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Sauchie Tower

Tower House (Medieval)

Site Name Sauchie Tower

Classification Tower House (Medieval)

Alternative Name(s) Devon Tower

Canmore ID 47053

Site Number NS89NE 1

NGR NS 89624 95709

Datum OSGB36 - NGR

Permalink http://canmore.org.uk/site/47053

Ordnance Survey licence number 100057073. All rights reserved.
Canmore Disclaimer. © Copyright and database right 2018.

Digital Images

Administrative Areas

  • Council Clackmannan
  • Parish Alloa
  • Former Region Central
  • Former District Clackmannan
  • Former County Clackmannanshire

Archaeology Notes

NS89NE 1 89624 95709

(NS 8960 9572) Sauchie Tower (NR).

OS 6" map (1958)

An almost square tower of 15th century construction within a ruined courtyard in which a 17th century house and later buildings have been erected. The keep, substantial and exceptionally well constructed of good ashlar, is virtually unaltered and complete except that the second and third floors have fallen in.

N Tranter 1963; RCAHMS 1933; The Scotsman, 22 December 1982

The tower is in good condition but the interior is full of refuse and rather overgrown. The modern eastern and western extensions are no longer visible. They, together with the 17th century house mentioned by RCAHMS, were demolished between 1933 and 1937.

Visited by OS (FDC) 5 July 1950.

Architecture Notes

Non-Guardianship Sites Plan Collection, DC28579, 1934.

For related house, now demolished, see NS89NE 120

Activities

Excavation (September 1999)

NS 896 957 Two exploratory trenches were dug to allow structural inspection of the tower founds in September 1999.

Trench 1 (3 x 1m) against the E wall revealed the tower foundation structure against which was constructed a stone-lined drain. Finds from deposits overlying the drain suggested that, if original, it had been reconditioned in the 18th century. The drain apparently connected to a system revealed on the N side of the tower in excavations in 1985.

Trench 2 (1 x 3m) against the N wall foot of the tower revealed a succession of surfaces and structural remains associated with 18th and 19th-century lean-to structures built against the tower wall. These overlay a well-preserved cobbled surface, also identified further E in 1985, that can perhaps be ascribed to the 16th or 17th century.

An assessment of the evidence of the original roof form of the tower was made during conservation work in July 2000.

Sponsor: Clackmannanshire Heritage Trust.

T Addyman 2000

Excavation

NS89NE 120 NS 896 957

A community excavation was undertaken between March and September 2005 in association with the Friends of

Sauchie Tower, the ultimate intention being to consolidate and interpret the site, repair the tower and make it publicly accessible. Following clearance of extensive undergrowth, topographic survey was extended over the core area of the site and beyond to the W, N and E. This clearly recorded the defensive ditch running along the W side of the ruins, and the extent of an artificial terraced platform along the N side of the site.

Six evaluation trenches were located across the site in order to determine archaeologically significant levels. General excavation encompassed the area along the N side of the tower, extending westwards to Old Sauchie House (NS89NE 120), and southwards (along the W side of Sauchie Tower; NS89NE 1). The S chamber and much of the N chamber of the N-S aligned Old Sauchie House were cleared of collapse (demolition debris of c 1930) down to floor level. The standing walls of the ruined structure were also cleaned and the whole recorded.

In the latter stages of excavation a number of individual sondages were excavated to address specific questions; these included more major trenches - to further define the N boundary of the defended site, and to examine the defensive ditch and the junction of the W wall of Old Sauchie House with a round tower at its NW corner.

Early to mid-15th century.

The N and W limits of the defended area of the site were confirmed. To the N, the footings of a masonry enclosure wall were identified at four points and found to be most likely coeval with the surviving W wall of Old Sauchie House. The main area of ground along the N side of the excavation area revealed the remains of a continuous E-W range that had

evidently formed the N side of a courtyarded enclosure. From W to E this contained a probable chamber (now mostly subsumed by the later Old Sauchie House), a great hall (opposed to the laird's hall within the tower), a kitchen and a probable bakehouse, the latter immediately N of the tower.

The hall was defined to the E and W by the remains of internal cross-walls. Its high end to the W had been impacted by numerous later constructions and services, and remains to be excavated more fully. Further E, the impressions of a finely laid polished sandstone floor were revealed throughout, with occasional areas of actual paving in situ. Central to the hall area was a probable open hearth.

