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Castle Of Wardhouse

Chapel (Medieval), Enclosure (Medieval), Moated Site (Medieval)

Site Name Castle Of Wardhouse

Classification Chapel (Medieval), Enclosure (Medieval), Moated Site (Medieval)

Alternative Name(s) Wardhouse Castle; Wardes Castle; Mansion House Of Wardhouse; Weredors

Canmore ID 17628

Site Number NJ52NE 22

NGR NJ 5930 2888

Datum OSGB36 - NGR

Permalink http://canmore.org.uk/site/17628

Ordnance Survey licence number 100057073. All rights reserved.
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Administrative Areas

  • Council Aberdeenshire
  • Parish Insch
  • Former Region Grampian
  • Former District Gordon
  • Former County Aberdeenshire

Archaeology Notes

NJ52NE 22 5930 2888.

NJ52NE 200 59183 28890 The Shevock, Bridge

(NJ 5930 2888) Castle of Wardhouse (NR) (Site of)

OS 6" map (1959)

A roughly oval homestead moat, 176 feet by 140 feet, enclosed by a ditch 60 feet wide with an outer rampart, both obliterated on the east side. In the 13th century it was the residence of Sir Bartholomew the Fleming and was then called 'Weredors'. About 1790 the castle was in ruins. It had been a very tall building proportionate to its plan with very thick walls pierced by a few slit windows. The building, whose lower storey was arched, was entered by a drawbridge. A house built beside the castle in the early 18th century was also ruinous. Both buildings were removed shortly before 1842, according to the NSA (1845), but the Ordnance Survey Name Book (ONB, 1866) states that Wardhouse (NJ 563 307) was built with the stones in 1757. A small pack-horse bridge, contemporary with the later castle, spans the Shevalk Burn. It is 12 1/2 feet wide with a span of 10 feet.

W D Simpson 1935; J Davidson 1878; New Statistical Account (NSA) 1845; Name Book 1866.

All that remains of the Castle of Wardhouse is a dry ditch and outer rampart, now spread by cultivation, which, together with the natural slopes to the E, enclose a level area 60.0m N-S by 32.0m E-W. There are no traces of any structures within the area enclosed. Pack-horse bridge is as described, and situated at NJ 5918 2889.

Resurveyed at 1/2500.

Visited by OS (NKB) 26 September 1967.

Aerial photographs show an outer series of earth works, possibly connected to the top by a drainage gully, and forming a lower ward to the NE. Surrounding dykes have been formed with stone taken from the summit. The earliest reference to the castle is in the 1220s.

P Yeoman 1987.

Rescue excavation of four areas within this moated site was carried out in advance of serious plough erosion. The scarped natural platform is sub-rectangular in plan and no more than 3m in height. The defences were found to consist of three concentric rings of ditches with two ploughed-out counterscarp banks or ramparts.

Area I ran up the slope from the inner ditch to the N summit lip. The ditch was steeply V-cut through granite, 7m wide by 2.4m deep. This was backed to S by the inner rampart base which was originally 4.5m wide. A sub-rectangular stone lined pit was found against the rampart back.

This measured 1.7m wide by 1.4m deep; it had been a storage pit, backfilled with midden material containing c 120 sherds of medieval pottery including fragments of a knight's jug. S of the pit was a 3m square area of large worn cobbles including a recessed drain. This was seen as the surviving part of a late medieval courtyard which may have covered most of the interior. This small area alone survived as it had not been ploughed.

Area II was in the middle of the platform, where later stone buildings were anticipated. All that had survived the plough were the bases of deeply cut post holes, which had formed part of at least two large timber buildings. Approximately 0.30m has been lost off the crown of the moated platform. Area III was located on the SW side of the mound, and provided a 30m long transect through the multiple defensive lines and into the castle interior. The 5m wide outer ditch here appeared to be secondary as it was cut through the collapsed turf facing of the mid rampart. This bank base was 7.6m wide, and late on in the sequence had been cut by the narrow mid ditch (possible palisade trench). The inner ditch was 8.9m wide by 2.1m deep with a V-shaped profile. Slight evidence of a recut was found on the inner side. A two phase rampart base, 8.6m wide, was found inside the inner ditch. Both ramparts sealed old ground surfaces with a maximum thickness of 0.20m, and these exhibited signs of extensive prehistoric cultivation and/or occupation. Features inside the inner rampart were well preserved, and a rampart terminal was revealed containing stone and timber structural features which may have been part of an entrance tower. No trace of a later medieval curtain wall was found, and it seems likely that the earthwork defences were maintained into the 17th century when the castle was finally abandoned.

