Barmagachan Feature

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    John Shields

    Rachel Lucas – 19 May 2020


    I went on a social distancing trip to Colt Cottage, next door to Barmagachan.  They own the western half of the field called ‘Barney’, which borders Barmagachan Motte.  At the southern western corner of the field (corner of Drum John, Barmagachan and Barney) is a strange feature which is shown on the 1854 map and which you can still see on the satellite view ..

    The field is marshy, but not wet, and on the two sides making a square with the field boundary is a substantial old turf bank, with hawthorn trees closely planted.  It’s very odd.  Do you think it might be connected to the small burn which runs between this field and Barmagachan?   Could it be old enough to have something to do with the motte?


    John Shields

    From Alan James – 19 May 2020

    It is a curious feature, I think the L-shaped embankment pretty surely pre-dates the ‘improvement’ enclosures. The hatching on the OS map I think indicates marshy grassland, wetter than the rough grassland shown in Barney field. However, on the satellite image there seems to be a scattering of stones – as also in the little triangle alongside the burn to the west, which is similarly hatched on the map. The watercourse along the west side had evidently been straightened prior to the 1850 survey. I suppose there might have been a pond or dam here, though there’s no sign of any mill site downstream to where the burn joins the Burnyard Burn at Tongue Croft. Possibly even a medieval fish-pond. It doesn’t seem to be on Canmore. Maybe David Devereux would have some ideas.

    Incidentally, have you ascertained whether Barney is stressed on the first syllable or the second?


    John Shields

    From David Devereux – 21 May 2020

    Hi Rachel

    Thank you for pointing out this interesting feature. From the aerial photo and the OS map it appears to be an approximately square enclosure  on the NW facing slope of a SW/NE aligned low ridge, but open and bounded on the W by a small burn . The hawthorn covered turf bank on its NE and SE sides suggests a deliberately made hedgebank. The way this appears to butt against the stone dyke to the S and runs up to the burn to the N seems to suggest that it was built as a barrier against (livestock?) access  to this corner of the field. As Alan notes, the burn coming down from the N appears to be have been straightened. I’m not sure if we can see stones in the centre of the feature or  brown marsh/bog vegetation or bare earth?

    Personally I can’t immediately recognise it as a known type of archaeological feature, but three possibilities come to mind:

    1. Following on from Alan’s suggestion, it was a mill pond constructed for a mill at Tongue Croft. The OS map suggests a mill lade down the E side of Tongue Croft cluster of buildings. This might have driven an external mill wheel to drive agricultural machinery within a barn.  Against this suggestion is the impractical distance from Tongue Croft to the feature, and the lack of any indication on the map of details such as sluice gates at the pond end.

    2. It’s the site of a croft, abandoned and cleared much earlier than the other croft ruins marked on the map nearby. It appears to be the right size of area for a croft and associated buildings, when you compare it on the map with Piper’s Croft / Piper’s Walls and Craig Croft to the N and Gaist Croft to the S.  I did wonder if the feature could be identified as the ‘Croftfoot’ as marked on Ainslie’s 1797 county map, but from its location it seems more likely that ‘Croftfoot’ was the previous name for ‘Gaist Croft’ (which might possibly be a name given after its abandonment, assuming ‘gaist’ = ‘ghaist’ = ‘ghost’?).

    3. A small quarry? If there are stones in the middle of the feature that might support that, but the present layout of the site looks too regular for a quarry.

    So, I’m not sure. Next time I’m near I’ll stop to take a look. I take it your friends at Colt Cottage own the site?

    Thanks again


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