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Falside Castle

Dovecot (Period Unassigned), House (17th Century), Tower House (Medieval)

Site Name Falside Castle

Classification Dovecot (Period Unassigned), House (17th Century), Tower House (Medieval)

Alternative Name(s) Fawside Castle; Fa'side

Canmore ID 53666

Site Number NT37SE 25

NGR NT 37769 70978

Datum OSGB36 - NGR


Ordnance Survey licence number 100057073. All rights reserved.
Canmore Disclaimer. © Copyright and database right 2020.

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Administrative Areas

  • Council East Lothian
  • Parish Tranent
  • Former Region Lothian
  • Former District East Lothian
  • Former County East Lothian

Archaeology Notes

NT37SE 25 3777 7098


(NT 3777 7096) Falside Castle (NR) (remains of)

OS 1:10000 map (1973)

Though long ruinous, Falside Castle survives in its main features. Formerly enclosed within a courtyard, it originally consisted of a tall, fairly plain, 15th century tower, containing four main storeys, of which the topmost was vaulted. After the Battle of Pinkie (1547), in which it suffered greatly, it was enlarged by the addition of a 16th century addition to the S, of similar size and height, but L-shaped. This wing has a stair-turret in the re-entrant angle and typical corner turrets corbelled out at the two southern angles.

Remains of later outbuildings abut the courtyard wall. The ruin of an L-shaped, 17th century house may be seen at the SE angle.

Tranter, calling this 'Fawside Castle' though all other authorities give the OS spelling, states that it was under threat of demolition, but a committee has been set up to preserve it.

RCAHMS 1924, visited 1920; D MacGibbon and T Ross 1887; N Tranter 1970


Now restored and occupied.

N Tranter 1990

Architecture Notes

NT37SE 25 3777 7098


Non Guardianship Sites Plan Collection, DC/23675 to DC/23676, 1925.


Field Visit (3 May 1920)

On the summit of the fertile upland which runs at an altitude of four to five hundred feet above sea-level from the Moorfoots northward to the sea at Prestonpans about 2 miles south-west of Tranent, is the ruin of Falside Castle represented by Patten (4) as ‘a sory castell’ and ‘a little castel or pile,’ a summary description in no way warranted by the present remains, which are those of a 15th century tower, to which, in the 16th century, and apparently prior to the burning and destruction related by the diarist, a large addition was made, doubling the previous accommodation (fig. 165).

The 15th century tower is the northern portion of the structure and is oblong on plan; it measures externally 30 ½ feet from north to south by 39 1/3 feet from east to west. The walls stand to a height of rather less than 40 feet and are of light coloured freestone rubble in parts roughly coursed. They are built in long stones averaging 2 feet by 10 inches high, but the lower courses of the north wall are cubical, averaging 1 ¾ feet on face, and are built in a purplish freestone, which is also employed for the dressings and the majority of the quoins; these are alternately long and short. Oyster shell pinning is noted throughout the structure. The voids, which have a broad chamfer on jambs and lintel, are filled in throughout the lower stages of the building, so that access to the interior is now unobtainable. Several windows were altered in the 17th century. These have backset margins slightly chamfered at jambs and lintel. The description and illustration given in the Castellated and Domestic Architecture of Scotland i., p. 410 shows that the tower contained four storeys beneath the wall head, which was surmounted by a parapet walk; the uppermost storey only was vaulted, and this vault still appears to be entire but is covered with vegetation. The entrance to the tower was in the north wall at ground level through a doorway with a semicircular head, which admitted to a lobby in the thickness of the wall, off which was entered the basement floor, and to a straight mural staircase ascending to the first floor; beneath the stair landing prison or pit is contrived, the only access to which was a hatch. Above the first floor level the stair is carried upward as a turnpike. The second floor appears to have been the principal apartment and contains two mural chambers, while one of the windows is seated.

The addition, which is L-shaped, projects southward for a distance of 41 feet, and its greatest width is that of the tower, 39 1/3 feet. The walls are of grey freestone rubble uncoursed. The voids have polished dressings, which are moulded at jambs and lintel with the quirked edge roll. Relieving arches, which are a constructive feature of the period, occur over every window in the addition. Several of the upper windows retain the original iron gratings; and these are constructed on the same principle as the iron gates of the period. At the two southern angles are ruinous turrets, of ashlar, borne on continuous corbel courses of six members. Between the turrets appears water spout wrought in convolutions. There-entering angle houses a projection angular at base and circled above to contain a turnpike providing communication between the second and upper floors. The angle of the adjoining west wall is splayed beneath a corbelling to permit a clear outlook to the westward.

