Ancient Monuments

History on the Ground

This site is entirely user-supported. See how you can help.

Gilnockie Castle, earthwork north east of Gilnockie Bridge

A Scheduled Monument in Annandale East and Eskdale, Dumfries and Galloway

Approximate Location Map
Large Map »
Street or Overhead View
Contributor Photos »

If Google Street View is available, the image is from the best available vantage point looking, if possible, towards the location of the monument. Where it is not available, the satellite view is shown instead.

Coordinates

Latitude: 55.0946 / 55°5'40"N

Longitude: -2.963 / 2°57'46"W

OS Eastings: 338640

OS Northings: 578223

OS Grid: NY386782

Mapcode National: GBR 79RJ.9J

Mapcode Global: WH7Z3.G68Q

Entry Name: Gilnockie Castle, earthwork NE of Gilnockie Bridge

Scheduled Date: 26 March 2008

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM11996

Schedule Class: Cultural

Category: Secular: earthwork

Location: Canonbie

County: Dumfries and Galloway

Electoral Ward: Annandale East and Eskdale

Traditional County: Dumfriesshire

Description

The monument comprises the remains of a ringwork, probably of later medieval date, surviving as a bank and ditch cutting off a promontory in a bend of the River Esk at approximately 45m above sea level. It is located in mature deciduous woodland.

The interior of the enclosure measures approximately 60m by 35m. The promontory is cut off on its E side by a bank 7.5m wide and 1.8m high, an external ditch and a counterscarp. The modern road has cut through the S part of the site, and a small section of the earthwork survives to the south of this.

The area to be scheduled comprises two discrete parts - an area to the north of the modern road that is irregular on plan, and an area to the south of the modern road that is sub-rectangular on plan - to include the remains described and an area around in which associated remains may survive, as shown in red on the accompanying map. The scheduling specifically excludes all above-ground elements of modern fences and telegraph poles, to allow for their maintenance.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Statement of Scheduling

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

Intrinsic characteristics

The monument is an example of a later medieval ringwork, falling into the broader category of timber castles, with upstanding remains dating from the 12th to 14th centuries AD. There is a strong likelihood that archaeological deposits associated with the monument's construction, use and abandonment are well preserved.

The importance of Gilnockie Castle is enhanced by the fact that it may have been abandoned at an early date. The site has considerable potential to enhance understanding of medieval timber castles, their strategic and political importance and the daily lives of the people who occupied them. The site lies within what was the lordship of Annandale.

Contextual characteristics

Timber castles are a type of later medieval fortified site, now characterised through earthwork remains. They are important because they mark local centres of Anglo-Norman lordship during the feudalisation of Scotland. The castle's importance is also highlighted by the fact that it is the only ringwork in eastern Dumfries and Galloway.

This concentration of timber castles relates to, and may give insights into, the feudalisation of this part of Scotland. Indeed, the siting and distribution of timber castles in Dumfries and Galloway in general and Annandale in particular indicates that they had two main purposes. Their purpose was firstly to protect the lordship of Annandale from intrusions from Galloway and, secondly, the routeways through eastern Dumfries and Galloway into the rest of the kingdom.

Associative characteristics

David I installed Robert de Brus, Lord of Cleveland (ancestor of King Robert the Bruce), as Lord of Annandale in 1124. This was the first act of military feudalism in Scotland, designed to contain the Galwegians of Nithsdale and secure the route in to Clydesdale. Sites such as Gilnockie Castle represent the physical evidence of this Anglo-Norman presence and the process of feudalisation.

Gilnockie Castle may be identified with the caput of the barony of Bryntallone/Bretallach (later Canonbie). It is likely to have been abandoned at an early date, when its lands were given to the priory of Canonbie, which then became the estate centre.

Some writers have linked this monument to the Border Reiver Joh(n)nie Armstrong of Gilnockie, subject of the ballad of 'Johnie Armstrong' (sic), who was hanged by James V in 1530. Armstrong is said to have had a tower at the E end of Gilnockie Bridge. This theory remains unproven but the site retains significance for organisations such as the Clan Armstrong Trust, which is based at nearby Gilnockie Tower.

The monument is marked on all editions of the Ordnance Survey map as Gilnockie Castle.

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 techniques and defences of, and domestic life within, a medieval timber castle. It may also shed light on the extent and nature of the feudalisation of Scotland, particularly the south-west of Scotland. The concentration of this monument type in Dumfries and Galloway may relate to the strategic nature of this process in this area and the particular role and influence of the Annandale Lordship. The site's rarity contributes much to its importance and its loss would impede our ability to understand the nature of medieval social and political processes in this area.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Sources

Bibliography

RCAHMS record the monument as NY37NE4, Gilnockie Castle, Earthwork Fortification; Dumfries and Galloway SMR as MDG7830, Gilnockie Castle, fortification, earthwork.

References:

Maxwell-Irving A M T 2000, THE BORDER TOWERS OF SCOTLAND: THEIR HISTORY AND ARCHITECTURE - THE WEST MARCH (DUMFRIESSHIRE AND EASTERN GALLOWAY), Stirling: Alastair M T Maxwell-Irving.

RCAHMS 1920, SEVENTH REPORT WITH INVENTORY OF MONUMENTS AND CONSTRUCTIONS IN THE COUNTY OF DUMFRIES, Edinburgh, His Majesty's Stationery Office.

RCAHMS 1981, THE ARCHAEOLOGICAL SITES AND MONUMENTS OF EWESDALE AND LOWER ESKDALE, ANNANDALE AND ESKDALE DISTRICT, DUMFRIES AND GALLOWAY REGION, The Archaeological Sites and Monuments of Scotland Series, Edinburgh: Society of Antiquaries of Scotland.

RCAHMS 1997, EASTERN DUMFRIESSHIRE: AN ARCHAEOLOGICAL LANDSCAPE, Edinburgh: HMSO.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Other nearby scheduled monuments

AncientMonuments.uk is an independent online resource and is not associated with any government department. All government data published here is used under licence. Please do not contact AncientMonuments.uk for any queries related to any individual ancient or schedued monument, planning permission related to scheduled monuments or the scheduling process itself.

AncientMonuments.uk is a Good Stuff website.