Ward of Houseby, Stronsay

Ward of Houseby, Stronsay
Orkney county archaeologist Dr Raymond Lamb’s 1979 photograph of the Ward of Houseby.
Type:Suggested to be Maeshowe-type.
Notes:A large, turf-covered mound approximately 2.5m high and with a diameter of about 20 metres.

Although it has long been considered to represent a Maeshowe-type chambered cairn, Davidson and Henshall did not include the Ward of Houseby in their 1989 publication The Chambered Cairns of Orkney.
Instead they suggested it is a “variant souterrain”, a “little-known category of monument”:

“The Ward of Houseby mound is [large] with a revetment wall-face and a trench approach to a lintelled passage, all reminiscent of a tomb such as Cuween Hill. But the only account of the interior describes an unusually wide and long passage, angled at two-thirds of its length, leading to one or more chambers which opened from its side and were not central within the mound.”

This account relates to an exploration “some years before 1928” when the mound was opened and entered. The opening led to a passage between 0.9m and 1.22m in width and 0.6m at its highest.

The passage ran in a north-westerly direction for around 6.5 metres before turning west, where it opened out and branched at right angles on either side. The branching passages were blocked which prevented further investigation.

Later, probably Iron Age, activity is represented by midden and walling.
References:Davidson, J. L. & Henshall, A. S. (1989). The Chambered Cairns of Orkney. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.

September 2022. The Ward of Houseby from the shore. (Sigurd Towrie)