Ancient Monuments

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Blanerne Castle

A Scheduled Monument in East Berwickshire, Scottish Borders

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Coordinates

Latitude: 55.8002 / 55°48'0"N

Longitude: -2.27 / 2°16'12"W

OS Eastings: 383170

OS Northings: 656360

OS Grid: NT831563

Mapcode National: GBR D1LC.BM

Mapcode Global: WH9Y7.3G9T

Entry Name: Blanerne Castle

Scheduled Date: 19 January 1979

Last Amended: 31 March 2009

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM4216

Schedule Class: Cultural

Category: Secular: castle

Location: Bunkle and Preston

County: Scottish Borders

Electoral Ward: East Berwickshire

Traditional County: Berwickshire

Description

The monument comprises the ruined remains of a fortified residence likely to date from the 16th century onwards. It is located between 65m and 75m above sea level on a natural rock outcrop above the N bank of the Whiteadder Water, 3km west of Chirnside. The monument was first scheduled in 1979 and rescheduled in 1995. The mapped scheduled area does not meet modern standards: the present rescheduling rectifies this.

The upstanding and visible structures comprise a square stair tower that occupies the NW corner of a central courtyard and a rectangular kitchen range on the E side, broadly aligned N-S. A number of architectural features survive and these include ashlar and rubble courses, stone-carved window frames, an armorial panel frame, shot holes/gun loops, the supporting courses of a turret, elements of the wallhead and crowstepped gable, and the structural layout of a kitchen and its ovens. A number of building phases have been suggested and the reuse of one of the ruins as a dovecote indicates at least one later conversion and use. There are likely to be significant archaeological deposits between and around these buildings.

The area to be scheduled is rectangular on plan to include the remains described and an area around within which evidence relating to their construction and use may survive, as shown in red on the accompanying map.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Statement of Scheduling

Cultural Significance

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

Intrinsic characteristics

These remains represent the surviving components of an easily defended site that utilises local topography, natural resources and architectural features for its defensive make-up. The overall footprint of the monument is obscured by vegetation, although exposed wall ends at the NW and E sides of the complex indicate the size and shape of the castle's footprint. The lower courses are intact and, in the case of the stair tower and kitchen range, they rise to the wallhead. The survival of structural and decorative detail is a very useful resource in the archaeological study of the standing fabric of buildings and, despite the lack of a visible enclosing feature such as a curtain wall or defensive ditch, there is likely to be significant archaeological deposits in the ground surrounding these ruins. The monument therefore has the potential to tell us more about the nature of defensive settlement, specifically the location, design, construction, use, re-use and abandonment of a fortified residence.

Contextual characteristics

Blanerne is one of a common, widespread group of fortified residences built from the 16th century onwards in Scotland. It represents the defensive nature of later medieval settlement in Scotland and a pragmatic, domestic architectural response to local conflict and unrest in SE Scotland specifically. It was built and in use at the time when the current identity of Scotland was being refined and the border between England and Scotland established.

The excavation and recording of similar sites has revealed a rich collection of artefacts, structures and features reflecting domestic living at the time. From these excavations, we might expect designed gardens, ancillary domestic buildings, enclosure features as well as the architectural detail of the core building that characterise these sites. The techniques and styles employed by the stonemasons when building Blanerne are mirrored in other contemporary buildings (such as Cowdenknowes and Bemersyde House) and this reflects the reach and influence of particular craftsmen in the Borders.

These fortified settlements were status symbols and landmarks too, and, in the case of Blanerne, its position on a large outcrop overlooking the Whiteadder and lands to the south suggests that status was perhaps as important to display as the defensive features of the site. Overall, Blanerne has the potential to tell us much about the pattern of later medieval settlement, wider land tenure and the structure of rural economy and living in SE Scotland.

Associative character

Historical documentation suggests that Blanerne was owned and built by the Lumsdaine family. The site holds a strong position in the local consciousness (along with two other local fortified sites) through its reference in a local rhyme reflecting their fate: 'Bunkle, Billie, and Blanerne, three castles strang as airn; Built whan Davy was a bairn; They'll a' gang doun Wi' Scotland's crown; And ilka ane salt be a cairn'.

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 nature of fortified domestic building in SE Scotland and the development of the rural economy and land tenure from the 16th century onwards. The upstanding fabric retains a number of significant architectural features, and there is the high potential for the survival of significant sub-surface archaeological evidence for the wider use and development of the site. The loss of this example would significantly impede our ability to understand the emerging character of modern Scotland through the ownership of its border land and settlement.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Sources

Bibliography

RCAHMS record the site as NT85NW 10 and Scottish Borders Sites and Monuments Record as 1030006.

References:

Cruft K, Dunbar J and Fawcett R 2006, THE BUILDINGS OF SCOTLAND: BORDERS, New Haven and London: Yale University Press.

MacGibbon D and Ross T 1887-92, THE CASTELLATED AND DOMESTIC ARCHITECTURE OF SCOTLAND FROM THE TWELFTH TO THE EIGHTEENTH CENTURIES, Vol. 4, Edinburgh.

RCAHMS 1915, SIXTH REPORT AND INVENTORY OF MONUMENTS AND CONSTRUCTIONS IN THE COUNTY OF BERWICK, Revision, Edinburgh: HMSO.

RCAHMS 1980, THE ARCHAEOLOGICAL SITES AND MONUMENTS OF BERWICKSHIRE DISTRICT, BORDERS REGION, The Archaeological Sites and Monuments of Scotland Series No 10, Edinburgh: Society of Antiquaries of Scotland.

Strang C A 1994, BORDERS AND BERWICK. AN ILLUSTRATED ARCHITECTURAL GUIDE TO THE SCOTTISH BORDERS AND TWEED VALLEY. Edinburgh: The Rutland Press.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

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