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North Biggin (Broch)

Midhouse/Mithouse NMRS record no. HY32SW 17 at HY30802000, is a large grassy mound SW of Mithouse, 10~12' high and 132' by ~100' orientated NNE/SSW with many large stones on its slopes. In 1935 a small excavation found passageways and massive walls - it is thought to have been a broch as a shallow 54' D depression on top is surrounded by a low irregular bank.

The Shetland Isles


July 18th 1865 "The Orcadian" George Petrie and Dr Hunt excavate 65'D 10~11' high bowl barrow. Near the centre 5-6' below the apex were fond a "peculiar" stone tool (similar to one found at Sefster on same trip), potsherds and ox bone fragments. Tumulus made of burnt stones, having a circle of stones just inside the perimeter with the remains of an encircling circular wall a few feet inside that. On the wall's inner face, roughly 15' inside the north perimeter, a large edgeset freestone block was found facing the centre. This was held up by a wall either side and had a large perforation near its upper end. Not far from the mound, but unconnected, were found two inscribed stones, each with a different kind of runes. These were taken to Lerwick..

Brindister Voe HU25NE 6
July 18th 1865 "The Orcadian" Broch of Brindister at edge of steep cliff and defended by double earthworks landward. George Petrie and Dr Hamiltton saw doorway and traced galleris in the circular wall but didn't examine inerior as choked with debris from broch tower.

Broch of Burraness HU58SW 1
October 31st 1865 "The Orcadian" described. In 1854 one of the best preserved broughs in Shetland but a lot taken for cottage building in Burraness.

The Brough HU48NW 3
31st 1865 "The Orcadian" llttle left of Brough of West Sandwick's wall.

Brough of North Garth ~HY547005
October 31st 1865 "The Orcadian" brough below house, at beach's N end, almost entirely gone.

Brough of Stoal HU58NW 1
October 31st 1865 "The Orcadian" at least 3 ditches cut off brough at stole/chair of Awick, very high banks.

Brough of West Yell
October 31st 1865 "The Orcadian" name mentioned.

Burgi Geo HP50NW 2
October 31st 1865 "The Orcadian" description of approach to brough on Burgar Goes, a site mentioned by Hibbert.

Burra Voe HU57NW 2
October 31st 1865 "The Orcadian" little left as most of Brough of Burnavoe stones taken to build house at Burnavoe by owner Mr Henderson, entrance to underground passages now blocked by stone.

Charlotte Street, Lerwick
February 12th 1886 "Orkney Herald" stone cist with remains, probably previously disturbed, found near surface in clearing site for Mr Ogalvy's houses at bottom of Charlotte Street.

Clickhimin HU44SE 2
July 18th 1865 "The Orcadian" Broch of Clickimin [sic] in worse state than Mousa but wall restoration more in keeping with design.. April 11th 1888 "Orkney Herald" Stones removed from causeway by local butcher for building material.

Fillicomb Point HP50NW 3
October 31st 1865 "The Orcadian" some ditches of brough in heads of Toft remain but part of broch fallen into the sea.
June 27th 1883 "Orkney Herald" report from "Shetland News"; man on Foulis [sic] finds fresh-looking but headless female body, lying on an o.g.s. of stunted heath, after digging 6' through solid peat.

Giant's Grave, North Yell
July 29th 1871 "The Orcadian" close to St Niniian's Kirk site (Papil Bay) is a N/S aligned low mound called giant's grave and never built upon, though slight attempts to excavate seem to show natural sandstone only.

Gossabrough HU58SW 1
October 31st 1865 "The Orcadian" chambers visible in Brough of Gossaburgh ruins, graves reported nearby.

Graveland HU49NE 3
October 31st 1865 "The Orcadian" remains of buildings at Brough of Bergaard on small peninsula.

Greenbank HP50SW ?53
July 29th 1871 "The Orcadian" two stone fragments with worn lettering found at Clinsara Reggs on the meik of Papal by Margaret Craigie of Millby Cottage servant, near the St Ninian's Kirk site.

Head of Brough HU48SW 2
October 31st 1865 "The Orcadian" description of Brough of Brough.

Holm of Coppister HU47NE 1
October 31st 1865 "The Orcadian" Brough of Cuppister mentioned (name only).

Levenwick HU412NW 3
August 21st 1869 "The Orcadian" recorded by Dryden.Broch excavated down to the foundations within the last fortnight by Gilbert Goudie and described. Only finds part of a handmill and bone fragments.

