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Frenchland Tower, tower house

A Scheduled Monument in Annandale North, Dumfries and Galloway

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Coordinates

Latitude: 55.3342 / 55°20'2"N

Longitude: -3.4176 / 3°25'3"W

OS Eastings: 310172

OS Northings: 605371

OS Grid: NT101053

Mapcode National: GBR 46KR.WN

Mapcode Global: WH6WL.G6T3

Entry Name: Frenchland Tower, tower house

Scheduled Date: 14 December 1936

Last Amended: 16 March 2010

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM693

Schedule Class: Cultural

Category: Secular: tower

Location: Moffat

County: Dumfries and Galloway

Electoral Ward: Annandale North

Traditional County: Dumfriesshire

Description

The monument comprises the remains of a multi-phase, L-shaped tower-house, probably built in the 16th century. This unroofed building is located on a gentle S-facing slope on the end of a spur of land. It is around 150m above sea level and around 40m west of the ravine of the French Burn. The monument was originally scheduled in 1936 and is being rescheduled in order to update the associated documents and to extend the scheduled area beyond the immediate footprint of the building.

The original rectangular tower, now the N section, measures 8.1m WNW-ESE by 5m transversely. The later wing on the SE of this building measures around 5m NNE-SSW by around 4m transversely. The walls are constructed of lime-mortared rubble with sandstone dressings, and are up to 1m thick, with the wall head at around 6m in height. The walls survive to wall head in much of the tower but two large sections have collapsed, one at the junction of the two blocks on the W side of the monument and the other on the NE side. The building has no roof and no internal floors remaining but originally had three floors and an attic. The entrance was probably located in the E side of the S wall of the original block. There are traces of a low earthwork bank adjoining the monument on the N side and oriented NE-SW.

The area to be scheduled is square on plan to include the visible remains of the monument, as well as an area around it in which evidence relating to its 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

The monument comprises the upstanding structural remains of a 16th-century tower house, a fortified domestic dwelling intended as accommodation and to reflect the wealth and power of the local landowner. It is a good example of its type, built originally on a rectangular floor plan, unvaulted and with a parapet carried on corbels, traces of which are still visible in the NW gable. It was later modified with an additional wing added to the south to form an L-shaped floor plan. At the same time the original tower was remodelled with the parapet being removed and a high pitched roof installed. The building is missing internal floors and the roof but contains much architectural and structural detail, such as traces of windows, a newel-stair, gable fireplaces, recessed cupboards, corbelling and a later scale-and-plait staircase in the new wing. In all facades some architectural detail survives above ground level and in situ, though there are areas of collapse in the W and N sides. The interior and immediate surrounds to the building contain the dislodged masonry components in the form of heaps of rubble.

Internally, there is evidence of a division of the first floor into a hall and chamber. The third floor is also divided into two compartments. Slit windows in the level above indicate an attic at some stage. Blocked doorways and windows also indicate how the layout and function of the elements of the building was deliberately altered during its use. The roof was originally of thatch but most recently was of slate. The lack of overtly defensive features such as a yet or gun loops indicate that defence was not a primary consideration at the time of construction or remodelling.

The monument has the potential to inform our knowledge of the precise date of construction of the building and of any subsequent phases, and to increase our understanding of how the fashion and function of such buildings may have developed through time. It can also add to our knowledge of techniques of construction and changes in architectural preference, as this is a relatively late example with evidence of remodelling and additions. The monument has an inherent potential to further our knowledge of the way in which such structures functioned and whether they were primarily for defence or as a means of displaying prestige.

There is no record of archaeological excavation at this monument and it appears to be in good and undisturbed condition. There is therefore a high potential for archaeologically significant deposits and features to be contained within the monument. This may include subsurface traces of associated structures, such as service buildings, a barmkin and any horticulture or agriculture in the immediate vicinity. Artefactual assemblages have the capacity to inform our understanding of the daily lives of the inhabitants of the building, such as their society, economy and religion. Environmental evidence beneath and within the monument have the potential to inform us of the landscape in which it was constructed, how it was used and what it may have looked like as well as having the potential to further our knowledge of the diet of the occupants.

Contextual characteristics

Tower houses are a type of monument found throughout Scotland, first appearing in the 13th century and reflecting patterns of late-medieval landholding, often denoting the centre of local estates and potentially with a number of associated households. They continued to be built and used until the 17th century, although in the early part of the 14th century they fell out of fashion for a time due to royal policy. Their construction resumed in the latter part of the 14th century and into the early 15th century and became the dominant form of defensive domestic structure for the upper levels of society. The fragmentary remains of tower houses are often the only upstanding portion of such late-medieval estate centres to survive and many have disappeared altogether, although they can often be identified through documentary sources such as hearth tax returns.

