Bo'ness, Kinneil House

Country House (16th Century), Tower House (15th Century)

Site Name Bo'ness, Kinneil House

Classification Country House (16th Century), Tower House (15th Century)

Alternative Name(s) Kinneil Castle; Palace Of Kinneil

Canmore ID 48195

Site Number NS98SE 7

NGR NS 98197 80557

Datum OSGB36 - NGR

Ordnance Survey licence number 100020548. All rights reserved.
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Administrative Areas

  • Council Falkirk
  • Parish Bo'ness And Carriden
  • Former Region Central
  • Former District Falkirk
  • Former County West Lothian

Archaeology Notes

NS98SE 7.00 98197 80557

(NS 98197 80557) Kinneil House (NR)

OS 6" map, (1969)

NS98SE 7.01 c. 9817 8058 Subterranean Structure

NS98SE 7.02 98293 80506 Walled Garden

NS98SE 7.03 98345 80658 Ladywell Cottage

NS98SE 7.04 Cancelled duplicate site see 7.02

NS98SE 7.05 98316 80659 2-4 Duchess Anne Cottages

NS98SE 7.06 98302 80637 5 Duchess Anne Cottages

NS98SE 7.07 98327 80567 6 Duchess Anne Cottages

NS98SE 7.08 98321 80601 Gate Piers

NS98SE 7.09 98329 80562 7 Duchess Anne Cottages

NS98SE 7.10 98333 80551 8 Duchess Anne Cottages

For James Watt's Cottage (NS 98195 80518), see NS98SE 5.

For underlying length of Antonine Wall, see NS98SE 82.

Kinneil House, as it now stands, dates from three periods. First, there was a great tower, the Palace of Kinneil, founded by Arran in 1553, part of which is incorporated, much altered, in the central block of the house. This was demolished with powder in 1570 by the Regent Morton, but the W walling, overhanging the ravine, still partly remains, containing several large gunloops.

An L-shaped house was then built, a little to the N, to replace it. This still forms the N wing of the mansion. In the second half of the 17th century, the present imposing, if ruinous, central block rose up on the remains of the original keep, and wings were extended, that to the N linking up with the L-shaped house already mentioned.

In 1936, when the L-shaped house was being demolished, 16th and 17th century murals were uncovered. They are among the finest in Scotland and were instrumental in the house being taken under guardianship and subsequently restored by the DoE.

RCAHMS 1929, visited 1926; J S Richardson 1941; N Tranter 1962-70.

The whole of Kinneil House, as described, is in a fair state of preservation, although it is gradually deteriorating. The walls have at some time been harled. Only the E part of the N block is roofed, and it is in this block where the rooms with the unique mural paintings are located. This is also the only part of the house which is under guardianship.

Visited by OS (J L D) 14 January 1953.

The N wing is well preserved but the remainder of the building is in a ruinous and dangerous state.

Visited by OS (J P) 9 July 1974.

NS 983 806. Kinneil House. Here James Watt carried out some of the development of the steam engine. The workshop he used is now a rofless ruin, but beside it is the cylinder of an engine used to drain the Schoolyard Pit, Bo'ness, preserved in Watt's memory.

J R Hume 1976.

A watching brief was kept during the investigation of the apparent subsidence of materials beneath the floor of one of the basement chambers of Kinneil House. Below the stone-flagged floor was an unlined, circular shaft - probably a well shaft - containing loose materials which were excavated to a depth of 1.60m but which appeared to continue well beyond this level. There were numerous 19th-century artefacts within all of the infilling deposits.

Sponsor: Historic Scotland.

A Barlow 1993.

Investigations by Scotia Archaeology Limited within a basement chamber of the N wing of the house revealed a circular well shaft, 1.9m in diameter. The shaft was emptied to a depth of 3.4m; the excavated materials comprising humic soils, sand, shells, rubble, coal and ash and containing artefacts dating from the 18th to the 20th centuries. To a depth of 2.5m, the well was cut through glacio-fluvial deposits of a raised beach; below this point, it was cut through sandstone bedrock.

A framework of horizontal timber beams, perhaps elements of a staging platform, was set into rock-cut niches, 3.10m below the surface of the well. The timbers, which appeared to be adze-hewn from whole logs, were removed and stored. There was no surviving evidence that the well had been lined.

Sponsor: Historic Scotland.

A Barlow 1994.

NS 983 806 A watching brief was undertaken by Kirkdale Archaeology during works on a well within the 'palace' wing of Kinneil House. The well was located in a room known as the 'boiler room', a small barrel-vaulted chamber in the extreme SE corner of the building, presumably originally functioning as a service room. The floor of the chamber comprised stone flags, and it was the subsistence of these into the softer well-fill deposits which first led to the discovery of the sub-floor feature around three years ago. Excavations were then undertaken, and approximately 4m of the fill of the well was removed. Nothing is known of the results of this work, but at the time of the current watching brief, a circular hole c 2m in diameter with a stone and mortar lining had been exposed.

The watching brief concerned the monitoring of the drilling of the remaining material. The remaining upper fill was a loose, coarse ashy silt, which was removed by hand, extending to 0.8m deep, after which the fill became more stony, and drilling was commenced. The drilling indicated that the lower fill was 0.4m in depth, beyond which the base of the well was encountered. Thus a total depth of c 5.2m from the floor level could be estimated.

Finds include large quantities of burnt and unburnt bone as well as some diagnostic finds from the upper fill; a near-complete clay pipe, a fragment of white tile, and an iron spanner. It would seem likely, therefore, that the well was deliberately backfilled in Victorian times or later.

Sponsor: Historic Scotland

G Ewart and D Murray 1997.

NS 9820 8057 A watching brief was undertaken in October 2001 during the excavation of two holes for finger posts and a drainage trench in the immediate grounds of Kinneil House (NMRS NS98SE 7.00). Nothing of archaeological significance was disturbed.

Sponsor: Historic Scotland

D Stewart and G Ewart 2001

Architecture Notes

Guardianship Monument.


Sir Robert Lorimer 1909 - proposed restoration and addition (not executed)



Visiting House, Park and Garden Walls.

Planning new prison 1744

Claim of (pounds) by John Adam, architect, on behalf of himself and his father, William, against the Duke of Hamilton.

1770 Fea of Clestrain GD 31/554


Wood Sketch Book No.2 - 1 sketch

(Missing at time of upgrade, 1.9.1999)


National Library

Country Life 23/1/1948 - article and photographs

(Undated) information in NMRS.



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