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Mon, 06 Nov


Berwick Parish Centre

"Deer Parks, Traps and Hays: Hunting forests in Medieval Scotland" with Dr. Piers Dixon.

Time & Location

06 Nov 2023, 19:30 – 21:00

Berwick Parish Centre, Berwick-upon-Tweed TD15 1FD, UK

About the event

Deer hunting in medieval Scotland has been poorly researched archaeologically until recently. In his book, Hunting and Hunting Reserves in Medieval Scotland, Gilbert identified medieval parks at Stirling and Kincardine in Perthshire that William the Lion created, but it is only in recent years that excavations by Hall and Malloy have begun to explore their archaeology. The Royal Commission recorded another type of hunting feature, a deer trap at Hermitage Castle in 1996 and then re-recorded the earthwork at Dormount Hope in 2000 originally reported as two separate monuments. Although the earthworks of parks, traps and other types of enclosure display similarities in the construction of their earthwork boundaries the individual sites display variations in their topography that beg questions about their function. Fieldwork has established that the earthwork is indeed a single monument which has an open end allowing deer to be driven into the natural canyon of Dormount Hope. Its dating is discussed in both archaeological and documentary terms and its function: either a park, trap or hay (haga OE). This last possibility is raised by its apparent mention in a Melrose Abbey charter of the next door estate of Raeshaw dating to the last quarter of the 12th century, made by the lords of Hownam, a family of Anglian origin. A hay is a kind of deer hunting enclosure or trap known in many parts of England prior to the Norman Conquest, for which hay place names, such as Hawick, in the Scottish Borders provide support.

Dr Piers Dixon was an extra-mural adult education lecturer for the University of Newcastle-upon-Tyne from 1978-1982, before moving to Scotland to excavate urban sites in the Scottish Borders. After obtaining his doctorate in 1985 on the Deserted Villages of North Northumberland at Cardiff University, he became an Investigator with the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland and latterly Historic Environment Scotland before retiring in 2018, and is currently affiliated to Stirling University as an Honorary Lecturer. He specialises in the medieval period, particularly rural settlement and landscape, including castles. On these topics he has published Puir Labourers and Busy Husbandmen (Birlinn) in 2002, A History of Scotland’s Landscapes(HES) in 2018 with Fiona Watson and Seasonal Settlement in the Medieval and Early Modern Countryside (Sidestone) with Professor Claudia Theune in 2021. Also that year he published an article with John Gilbert, Dormount Hope – Medieval Deer Trap, Park or Hay? in the Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland. He currently vice chair of the Peeblesshire Archaeology Society.

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