To the SE the threshold survived of an entrance off the courtyard; this led to an angled step down to the interior. There were indications that there had been a N-S screen at the E end of the hall - post-holes corresponding to a change in the layout of the paving.

The kitchen at the E end of the hall was identified on the basis of a single remaining jamb of a very broad arched fireplace in the W wall, and the extensive scorching of the paved area within. The kitchen was entered off the courtyard from the SW, where a threshold remained. A presumed entrance between the kitchen and the low end of the hall no longer survived. On the N side of the tower, the range was found to have extended further eastwards beyond the limit of excavation. Within the excavated area, the rectangular masonry base of a probable bake-oven was exposed (partly overlain by a circular successor).

To the S of the hall range a large area of courtyard cobbling was exposed; this incorporated a system of open drains that extended to the NE, into a small cobbled court between the bakehouse and the tower.

While Sauchie Tower itself appears to have been the first construction evident on the site, it is suggested that the surrounding courtyard complex is broadly coeval (thus early to mid-15th century), in spite of the fact that there are no apparent tie-ins to the fabric of the tower. The fortified enclosure had clearly extended further to the S (where a modern road now lies) and perhaps just beyond into the grassed area beyond. Topography in this area suggests the possibility

that a further ditch may bound the site in that direction. It is possible that the original entrance to the enclosure lay to the W.

Later 15th century.

Alterations to the defensive enclosure wall included the insertion of dumb-bell gun-loops into the W perimeter wall, and the addition of the NW angle tower at the same time. The latter had a projecting plinth and was provided with similar loops of slightly smaller size (suggesting lesser guns to provide raking fire along the W frontage). These details indicate a date towards the end of the 15th century.

Later 16th century. A probable later 16th-century alteration was the erection of a 'baffle' wall at the NE corner of the cobbled courtyard to screen the entrances to the kitchen and bakehouse areas.

17th century.

Old Sauchie House was erected c 1631 against the W and NW parts of the pre-existing perimeter wall. Its lower level was vaulted, a form of construction that necessitated the part infilling of the NW angle tower: the remainder of the tower was formed into a small vaulted side chamber. The original chamber at the W end of the hall range was removed and this area formed into a kitchen with broad arched fireplace to the E; the latter may have re-used arch stones from the earlier hall range kitchen. Records of the facade of the structure clearly show a symmetrically arranged E-facing

courtyard frontage that is offset to the S within the elevation; this provides evidence that the hall range remained standing at the time of its erection.

In the original kitchen area, the fireplace arch to the W was dismantled and a masonry-lined sunken-floored structure erected. This had seen subsequent re-use and its original function remains unclear.

Early 18th century.

An extensive demolition deposit overlay the remains of the hall, courtyard and structures on the N side of the tower. Bottle glass, tobacco pipes, tin-glazed earthenwares and late lead-glazed greywares suggest that demolition had occurred at the beginning of the 18th century.

Demolition involved the removal of much of the original N range, the erection of a low terrace wall on the founds of the N range N wall, and the formation of the existing garden terrace on its N side (perhaps a re-use of an existing feature). The base of the sunkenfloored structure within the area of the original kitchen was re-lined with brickwork and evidently extended, with a new lower entrance to the E and stairs to an upper level to the W. This structure, which was located at the E end of the new terrace wall, was interpreted as a raised summerhouse or pavilion that may have provided an

elevated prospect over the lower garden terrace and N to the Ochil Hills.

A stables or byre was erected against the N wall of Sauchie Tower, and it is possible that at about this time a porch was added to the W entrance of the tower.

Later 18th and 19th centuries.

Subsequent occupation saw a continuing decline in status, with the sub-division of Old Sauchie House into three tenanted dwellings, with associated stair towers and separate entrances, and the eventual abandonment of Sauchie

Tower itself. Numerous minor structures and services recorded within the courtyard area date to this time. A small masonry lean-to structure was erected against the NW corner of the tower; this was found to incorporate numerous curved dressed stones deriving from the tower bartizans.

The site was finally abandoned following purchase by the Coal Board in c 1930, and Old Sauchie House was largely demolished shortly thereafter.

Archive to be deposited in NMRS.

Sponsors: HLF, Clackmannanshire Heritage Trust.

T Addyman 2005

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