In eastern Dumfries and Galloway the construction of tower houses was actively discouraged in the years following the defeat at Flodden in 1513. This was to prevent antagonising the English and also to reduce lawlessness, a recurrent problem in the border area. This discouragement continued until the passing of the 1535 Act requiring that every man who owned land valued at £100 or more build a defensive enclosure, known as a barmkin, within which was to be a tower if required. RCAHMS have identified around 118 tower houses and/or places of strength using the 1590 map of the Debatable Lands and additional examples where there is archaeological or architectural evidence. Perhaps unsurprisingly, riverside locations are favoured. Of those tower houses in the area where the location is definitively identified, only six examples have evidence of additional structures other than the tower itself.

The monument is located close to the precipitous ravine of the French Burn. It stands at around 150m above sea level and is set in a gently S-sloping landscape. There is slightly higher ground to the west, east and north and more open views to the south. The comparatively low-lying nature of the site, and the lack of obvious associated features such as a barmkin, indicates that defence may not have been a primary function. It is possible that the tower was therefore built as a requirement of the 1535 Act but its builders did not anticipate the need for defence. Later modification ensured it became even more residential in function, acting more as a manor house reflecting status than a place of refuge.

There is no evidence of an earlier structure on this site but a number of potentially contemporary monuments are found in the immediate area. Some 915m to the WNW is the motte-and-bailey castle known as Auldton Mote; 330m north of the tower are the remains of a fermtoun where earthwork evidence for at least eight buildings has been recorded. A sunken track heads south from the site towards the tower, but cannot be traced beyond the modern field boundary around 210m north of the tower. To the NNW at a distance of around 660m is a moated site, noted in the 1857 Ordnance Survey Name Book as 'Walls' with claims of an association with the Knights Templar, although this has not been substantiated. RCAHMS consider this settlement to be a medieval farmstead, most probably built by the French family, but there are similarities with some monastic grange sites in the courtyard layout. The exact nature of any relationship between such monuments and their placing in the landscape is not presently understood. Further work contrasting and comparing the monuments and analysis of results against similar datasets in Scotland has the potential to further our understanding of the later medieval landscape: what it looked like, how it was controlled and how it was used to reflect status and accumulate wealth.

Associative characteristics

The French family held lands in the area of Moffat in the 13th century. Roger, son of William French is recorded in around 1250 as exchanging lands with Robert de Brus for lands in Moffat formerly held by the family. It is thought that this land equates to the modern farm of Frenchland. Continuous tenancy or ownership is not certain but the French family built the three-storey tower, with a simple rectangular floor-plan in the early 17th century. Documents record that in 1610 the estate was the property of a Robert French, who added a turret on the W side in the early 17th century.

Roy's Military Survey of Scotland 1747-55 depicts two buildings within a rectilinear enclosure on the E side of the burn (the wrong side) and the map may therefore be more schematic than factual. The tower appears on the Ordnance Survey First Edition, published in 1863, as 'Frenchland Tower (Ruins of)' and a bench mark is depicted on the outer face of the N wall.

National Importance

The monument is of national importance because it has an inherent potential to contribute to our understanding of the past, in particular later medieval domestic fortified dwellings, their architecture, construction, maintenance, the patterns of their development and final abandonment and their relationship with the land surrounding them. The monument survives as an upstanding example of a domestic defended home, built, lived in and re-modelled by a family who expressed their wealth in building size, style and adornment. The monument reflects a specific and individually modified type of tower house and retains much of the stonemasonry and construction work that exemplified a very skilled architect-stonemason. It represents a centrepiece for local rural development and smallholding starting in the late 16th century. There is good potential for the preservation of archaeological deposits capable of enhancing our knowledge of the date of the tower's construction, occupation and subsequent abandonment. Analysis of environmental and artefactual information contained within the monument has the potential to add to our knowledge of the inhabitants of the monument, their daily lives and activities and the environment in which they lived. Such evidence has the potential inform us about wider society at the time, how people lived, where they came from and who they had contact with. The loss of the monument would impede our ability to understand the construction, its placing in the landscape and the social structure and economy of the time.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Sources

Bibliography

The monument is currently situated within pasture.

RCAHMS records the monument as Frenchland Tower, tower house, NT10NW 4. Dumfries and Galloway Council SMR records the site as MDG4587. Copies of these reports are appended.

References

RCAHMS, 1997. Eastern Dumfriesshire: An Archaeological Landscape, 208, 215-16, fig 232, 233, 312 no. 1281. Edinburgh: Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

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