Scheduled Monument

Rennibister, souterrainSM90245

Status: Designated


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Date Added
Last Date Amended
Prehistoric domestic and defensive: settlement (if not assigned to any more specific type); souterrain, earth-house
Local Authority
Orkney Islands
HY 39739 12601
339739, 1012601


The monument is a souterrain and the ancient structures in an area immediately around it. Although the latter may be part of a much larger settlement mound, the scheduling is intended to protect the souterrain and the structures physically closest to it rather than whole potential area of settlement, the full extent of which is unknown.

The Rennibister souterrain has a passage about 3.5m long, at the inner end of which there was a drop of about 0.7m to the floor of a chamber which is roughly hexagonal in plan and measures over 3.3m in length by just over 2.5m in greatest width. The walls are constructed partly of slabs on edge and partly of built masonry and the roofing slabs are supported by four pillars.

The chamber contained the disarticulated skeletons of what may have been two or three family groups when it was discovered in 1926. It is near the top of an extensive low mound on the flanks of which are the modern buildings of Rennibister farm. The scheduling is, outwith the fenced area round the souterrain, explicitly restricted to the sub-surface remains, with the intention that the farm road may be resurfaced without constraint.

The area to be scheduled is irregular in plan measuring a maximum of 25m N-S by 22m E-W. Its west side is in part defined by the outer edge of, but excludes, the wall of the farm buildings N of the farmhouse, and also excludes the modern surface of the farm road to a depth of 30cm or the top of the stonework of the souterrain, whichever is the lesser. The scheduled area is outlined in red on the accompanying map extract.

Statement of National Importance

The monument is a well preserved souterrain in which the skeletons of two or three families were found. It is in the care of Scottish Ministers. It is of national importance as a fine example of an enigmatic class of structure conventionally dated to the first few centuries AD or BC.



RCAHMS records the monument as HY 31 SE 3.


Childe, V. G. and Simpson, W. D. (1961) Illustrated guide to ancient monuments in the ownership or guardianship of The Ministry of Works: vi: Scotland, Edinburgh, 108.

Marwick, H. (1975) Scotland: an archaeological guide: from the earliest times to the twelfth century, London, 238.

Marwick, H. (1952) Ancient monuments in Orkney, [Edinburgh] 21.

RCAHMS (1946) The Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland. Twelfth report with an inventory of the ancient monuments of Orkney and Shetland, 3v. Edinburgh, 93-4, No. 325.

Historic Environment Scotland Properties

Rennibister Earth House

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About Scheduled Monuments

Historic Environment Scotland is responsible for designating sites and places at the national level. These designations are Scheduled monuments, Listed buildings, Inventory of gardens and designed landscapes and Inventory of historic battlefields.

We make recommendations to the Scottish Government about historic marine protected areas, and the Scottish Ministers decide whether to designate.

Scheduling is the process that identifies, designates and provides statutory protection for monuments and archaeological sites of national importance as set out in the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979.

We schedule sites and monuments that are found to be of national importance using the selection guidance published in Designation Policy and Selection Guidance (2019)

Scheduled monument records provide an indication of the national importance of the scheduled monument which has been identified by the description and map. The description and map showing the scheduled area is the legal part of the scheduling. The statement of national importance and additional information provided are supplementary. These records are not definitive historical or archaeological accounts or a complete description of the monument(s).

The format of scheduled monument records has changed over time. Earlier records will usually be brief. Some information will not have been recorded and the map will not be to current standards. Even if what is described and what is mapped has changed, the monument is still scheduled.

Scheduled monument consent is required to carry out certain work, including repairs, to scheduled monuments. Applications for scheduled monument consent are made to us. We are happy to discuss your proposals with you before you apply and we do not charge for advice or consent. More information about consent and how to apply for it can be found on our website at

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Printed: 26/05/2019 18:05