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Windy Windshiel

Farmstead (Post Medieval), Tower House (Medieval)

Site Name Windy Windshiel

Classification Farmstead (Post Medieval), Tower House (Medieval)

Canmore ID 58623

Site Number NT75NW 4

NGR NT 73921 59197

NGR Description Centre

Datum OSGB36 - NGR


Ordnance Survey licence number AC0000807262. All rights reserved.
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Administrative Areas

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

Archaeology Notes

NT75NW 4 centred 7392 5920

The farmstead is visible on large scale vertical air photographs (OS 70/365/137-8, flown 1970).

(Undated) information in NMRS.

NT 739 591. The remains of a small tower-house are incorporated in the buildings of Windy Windshiel, a now ruinous farmstead. It is oblong on plan and measures 7.5m by 5.4m over walls up to 1m thick. The farm buildings include a mill, which was apparently disused by 1857 (OS 6-inch map, Berwickshire, 1st ed (1862), sheet x).

RCAHMS 1980, visited November 1979.


Field Visit (10 May 2008 - 20 June 2010)

SRP field survey including eight site visits to create measured plan using tape & pin and plane table methods;site photography.

Reference (28 May 2008 - 21 October 2010)

Searches on-line; also at RCAHMS, NAS, NLS, NMS, Heritage Hub, local libraries & private collections.

Reference (1 December 2010 - 31 December 2010)

Windy Windshiel Project Report 2010 by Barry Prater

Srp Note (26 November 2010)

This farmstead lies 250m above sea level on a steep, SW-facing hillside on the southern edge of the Lammermuirs and is surrounded by improved fields used for grazing and arable crops or grass.

Buildings on the site are arranged in a courtyard style to contain an approximately rectangular space aligned with the contours. The main building (7.5m x 6.2m) running along the lower, SW side includes at its western end the remains of a tower house, dating from around 1600, of relatively sturdy construction. Abutted to this house is an Improvement era house (7.8m x 6.2m) built perhaps a hundred years later. It is possible that the original footprint of the tower house extended further into the more recent building. Assuming that the original tower house had the dimensions of the remaining structure, then it would have been similar in size and orientation to one of the other Borders tower houses (Mervinslaw) but the wall thickness at Windy Windshiel (0.95m) would have limited its height to just two floors i.e. a ground floor and one above. Unfortunately, the current state of the building does not allow the structure of nor the access to the upper floor to be determined. There is no obvious entrance to the tower house although this would likely have been on the NE side into the courtyard area.

The Improvement era house has thinner walls (0.60m) and retains much of its SE gable end and N wall, which has a series of slots to carry the beams which would have supported the upper floor. The entrance to this house was probably in its south-east corner where dressed stones are still in place and the ground floor has the remains of a fireplace indicating that this space would have been used for human habitation. There is a large opening at first floor level in the SE gable wall suggesting this floor was used as a store for hay, etc. The whole site is relatively enclosed and so there would be a considerable space for animals; additionally, there appears to be a drain hole in the SW wall of the tower house and this part of the building may always have been used to shelter animals (the whole of the building is shown as roofed on the 1st Edition OS map).

On the NE of the site there are the remains of a range of buildings running the length of that side, the central one of which was still roofed at the time of the 1st Edition OS map and retains the dressed stones of a doorway, so likely to have been a dwelling, the others perhaps shelter for animals.

The other major structure on the site is a barn/mill building and associated wheel-pit on the SE side, mostly in a very poor state. The tail race from the mill is clearly visible as a long shallow depression (22m x 4.5m at its widest) running roughly SW from the site. The mill pond (restored by current landowners) and the spring which feeds it are still evident and were marked on the 1st Edition OS map.

