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Field Visit

Date 23 October 1908

Event ID 1088477

Category Recording

Type Field Visit


180. Hume Castle.

This castle stands on a rocky height some 700 feet above the sea and distant about 5 ½ miles to the north of Kelso. The existing ruins are of comparatively recent date, having been raised on the old foundations by the last Earl of Marchmont in 1794, so that nothing remains of the ancient stronghold but the general form and extent of the outer enclosing walls. On plan it has been an irregular square measuring some 130 feet within enclosing walls averaging 6 feet in thickness. There are indications of flanking towers at the south-east and south-west angles where -the nature -of the ground necessitated additional protection. On the north-westside such precautions appear to have been considered unnecessary owing to the natural protection of a rocky precipice. In the centre of the courtyard there is a rough mass of ancient masonry of which the significance is not apparent. The original castle has evidently been of the First Period with the typical walls of enceinte enclosing a large central space or courtyard strengthened where necessary with towers and occupying a naturally strong defensive site, which has commanded a wide range of border-land.

Hume Castle was the first stage in the transmission by beacons on conspicuous places of news of coming English invasion from the ‘watchers’ on the Tweed. As a fortress, however, its importance was mainly local. In September 1545 the Earl of Hertford was explaining to Henry VIII. that the castle ‘standing upon a high rock, is very strong’. He considers that in virtue of this strength it ‘could hold out for eight or ten days at least’. For this reason and also because ‘it can only hold 60 men in garrison (and but 10 of them horsemen)’, no attack was made on it at that time. It was besieged and captured by the same Hertford, when Earl of Somerset, on his return to the Merse after Pinkie-cleuch in 1547, but recovered by Alexander Lord Home two years later. In 1569 it was battered by the guns of the Earl of Sussex and again surrendered by its garrison, which is said to have numbered 240 men. After the Battle of Dunbar (1650) Cromwell found it necessary to eliminate Hume Castle as a danger to his communications, and in February 1651 the place was reduced by Colonels Fenwick and Syler after a bombardment by mortars. The strength of the place was found to lie in its vaults, and not till a ‘culverin’ made a breach in these did the garrison give in. They numbered 75 all told. The castle was then demolished.

Letters and Paper's (Henry VIII.), vol. xx. Douglas's Cromwell's Scotch Campaigns.

See Cast. and Dom. Arch., iii. p. 106 (plan and illus.).

RCAHMS 1915, visited 23rd October 1908.

OS Map: Ber., xxvii. NE.

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