Ancient Monuments

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Applegarth House, motte 65m south of

A Scheduled Monument in Annandale North, Dumfries and Galloway

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Latitude: 55.144 / 55°8'38"N

Longitude: -3.4069 / 3°24'24"W

OS Eastings: 310425

OS Northings: 584196

OS Grid: NY104841

Mapcode National: GBR 48NY.6T

Mapcode Global: WH6XC.MYWX

Entry Name: Applegarth House, motte 65m S of

Scheduled Date: 25 March 1954

Last Amended: 15 March 2010

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM703

Schedule Class: Cultural

Category: Secular: motte

Location: Applegarth

County: Dumfries and Galloway

Electoral Ward: Annandale North

Traditional County: Dumfriesshire


The monument comprises the remains of a motte likely to date from the late medieval period. It survives as a large, sub-circular mound within the garden of the former manse. The monument has been fashioned from the end of a low ridge rising above the floodplain on the E side of the River Annan, close to its confluence with the Nethercleuch Burn, at 50m above sea level. On the N side, it rises 1m above the rest of the garden. The monument was first scheduled in 1954, but an inadequate area was included to protect all of the archaeological remains; the present rescheduling rectifies this.

The central feature, the motte, is a conical earthen mound. It measures approximately 30m in diameter and, despite landscaping, is substantially intact. Originally its top would have been the platform upon which a timber castle was built. The motte would originally have been protected by a wooden palisade. No above-ground trace of a bailey survives, but there is likely to have been one in the area between the motte and Applegarthtown Church, which has medieval origins.

The area to be scheduled is irregular on plan, to include the remains described above and an area around within which evidence relating to the monument's construction, use and abandonment may survive, as shown in red on the accompanying map. Specifically excluded from the scheduling are: the above-ground elements of the post-and-wire-fence around the base of the monument on the west and east; the post-and-wire enclosure and A-frame structure on the W side of the monument; the playhouse on the S side of the motte and the garden bench to the N of the mound.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Statement of Scheduling

Cultural Significance

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

Intrinsic characteristics

The motte is well preserved and retains a large proportion of its estimated original shape, extent and structure, despite the impacts of landscaping and other horticultural activities. The motte is substantially intact as an earthwork and is likely to contain deposits relating to the structure(s) and palisade which formerly stood on its top. It is likely that the timber castle served as an estate centre during the medieval period. It belonged to the Jardines, one of the principal followers of the Brus family. The surviving deposits around the motte have the potential to tell us about the buildings and defences that were erected here and the activities of those using them. More generally, the buried deposits (including paleoenvironmental remains) can help us understand the site's construction, use, abandonment and the wider environment at that time.

Contextual characteristics

This is one of 17 timber castles in eastern Dumfries and Galloway, a visible reminder of the Anglo-Norman presence in the landscape. Applegarth motte represents the emerging system of control over land, economy and local administration in medieval Scotland. These fortified settlements were likely to be as symbolic as they were functional in marking the defended lands of emerging lordships. This example is typical, as it takes advantage of a natural feature to enhance its defences. In medieval times, at least part of the surrounding floodplain would have been bog. Mottes such as this tend to be located in the lowlands at strategic, commanding locations and are spread along the Solway and its tributaries, the major river systems of the central lowlands and along the coastline of eastern Scotland (outliers are located further afield in Argyll, Caithness and the Highlands). The group in SW Scotland is of particular note as researchers suggest they strategically mark important territory on the routeways into Scotland from Cumbria and the Solway Firth.

The monument's proximity to the site of the medieval church at Applegarthtown indicates the possibility that this motte was a centre of ecclesiastical power and this may be supported by historical sources. The case for this interpretation is strengthened by the reported find of a medieval stone cross on the site. Although the location of this is now unknown, there is a possible cross-base at the foot of the motte.

Associative characteristics

On the basis of a passage in a later charter, some authors have suggested that there may have been a monastery on or near this site. This is, however, unsubstantiated.

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 function of medieval lordly residences and defended sites. It may also shed light on the extent and nature of the feudalisation of Scotland and particularly the south-west of Scotland. It retains the potential to inform our understanding of the nature of ecclesiastical power and the role of such sites in the security and control of land, especially close to the border with England. The loss of this example would significantly diminish our future ability to appreciate and understand settlement and land tenure in medieval Scotland.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland



RCAHMS record the site as NY18SW 1 (a copy of their short report is appended). Dumfries and Galloway Council Sites and Monuments Record records the site as MDG7165. The unconfirmed monastery on or near the site is recorded by RCAHMS as NY18SW2, Applegarth: monastery, tower house.


Christison, D 1891, 'A general view of the forts, camps and motes of Dumfriesshire, with a detailed description of those in Upper Annandale and an introduction to the study of Scottish motes', Proc Soc Antiq Scot 25, 198-256.

Dunbar, W 1845, 'The United Parishes of Applegarth and Sibbaldie, Presbytery of Lochmaben, Synod of Dumfries', New Statistical Account 9, 183.

RCAHMS 1920, Seventh Report with Inventory of Monuments and Constructions in the County of Dumfries, HMSO: Edinburgh.

RCAHMS 1997, Eastern Dumfriesshire: An Archaeological Landscape, Edinburgh, The Stationery Office.

Reid, R C 1958, 'The Monastery at Applegarth', Trans Dumfriesshire Galloway Natur Hist Antiq Soc 3rd ser 35 (1956-7), 14-19.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

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