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Date 2006 - 13 March 2009

Event ID 884101

Category Recording

Type Field Visit


This topographic survey of the castle has revealed more of the later artillery fort and earlier castle than was known hitherto; it was aided by a three dimensional model based on ground survey with differential GPS and observations made during a detailed hachure survey. The plan of the artillery fort of AD 1547 published in the Inventory (RCAHMS 1957, Fig. 517) was overlaid in GIS to help disentangle its features from the earlier ones, and it was also possible to use the 1416 survey of the state of the castle, quoted in the Inventory (RCAHMS 1957, 408), to aid interpretation of some of the earlier features.


The castle occupies the summit of a glacial ridge that rises to c. 30m in height and extends over 320m from NNE to SSW by 140m transversely. The ridge is broken by natural terraces and gullies and the main court of the castle occupies the highest part which is bounded by steep slopes to the Teviot on the S and to the haugh beside the Tweed on the N, dominating both and providing a strong natural defence of the narrow neck of land between the two rivers. This high mound was improved as a defence by the construction of a broad ditch that runs along its base on the NW and SSW arcs, but is absent on the SE where the Teviot washes the foot of the mound too closely for a ditch to be needed. An outer ditch was excavated to the SSW of a detached part of the ridge to the S that runs from WNW to ESE, the prominent WNW end of which is known as Gallows Knowe (a trench dug into the summit was used as a Home Guard defence point), but there is no clear trace of defensive or structural features that would suggest this was an outwork of the castle. Access to the castle mound is restricted to the NE tip and SE corner of the ridge since elsewhere the slopes are too steep to climb easily, and it is here that the entrances are to be found. The earliest structure occupies the summit of the mound, enclosing a triangular area extending some 280m from the SW corner to the entrance at the NE tip by 60m transversely, an area of c. 1.4ha. Apart from a lower terrace at the SW end, up to 40m in breadth, the summit is more or less level, but is divided into three parts by the artillery fort that occupies the central part of the castle mound. The secondary features relating to the fort and its internal structures will be described below.

Despite the disturbance of the castle by a later artillery fort (below), it is possible to see sub-divisions into wards or courts for defensive reasons at both ends of the castle. At the SSW there is an outer curtain on the lower terrace that runs up to the SW gate. This may form an outer court on the terrace if the robbed wall on the higher lip of the mound at this end forms a complete inner curtain. Indeed, the footing of a wall that runs from the passage of the S entrance (NT 71322 33670) upslope NW towards the return of this inner curtain may serve to complete the circuit, but is unattached at the entrance passage, unless traces of an inner lining of the passage can be found. At the NE there is an outer court where the curtain on the NW extends beyond the large D-shaped tower and building that runs across the full breadth of the mound to form an inner defence line, creating a small triangular outer court at that end between it and the outer gate and barbican. The outer curtain on the SE of this outer court is only indicated by a raggle of a return wall on the SE of the SW end of the surviving side of the barbican. It is presumed that this wall duly turned SW at the lip of the mound to run down to the D-shaped tower. The NW wall of the barbican has been completely robbed leaving a platform that expands at the SW to form what may be a base for a turret.

