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Comlongon Castle

Tower House (Medieval)

Site Name Comlongon Castle

Classification Tower House (Medieval)

Alternative Name(s) Comlongan Castle; Clarencefield; Comlongon House; Comlongon Castle Policies

Canmore ID 66058

Site Number NY06NE 1

NGR NY 07940 68950

Datum OSGB36 - NGR


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

  • Council Dumfries And Galloway
  • Parish Ruthwell
  • Former Region Dumfries And Galloway
  • Former District Nithsdale
  • Former County Dumfries-shire

Archaeology Notes

NY06NE 1.00 07940 68950

Tower [NAT]

OS (GIS) MasterMap, July 2009.

NY06NE 1.01 NY 07963 68936 Mansion (Comlongon Castle)

NY06NE 1.02 NY c. 079 689 Sundial

NY06NE 1.03 NY 07620 69370 Comlongon Mains (steading)

NY06NE 1.04 NY 07610 69404 Comlongon Mains Cottages

NY05NE 1.05 NY 07536 68752 Sawmill

NY06NE 1.06 NY 07600 68750 and NY 07648 68728 Nursery House and Nursery

NY06NE 1.07 NY 07864 69000 Castle Cottages

NY06NE 1.08 NY 07876 69022 Seahaugh House

NY06NE 1.09 NY 07923 69013 Laundry Cottage

NY06NE 1.10 NY 08619 68727 East Cottage (Knockhardy)

NY06NE 1.11 NY 08601 68575 Wood Cottage

See also:

NY06NE 3 NY 0737 6875 Comlongon Enclosure

NY06NE 5 NY 0826 6893 Comlongon Enclosure; Fort

NY06NE 10 NY 0752 6958 Comlongon Mains Enclosure

NY06NE 11 NY 0751 6965 Comlongon Mains Enclosure

NY06NE 13 NY c. 07 68 Bronze spearhead

NY06NE 14 NY c. 07 68 Bronze spearhead

A complete and well-preserved example of a 15th-century c.1450, tower adjoining a modern house.

D MacGibbon and T Ross 1887; RCAHMS 1920; W D Simpson 1944; N Tranter 1965

The name 'Comlongan Castle' applies to a 19th-century house and the 15th-century tower, as described.

Visited by OS 31 October 1967 and 21 February 1973.

Architecture Notes


Owner: The Earl of Mansfield, per John T. McGlasson, Estate Office, Clarencefield, Dumfriesshire.

Architect: William Bell c.1880 (alterations)

John M. Bowie and James Barbour - new house

Non-Guardianship Sites Plan Collection, DC23232- DC23234, 1933.

(Undated) information in NMRS.


Publication Account (1986)

Now partly shrouded in trees, the massive bulk of this exceptionally complete tower once dominated the surrounding flat landscape. It still conveys an impression of grim solidity, its red sandstone masonry adorned only by a corbelled parapet with Irish-style roofed turrets. The overall martial effect, however, is tempered by the adjacent mansion whose presence shows that there has always been more to this position than mere defence. Internally, a roofed tower such as this admirably recreates the setting and atmosphere of home life among the late medieval nobility.

It was built, probably in about the third quarter of the 15th century, by the Murrays of Cockpool, who were descended from Thomas Randolph, Earl of Moray and Lord of Nithsdale. Nothing now remains of their earliest residence in this vicinity; this tower formed part of the barony of Cock pool when it was created in 1508, and remained until recently in the possession of the Murrays' descendants, the Earls of Mans fIeld.

The walls of Comlongon are particularly thick. The north wall, in which the entrance (with its wrought iron gate or yett) is placed, is 4.1m in thickness, and is honeycombed with vaulted mural chambers. Some served as bed closets opening off the main rooms; one chamber, entered from the first-floor hall, served a more sinister purpose as guard-room for prison-cells beyond and beneath. The pit-prison is a frightful unlit hole reached through a hatch in the floor of the antechamber.

The layout follows, with variations, a standard late medieval pattern: on the ground floor a vaulted cellar incorporating a well, a circular barrel-recess and a wooden-floored entresol for extra storage; a first-floor hall-kitchen (an especially noteworthy feature), hall and kitchen fireplaces being at opposite ends of the room, doubtless separated by wooden screens; and paired chambers on the second and third floors, all provided with fireplaces, windows with stone benchseats, and latrines. At parapet level there are roofed turrets and a long gallery of late 16th century date.

The focus of chivalric pride was the hall fireplace. It is associated with an ornate aumbry or cupboard in thesouth wall, which has a cusped head formed unevenly in two pieces. The fIreplace is spanned by a wooden lintel, and has moulded jambs and a carved cornice. It is structurally protected by a relieving-arch above, the gap between the arch and the cornice being originally infIlled with clay for heat resistance and flexibility.High on the chimney-breast is a panel bearing a version of the royal alms, flanked by corbels displaying Murray armorials. There are other heraldic corbels in the side-walls, some fairly indistinct.

Information from ‘Exploring Scotland’s Heritage: Dumfries and Galloway’, (1986).


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