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Ardclach Bell Tower

Bell Tower (17th Century)

Site Name Ardclach Bell Tower

Classification Bell Tower (17th Century)

Canmore ID 15482

Site Number NH94NE 1

NGR NH 95381 45334

Datum OSGB36 - NGR

Permalink http://canmore.org.uk/site/15482

Ordnance Survey licence number 100057073. All rights reserved.
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Digital Images

Administrative Areas

  • Council Highland
  • Parish Ardclach
  • Former Region Highland
  • Former District Nairn
  • Former County Nairn

Archaeology Notes

NH94NE 1 95381 45334.

(NH 9538 4533) Belfry (NAT).

OS 6" map, (1960)

A detached tower, two storeys high and gabled, with a chimney on one gable and a belfry on the other. It is 14' square and bears the date 1655.

Built in restless country, its primary function was that of watch tower and local prison. When the parish kirk was built in a hollow below the knoll (NH94NE 3: Built 1626 rebuilt 1762), permission was obtained to erect the kirk belfry on the tower. (G Hay 1932)

Ritchie maintains that the tower was built 'long before' 1655, in which case that might be the date of the addition of the belfry. It is said to have been last used as a prison in 1676.

J B Ritchie 1932; D MacGibbon and T Ross 1892; G Hay 1957.

Harled and well-maintained, the tower is locally known and sign-posted as 'Ardclach Bell tower'.

Visited by OS (R D) 23 August 1965.

Activities

Publication Account (1995)

The tower is set on a hillock reached bya long flight of steps. It is like a tiny square keep only two storeys high, with a chimney in one gable and a belfry on the other. In the south gable is a stone dated 1655. The ground-floor room is stone vaulted with a tiny door and no windows (a torch is useful); there may have been a latrine under the stone stairs. Upstairs is a single room with tiny windows facing east and west and three shot-holes.Over the fireplace is a stone with the initials MGB. There may have been another latrine in the corner over the stair. The timber of the roof has been restored but the slates and stone coping are old.

It seems that the tower was built as a combined prison (downstairs) and watchtower (upstairs) after a period of considerable unrest during the wars between Royalists and Covenanters. The tower was on the estate of Alexander Brodie of Lethen, a Covenanter, whose house was attacked at least four times, once by Montrose, and twice plundered. The initials MGB may stand for Margaret Grant Brodie, his second wife. The battle of Auldearn took place not far away (see no. 32).

Since the parish church stood down below in the deep ravine of the river Findhorn, a belfry was incorporated in the tower to take the church bell. The church, rebuilt in 1832, is now disused. Detached belfries are unusual, but two still exist at Latheron, Caithness and Clyne, Sutherland. These were built solely as bell towers and are quite different to Ardclach.

Information from ‘Exploring Scotland’s Heritage: The Highlands’, (1995).

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