The entrance to the later portion was in the west wall at ground level, and above the entrance can be traced the panel mould which formerly bordered an armorial panel. This entrance opened on a fair-sized vestibule, which communicated with a large kitchen on the east, with the old tower through an access formed in its south wall and with a mural staircase adjoining; this staircase ascended from the ground to the first floor, and from this level the ascent was continued by the turnpike. The basement floor is vaulted; the upper floors, of which there were two between vault and wellhead, were constructed of timber, as was thereof. There was no parapet walk on the later portion, but there was certainly a garret within the roof, as is evidenced by the gable windows, which possibly were supplemented by dormers in the lateral walls. The kitchen has a large fireplace and oven in its north wall, with lockers in the jambs, and a second and smaller fireplace in the south gable; the east wall has two sinks with slop outlets, while the west wall has an inlet for water similar to that noted at Markle (No. 145). The partition between the kitchen and vestibule is pierced by a service hatch. The upper floors call for no special mention.

The castle has been enclosed by a wall, against which, on the west, are remains of later outbuildings. The close appears to have been entered at the south-eastern angle, where is seen the ruin of a 17th century dwelling. This structure was two storeys and an attic in height, L-shaped on plan, and measured 41 feet from north to south by 45 feet from east to west; the re-entering angle contained a little rectangular tower housing a turnpike. The masonry is freestone rubble and has been harled externally; the floors and roof were of timber. It is stated* that there was a dormer window on the building which bore the dateI6I8 and initials I.F. I.L. (James Fawside and his wife Janet Lawson: cf. Reg. P.C. xii., p. 387).

Falside was the home of the Fawside family. The arms of Sir John Fawside are represented on a panel in Tranent Church (No. I90). These are: a fess between three roundels (bezants). The building is in bad preservation.

HISTORICAL NOTE. The grant of Tranent Church by Thor to Holyrood c. 1150 is witnessed by, among others Ædmundo de Fazeside. Robert del Fausyde is on Ragman Roll. In 1307-8 ‘John of the hill of Fausyde’ was a prisoner in Scarborough Castle (1). Under English occupation the lands of Falside were possessed by the family of la Zouch or Souche and on their forfeiture were transferred to Alexander Seton, being part of his barony of Tranent (2). In 1371 William de Seton gave a new charter of Wester Fausyde to John of Fausyde, his armour-bearer, the predecessors of the grantee having held them from the ancestors of the granter; the redden do was a pound of pepper or two shillings sterling, if asked for, to be given on the ground (supersolum) of Fawsyde (3). No dwelling house is mentioned; but in Somerset's Expedition of 1544 the ‘little castel or pile’ on ‘Fauxsyde Bray’ shared in the battle of Pinkie, its occupants shooting at any English soldiers that came near with their dozen or so ‘hand gunnes and hakbutes’, till the battle was lost, when ‘they pluct in ther peces, lyke a doghis taile, and couched them-selfes within all muet; but by and by the hous was set on fyre, and they, for their good will, brent and smoothered within’ (4). Some time soon after 1631 Robert Fawside sold the estate to an Edinburgh merchant named Hamilton (5).

* Cast. & Dom. Arch. i, p. 413.

RCAHMS 1924, visited 3 May 1920.

(1) Cal. Docts. iii., No. 35; (2) Reg. Mag. Sig. i., App. i., No. 45; (3) Ibid. No. 436; (4) The Expedicion into Scotlande 1544 by W. Patten in Dalyell's Fragments of Scottish History p. 74; (5) Proc. Soc. Ant. Scot. xxiv., p. 377.

Watching Brief (23 May 2011)

NT 3795 7098 A watching brief was undertaken on 23 May 2011 during groundworks associated with the construction of a single wind turbine to the E of Falside Castle. No archaeological deposits or features were recorded.

Archive: RCAHMS (intended)

Funder: Mr Ian Brash

AOC Archaeology Group 2011

Information also reported in Oasis (aocarcha1-101677) 7 June 2012


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