Area IV was located at the base of the naturally well defended E side of the mound. Waterlogging was anticipated here and the sole aim was the recovery of environmental samples. A 2m thick layer of peat was exposed 1m below ground level, sealing a very deep layer of waterlogged sandy soil. Individual fragments of wood were recovered along with a sample of what may be matted pine needles, resembling a forest floor. No evidence of the documented chapel was found, although a discovery in a nearby dyke raised the likelihood of its existence. The top part of a 17th century tombstone was discovered, which lacking any other nearby source could only have come from the castle chapel, which may have ended its life as a family burial ground.

The bridge at NJ 5918 2889 may be 17th century in date and reflects the location of the ancient approach road to the castle. An experimental Subsurface interface Radar survey was carried out with sponsorship from Oceanfix Ltd, Aberdeen. This technique provided a series of vertical slices through the NW part of the site, and displayed detailed information of buried structures, ditch cuts and individual fills.

P Yeoman 1988.

GRC/AAS air photograph: AAS/81/12/S12/37A.

NMRS, MS/712/52.

All that can now be seen of this medieval moated site, which has been heavily degraded by ploughing, is a largely natural oval mound, measuring about 60m from NW to SE by 30m transversely, enclosed by a ditch reduced to little more than a terrace on the slope. The NE flank of the mound appears to have retained its natural profile, but elsewhere the slopes have been scarped and cropmarks have revealed the ditches of an outer line of defence. The moated site is best seen under oblique sunshine, when the scarp of the central mound and the terrace of the innermost ditch can be seen to good effect; there are no visible traces of the outer defences, but they were located by excavation.

Visited by RCAHMS (JRS, IF), 2 April 1996.

P Yeoman 1998.

[reclassified Moated Site]

Activities

Excavation (August 1988 - September 1988)

Rescue excavation of four areas within this moated site was carried out in advance of serious plough erosion. The scarped natural platform is sub-rectangular in plan and no more than 3m in height. The defences were found to consist of three concentric rings of ditches with two ploughed-out counterscarp banks or ramparts.

Area I ran up the slope from the inner ditch to the N summit lip. The ditch was steeply V-cut through granite, 7m wide by 2.4m deep. This was backed to S by the inner rampart base which was originally 4.5m wide. A sub-rectangular stone lined pit was found against the rampart back.

This measured 1.7m wide by 1.4m deep; it had been a storage pit, backfilled with midden material containing c 120 sherds of medieval pottery including fragments of a knight's jug. S of the pit was a 3m square area of large worn cobbles including a recessed drain. This was seen as the surviving part of a late medieval courtyard which may have covered most of the interior. This small area alone survived as it had not been ploughed.

Area II was in the middle of the platform, where later stone buildings were anticipated. All that had survived the plough were the bases of deeply cut post holes, which had formed part of at least two large timber buildings. Approximately 0.30m has been lost off the crown of the moated platform. Area III was located on the SW side of the mound, and provided a 30m long transect through the multiple defensive lines and into the castle interior. The 5m wide outer ditch here appeared to be secondary as it was cut through the collapsed turf facing of the mid rampart. This bank base was 7.6m wide, and late on in the sequence had been cut by the narrow mid ditch (possible palisade trench). The inner ditch was 8.9m wide by 2.1m deep with a V-shaped profile. Slight evidence of a recut was found on the inner side. A two phase rampart base, 8.6m wide, was found inside the inner ditch. Both ramparts sealed old ground surfaces with a maximum thickness of 0.20m, and these exhibited signs of extensive prehistoric cultivation and/or occupation. Features inside the inner rampart were well preserved, and a rampart terminal was revealed containing stone and timber structural features which may have been part of an entrance tower. No trace of a later medieval curtain wall was found, and it seems likely that the earthwork defences were maintained into the 17th century when the castle was finally abandoned.

Area IV was located at the base of the naturally well defended E side of the mound. Waterlogging was anticipated here and the sole aim was the recovery of environmental samples. A 2m thick layer of peat was exposed 1m below ground level, sealing a very deep layer of waterlogged sandy soil. Individual fragments of wood were recovered along with a sample of what may be matted pine needles, resembling a forest floor. No evidence of the documented chapel was found, although a discovery in a nearby dyke raised the likelihood of its existence. The top part of a 17th century tombstone was discovered, which lacking any other nearby source could only have come from the castle chapel, which may have ended its life as a family burial ground.

The bridge at NJ 5918 2889 may be 17th century in date and reflects the location of the ancient approach road to the castle. An experimental Subsurface interface Radar survey was carried out with sponsorship from Oceanfix Ltd, Aberdeen. This technique provided a series of vertical slices through the NW part of the site, and displayed detailed information of buried structures, ditch cuts and individual fills.

P Yeoman 1988.

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