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Archaeology Notes

Event ID 696470

Category Descriptive Accounts

Type Archaeology Notes


NR77NW 1.00 71235 78829

NR77NW 1.01 7123 7883 Carved Stone Ball; Flint Arrowhead

NR77NW 1.02 7123 7882 Platforms; Kilns; Building

For industrial remains (including kilns and platforms) towards SE corner of curtain-wall enclosure, see NR77NW 1.02.

(NR 7123 7883) Castle Sween (NR)

Macmillan's Tower (NR) Well (NR)

OS 6" map, Argyllshire, 2nd ed., (1924)

Castle Sween, now ruinous, was probably built in the mid-12th century (S Piggott and W D Simpson 1970). The main structure, a quadrangular enclosing wall, 6'-7' thick, measuring 84' x 70' over all, against the inner face of which three main ranges of timber buildings were originally disposed round a small court, is Norman in appearance. The annexe to the W and its round tower - Macmillan's Tower - were probably added in the early 14th century, while the rectangular keep was probably added to the NE corner in the 16th century. There is also a well, doubtless original, in the NE angle of the courtyard.

The castle was beseiged by Robert the Bruce, and was finally destroyed by Sir Alexander Macdonald in 1647.

S Piggott and W D Simpson 1970; W D Simpson 1967; J G Dunbar 1966.

The castle is as described and planned.

Visited by OS (DWR) 6 June 1973

No change to the report of OS (DWR).

Surveyed at 1/10,000.

Visited by OS (BS) 25 January 1977

Two small-scale excavations within the E half of the courtyard of this castle revealed a sequence of domestic and service ranges, culminating in an elaborate industrial complex, all of which broadly echoed the succession of families associated with the site. The original simple enclosure castle as occupied by the MacSweens until the mid 13th century may have featured some form of tower-like structure in the NE corner of the enclosure. The site was then extensively remodelled under the Stewart Earls of Menteith, who built two towers outside the W wall of the primary enclosure, and a stone-built N range inside (c.1262 to 1362).

When the site was later occupied by the MacNeills of Gigha on behalf of the Lords of the Isles, a substantial E range with first floor hall, was built within the courtyard, to compliment the new NE or 'Macmillans Tower' during the 15th century. Finally, with the discovery of a series of kiln-like structures and ancillary sheds and compounds, it was evident that up to the end of its active life, under the Earls of Argyll c.1650, the E courtyard was largely cleared of major buildings and the area given over to industrial usage, probably metal working.

Sponsor: SDD HBM

G Ewart 1989a.

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