughed fields, nothing can be seen of the cemetery on the ground today. However, an irregular-shaped area of unimproved ground is located within the cemetery and this area appears to have been set-aside from agricultural improvements for some time.

7.3.1 Trench 1 – was located to investigate three round barrows located to the SSW of the unimproved area of ground comprising an open area measuring approximately 35m NE-SW x 20m NW-SE. Aerial images appeared to show central features within two of the barrows, interpreted as grave-cuts. An extension to this trench to the NE was included to investigate the sunken trackway and the unimproved area of ground, where it was thought possible that archaeological features were concealed. This allowed direct comparisons to be made with regards to their survival with the adjacent features out-with the uncultivated ground. The trench extension measured approximately 40m NE-SW x 2m wide.

8.1.4 So why did a former tenant or the estate go to the bother and expense of erecting a post and wire fence around the uncultivated area? Were they trying to keep something in or something out? There is no sign of any old tree stumps within the area today. The absence of any barbed wire remains may suggest that the plain wire fence supported rabbit netting, maybe to keep rabbits or pheasants inside the area. It is obvious from the results of the metal detecting survey within the uncultivated area that alongside quarrying for sand, the resulting pits and hollows had been filled with old rubbish and heaps of stones from field clearance.

8.4.1 Trench 1 measured 30m SW-NE by 20m SE-NW and was set out on a natural ridge aligned approximately SW/NE. Running from a high point located to the SW of the trench, this prominent ridge runs to the NE where it merges into the uncultivated area of ground. Previous aerial photographs had shown a series of probable ring ditches extending from near the summit of this rounded hill and along the length of the ridgedisplaying varying degrees of survival. The alignment of archaeological features as shown on the aerial imagery are interrupted by the large uncultivated area first illustrated on David Aitken’s estate plan of 1778, before continuing north of this area as revealed from the air in the drought conditions of 2018. The opportunity was also taken to extend the trench to the NE into the uncultivated area of ground, with a trench 40m long and between 2m and 3m wide. Within the constraints of time, the difficult ground conditions including a hard and stony subsoil, the changeable weather conditions and the skills and availability of the volunteer excavators, only limited examination was carried out of the internal features within the ring ditches.

8.4.2 The removal of overburden from the NE extension of Trench 1 included the upper turf matt (1.02), which contained bluebell bulbs and fine rootlets, and the underlying sediments (1.13) and (1.15). The natural subsoil varied significantly across the Trench 1 extension and included fine sand deposits, through to sands containing small rounded stone clasts. It appeared that some of these deposits had been disturbed in the past, possibly due to agricultural improvements and in establishing the uncultivated area of ground – possibly during the post-medieval period. There is also good anecdotal evidence for the quarrying of sand within the uncultivated area of ground in the more recent past. (Grant pers comm). The nature of the upper soils and lower subsoils within the area of uncultivated ground investigated by Trench 1 suggests that this area was never exposed to agricultural ploughing, although it was obvious that the edge of the area has shifted back and forth through time and has been impacted by the plough. Accumulations of stone, resulting from field clearance, is also most obvious around the edges of the uncultivated area.

8.4.50 Located immediately to the NE of the revetment wall F1.09 was a spread of sediment (1.64) comprising a dark brown to black gritty matrix with many small rounded stone inclusions – most of which were also stained a dark brown to black (Figure 16; Plates 22 and 23). The deposit had clear edges including a darker halo to each side and was up to 2.5m wide (NE-SW) and aligned roughly SE-NW. The stone content within the deposit may have formed a lightly metalled surface for an earlier trackway predating the formation of the uncultivated area of ground or may be the upper fill of a feature cut into the natural sands and subsoil. It is possible that this may be the ditch cut and fill of a larger barrow of potential prehistoric age, located entirely within the uncultivated area of ground. Time constraints did not allow the excavation of this feature and further evaluation work would be required to substantiate these basic interpretations.

9.37 Finally, we have already noted in this report the impact of agricultural activities in relation to the Tarradale barrow cemetery. Later activities at the site also included establishing the two uncultivated areas of ground towards the central area of the cemetery, one of which is still present today. The 1788 Tarradale Estate map shows two blocks of uncultivated land, labelled ‘Brush’ and ‘Brushwood’, with a track running along their SW boundaries (Figure 4). The SE area is amorphous in shape and is the uncultivated area of ground still present on site today; while the NW area comprises a roughly square shape. Excavation of the SE end of Trench 2a included the NW boundary of the uncultivated area revealed the low revetting wall F2.04, which included some dressed sandstone blocks – one of which had lime mortar adhering to it. The faint outline of a possible wall or fence is shown in this area on the estate map. A similar revetting wall was uncovered in the Trench 1 extension on the SW side of this area of ground, suggesting that the area may have been completely enclosed by the revetting wall. The remains of degraded wooden posts and attached wire strands from the edge of the uncultivated area indicate that the area remained fenced off during later periods of use. The section of the uncultivated area of ground evaluated in Trench 2a also revealed spreads of rounded cobble stones, of a fairly uniform size, resulting from field clearance. Later, upstanding piles of stones were also noted elsewhere within the uncultivated area, comprising a wide range of sizes, and also resulting from field clearance. Although the second, square-shaped area of uncultivated ground was present on the 1788 estate map, this had obviously been removed and the area put under the plough after this date.

9.38 It is possible that these areas of ground, which may once have supported trees and shrubby undergrowth, were retained as game coverts. However, there are faint indications on the estate map of large and roughly circular features located within each area. Is it possible that these were the remains of upstanding cairns/mounds, or the remains of ditches that were still visible when the surveys for the map were undertaken? It is possible that feature F1.10 (Figure 16), located just inside the revetting wall demarcating the south east uncultivated area of ground is a part of the ditch of a large circular enclosure, or barrow, similar to F2.01. This might explain why the areas of ground were initially retained and enclosed. Whatever the case may be, the square area shown on Aitkin’s map was eventually taken back into agricultural land and any upstanding features swept away. Unfortunately, it has proved difficult to georeference the 1788 estate map with more modern mapping and features on the ground today.

However, the general outline of the NW square area of uncultivated land on the estate map appears to correspond roughly with the large square outer enclosure F2.02, excavated as a part of this project. The re-cutting of the SE ditch of this feature and its infilling with stone, from the inside of the monument, indicates that an earlier ditch was still visible. It is possible that the original ditch of F2.02 in sondage S17 had also been modified on its southwest side. The modification to the ditch may have been used initially to define the edge of the uncultivated area, but afterwards became a suitable dump for stone clearance. The relatively uniform size of the stone in the ditch, along with smaller spreads seen in the top of the ditch segments forming the inner square causewayed enclosure F2.03, may suggest that this material was cleared from a nearby, upstanding feature – possibly a cairn located within the central area of F2.03. <1>

GIS spatial data created in 2023 according to 2009 vertical aerial photos. <2>

Sources/Archives (2)



Grid reference Centred NH 5492 4888 (80m by 61m) (2 map features)
Map sheet NH54NW
Geographical Area ROSS AND CROMARTY

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