Ancient Monuments

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Barntalloch Castle, motte and bailey, Staplegordon

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

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Latitude: 55.18 / 55°10'48"N

Longitude: -3.0178 / 3°1'4"W

OS Eastings: 335280

OS Northings: 587777

OS Grid: NY352877

Mapcode National: GBR 78CJ.FX

Mapcode Global: WH7YP.M247

Entry Name: Barntalloch Castle, motte and bailey, Staplegordon

Scheduled Date: 25 March 1954

Last Amended: 11 December 2002

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM685

Schedule Class: Cultural

Category: Secular: motte

Location: Langholm

County: Dumfries and Galloway

Electoral Ward: Annandale East and Eskdale

Traditional County: Dumfriesshire


The monument comprises a motte and bailey, and later castle, at Staplegordon, or Staplegorton as it was commonly called in the past. The monument is medieval in date and visible today as an earthwork and upstanding ruin. The site was originally scheduled in 1954, but an inadequate area was included to protect all of the archaeological remains: the present re-scheduling rectifies this.

The site is located on a cliff about 35m high, forming the N bank of the River Esk at its confluence with the Staplegordon Burn at Potholm Pool, about 210m W of the farmhouse at Potholm. It overlooks a broad flood plain traversed by the Esk and is sheltered by several summits which rise up around the valley sides.

The triangular-shaped motte has been formed by drawing a broad ditch across the neck of a natural steep-sided promontory, whilst the bailey has been created by scarping the sides of the adjacent area of high ground, which may additionally have been defended by a ditch. The summit of the motte measures 27m ESE-WNE and the ditch is up to 12.5m wide and 2.7m deep. The bailey summit is 0.7m lower than that of the motte and measures 57m NE-SW by 37m transversely.

It is likely that originally the motte was considerably larger in area than it is today, and the bailey perhaps more crescent-shaped. Much has been lost due to erosion of the cliff-face. On the N and W sides of the bailey there is a low rampart, now spread up to 4m thick, which would have been surmounted by a timber palisade. The Esk and the deep glen of the burn provided ample protection on the SSW and NE sides. The material excavated from the ditch between the motte and bailey would have been used to provide a level building surface on the motte. Access to the bailey would have been on its W side, while access to the motte and its timber castle may have been via a timber bridge at the N corner.

The motte and bailey was most probably built by Galfrid or Geoffrey de Coningsburgh after he was granted the lands of Staplegorton by David I in the middle of the 12th century. It was also at 'Stapelgorton' that Robert de Brus was granted a charter of the 'forest' of Annandale, 'as far as his land stretches towards Stradnitt [Nithsdale] and towards Clud [Clyde]' in about 1240-50.

The lands of Staplegorton were acquired in 1285 by Sir John Lindsay, Chamberlain of Scotland, who may have been responsible for the foundation of the burgh of Staplegorton (an associated burial ground survives 120m to the NNW). In about 1319 Robert the Bruce granted the lands to Sir James Douglas; documents record that Archibald 'the Grim', the 3rd Earl of Douglas, issued summons from 'his castell in Eskdale' towards the end of the 14th century. The site appears to have been abandoned sometime after 1389, until the building of a later castle in the 16th century.

The Eskdale Estates of the Douglases were acquired after their demise by the Lords Maxwell, who granted the tenantry of Staplegorton to John Armstrong 'of Gilnockie' in 1525 and thence to the Littles. A monthly court was held there from 1579 and attended every quarter by the Warden of the West March. The 16th-century tower on the motte was built either by the Armstrongs or the Littles or by the Lords Maxwell as an administrative centre, and perhaps occasional residence. The tower of 'Staplegorden' appears on Aglionby's Platte in 1590 and on Pont's map of about 1595.

A fragment of mortared masonry, too vestigial to suggest anything of the nature of the structure to which it belonged, still remains on the E side of the motte. It survives to a height of 0.7m on the motte summit. Foundations 6m wide were noted in 1912; the walls are 1.1m thick. It is likely that the tower was accompanied by a number of ranges but these are difficult to detect, not least because the summit is much eroded. Stonework is evident amongst the mound at the N corner of the bailey and traces of a parapet mound exist along its N face. An indeterminate shallow pit, 2m in diamete...

Source: Historic Environment Scotland


No Bibliography entries for this designation

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

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