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Tarbolton Motte

Motte And Bailey (Medieval)

Site Name Tarbolton Motte

Classification Motte And Bailey (Medieval)

Canmore ID 42730

Site Number NS42NW 3

NGR NS 43223 27364

Datum OSGB36 - NGR


Ordnance Survey licence number AC0000807262. All rights reserved.
Canmore Disclaimer. © Copyright and database right 2023.

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Digital Images

Administrative Areas

  • Council South Ayrshire
  • Parish Tarbolton
  • Former Region Strathclyde
  • Former District Kyle And Carrick
  • Former County Ayrshire

Archaeology Notes

NS42NW 3.00 4323 2734.

NS42NW 3.01 NS 431 273 Trial Excavation

(NS 4323 2734) Motte & Bailey (NR)

OS 6" map (1967)

This artifical mound, 10ft high, 25 yards wide at the base, is traditionally said to be a justice seat. It was formerly called the Mote, but now is more frequently named Hoodshill, from a schoolmaster called Hood, whose pupils played on it. It is the only common attached to the village of Tarbolton, and a bonfire is lit on it annually on the night preceeding the June Fair.

Name Book 1857; NSA 1845 (D Ritchie)

Tarbolton was the fee of Gilbert, son of Richer, in the time of Walter Stewart (about 1136-77); his origins are not known for certain.

G W S Barrow 1973

Tarbolton Motte: this is a motte with baileys to west and east. The motte, 3.4m high and 8.0m in diameter on top, is situated on the west flank of the bailey works, with a shallow ditch at its base on the east side but is unsurveyable. Beyond the mound, on the east, is the course of an outer wall with small round structures (now in the form of low, turf-covered mounds) at its ends in the north-east and southwest. The whole feature, situated on high ground which falls steeply to south and east, is now in a mutilated condition.

Visited by OS (JLD) 15 May 1954

One of the baileys seems to underlie the motte, so the complex may consist of a ring-work, a motte and a bailey.

E J Talbot Mottes MS, undated

These much denuded earthworks, on the common pasture of a prominent spur are generally as described by OS (JLD). Their complex form may indicate a sequence as suggested by Talbot but this could not be confirmed from ground evidence.

The mutilated motte, c22m in overall diameter with a level top c10.0m N-S by c8.0m E-W, is situated at the west side of a seemingly contemporaneous bailey area measuring c40m by 25m and formed by cutback scarps up to 2.0m high and steep natural slopes around the south. There is an entrance-way in the SW. This bailey must be Talbot's conjected ringwork but the motte does not appear to overlie any part of such a work.

The enclosure on the west side of the motte cannot be earlier as its perimeter bank, now spread to a scarp averaging c1.0m in height, abuts the motte on the south side. As much of this enclosure is lost on the west its significance is uncertain; it may be a secondary bailey or a later work.

The motte was certainly ditched around the east side, and the indications around the west side, which are no longer visible, suggest a onetime complete circuit overlaid by the western enclosure.

The small circular structures and connecting walls are almost certainly of later origin; the southern mound overlies the motte ditch.

Revised at 25" scale.

Visited by OS (JRL) 17 November 1980

NS 4323 2734 In August 2002 an archaeological watching brief was undertaken while two small holes were hand-excavated for the erection of street lighting within the Scheduled area at Tarbolton Motte (NS42NW 3). No archaeological deposits were noted during the course of this work. (GUARD 1274)

Sponsor: South Ayrshire Council.

L H Johnstone 2002.


Field Visit (27 May 1953)

This site was included within the RCAHMS Marginal Land Survey (1950-1962), an unpublished rescue project. Site descriptions, organised by county, are available to view online - see the searchable PDF in 'Digital Items'. These vary from short notes, to lengthy and full descriptions. Contemporary plane-table surveys and inked drawings, where available, can be viewed online in most cases - see 'Digital Images'. The original typecripts, notebooks and drawings can also be viewed in the RCAHMS search room.

Information from RCAHMS (GFG) 19 July 2013.

Field Visit (October 1985)

Tarbolton NS 4323 2734 NS42NW 3

This motte-and-bailey castle occupies a promontory on the N edge of the village of Tarbolton. The motte stands at the neck of the promontory; it is 3.2m high, its summit is 9m in diameter and around its base on the ESE there is a shallow ditch up to 3.8m broad. The promontory forms a bailey defined by artificial -scarps and steep natural slopes which measures 38m from N to S by 28m transversely. Tarbolton was held of Walter FitzAlan (d.1177) by Gilbert son of Richer de Boyville.

RCAHMS 1985, visited October 1985.

(Stat Acct, xix, 1797, 457; NSA, v, Ayr, 747-S;Smith 1895, 148-9; Barrow 1980, 176; Stell 1985a, 16).


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