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Alloa Tower

Tower House (15th Century)

Site Name Alloa Tower

Classification Tower House (15th Century)

Canmore ID 47167

Site Number NS89SE 1

NGR NS 88893 92518

Datum OSGB36 - NGR


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

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

Archaeology Notes

NS89SE 1 88893 92518

(NS 8889 9252) Alloa Tower (NR).

OS 6" map (1958)

A massive and lofty tower of probably the 15th century which has been greatly altered, externally and internally. A large number of symmetrically-placed windows were opened out in the 17th century and the entrance in the centre of the north front is now covered by a Renaissance doorway, hardly earlier than the late 18th century.

N Tranter 1963; RCAHMS 1933

As described and planned.

Visited by OS (DWR) 8 February 1973

Continuing restoration work at Alloa Tower uncovered a well head withiun a mural chamber at first floor level. The well and chamber has been blocked up when the tower was remodelled by the Sixth Earl of Mar. Excavation of the rubble fill showed that the shaft is in excellent condition,more than 7m deep, cut about 1.0m into bed rock at the bottom. It is hoped to incorporate this feature in the restoration.

A Bailey 1991.

NS 889 9252 A comprehensive survey was made of the interior of the multi-period tower house at Alloa, in advance of refurbishment for its use as an interpretative centre. The development of the tower, from its initial foundation, through hall and tower house forms, was elucidated. Previous excavation had revealed traces of the 18th-century mansion, and the survey of the standing building revealed features linked with the use of the tower as an annexe to the mansion. The mansion was destroyed by fire in 1800, and today only the tower house remains. The survey revealed the following sequence of construction and development:

Period I Early 14th century - fortified residence with cellar/pit prison: form unknown.

Period II Mid-14th century - hall house: three levels plus cellar/pit prison, first floor access.

Period III 15th century - developed hall house: four/ five levels plus cellar/pit prison, first floor access.

Period IV Late 15th century - tower house A: five levels plus cellar/pit prison, first floor access.

Period V Late 16th century -tower house B: five levels plus cellar/pit prison, probably ground and first floor access.

Period VI 1710-1800 - annexe to 18th-century mansion.

Period VII 1800-1838 - partial reoccupation while new mansion is built.

The most radical remodelling dates to the early 18th century, when the 8th Earl of Mar prepared a series of plans for the redevelopment of the tower?s interior, alongside the construction of the massive, elaborate mansion house. These included plans for a chapel at ground floor level, and a roof-garden. The survey revealed traces of some of the 8th Earl?s developments, although it is by no means clear that all the proposed changes were carried out.

The developments at Alloa Tower represent the changing role of the castle from a stronghold (as part of a defensive line along the N banks of the Forth - Clackmannan Tower, visible from Alloa, also forms part of this defensive line), to its role as an 18th-century mansion house, at the centre of an extensive designed landscape. Little evidence of the latter remains, although it is to be hoped that the opening of the tower as an interpretative centre will allow for the placement of the building in its wider, historical context.

A full report has been deposited with the NMRS.

Sponsors: Alloa Tower Building Preservation Trust, NTS.

G Ewart 1996

Architecture Notes

NS89SE 1 88893 92518

See also NS89SE 74.00 Alloa House

REFERENCE - Scottish Record Office

Repairs to the roofs of the Great Hall and the Chapel at the Castle. Letter from Col. John Erskine at Alloa to the Earl of Mar.

'I expect to get payment of your precept for the 300 [pounds] for the reparation of the Castle sometime this month so be pleased to let me have your orders about it ... The roof of the Great Hall and the Chapel will be ruined this winter if they are not mended this summer. They are good roofs and a great pity they should fall.'

1707 GD 124/15/567

Repair of Mason Work at Alloa Tower.

Ledger 1867 GD 124/17/350/33/Page 31

Repairs and alterations on Alloa Tower.

Payment for 11 new windows and for improvement of the Stair and for plasterwork.

1867 Ledger 1868 GD 124/17/350/33/Page 181

Alterations and repairs to Alloa Tower.

Letter to the Earl of Kellie from John Melvin, Architect. He will send a probably estimate for the work.

1867 GD 124/15/1815/2

Arching over the stream at Alloa Tower.

Payment of 11.5.0 [pounds] to John Melvin, Architect, for Plans, Specifications and Superintendence.

Ledger 1867 GD 125/17/350/33/Page 31

Reference - Scottish National Portrait Gallery

National Art Survey of Scotland - 2 sheets (84 & 85) (See also T T S copies)

NMRS Print Room

Rev John Sime Collection Acc No 1993/144

Written on a note amongst other items '1806 May October

23 pages long 13 Do broad

89 feet high walls 11 feet thick'

Filed under Castle Campbell, Ce/Cl


Publication Account (1983)

Alloa Tower is probably of late fifteenth-century date and has been greatly altered externally and internally. The structure contains four storeys and an attic floor with several symmetrically placed windows of a seventeenth century date. A Renaissance style doorway dating only from the late eighteenth century, is located at the north front.

Information from Scottish Burgh Survey, ‘Historic Alloa: The Archaeological Implications of Development’ (1983).

Publication Account (2007)

In 1710 George Sorocold, a hydraulic and mining engineer from Derby, was commissioned by the 6th Earl of Mar to advise on the drainage of his coal mines at Sauchie north of Alloa. Sorocold recommended that the reservoir with its earth embankment which had been rebuilt by the Earl as early as 1694, now known as Gartmorn Dam (NS99SW 90.3), and which was fed with water from a small burn, should have its power capacity increased by means of a substantial additional feeder from Forest Mill on the River Black Devon about two miles to the east.

A lade from the west end of the reservoir supplied water for a waterwheel which drove the pumps at the mines and, later, a colliery winding engine. Downstream the water was again used by various mills and gave Alloa a degree of industrial prominence such that by 1791 there were four mills grinding wheat, barley, oats and rye. The water finally featured in the Earl’s pleasure grounds around Alloa Tower near the Forth before being dammed again to provide a scour, via a stone flume, to clear the former harbour of silt.

R Paxton and J Shipway 2007

Reproduced from 'Civil Engineering heritage: Scotland - Lowlands and Borders' with kind permission from Thomas Telford Publishers.


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