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The Mount, motte-and-bailey castle

A Scheduled Monument in Mid Berwickshire, Scottish Borders

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Coordinates

Latitude: 55.6693 / 55°40'9"N

Longitude: -2.2968 / 2°17'48"W

OS Eastings: 381426

OS Northings: 641794

OS Grid: NT814417

Mapcode National: GBR D2DW.JK

Mapcode Global: WH8XN.PRGQ

Entry Name: The Mount, motte-and-bailey castle

Scheduled Date: 2 March 1961

Last Amended: 6 January 2009

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM386

Schedule Class: Cultural

Category: Secular: motte

Location: Coldstream

County: Scottish Borders

Electoral Ward: Mid Berwickshire

Traditional County: Berwickshire

Description

The monument comprises a substantial motte-and-bailey castle that stands on the brow of a steep bank above the Leet Water. The motte was originally scheduled in 1927, rescheduled in 1961, but an inadequate area was included to protect all of the archaeological remain; the present rescheduling rectifies this.

The motte survives as a substantial mound, with a diameter of about 20m and rising to a maximum height of around 14m. Around this is a section of well-defined ditch with a width of about approximately 10m, with an upcast rampart along its outer edge.

Aerial photography reveals cropmarks of what archaeologists interpret as the ditches of an adjacent bailey in the field to the south of the motte. These cropmarks define a rectangular area approximately 105m from E-W by 75m transversely within double ditches on the S and E sides; its builders exploited the steep natural slopes on the N and W approaches. What may be an entrance is visible near the SE corner. No internal features are visible on current aerial photographs of the monument.

The area to be scheduled is irregular on plan, to include the remains described and an area around within which evidence for their construction and use may survive, as shown in red on the accompanying map. The above-ground elements of all post-and-wire fences are specifically excluded, to allow for their maintenance.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Statement of Scheduling

Cultural Significance

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

Intrinsic characteristics

The monument represents a well-preserved example of an Anglo-Norman motte-and-bailey timber castle. It retains physical characteristics to a marked degree. As the motte is particularly well-preserved and apparently undisturbed there is excellent potential for the survival of buried deposits that could significantly enhance our understanding of the monument. In particular, remains of the timber tower that stood on the flat top of the motte may be represented by post-holes and foundation trenches, while artefactual evidence may illustrate the date and duration of occupation as well as highlighting the range of contacts those resident at The Mount had with the world. The substantial ditch around the base of the motte, which appears undisturbed and evidently still capable of holding water, may contain waterlogged deposits that allow the preservation of organic matter. Environmental samples from waterlogged fills could also help us build a better understanding of the local landscape at the time The Mount was occupied. The surviving section of the bailey rampart and ditch illustrates the structure of the enclosure that has largely been ploughed down although its cropmarks remain visible on aerial photographs indicating that buried deposits survive and further suggests the archaeological potential of the area remains good. Within the bailey enclosure, there is potential for the survival of negative features such as post-holes and foundation trenches of domestic buildings that formed part of the lordly residence that would significantly inform our understanding of the settlement's character and longevity.

Contextual characteristics

The Mount is among the best examples of a motte-and-bailey castle in the SE Scottish Borders. Its survival in such well-preserved condition is probably because the owners of the Darnchester Estate appear not to have further developed the site with a stone fortification and elected to build a new dwelling nearby. However, the proximity of the new dwelling to the old motte suggests the site held an enduring association with notions of lordship and conferred a sense of antiquity on the family's ownership of the land.

Typically, fortifications of this type are associated with the adoption of feudalism, and Scottish examples are commonly associated with the Crown's policy in the 12th century of settling an immigrant aristocracy as a method of controlling the land. A charter from 1150 reveals that this area formed part of a lordship held by the Darnchester family and it is likely that The Mount acted as an administrative centre.

A dominant position in the landscape was clearly an important consideration for a motte-and-bailey castle and The Mount occupies a commanding site. From its location, the motte overlooks a steep slope to the S and has good views of the surrounding area and the Leet Water. The river is likely to have been an important asset to this later medieval lordship as documentary sources record that the nearby village of Darnchester traded in mussels from the river.

Associative characteristics

The Mount is associated with the medieval lordship of the Darnchester family in the 12th and 13th centuries. Although The Mount did not develop into a stone castle and appears to have been abandoned, the site appears with the adjacent village of Darnchester on 17th-century maps of Scotland by Henricus Hondious, Robert Gordon and Joan Blaeu. The Mount is depicted on the 1st and 2nd Edition Ordnance Survey maps.

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, 12th-century defensive structures and the construction and use of timber fortifications in the SE of the Scottish Borders. The monument has excellent potential to inform our understanding of the construction and development of the site, the scale and character of occupation within the adjacent bailey and the abandonment of the motte as the principal lordly residence. In addition, the monument offers potential to develop our appreciation of this type of medieval lordly residence and its regional variations in terms of design and location. Buried deposits from sites such as this have potential to tell us about the wider society of the time, the lifestyles of the people who occupied The Mount, where they came from and the nature of the contacts they had with the world. The loss of the monument would significantly diminish our ability to understand the use of motte-and-bailey castles, their position within the contemporary landscape and their role within the social and economic hierarchy of the time.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Sources

Bibliography

RCAHMS records the monument as Castlelaw, The Mount, motte and bailey, NT84SW 2.

References:

Baldwin J R 1997, EDINBURGH, LOTHIANS AND BORDERS, Exploring Scotland's Heritage Series, Edinburgh: HMSO.

Elliot R 1955, 'HISTORY OF THE CASTLE AT CASTLELAW FARM', Hist Berwickshire Natur Club 33, 23.

RCAHMS 1915, SIXTH REPORT AND INVENTORY OF MONUMENTS AND CONSTRUCTIONS IN THE COUNTY OF BERWICKSHIRE, Edinburgh: HMSO, 55-6, No. 103.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

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