Loch of Huxter HU56SE 1

June 17th 1879 "Orkney Herald" described in notice read to Society of Antiquaries of Scotland..

Mailand (Unst) HP60SW

June 10th 1876 "The Orcadian" D Edmonton's men digging May 31st on area long dug for peats discover 4 cast metal items together mouth down in the peat, a large basin and 3 fire-pots different sizes.

Mousa HU42SE 1
July 18th 1865 "The Orcadian" description of Mousa-Borg, where restorations have been made to the walltop and the doorway but those to the latter has greatly changed the appearance.

Muckle Heog East HP61SW 12
September 27th 1864 "The Orcadian" burnt human bones from crouched people found in cist 18" below ground level in digging hole for flagstaff, 2 skulls sent by Mr Edmonton to Mr Roberts at Somerset House.

Papil Bay HP50SW 4
July 29th 1871 "The Orcadian" St Ninian's Kirk site at the Kinwail 'gard of Weeping' close to mound called giant's grave.

Sefster HU35SW 14
July 18th 1865 "The Orcadian" celts and stone knives found by minister Bryden several years ago in underground passage at Safsetter/Safester. Passage re-opened and many more tools found, including one similar to that already found in a Bressay mound. Potsherds and stone vessels also found.

St Ninian's Church HU32SE 4 ?
August 26th 1885 "Orkney Herald" letter from the "Scotsman" describing situation of unenclosed disused St Ninian/Ringan's graveyard: ~6 miles from Fitful Head on E side of tidal outlet on W side of mainland's southern part. Soil is loose light sand to a great depth.

Trebister HU43NW 13?
March 28th 1883 "Orkney Herald" preparations on Saturday for a graveyard at a grass-covered mound belonging to Rev Mr Walker bring to light a 'Pictish castle', 40' of a circular section 4' high surviving from what is likely to have been a ~140' outer wall of the building. Stone dyke encloses mound. Large quanities of dark red peaty ash in several places and a man's jawbone found. Other discoveries were a few stone celts, several 12x8" ovoid polished stones (some with oval cavities) and four pottery varieties - 2 dark red soft earthenware sherds, a hard brick red sherd, and a vrery hard modern looking highly polished grayish sherd with light green spots.

Uyea, Shetland HU69NW 7
March 18th 1885 "Orkney Herald" article includes extra to P.S.A.S record of meeting, being mention of 3 steatite urns found in tumulus and 4 polished oval porphyrite knives found by Mr J Leisk, all exhibited.

Scotland (Country)


Ackergill Links ND35NW 9
November 1st 1864 "The Orcadian" excavation of cists by Mr Laing April 24th 1866 "The Orcadian" Petrie says the mound is natural September 18th 1866 "The Orcadian" Laing gives reasons why Long Mound is not wholly natural

Birkle Hills ? ND35NW 5 ?
October 3rd 1865 "The Orcadian" from "John O'Groat's Journal"

Birkle Hills ND35NW 5
October 3rd 1865 "The Orcadian" from "John O'Groat's Journal"
April 24th 1866 "The Orcadian"
September 18th 1866 "The Orcadian"
October 18th 1893 "Orkney Herald"

December 3rd 1870 "The Orcadian" previous Tuesday 2 E/W aligned cists found 6' apart in gravelly eminence at W end of Dingwall a few feet under clay subsoil. One disturbed previously, other had two decorated urns in fragments with human bones at eastern end

Ha' of Bowermadden ND26SW 7
October 3rd 1865 "The Orcadian" from "John O'Groat's Journal"

Keiss North/White ND36SE 3 Keiss White Gate Broch
October 18th 1893 "Orkney Herald"

Keiss Road ND36SW 1 Churchyard Mound / Churchyard Road Broch / Kirk Toft
September 18th 1866 "The Orcadian"
October 18th 1893 "Orkney Herald"

Keiss South ND36SE 2 Harbour Mound
October 18th 1893 "Orkney Herald"

Kettleburn ND35SW 11
November 8th 1864 "The Orcadian" from "John O'Groat's Journal" cists have been found in adjacent field on Long Hills ridge October 3rd 1865 "The Orcadian" from "John O'Groat's Journal" referred to as only properly explored broch in Caithness, dug by Henry Rhind

April 24th 1866 "The Orcadian" worked iron fragment found in chambered tomb in middle of Kirkatahos moor on hill/ridge

