Font Size

100% 150% 200%

Background Colour

Default Contrast
Close Reset

Cowdenknowes House

Castle (Medieval), Country House (Period Unassigned), Tower House (Medieval)

Site Name Cowdenknowes House

Classification Castle (Medieval), Country House (Period Unassigned), Tower House (Medieval)

Alternative Name(s) Sorrowlessfield; Coudenknollis

Canmore ID 55523

Site Number NT53NE 4

NGR NT 57728 37038

Datum OSGB36 - NGR


Ordnance Survey licence number 100057073. All rights reserved.
Canmore Disclaimer. © Copyright and database right 2019.

Toggle Aerial | View on large map

Digital Images

Administrative Areas

  • Council Scottish Borders, The
  • Parish Earlston
  • Former Region Borders
  • Former District Ettrick And Lauderdale
  • Former County Berwickshire

Archaeology Notes

NT53NE 4.00 57728 37038

NT53NE 4.01 NT 5794 3704 Stables

NT53NE 4.02 NT 5754 3718 Walled Garden

NT53NE 4.03 NT 5796 3720 Gate-Lodge

NT53NE 4.04 NT 57735 37001 Old Tower/Dungeon to S

(NT 5773 3704) Cowdenknowes (NR)

(NT 5773 3700) Tower (NR)

OS 6" map (1967)

The fortalice and manor place on the lands of 'Coudenknollis' are recorded in 1493. The sole remains of this castle, apparently destroyed early in the 16th century, are the base of the tower at the S corner of the lawn.

Hist Berwickshire Natur Club 1956

Cowdenknowes: The existing buildings constitute the remains of a large castle on to which has been grafted extensive modern work. The present house consists of a 16th century tower, attached only by a modern wing to the mansionhouse proper, the basement of which also dates from the 16th century. There are remains of another probably contemporary tower about 30 yds to the S, and from these detached portions it would appear that the original castle had been an extensive structure, on the courtyard plan, with main block, flanking towers, and curtain walls.

The tower is oblong on plan and is four storeys in height, its basement chamber being partly below ground level, due to the sloping nature of the site. Its rubble walls are 3 1/2 ft in thickness. The parapet which crowns the N and S walls only is of dressed stone, and apparently dates from a slightly later period than the rest of the tower. The corbelling on which the parapet is projected is of late type, and is provided with quatrefoil gun-loops. In the centre of each wall, above the corbelling, are large empty recesses; that on the E wall is dated 1554, obvioulsy re-cut. This date appears to be too early for the top storey, but no doubt applies to the rest of the tower. At ground floor level on the N side is a large modern doorway, now the main entrance to the mansion. The main house has been greatly altered and extended, but the basement is original and consists of a main block, with five vaulted chambers, and two small wings projecting eastwards; the wing to the SE is dated 1574.

Of the old tower to the S, only the basement and semi-subterranean chambers remain; an interesting feature is the two dungeons, the first reached only by a hatch in the floor of the main basement, and the second by a trap-door in the floor of the first.

Home of Cowdenknowes was one of the foremost supporters of the Protestant lords during the reigns of Mary Queen of Scots and James VI.

RCAHMS 1915, visited 1912; N Tranter 1962

When visited in 1955, Cowdenknowes was occupied and in excellent repair; the small isolated tower was as described.

Visited by OS (JD) 22 February 1955

Architecture Notes



A small collection of views and plans for Cowdenknowes acquired, with the house, by Miss Scott Plummer Cowdenknowes [whose permission to reproduce]. Copied 1993.

This small collection includes an important early photograph of 1862, before the Baronial additions; a presentation perspective of additions, by Brown and Wardrop, 1867, which was not executed, and several other plans which explain the development of the house.

NMRS have contract drawings by Watherston the Builders for transforming the old tower into the entrance hall in 1883. See also 'Sime's Memorabilia' in the NMRS.


S.R.O. RHP 9450/51 1835 - lithograph of plan of estate and vignette of house


Aerial Photographic Interpretation (1995)

The House and policies are visible on vertical air photographs (OS 73/324/007-8, flown 1973).

Information from RCAHMS, 1995

Aerial Photography (3 July 2003)

Sbc Note

Visibility: This is an upstanding building.

Information from Scottish Borders Council.


MyCanmore Image Contributions

Contribute an Image

MyCanmore Text Contributions