Ancient Monuments

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Repentance Tower

A Scheduled Monument in Annandale South, Dumfries and Galloway

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Latitude: 55.0375 / 55°2'15"N

Longitude: -3.3237 / 3°19'25"W

OS Eastings: 315501

OS Northings: 572245

OS Grid: NY155722

Mapcode National: GBR 5B75.7Z

Mapcode Global: WH6XZ.XNG1

Entry Name: Repentance Tower

Scheduled Date: 14 May 1937

Last Amended: 7 February 2008

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM706

Schedule Class: Cultural

Category: Secular: lookout tower

Location: Cummertrees

County: Dumfries and Galloway

Electoral Ward: Annandale South

Traditional County: Dumfriesshire


The monument comprises the remains of an intact, roofed, near-square tower dating to the mid-16th century and interpreted as a watch tower. The tower is located on a small prominent hill (at around 100m above sea level) with commanding views in all directions, including a long-distance view across the Solway Firth and northern Cumbria. It sits on the S bank of the River Annan, 4km north of the Solway Firth, and is surrounded by a walled burial enclosure, an adjacent, ruined mausoleum and various disconnected earthworks. The monument was scheduled in 1937 but an inadequate area was included: the present rescheduling rectifies this.

The tower measures externally approximately 7m N-S by 8m transversely and stands at over 20m high. It was built, using sandstone, over four levels, with access via an external stair on its N side to the first floor. The original structure and architectural detailing survives remarkably well and probably dates to 1560, or shortly after, and includes window and gun-slot and arrow-slit apertures, a corner cupboard recess, a carved door lintel bearing two motifs and the word 'repentance', and later additions such as a parapet and stone-moulded water spouts.

Its function has been the matter of discussion and researchers think that it was not for domestic use but that it was a signal and watch tower, specifically named to commemorate a historical event/events. Despite sharing structural similarities to a tower house or peel, there are no obvious remains or features that would indicate a domestic function for the tower (such as the roof-top beacon platform) but some that might corroborate its early warning function.

The area to be scheduled is sub-rectangular on plan, to include the tower and an area around within which evidence relating to its construction and use may survive, as shown in red on the accompanying map. Specifically excluded to allow for their maintenance are the above-ground elements of a base cairn, its interpretation board and a stone wall.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Statement of Scheduling

Cultural Significance

The monument's cultural significance can be expressed as follows:

Intrinsic characteristics

This is a very well-preserved monument, a late-medieval tower that was specifically used for non-domestic functions. It survives in near complete form and retains all of its structural components as well as some of its internal features and individually carved stones. It therefore has the potential to provide high-quality information about the defensive and functional architecture of the Scottish borders in the mid-16th century. It can help us to understand more about the adaptive use of a specific architectural style that was common at the time.

Contextual characteristics

The watch tower on Repentance Hill was deliberately built on a significant, strategic point in the landscape of SW Scotland, overlooking the Solway Firth and N Cumbria and commanding the southern approaches to Nithsdale and Annandale. These were two of the key invasion routes used by the English for raids into S Scotland during the 15th century. The tower was part of a network of intervisible signal stations throughought the south-west that alerted local forces to the imminent presence of raiding parties. In the case of Repentance, a bell was used as well as a signal beacon on the tower's roof. It was built by the fourth Lord Herries, John Maxwell, shortly after completion of his tower house at nearby Hoddom and it helped him fulfil his duty as a warden of the Scottish West March, maintaining an early warning beacon service.

The tower shares a significant piece of ground with other archaeological remains including the deposits of Trailtow chapel and burial ground, and a possible hospital and preceptory.

Associative characteristics

It is unclear where the monument derives its name from, and a number of interpretations have been suggested. The more plausible of these include John Maxwell's declaration of guilt, having demolished the chapel in order to build his tower house at Hoddom. The tower survives on the site of Trailtow chapel. It is also a place name and was used to identify the prominent hill upon which the tower stands. This may be a reflection of earlier religious events, such as its association with the preachings of St Mungo, or later disputes over land and local power. Later still, it became a landmark stop for notable travellers to Scotland such as Thomas Pennant (in the late 1700s) and it became the focus of the poetry that recorded the disputes in these borderlands. A historical reference to the tower's significance reminds that the bell and beacon should be 'keeped and never fail burning so long as the English men remain on Scotland'.

National Importance

The monument is of national importance because it has an inherent potential to make a significant addition to the understanding of the past, in particular the construction and use of a medieval tower house design, adapted to form part of a network of watch or signal towers overlooking the Scottish border. It represents the strategic importance of this part of Scotland during the 16th century and reflects the various disputes that took place over the control and ownership of border land. It therefore has the potential to improve our understanding of architectural style and function of the period and the nature of border conflicts from the mid-16th century onwards. Its loss would impede our ability to understand the wider context of border history and appreciate the form of this very well-preserved monument.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland



RCAHMS record the monument as NY17SE 2.


Gifford J 1996, DUMFRIES AND GALLOWAY, The Buildings of Scotland Series, London.



Neilson G 1896, 'REPENTANCE TOWER AND ITS TRADITION', Trans Dumfriesshire Galloway Natur Hist Antiq Soc, 2nd, 2, 340-63.


Ritchie A 1996, DUMFRIES AND GALLOWAY, Exploring Scotland's Heritage Series, Edinburgh, 111-2.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

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