Long Hills
November 8th 1864 "The Orcadian" from "John O'Groat's Journal" in next field to Kettleburn broch 4' by 3' cinerary cist found on Long Hills ridge. Similar cists have come from the ridge in the past and a bronze brooch found in one by landowner James Henderson of Bilbister sent to Society of Antiquaries museum

Thurso ND16NW 17
July 22nd 1896 Orkney Herald" discovery location and description
November 1st 1864 "The Orcadian" roughly 2 years before Ackergill Links ND35NW 9 dug J.G.T. Sinclair of Ulbster excavated Bronze Age cist in conical mound on a hill summit in Yarrows with skeleton similarly interred with shore material brought from some distance away. Found with bronze spearhead, 10" long porphyry lance-head, black clay-slate.battle axe with 7" blade, porphyry knife and arrowheads, broken black stone knife and a mallet head broken at the ends

Wester Broch ? ND35NW 4 ?
October 3rd 1865 "The Orcadian" from "John O'Groat's Journal"

Wester Broch ND35NW 4 Keiss Wester Broch
October 3rd 1865 "The Orcadian" from "John O'Groat's Journal"
April 24th 1866 "The Orcadian"
September 18th 1866 "The Orcadian"
October 18th 1893 "Orkney Herald" reporters did not have time to look at

Sandyhall (Barrow / Cairn Cemetery)

There were originally five or six mounds in the field next to Sandyhall, NMRS record no. HY31NE 7, In 1966 three survived; 1/A at HY39861951 a squared off grassy mound about 15m across and rising to 1.8m max, B at HY39861945 a spread out mound roughly 10m D and 0.7m high (Sandyhill 1 0.15m in height in 1993), and C a significant rise some 12m D and 0.8m high at HY39891937 (Sandyhill 3 partly protected by a building and 0.3m high). "The Orcadian" of November 3rd 1863 describes a cist found in the centre of a Sandy Hall knowe by John Louttit. This cist was roughly 3½' long, 20" wide and ~18" deep. Removing the rough flag coverstone revealed a burnt clay urn filled with burnt bone. This well-used urn had at some stage had to be clamped/stitched together and "broken long ago". The cist was re-excavated in 1968, described then as an E/W aligned cist 0.91x~0.5x~ and ~0.4m deep, sitting on the natural.

Ness of Woodwick (Broch)

Ness of Woodwick broch, NMRS record no. HY42SW 9, aka the Craig of Ritten/Rittin. The 'crag' is an impressive mound with dimensions estimated as 50-60 feet across with an inner diameter about half that - in 1946 at the seaward side to the NE about 20' of outer wall (thought to be the outer wall-face) could be observed. No midden was seen. Twenty years later most of this outer wall was overgrown like the rest of the mound. Hedges notes that the rocky outcrops and sand below would be a good place to haul up a boat.

Redland South (Chambered Cairn)

Redland South cairn, NMRS record no. HY32SE 17, was at least 27m long by 12m wide. Aligned ESE/WSW it sat on the edge of a shallow NW/SE plateau ~83m x ~15m, a natural dip on the NW side marked by an old track. A long stalled chamber is marked by eight protruding stumps. The compartments were most likely some 1.65m, though there was a longer compartment or two shorter ones between slabs 6 and 7 and the end compartment was also somewhat longer. The Redland Standing Stone and its partner formed a stall 4.1m from one end of the chamber [either the other stalls also once stood to a man's height and they are much reduced or there was a considerable variation in height, though what comes to my mind is Weyland Smithy]. It is thought possible that the cairn continued beyond the NE cairn material. Also there is a 1.3m long 0.4m high orthostat SE of the chamber not following its axis.

Seven Knowes (Barrow / Cairn Cemetery)

Seven Knowes, HY32SE 8, is a compact group of bowl barrows set in boggy ground. They are on what the record calls a low plateau, and range in diameter from 12 to 35ft and in height from 18 ins to 2ft 6 ins. Excavations of three in close proximity to one another in 1998 found two of them had centrally placed cremation cists , these being evenly spaced around the mounds and taking the form of rounded pits dug into the hillwash that also covered them. Crude stone tools were found on top of the cists and also on the kerbs of these mounds. The two best surviving mounds, the largest, and most of the smaller ones have been dug before

Redland South (Chambered Cairn)

RCAMS 273 the Redland standing stone was, and stil is, the most visible piece of Redland South's stonework. Until the 1880s, when a farmer smashed it to stop livestock using it as a rubbing stone, it stood about 2m high. The irregularly topped stump is described in the late 1920s as 12 or 16" high by 3' broad by 6" thick, and aligned ENE/WSW like Staneyhill. At that time the 4'8" upper fragment, tapering to a 2'7" squared off top, lay where it fell. In 1929 the ground around the stone was described as irregular with some small earthfast stones with the smaller stump of another standing stone mere feet away. So the excavation we see here is 1930 or later. More to follow on the cairn proper when I've sifted through photos from three visits. Cairn is in two fields on your right as you go from the Evie road to the Broch of Gurness

Millfield (Burnt Mound / Fulacht Fia)

NMRS record no. HY50NE 41 stands over a man's height at a little over 2m high and is 50m long by 17m high. The records says that under the plough as well burnt material red stones come up too.

