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Edzell, Castle Hillock

Motte And Bailey (Medieval)

Site Name Edzell, Castle Hillock

Classification Motte And Bailey (Medieval)

Canmore ID 34998

Site Number NO56NE 9

NGR NO 58372 68765

Datum OSGB36 - NGR


Ordnance Survey licence number AC0000807262. All rights reserved.
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Administrative Areas

  • Council Angus
  • Parish Edzell
  • Former Region Tayside
  • Former District Angus
  • Former County Angus

Archaeology Notes

NO56NE 9.00 5835 6876

(NO 5837 6876) Castle Hillock (NR).

OS 6" map, (1959).

(NO 5834 6873) Moat (NR).

(NO 5835 6881) The Pit (NR). (Site of).

OS 25" map, (1928).

NO56NE 9.01 NO 583 687 Trial Excavations

A motte of elongated trapezoidal form, whose longer axis lies WNW - ESE and whose summit area measures about 125' long by 52' across its eastern or broader end.

Round the motte are distinct traces of an entrenched bailey measuring about 300' in length and 200' in greatest breadth. On the north this bailey finds a natural boundary in a deep ravine, but on the east and south the boundary is formed by a ditch, now almost filled up, but apparently about 30' in average breadth. No trace of foundations of any kind appears either on the motte or within the area of the bailey, but vaulted chambers are said to have been removed in the late 18th century. According to Simpson the site was not abandoned until the 16th century tower of Edzell Castle (NO56NE 8) was built. The site of 'The Pit' as pointed out by the keeper of Edzell Castle c 1860 'is in a very wet place in the Moat...and is partly enclosed by a paling...but is barely traceable and except that the place is more marshy than the rest, there is nothing remarkable about it.' (Name Book c 1860). According to Jervise this was 'the fatal pit of the ancient lords' but it does not apppear to fit Mackie's definition of the 'pit' as being a private prison for minor offenders. NSA mentions 'a small lake which was employed when drowning was the order of the day.' This description seems to fit the site more easily.

NSA 1845; A Jervise 1853; O S Name Book; W D Simpson 1931; W D Simpson 1952.

The motte, c 4.0m high, is natural but has probably been artificially levelled. The ravine on the north is an old course of the West Water, still marshy. The moat is only faintly traceable on the south side as a shallow depression in pasture - c 10.0m wide and c 0.6m deep. It has been entirely obliterated on the west and partially on the east./The bailey takes the form of a low terrace. There is no trace of 'The Pit'.

Visited by OS (JLD) 14 July 1958.

Castle Hillock - a ploughed down motte and bailey scarped from a natural knoll, generally as described by Simpson and OS Field Surveyor (JLD). The ditch is still traceable in the S but it is mostly obliterated in the E by a farm track and totally destroyed in the W. In the SW for about 40.0m there is a counter-scarp to the inner edge of the ditch, which may be original, indicating that there were two ditches with an intermediary bank for at least part of the periphery. At the E end of the motte a terrace has been set into the slope which is probably a salient protecting the SE approach and probably of secondary construction.

Resurveyed at 1/2500.

Visited by OS (ISS) 18 August 1971.


Note (1984)

Edzell NO 583 687 NO56NE 9

This motte has been formed from an elongated natural mound and its level top measures 39m from WNW to ESE by up to 14m transversely. The defences at the foot of the mound have been severely reduced by later agriculture, but on the N it is protected by a former river course and on the S there are traces of what may be two ditches.

RCAHMS 1984.

(Jervise 1882, 7; Simpson 1931, 119-20).

Field Visit (27 September 1989)

This motte is situated on the NE side of the road, opposite old Edzell Parish Church (NO56NE 7) and graveyard and SSW of Edzell Castle (NO56NE 8). It comprises an oval knoll, whose top measures 45m from NW to SE by 16m transversely and is 5m in height, with a terrace at either end. The NE and SW sides are considerably steeper than those on the NW and SE and the NW side of the knoll appears to have been degraded, perhaps during an episode of cultivation. The SE terrace measures 14m NW to SE by 8.5m and appears to have been scarped into the knoll. There may be an entrance-way running away to the SE from this terrace. The NW terrace measures 28m from NW to SE by 26m and extends round to the N, tapering out about half way along the knoll. On the S a spread bank runs along the base of the knoll, and immediately outside it there is a hollow 8m wide, which may be an old river (West Water) channel incorporated into the motte defences. The bailey described by earlier authorities is no longer discernible.

Visited by RCAHMS (DCC), 27 September 1989.


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