The earliest documents which refer to Windshiel which have been located date from the fifteenth century. A charter contained in the Register of the Great Seal of Scotland from 1404 or 1405, confirms Thomas Ereskine as holding the lands of Ellem and ‘Wenshelis’. And from 2 March 1486 there is a charter giving Ellem and Winschelis, Berwick, to Robert Erskine. By 1585 documents refer to a grain- and fulling-mill at the site. Sometime in the 17th century Windy Windshiel came into the hands of the Cockburn family and an estate map of 1825 shows in detail the breakdown of land use there and on neighbouring farmsteads.

The earliest map which has the site marked is Blaeu’s ‘Atlas of Scotland’ from 1654 and it is shown on several other maps before the 1st Edition OS map, including Roy's Military Map (1750) and Andrew & Mostyn Armstrong's map (1771).

There is no significant documentation of who actually lived at Windy Windshiel until after the mid to late eighteenth century, when parochial registers, tax records, valuation rolls and then census data become available for reference. In the 1780s and 1790s the Haig and Edgar families lived there (tax and baptism records). In April 1824 the Duns Old Kirk Session Minutes refer to John Rutherford of Wester Winshiel, probably linked to his appeal to go on the Poor Roll. Census records give details of the families who lived there during the 19th century.

By the time of the 1825 estate map, the developments in agriculture brought about by the Improvement era would have been implemented, but the estate map suggests that there were few changes to the fields or land use around Windy Windshiel - the irregular field shapes survive and most of the land above the farmstead remained as moorland. The development of land use around Windy Windshiel from pre-Improvement times can be summarised as follows. Lower-lying slopes were cultivated, while higher ground (the larger part of the land) was probably moor and used for rough grazing by sheep and cattle. Wool and grain were processed by the water-powered mill from the earliest times. The changes introduced during the Improvement era would have increased soil fertility on the arable land and probably enabled new crops to be grown, but there is no evidence of significant enclosures or change in overall land use. The new courtyard style farmstead would have been built around this time. In this thinly populated part of the country there may have been few of the clearances which occurred in the more intensively cultivated parts of Berwickshire to the south and east and so it seems likely that Windy Windshiel and its neighbour Oatleycleugh would have had continuity of occupation by farm labourers through the Improvement transition, with just modernisation of the buildings taking place. Census data show that these two farmsteads formed part of a single farm and while both buildings were occupied during the mid-nineteenth century, Windy Windshiel fell into disuse in the 1870s whereas Oatleycleugh continued to be inhabited throughout.

It seems probable that land use would have remained fairly stable until after 1945, when full mechanisation, widespread use of artificial fertilisers, introduction of pesticides and generally increased intensification took place, coupled with the establishment of coniferous plantations. By the late twentieth century much of the upland parts above Windy Windshiel had been reclaimed and this process was mostly completed very recently so that arable crops (or grazing grass) are now grown to the edge of the large coniferous plantation which straddles the hill across towards Abbey St Bathans.

An attempt has been made to deduce how these changes in land use would have impacted on the local wildlife, using butterflies as a representative group, since these are known to be very sensitive to environmental and ecological changes. It seems probable that for much of the time from the tower house perios in the 17th century to the present day the range of species and the numbers of butterflies would have remained fairly stable, apart from a small loss of species, for example those reliant on wet grassland habitats. From some time in the twentieth century and particularly in its latter half, people would have noticed a large drop in butterfly numbers and anecdotal stories of this are supported by survey data. The restricted areas of suitable habitats for many species and the loss of caterpillar foodplants are the prime reasons for these reductions. And yet from a social point of view, each generation grows up with its norms and the sight of the occasional butterfly today may be just as rewarding as the sight of many in days gone by.

During summer 2010 the local Borders artist Arthur Blair created an oil painting of the site, capturing its lonely situation and the main upstanding structures.

Information from Barry Prater (Berwickshire Butterflies SRP Project) 26 November 2010

Sbc Note (15 April 2016)

Visibility: Standing structure or monument.

Information from Scottish Borders Council

Note (16 September 2019)

The location, classification and period of this site have been reviewed.


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