Chapel Knowe (Broch)

RCAHMS record no HY31NE 1 at Chapel Point, south of Burness 'burgh headland' in Firth. The name Chapel Knowe probably replaces the field-name Chapel Park [park=quoy 'enclosure]. In 1922 Mr Stevenson, the landowner, removed copious amounts of stone to build very sturdy fieldwalls, despite which the broch profile is still obvious. A draper called Turfus found in the debris an incised 40" fragment of red sandstone with a two-and-a-half inch high cloaked figure and other assorted markings. On the west side a broch wall section 14' long and 9' high was exposed, having a 2' thick secondary wall built against the face. At its south end a lintelled passage led to a corbelled mural cell with a void above that. The mound sits on a platform aligned N/S and up to 25m across according to which direction you look. Hugh Marwick, who followed up on the discovery, estimated the broch interior as only twenty feet. The archaeologists apply the Chapel Park name to a twenty metre stone spread running NW from the mound.

Howan Blo (Cist)

NMRS HY50NE 5. Here over the course of a few years Mr Aim, the farmer at Blow(e)s, came across internments near its crest in 1929 and 1932 (the record says 1933, but Callendar's article from that October refers the discovery to "January last"). On both occasions he covered the finds until the archaeologists came. In early March 1929 whilst digging into the clay his plough lifted the coverstone of a short cist containing an eight inch high dolomitic steatite urn and potsherds from a small urn. The cist was hollowed into a circular depresssion 4-5" deep in the centre, floored with stone flakes averaging some 5" square and ¼" thick. In plan it was approx. 20" by 16" with sides of bluish Orkney sandstone slabs each 18" deep and 1½" thick. There was a layer of burnt human bones 5-6" deep. After excavation the farmer put the remains back and covered the find. in January 1932 Mr Aim made another find only a few feet away. This consisted of a Bronze Age cinerary urn and fragments of a smaller one, both of clay. The large urn held bone ash and potsherds. When the archaeologists came and did their excavation they found an urn-shaped cavity under a coverstone just five feet away, though it had never held an urn. It measured some 15" deep and 12" wide diminishing to 5", and was almost completely filled with the dark greasy remains of bones. Though the urn passed to the museum the rest was re-buried as before.

Twi Ness (Cairn(s))

HY41NE 19 is a slightly hollowed 7mD cairn a mere point-six metres high, with a radial orthostat on the north side that might be, or have been, part of a cist.

Lower Arsdale (Carving)

The decoration is matched by that found at this year's Smerquoy dig in Firth, as shown by the excavator with a photo - so obviously the stone is still there, though the image was labelled Ersdale

Russel Howe (Cairn(s))

A 13m x 3m x 2m wall was constructed from the Rossel Howe Cairn material (HY22SW 5) some time after the Orkney Name Book of 1880 (the ONB actually places two tumuli here). During the demolition human remains were found in a cist. At the south-east end two stones, one approx 2.3x0.6 m fallen but the other approx 2.3x0.8 m still erect, are thought likely parts of a chamber.

Hourston (Crannog)

Hourston HY21NE 93 - a narrow causeway connects islet to Loch of Harray shoreline. Where it meets the shore there is an NMRS for a probable enclosure

Peterkirk (Broch)

The 1st 25" map show's Peter's Kirk (HY32NW 12 at HY33742870) on uncultivated land between the low cliff and an obtuse angle wall, west of which 'enclosure' are the legend Burial Ground and a due N/S aligned oval Cairn (apparently banked) slightly bigger than the kirk - another smaller building is shown at the edge of the southern wall segment near the corner. The stone cairn (HY32NW 16 at HY33712870) is presently described as turf-covered, about 9mD by 0.7m in height and marking the edge of a settlement mound at whose highest point the kirk is. Though in 1967 Ordnance Survey were unable to classify it, as the result of what they considered severe mutilation, in 1981 the SMR talks of what might be the concave inner face of a structural wall on the north side, formed by a row of edge-set slabs. Also on the settlement's edge, east to south-east of the kirk, are several irregularly placed erect stones. These are tentatively described as grave-markers but could be from an underlying structure [as with the broch features diggers have found at Warebeth Cemetery on occasion]. To the north-east of the site the cliff cuts through the settlement to reveal traces of prehistoric structures up to three metres in depth, described as unsurveyable by O.S. in 1967. Alongside is kitchen-midden.