The curtain walls

The primary walls of the castle are best-preserved on the SE where a curtain wall of coursed, lime-mortared, roughly-dressed masonry with pinnings, 1.8m in thickness, still stands to as much as 5m in height in places. There are at least two postern gates in the surviving masonry along this wall, one near the inner entrance on the S (NT 71336 33695), and the other just S of a slight turn in the curtain wall (NT 7136 3375). Both of these entrances are described as requiring iron gates in the 1416 survey (RCAHMS 1957, 408). Along the NW arc immediately S of the NE entrance the curtain has been reduced to a robber-trench visible as a terrace about 2m wide, or has been subsumed in the later fort rampart further S, although a break of slope at the foot of the rampart appears to mark its line. One fragment of original curtain with the same character as the SE curtain still survives on the line of the robber trench and in front of the artillery fort rampart (NT 71282 33729). It retains traces of openings that suggest it was once part of a building, possibly part of the Bell Mount of the 1547 plan, or the Douglas Tower of 1416. The curtain S of the NE entrance on the SE has also been robbed as far as the artillery fort, leaving no trace except for a break of slope. On the SSW where it runs along the edge of the lower terrace it is visible as a grass-covered footing, about 1.8m in thickness and up to 0.5m in height. This part of the curtain runs up to the W of the S gate and is overlain by a second line of curtain wall, also visible as a grass-covered bank, that runs along the back of the same terrace. The primary curtain on the NW of this lower terrace continues as a footing until the junction with the second phase of curtain at the back of the terrace from whence it is reduced to a robber trench as it extends NE until it too is overlain by the artillery fort. A large round platform some 11m in diameter is situated just outside the curtain at this junction with the second phase of curtain which the robber trench appears to cut across. This is one of five round or semi-circular platforms along the line of the NW curtain wall that may mark the location of towers. The best defined, also measuring c.11m in diameter, is situated 50m to the NE (NT 71267 33707) and cuts into the robber trench of the curtain suggesting that the tower has either been built onto an existing wall or is coeval with it. A third is situated at a turn in the NW curtain to the NE (NT 71324 33810) and there are two other platforms equally spaced along this northerly sector of the wall. In front of the SSW outer curtain, there are two interdigitated groups of three terraces, the one subrectangular immediately adjacent to the wall and the outer line, circular on plan (c.7m in diameter) and set about 1m in front of the curtain. These may indicate the location of turrets at different stages in the history of the castle. At the edge of the summit of the castle mound a terrace up to 4m in breadth marks the line of the inner curtain wall. This has been completely robbed except for the stub of a narrower wall on the SW end of the blocking wall on the SE end of artillery fort ditch (see below). This wall is 2m thick and formerly turned a sharp corner to merge with the NW curtain on the W, a junction that is no longer clear due to robbing. The site of a well that is depicted on the 1547 plan of the fort is marked by a semi-circular scar in the outer edge of the artillery fort ditch at NT 7128 3368 (see below). This is presumably the castle well, since no other is evident.

The D-shaped tower and NE entrance

At the NE end of the castle court there is a very substantial circular tower, c.14m in overall diameter, with squared ashlar walls 4m in thickness, still standing some 3.5m in height. The raggle of a wall shows that it was squared at the back and another at right angles indicates it extended to another compartment behind. The projecting D-shaped tower had a vaulted basement and must have stood several storeys in height. It is bonded to a length of curtain, 3m in thickness and 8m in length that runs from NW to SE between the tower and the edge of the castle mound where a return with the curtain may be inferred, but has been robbed. Between the tower and the NW curtain there was a space of about 5m, wide enough for a gate of which there is now no trace. The terrace at the rear of the surviving structure of the tower and curtain is 6.5m in breadth providing space for a building along the back. It is possible this is the ‘round tower towards Teviotside’ described in the 1416 survey quoted in the Inventory (RCAHMS 1957, 408). In front of this structure lies the NE outer gate in the form of a barbican, of which only the SE side remains, extending to 8m in length and standing to about 3m in height with walls 2.5m in thickness. The stop for a door is still visible at the foot of the wall on the NW side. Robber scars in front suggest that the barbican extended another 10m in front of this surviving fragment. Such is the steepness of the slope in front of the gate, it would seem that steps down would be the only practical method accessing the entrance at this end, similar to that on the motte at Sandal Castle (Butler 1991).

The S entrance

At the S corner of the castle mound there are fragments of the second entrance which comprises two thick lumps of masonry on either side of a passage. Some squared ashlar masonry survives on the NW preserving the grooved, rotational wear scar of an iron yett. The footings of the walls exceed 3.5m in thickness with a central passage 3.35m across. In effect this was a barbican enclosing a passage that led to an inner gate 33m to the NE, protecting access to the court. This latter gate survives as a return to the NW on the SW end of the SE curtain, but the wall thickness is just the same as that of the curtain, which does not indicate a heavily defended entrance at this point. The springing for the start of a barrel vault is visible here, suggesting a covered passage, but this might be from a reworking of the gate in the 16th century (see below). A break of slope that runs down towards the ditch in front the gate suggests a ramp had been constructed up to the entrance. As the ditch comes to a butt end here, no bridge would seem to have been required.

