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A Promontory Fort on the Shore of Ramsey Bay, Isle of Man

  • Gerhard Bersu

The small fort of the promontory type with which this report deals lies in the parish of Lezayre, on the shore of Ramsey Bay on the brooghs which form the eastern edge of the undulating Andreas plateau towards the sea. Here, in the northern part of the bay, the cliffs are built up by warped stratified sands with reddish sandy and loamy bands. Where springs caused or initiated erosion the straight north–south line of the broogh is intersected by short valleys with steep slopes and marshy bottoms. Where, as occasionally happens, two of such valleys lie near to each other, the gullies create small peninsulas with level surfaces connected only by a narrow neck with the plateau. Ideal sites for habitation above the broad sandy beach are formed by natural agencies, sites which need only a small amount of adjustment to make them easily defensible. A certain disadvantage arises from the fact that both the platform of the promontory and the surface of the plateau lie in the same level, in the present case 60 ft. above the high-water mark.

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page 66 note 1 Kermode, P.M.C. in List of Manx Antiquities (Douglas, 1930) (quoted in the following notes as Kermode, List) mentions the site under earthworks, p. 40, no. 1: ‘Can this be the Danes’ Fort mentioned in C.R.P. 1719?’ and again under Watch and Ward Stations, p. 43: ‘Post for the night watch, Hangman's Hill. This was the name of the little promontory with the fort overlooking the mouth of the river, above the Mooragh, Ramsey.’ There is some confusion: Hangman's Hill (at a in fig. 7) has no promontory and does not just overlook the mouth of the river (see also p. 76, n. 2, below). In the first edition of the List of Manx Antiquities (Douglas, 1900), p. 7, Kermode suggests our site as the place of the still-unidentified earthwork in Ramsey Bay: ‘Is this Fort Loyal (1648) built by James Earl of Derby, to command the harbour, which in those days would be the N. end of the Mooragh?’ In Kermode and A. W. Herdman, Manks Antiquities (Douglas, 1914), the same suggestion is put forward (p. 131).

page 70 note 1 So our site can be neither the 17th-century Fort Loyal nor the ‘Danes Ffort’ where a battery of ‘2 Sacres mounted’ (The Journal of the Manx Museum, 1930, vol. ii, p. 20) had been. This ‘Danes Ffort’ might be anywhere. If it was near Ramsey, which is most likely, the Ballure site directly south of Ramsey seems possible (Kermode's List, p. 46, no. 3, under Parish Maughold, No. 2 in our map fig. 8) and the name ‘Danes Ffort’ may imply that this battery was erected on an older site. Fort Loyal, identical with the 17th-century New Fort, can be identified by entries in the manorial roll of the 18th century as sited at the present harbour-mouth (south side) where the harbour master's office is now. This was apparently over-looked by Kermode (b in fig. 7).

page 71 note 1 For example, see Richmond, I. A., ‘The Agricolan Fort at Fendoch’, P.S.A.S. 1938–9, lxxiii, 110.

page 71 note 2 Such wattle construction is known from Scandinavia, cf. Sigtuna, lowest level (Soderberg, Bengt, ‘Die Grabungen in Sigtuna’, Fornvännen, xxxvii, 1942, p. 335, fig. 11).

page 74 note 1 Shetelig, H. and Falk, H., Scandinavian Archaeology, 1937, pp. 318 ff. For the earlier occurrences of the three-aisled long-house, see the short survey by Tischler, F. in Forschungen und Fortschritte, 1948, xxiv, p. 233.

page 74 note 2 For Greenland: Roussel, Aage, Farms and Churches in the Medieval Settlements of Greenland, København, 1941, p. 202. For Iceland: Stenberger, M., Forntida Gardar i Island, København, 1943, p. 321.

page 75 note 1 Antiq. Journ., 1942, xxii, 39 ff.

page 75 note 2 Cf. the evidence from Hvalsey, Greenland, fig. 87 in Aage Roussel, loc. cit., or the evidence from Isleifsstadir, Iceland, figs. 97, 104 in Stenberger, loc. cit.

page 76 note 1 Such is the local tradition, and it is likely that it was so. But Lamplugh, G. V., The Geology of the Isle of Man, 1903, p. 430, does not establish that the Sulby river flowed out at the N. end of Mooragh.

page 76 note 2 The situation alone disposes of the theory that our site was Hangman's Hill (a on map, fig. 7), the place of watch and ward, and that our houses were the temporary shelters of the people in the look-out. For even if the Vikings had already the system of watch and ward, there are much more suitable sites for such purposes available in its neighbourhood on higher ground with wider outlook. William Cubbon has identified this Hangman's Hill with a place go ft. high some 2,000 yards south of our promontory at the edge of the broogh above the Mooragh (Proc. I.M.N.H.A.S. iii, 258).

page 77 note 1 [8] Kermode, List, p. 68, no. 6; [9] ibid., p. 72, no. 4.

page 77 note 2 Ibid., p. 7, no. 2.

page 77 note 3 Ibid., no. 3. B. Megaw informs me that remains of another eroded fort not on the map, and not mentioned by Kermode, are south of Creg Lea overlooking Niarby Bay [16].

page 78 note 1 Kermode, List, p. 78, no. 3, identical with ibid., p. 73, no. 8.

page 78 note 2 Ibid., p. 68, nos. 3 and 4. A very ruined promontory (perhaps Kermode, List, p. 67, no. 2) lies north of these two in Santon [5]. Bank and ditch are definite, but the area on the seaward site is small and steeply sloping, perhaps a good deal eroded or slipped towards the sea. (Information kindly supplied by B. Megaw).

page 78 note 3 Ibid., p. 32, no. 1. On this coast the strong erosion may have destroyed other promontories, for B. Megaw informs me that a 16th-century fortification, Ballaugh Burn Fort [20], not mentioned in Kermode, was eroded away completely by 1700.

page 78 note 4 Ibid., p. 14, no. 1.

page 78 note 5 Ibid., p. 46, no. 3 (see also p. 70, n. 1).

page 78 note 6 Ibid., p. 73, no. 5.

page 78 note 7 Not mentioned by Kermode.

page 78 note 8 Not mentioned by Kermode. A bank near the lighthouse looks modern.

page 79 note 1 Ibid., p. 84, no. 4 (defences not on the O.S. maps).

page 79 note 2 Inventory of the County of Pembroke, 1925, no. 943.

page 79 note 3 Arch. Camb., 1939, p. 210; 1940, p. 9; 1941, p. 23.

page 79 note 4 Kermode, List, p. 84, no. 3; plan and description by Bruce, R. in Proc. I.M.N.H.A.S. iv, no. 3 (1941), p. 337.

page 79 note 5 Kermode, List, p. 47, no. 5.

page 79 note 6 Th. J. Westropp's valuable descriptions and sketches of promontories on the Irish coast published in P.R.I.A. and J.R.S.A.I. show that the same types of promontories as on Man exist also in Ireland. Not represented on Man are the big headland forts like that in townland Drumanagh (Co. Dublin), Loughshinny, similar to that at Fifeness (Inventory of Fife, no. 120) on the east coast of Scotland. The Parade [15] is the only promontory on Man of somewhat similar aspect, but it is much smaller.

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