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Rathburne House, tower house 180m NNW of

A Scheduled Monument in Mid Berwickshire, Scottish Borders

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Coordinates

Latitude: 55.8073 / 55°48'26"N

Longitude: -2.5065 / 2°30'23"W

OS Eastings: 368351

OS Northings: 657233

OS Grid: NT683572

Mapcode National: GBR B1Y9.42

Mapcode Global: WH8WZ.G9NC

Entry Name: Rathburne House, tower house 180m NNW of

Scheduled Date: 30 March 2009

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM12579

Schedule Class: Cultural

Category: Secular: tower

Location: Longformacus

County: Scottish Borders

Electoral Ward: Mid Berwickshire

Traditional County: Berwickshire

Description

The monument comprises the ruined remains of a rectangular tower and its associated barmkin enclosure that date to the later medieval period. It is traditionally associated with the St Clair (or Sinclair) family who held the lordship of Longformacus in the later medieval and post-medieval periods. It is situated in a field of rough grass approximately 180m NNW of Rathburne Hotel at a height of 210m above sea level.

Rectangular on plan, the tower measures approximately 12m by 11m and survives as four turf-covered walls standing to a maximum of around 1m in height. The tower is situated at the top of a steep S-facing slope overlooking the course of the Eye Water. The E wall of the tower is less clearly defined, while the stone facing of the inner face of the N wall is visible. A ditch and rampart protects the N, W and E landward approaches to the tower, creating a U-shaped enclosure and defines what is interpreted as a barmkin, and outer enclosure or courtyard. The ditch measures up to 6m in width although it widens on the N and is most clearly defined on the E and is less evident on the NW.

The area to be scheduled is irregular on plan, to include the remains described above and an area around within which related remains may be expected to be found, 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

Surviving as the intact footprint of the tower and an attached barmkin, the monument represents a good example of a type of fortified dwelling preferred by the lesser gentry from the mid-16th century. The monument retains key elements of its original shape and form and, as there is no record of earlier investigation of this site, there is excellent potential for the preservation of archaeological remains that can inform us about the date and nature of its construction as well as its subsequent use and eventual abandonment. Such remains may take the form of occupation evidence in the form of middens, evidence for domestic outbuildings, traces of earlier structures and evidence of subsequent development. There is good potential for the recovery of environmental samples from the fills of the barmkin ditch and from the ancient ground surfaces sealed by the adjacent rampart. Such evidence can improve our knowledge of the local landscape when the tower was built and in use.

Contextual characteristics

The tower belongs to a form of late medieval defended domestic architecture found across much of Scotland. The majority of tower houses are based on a square or rectangular footprint with distinctive styles emerging according to design, function, and situation. L-, E-, T- and Z-shaped forms are notable, although this site is built on a much simpler square plan. Although now ruinous, we can gain a sense of its likely internal features, decoration and furnishings, and overall floor-plan by reference to surviving tower houses of similar date and type. Typically, square tower houses comprised a single vaulted basement chamber with three upper storeys topped by a parapet walkway around the roof. In some cases the walls of the vaulted basement were equipped with shot-holes for guns. Basement chambers were vaulted to support the weight of the upper floors and as a precaution against fire as kitchens were often located in the basement. Older tower houses often had their entrances at first floor level, accessed by wooden ladders that could be quickly removed in times of trouble. Later towers had ground floor entrances usually equipped with yetts, a heavy grated iron door. This reinforced the timber door, providing an additional line of defence. Most tower houses had a large public chamber, the great hall, on the first floor where the family could entertain guests as well as conducting the business of running their estate. The upper floors were usually occupied by the family's private chambers. On the roof, there was often a parapet walkway that projected from the tower's walls. This allowed defensive features such as machicolations, gaps in the floor of the parapet walkway that allowed missiles to be dropped on attackers. Often machicolations were places above the entrance. The roof itself was often not slated but covered using slabs of sandstone as slate was expensive.

Tower houses were relatively common across Scotland because they were successful as functional, defensive retreats, as focal points for social activity, and as expressions of power, wealth, and local control for lesser landowning families. In 1535 the Scottish Parliament passed an Act requiring all landowners with property worth more than £100 Scots to build strong fortified dwellings to protect their families, tenants and goods in times of trouble. The Act specifies the dimensions of the fortification and the types of materials to be used and many of the relatively simple tower houses conform to these dimensions.

This site formed part of a wider rural landscape where small-scale agriculture, hunting, animal husbandry and woodland management were largely controlled from defended lordly houses such as these. The buildings, enclosures and walls associated with these activities are likely to have been in close proximity to the tower house, but are not visible on the ground.

Associative characteristics

The tower is traditionally associated with the St Clair family, also spelt Sinclair, who in the late medieval period held the Earldoms of Orkney and Roslin as well as the Lordship of Longformacus. However, there is no further information regarding the occupants of this tower.

Surviving documentary sources reveal the St Clair family probably held land in the Longformacus area from around the 13th century and are among the gentry of Berwickshire who paid homage to Edward I at Berwick-Upon-Tweed in 1296. A James St Clair is recorded as being 'of Longformacus' in 1384 and the lordship of Longformacus appears to have remained in the St Clair/Sinclair family until the 18th century.

National Importance

The monument is nationally important because it has an inherent potential to contribute to our understanding of the past, in particular late-medieval domestic fortified dwellings and their construction, maintenance and development and subsequent abandonment. The monument represents a good example of a domestic defended home, built, and occupied by a family who expressed their status through the construction of the tower. 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. 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

RCAHMS record the site as NT65NE 6; the Scottish Borders SMR as 1210008.

References:

Beaton E 1997, SCOTLAND'S TRADITIONAL HOUSES: FROM COTTAGE TO TOWER-HOUSE, Edinburgh: HMSO.

Maxwell-Stirling A M T 2000, THE BORDER TOWERS OF SCOTLAND, THEIR HISTORY AND ARCHITECTURE: THE WEST MARCH, Dumfries: AMT Maxwell-Stirling.

RCAHMS 1980, THE ARCHAEOLOGICAL SITES AND MONUMENTS OF BERWICKSHIRE DISTRICT, BORDERS REGION, The Archaeological Sites and Monuments of Scotland Series, 58, No. 508, Edinburgh, Society of Antiquaries of Scotland.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

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