Other buildings

Only one possible building was observed within the court of the castle, lying on the inside of the NW curtain a short distance W from the round tower at the NE end. This building is visible as grass-covered, stone footings , measuring internally about 9.5m in length by 4m in breadth (NT 71368 33833). A 15m wide terrace along the inside of the SE curtain S of the D-shaped tower may be the location of buildings of which no other structural evidence remains. All other buildings are described in the context of the artillery fort, including the Captain’s Lodging of 1547 which may be a reused castle building (see below).

The great ditch

A ditch, which varies in breadth from 10m to 20m, has been cut into the base of the mound on all sides, except the SE where the steep slopes drop directly down to the bank of the River Teviot. On the NW it has been reduced by the building of a plantation dyke in the post-medieval period and further filled in to construct the public road in the late18th or early 19th centuries The up-cast from the ditch is visible as mounds at the NE end and at the NW and SE ends of the SSW arm of the ditch. At the NE end a causeway has been built across the ditch to make access easier, probably for robbing stone from the castle.

The 16th century fort

The fort comprises an enclosure extending c. 110m from NE to SW by 65m transversely, built across the middle section of the castle. The interpretation of this fort is aided by a plan made in 1547, preserved in the papers of the Earl of Rutland at Belvoir Castle and published in the Inventory (RCAHMS 1957, Fig 517).

The walls consist mainly of earthen ramparts retained by a stone wall, of which fragments survive on the NW. In places the stonework of the castle was reused, with a surviving fragment towards the SW where the Bell Mount was situated (described above), but on the SE the fort reused the castle’s curtain wall without any rampart at all, except for a mound referred to as ‘A Mownt’ on the plan near the S entrance. The earthen ramparts are up to 20m in thickness on the NE and SW, but only 13.5m on the NW, suggesting variations in height. A ditch 20m in breadth is visible externally on the SW, and this has a stone wall 3.2m in thickness and up to 3m in height across its SE end. The collapse of the rampart following the robbing of the casement walls on the NE probably accounts for the lack of any visible sign of ditch on this side. A bastion shown on the 16th century plan at the NE corner may be indicated in a change of stonework of the curtain from the earlier coursed masonry of the castle to thinner rough coursed work. The gap at this corner in the rampart may be due to the need for access to the central court of the fort in robbing the site after its abandonment. A passage through the middle of the rampart on the NW may be traced on the ground as a hollow that provides access to a turret and is indicated on the plan. Fragments of mortared masonry are evident on both sides of the passage here. The Bell Mount, shown on the plan with steps up from the SW rampart, is also the location of the highest earthwork mound on the site. A less prominent mound on the NW end of the NE rampart is also indicated on plan as the location of a turret with stairs up to it from the rampart. The only entrance is from the S, reusing the old inner gateway of the castle at that end. It is suggested that the springing of a barrel vault visible in the stonework of the surviving pillar of the entrance belongs to the fort.

Fort buildings

The various platforms aligned on the same axes as the fort walls inside the enclosure suggest that they are coeval with the fort. Indeed, the site of a long range marked on the fort plan as ‘The Store House’ immediately inside the NE rampart is indicated on the ground by a rectangular platform set into the slope on the NW, measuring 30m from NW to SE by 6m transversely. Of two platforms for ‘lodgings’ shown on the plan along the back of the NW rampart, that to the NE is indicated by a terrace. Others, including ‘the Brew House and Back House’ (ie. bake house) immediately NE of ‘the Captain’s Lodging’, are visible as earthworks on the SE. The Captains’s Lodging itself is marked by a large oblong hollow, about 24m by 12m in extent, and a gap in the curtain wall of the castle, there being no fort rampart on this side. Some stonework of the NE wall may still be traced but otherwise the robbing has been comprehensive. At the NE end of the hollow, there is a raised terrace about 5m across that marks a subdivision of the building into two unequal compartments. This does not match the plan, which shows a narrow room at the NE, a large room in the middle with a large fireplace and a smaller room with a fireplace at the SW end. The hollow suggests a basement for what was probably the most impressive of the buildings, but the features on the map are likely to be the upper floor of the building, which may well have had a basement and at least one upper floor. An oblong mound along the NW edge of the hollow is marked on the plan as a stair. The stonework of the curtain beside the building is now largely robbed but a clear butt joint is visible, indicating that the Captain's Lodging post-dates the curtain. It is possible that this is a reworked building from the castle.

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