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Leuchars Castle, motte and associated remains

A Scheduled Monument in Tay Bridgehead, Fife

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Coordinates

Latitude: 56.3865 / 56°23'11"N

Longitude: -2.8853 / 2°53'7"W

OS Eastings: 345435

OS Northings: 721932

OS Grid: NO454219

Mapcode National: GBR 2M.1RPZ

Mapcode Global: WH7RR.NQ7X

Entry Name: Leuchars Castle, motte and associated remains

Scheduled Date: 5 February 1954

Last Amended: 12 May 1997

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM857

Schedule Class: Cultural

Category: Secular: motte

Location: Leuchars

County: Fife

Electoral Ward: Tay Bridgehead

Traditional County: Fife

Description

The monument comprises a substantial motte of medieval date (the remains of a 12th-century castle), together with part of its probable bailey, the latter visible on aerial photographs.

Leuchars Castle motte is a massive, oval, flat-topped mound located in a low-lying field N of the dismantled railway line and Leuchars Church. The mound stands about 8m high. Its summit plateau measures about 80m N-S by 50m W-E. Cultivation appears gradually to be reducing the size of the summit area (in 1956 it was recorded by OS surveyors as about 100m by 70m in extent). Quantities of animal bone, shells, worked stones and masonry are routinely recorded eroding from the summit and sides of the motte.

Probable traces of the bailey, or outer enclosure, of Leuchars Castle are visible on aerial photographs, extending some 150m SW of the great mound. This may have been a D-shaped enclosure. Other cropmarks are also visible in the immediate vicinity. At one time, a moat is recorded as surrounding this site.

Documentary evidence suggests that the barony of Leuchars existed in the time of William the Lion (1165-1214) and that a castle existed here from before 1264. A stone castle crowning the motte was occupied at least as late as 1565, and part of it was still standing at the end of the 18th century. It was demolished in the early 19th century.

In 1923 a decorated bronze plate was found immediately south of the mound. It bears figures in 12th- to 13th-century dress and is now in the National Museum.

The area to be scheduled encompasses the motte itself and the associated cropmarks. It has maximum dimensions of 370m ENE-WSW by 380m NNW-SSE. It is partially defined on its eastern boundary by the line of a track, and on its northern boundary by the lines of field fences. All other edges have been determined on the basis of the archaeology and do not follow existing boundaries. The area includes part of a dismantled railway; this is embanked and it is probable that features of archaeological importance survive beneath it. The area to be scheduled is shown in red on the accompanying map extract. All existing modern boundary fences are excluded from this scheduling.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Statement of Scheduling

The monument is of national importance as one of the most impressive surviving mottes in Scotland. It has the potential to contribute to our understanding of the place of this monument type in medieval Scotland: the origins and construction techniques of 12th-century and earlier mottes; the transition from earthwork and timber-built castles to stone-built castles; and the economy of high status sites within rural medieval Scotland. Within the scheduled area is likely to be preserved evidence of the medieval and late medieval environment, agricultural practices, trading contracts, craft activities and daily life of the occupants of Leuchars Castle motte and their contemporaries. The length of occupation attested on this site, perhaps as much as 500 years, would allow analysis of the development of medieval and later, rural society.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Sources

Bibliography

A journey through Scotland, 1723, 94 (Anon).

Fife, Pictorial and Historical, 1, 1895, 343-5.

RCAHMS 1933 An Inventory of the Ancient Monuments of Fife and Kinross, 197-8, nos. 398 and 401.

RCAHMS no. NO 42 SE 5.

Statistical Account of Scotland xviii, 1796, 591-2.

Ordnance Survey map 6' 1919.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

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