Loch of Wasbister (Crannog)

NMRS record no HY33SE 13 - the 1880 Namebook confusingly names this as the loch chapel site as well as Bretta Ness, with finds of deer remains and coins and reference to possible earlier building. In 1912 "The Orcadian" tells us that this island was still connected to the west shoreline by the remains of a bridge (then a foot underwater) with a fault half-way. Later underwater features were observed where it met the shore but these are apparently buried now. A 1972 report tells us that the stepping stones start midway along the north-west side of a ?modern wall on the island and continued visibly in that direction for some thirty metres. This wall running around the island is sub-divided into two unequal enclosures, but salmonberry hides any internal remains there might be. There may be traces of sections of an earlier wall a metre or two outside this, and just above the waterline walling has been noted.

Knowe of Hunclett (Broch)

RCAHMS record no. HY42N W15 is a ten-foot high turf-covered broch mound, apparently excavated (slight depression on summit), with extensive outbuildings to the south showing as many areas of exposed stonework. Thirty metres from the tower there is a shingle beach rather than the usual rocky Rousay shore, with further archaeology in the shore banks themselves . A rough, unploughable section of the next field west continues the five-foot high broad platform on which the broch sits. An exposed inner broch wall-section a yard long and a foot high has been extrapolated to give a diameter of 30-33' (with walls at least 10-12' thick) and its platform extends about two-hundred feet from the fieldwall. The whole broch is bounded at the west by a curving ditch 3-4m wide by 2.2m deep, on whose inner lip a possible fortification is indicated by a stone wall. And an outer wall can be read from more stonework west of the ditch itself.

Oyce of Isbister (Round Barrow(s))

As NMRS record number HY31NE 14 only gives a grid reference of HY3918 perhaps this was part of a barrow cemetery with the Oyce of Isbister mounds, which are only some quarter of a mile from the mill.

In 1858 by James Muir, tenant of Isbister mill and farm, found several cists close to his house. The largest was 2'3" wide, with the SW side 5'8" long and that on the NE 4'8" long. To help prevent the ingress of water the depth was greater on the longer side (2'10" as against 2'7" max) with a half-an-inch of gravel on the level bottom. A flexed skeleton lay on its RH side at the NW end and another at the opposite end. Petrie noticed what looked to be outline traces of a large barrow in the surrounding ground. Another cist, with a similarly slanted lid and found about 5' to the SW held the skeleton of a woman face down. It was only 1'10" wide by 3' long and deep. The skull was at the ESE, a few bones near the middle and a heap of burnt ones a foot from the other end. Later a third cist a mere foot square was found 5/6' from the SE end of the second cist and had a pile of burnt bone fragments in the centre. NMRS record number HY31NE 14 only gives a grid reference of HY3918.
The Oyce of Isbister mounds (NMRS record number HY31NE 8) are only about a quarter of a mile from the mill. In 1946 apart from a grave mound these ranged from about 15' to some 21'D, with a maximum height of 3' (though there was a 6' high one [E] at HY39011810 it is most likely natural). The OS in 1966 give three as probable barrows (A at HY39021802, B at HY39001802, C at HY38981801) and three probable burnt mounds (D at HY39001808, F at HY39001811, G at HY39001813) plus the natural one (E at HY39011810). On the other hand in 1979 Hedges gives 4 small burnt mounds (on the E bank of a burn emptying into a "lagoon") 60m from twa earthen mounds lying atop slightly raised land. But I suspect his numbers come from his desire to keep the two kinds physically seperate. The largest mound, A, was 5' high. is composed of earth with small stones, and contains a cist at least 3'6" long (whose east end is missing). This was 45' across in 1946, but in 1966 the OS found its measurements to be roughly 14m E/W by 12m N/S.
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Unemployed and so plenty of spare time for researching contributors' questions and queries and for making corrections. Antiquarian and naturalist. Mode of transport shanks's pony. Talent unnecessary endurance. I love brochs.

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