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Balmaclellan Motte

A Scheduled Monument in Dee and Glenkens, Dumfries and Galloway

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Latitude: 55.0898 / 55°5'23"N

Longitude: -4.1129 / 4°6'46"W

OS Eastings: 265245

OS Northings: 579302

OS Grid: NX652793

Mapcode National: GBR 4Y.PFCB

Mapcode Global: WH4V4.SBNF

Entry Name: Balmaclellan Motte

Scheduled Date: 9 January 1937

Last Amended: 1 November 2002

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM1109

Schedule Class: Cultural

Category: Secular: motte

Location: Balmaclellan

County: Dumfries and Galloway

Electoral Ward: Dee and Glenkens

Traditional County: Kirkcudbrightshire


The monument comprises Balmaclellan Motte, also known as Balmaclellan Mote or Mote Hill, an artificial mound of medieval date of a type normally topped with a timber wall and wooden tower. The monument is being rescheduled now because both the original scheduling document and the file have been lost.

The monument is visible as a turf-covered sand and gravel mound, situated on the SW flank of a hillside at about 110m OD. This small motte lies near the S end of a low ridge, in improved pasture about 150m N of the village of Balmaclellan. The motte stands about 5m high and is shaped like a truncated cone, with a diameter of around 27m at its base and 11m at its summit. There is no trace of an associated bailey (outer enclosure), although the monument has suffered some erosion. A 3m wide ditch was recorded in 1911 by the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland, but seems to have been ploughed out sometime thereafter. Balmaclellan Motte is unusual in that it is not situated by fresh running water and its summit has a relatively small surface area compared to other examples in Galloway. The motte was apparently partly excavated in antiquity by Dr Murray of Balmaclellan, signs of which are visible at the summit.

In 1275 the Papal tax records the parish of 'Trevercarcou', later known as Balmaclellan, one of five parishes in the Glenkens. In the medieval period the Glenkens had rich soils and minerals and a certain amount of woodland. Trevercarcou was important in the tenth century, at which time it seems to have formed the central homestead of the kingdom of Cumbria's court in the Glenkens. This motte is likely to date to the first half of the twelfth century, however, when prevailing political circumstances encouraged the first influx of Anglo-Norman incomers. There was a high density of mottes in Galloway because the indigenous population was particularly hostile to the Anglo-Normans given the relative inability of central government to maintain any effective authority.

Robert I designated the Glenkens a royal hunting reserve (the 'New Forest') by 1358, but it was one in which the kings of Scots rarely hunted as the campaigns of Edward Baliol rendered it inaccessible after Robert's death. David II began to feu the forest from 1366 and the Park of Balmaclellan, which was created to hold deer, is documented in the fifteenth century. The parish of Trevercarcou came into prominence in 1408 as the 'Barony of Balmaclelane (Maclellan's village), at a time when a number of person-derived placenames begin to appear in the record. 'Balmaclellan' is first recorded as a parish in 1453.

War and plague in the later fourteenth century may have led to the deliberate introduction of a 'colony' to replenish depleted populations, either by the Gordons or the earls of Douglas, or both, as superiors of the lands of Balmaclellan. The Maclellans may have initiated the building of a new parish church around the mid fifteenth century.

Due to inadequacies in the surviving records, the building of the motte cannot be ascribed to an individual or family; nor can it be inferred that the Maclellans reoccupied the site following a period of social depression.

The area proposed for scheduling comprises the motte and an area around it within which related material may be expected to survive. It is circular in plan with a maximum diameter of 36m, as marked in red on the accompanying map.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Statement of Scheduling

The monument is of national importance because of its potential to contribute to an understanding of a single period, secular administrative site, of a type characteristic of the medieval period in this part of Scotland. Its significance is enhanced because it is one of a group of similar monuments in this area, which facilitates comparative study. Its importance is further enhanced by its high archaeological potential, which could elucidate the influences provided by the surviving documentation.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland



The monument is recorded by the RCAHMS as NX 67 NE 1.


Brooke, D. (1984), ?The Glenkens 1275-1456: snapshots of a medieval countryside?, Transactions of the Dumfriesshire and Galloway Natural History and Antiquarian Society, 3rd series, Vol. 59, 41-43, 46, 48-51, 53-55.

Coles, F. R. (1892), ?The mottes, forts, and doons of the Stewartry of Kirkcudbrightshire?, Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, Vol. 26, 160-161.

Feachem, R. W. (1956), ?Iron Age and Early Medieval Monuments in Galloway and Dumfriesshire?, Transactions of the Dumfriesshire and Galloway Natural History and Antiquarian Society, 3rd series, Vol. 33, 64.

RCAHMS (1914), Fifth report and inventory of monuments and constructions in Galloway, Vol. 2, County of the Stewartry of Kirkcudbright, Edinburgh, No. 37, 27.

Tabraham, C. J. (1984), ?Normal Settlement in Galloway: recent fieldwork in the Stewartry?, Breeze, D. J. ed., Studies in Scottish Antiquity presented to Stewart Cruden, Edinburgh, No. 4, 93-94, 117-118 & 120.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

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