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Hume Castle

Castle (Medieval), Folly (Period Unassigned)

Site Name Hume Castle

Classification Castle (Medieval), Folly (Period Unassigned)

Canmore ID 58561

Site Number NT74SW 3

NGR NT 70473 41394

Datum OSGB36 - NGR


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

  • Council Scottish Borders, The
  • Parish Hume
  • Former Region Borders
  • Former District Berwickshire
  • Former County Berwickshire

Accessing Scotland's Past Project

Hume Castle occupies one of the highest and most dominant sites in the region, commanding views across the Merse and towards the English borderlands. The existing structure is of largely eighteenth-century date, built around the fragmentary remains of a medieval stronghold.

First mentioned in the twelfth century, the castle was the seat of the powerful Home family. The natural outcrop of rock on which it stood is precipitous at the north-west side, so most of its man-made defences are on the southern flanks

During the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, the English besieged the castle no less than four times. During the first of these sieges, it was Lady Home who was required to defend her home and it only fell when the attackers began to hang her young son within her view. The castle was reportedly destroyed in 1651, after it fell to Cromwell's troops.

Though rebuilt as a folly in the eighteenth century, the castle resumed a military role during the Napoleonic wars, when it became the site of a signalling beacon. A nation-wide panic almost ensued when an accidental fire in Northumberland was spotted and misinterpreted. In World War II, an observation post was also located here.

Text prepared by RCAHMS as part of the Accessing Scotland's Past project

Archaeology Notes

NT74SW 3.00 70473 41394

NT74SW 3.01 c. 704 407 Lead ball

(NT 70473 41394) Castle (NAT)

and remains of Castle (NR)

OS 6" map, (1971).

The existing ruins of Hume Castle are of comparatively recent date, having been raised on the old foundations by the Earl of Marchmont in 1794. Nothing remains of the of the ancient stronghold but the general form and extent of the outer enclosing walls, surrounding a courtyard about 130 ft square (see plan). MacGibbon and Ross note: 'In the centre of the courtyard there is a mass of ancient masonry, but it is impossible to say of what structure it formed part'. It is first recorded in the 12th century, and was demolished by Cromwell in 1651. RCAHMS 1915; D MacGibbon and T Ross 1889; S Cruden 1963; RCAHMS 1980, visited 1979.

None of the original foundations of Hume Castle are visible, the 18th century walls presenting an unbroken uniform surface. The only possible remnant of the old walls is an isolated stretch in the centre of the courtyard, 8m long, 3m high and 1.5m thick. Although the N face of this wall is similar to the 19th century walls, the S face appears to be much older. It is surrounded by an irregular tumbled mass of turf-covered masonry. The well shown on plan is 1.5m in diameter and is lined with squared masonry.

Visited by OS(JFC) 24 January 1955.

Architecture Notes

Non-Guardianship Sites Plan Collection, DC23925- DC23926, 1931.


Note (August 2017)

The village and church

The modern hamlet of Hume occupies a rocky ridge overlooking the Merse and the English border to the south. A church and village are recorded at Hume from the mid-12th century, but direct reference to the castle does not appear until the later Middle Ages. This site is remarkable for its 18th century folly and the juxtaposition of castle and village: and not just any village but the largest deserted village in south-east Scotland. While today’s village comprises a row of twenty 19th century and modern houses along the north side of the public road through the village, in the late 17th century there were 86 houses in the village according to the Hearth tax returns.

The Hume and Greenlaw estate was granted to a son of the Earl of Dunbar in the early 13th century whose family name, Home, became eponymous with the name of the land they had acquired and was a well-known surname in the eastern borders. It is possibly from that time that a castle was built on the outcrop of rock now crowned by the fantastical castellated folly erected by the Earl of Marchmont in the late 18th century. The village was devastated in the 14th century during the Wars of Independence and cleared in the late 18th century, while the castle, fought over in the 16th and 17th centuries, was finally destroyed by Cromwell’s army in 1650.

The size of the settlement was revealed in a survey by Piers Dixon and a local team of young people in 1987. The sites of many houses and ridge and furrow cultivation was mapped that stretched from modern village for half a mile to the west on either side of the loaning that leads to the churchyard of the former parish church of St Nicholas. The church itself has been robbed of stone and can only be traced as a platform surrounded by gravestones. The village houses that were located did not stand to any great height and the walls were mostly reduced to footings or robber trenches, suggesting that the superstructure of the walls may have been of perishable material, such as clay, on a stone base.

The 1987 survey lay dormant in the local records for almost 30 years until the Hume Castle Preservation Trust acquired the site. Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland answered a request for help from them to interpret the site that led to a resurvey of the castle and surrounding field using a low level aerial survey by UAV in 2015 (including a video). A 3D model of the ground surface was produced from which a plan of the castle and surrounding part of the village was mapped. Within the field in which the castle stood some 25 houses and yards alone were located forming rows of properties along the hollow ways of the village streets to north and south of the castle rock. However, this is only about one third of the late 17th century village, the rest of which still lies, further to the west. On the slopes to the south of the village, two phases of ridge and furrow were revealed, with straight narrow, Improvement period ridges over curving broad ridges of medieval origin, hitherto unnoticed.

The castle

The 3D model also showed that there was a rampart on the east end of the castle rock outside the stone walls of the folly suggesting there might have been an earthwork and timber castle here, possibly dating to the 13th century. There was also an outwork of the castle on the west which can be traced from the stone footings around the squared shape of the outcrop at this end. Further indications of the early castle were shown clearly by the 3D survey to include an earlier wall outside the present west wall which included a round tower immediately in front of the present entrance and another round tower on an outcrop outside the north wall which had been invisible until the UAV survey. This evidence suggested an enclosure castle replaced the earlier earthwork in the 13th or 14th centuries, which was in turn replaced by a large tower and artillery defences in the 15th and 16th centuries, when the Homes acquired baronial status. Part of the tower still stands as a ruin inside the folly, a 15th century dumbbell gun-loop is built into the west wall and the sloping artillery defence of the south wall is of late 16th or 17th century date. The outer approach to the castle was via a ramp from the west between two robbed-out buildings, with a large terraced garden on the south, which gives a more pleasurable aspect to the castle than hitherto appreciated.

Dr Piers Dixon, Deputy Head of Survey and Recording, HES

Sbc Note

Visibility: Standing structure or monument.

Information from Scottish Borders Council


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