Ancient Monuments

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Colmslie Tower

A Scheduled Monument in Leaderdale and Melrose, Scottish Borders

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Latitude: 55.6475 / 55°38'51"N

Longitude: -2.7747 / 2°46'29"W

OS Eastings: 351339

OS Northings: 639603

OS Grid: NT513396

Mapcode National: GBR 9324.2C

Mapcode Global: WH7WH.B9YW

Entry Name: Colmslie Tower

Scheduled Date: 8 November 2000

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM6828

Schedule Class: Cultural

Category: Secular: bell tower

Location: Melrose

County: Scottish Borders

Electoral Ward: Leaderdale and Melrose

Traditional County: Roxburghshire


The monument comprises the remains of a tower house of 16th century date, situated at the E end of the steading of Colmslie Farm, some 200m NE of Waterside House, 250m from Hillslaps Tower and about 400m WSW of Langshaw Tower.

The lands of Colmslie were owned by Melrose Abbey, and before the Reformation they were tenanted by the Cairncross family; William Carncros de Cowmislie is mentioned in a charter of 1536.

The monument comprises the remains of a tower measuring some 12.9m E-W by about 8.4m N-S. It is built of roughly coursed rubble, with freestone quoins. The few surviving windows also have freestone dressings, heavily chamfered. No entrances are visible in the lowest floor; the entrance must have been in the floor above, facing N, although its position cannot be identified precisely as the N wall of the tower has been breached.

The first floor appears to have been divided into two rooms, the E one being the kitchen with a fireplace in the gable with a sink at the back and an oven in the N jamb. The kitchen had a single window to the S, the E jamb containing an aumbry. In its NE corner rose a turnpike stair serving the upper floors. The W chamber served as a living chamber with 2 windows facing S and a fireplace in the W gable.

This arrangement of dividing the first floor into a kitchen and hall can be seen at several other Scottish tower houses dating from the 15th to mid 16th century, in particular Newark Castle (Selkirkshire), Elphinstone (East Lothian) Colmongon (Dumfriesshire) and a group of towers along the Clyde Coast including Little Cumbrae, Skelmorlie, Fairlie, Saddell and Law.

The second floor has a single fireplace in the E gable. The side walls each have two large windows, three of which have stone seats. Between the two S windows are a mural chamber and a garderobe, the latter having a flue descending within the thickness of the S wall.

The area to be scheduled encompasses the visible remains and an area around them in which traces of associated activity may be expected to survive. It is irregular in shape with maximum dimensions of about 20m N-S by about 25m E-W as marked in red on the accompanying map.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Statement of Scheduling

The monument is of national importance as an example of a 16th century tower house. The archaeology of this monument has the potential to contribute to our knowledge of later medieval domestic architecture. The monument may be expected to relate to nearby Hillslap Tower, Langshaw Tower, and Waterside House.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland



RCAHMS records the monument as NT53NW 4.


MacGibbon, D. and Ross, T. (1887-92) The castellated and domestic architecture of Scotland from the twelfth to the eighteenth centries', 5v, Edinburgh, Vol. 3, 547-9.

RCAHMS (1956) The Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historic Monuments of Scotland. An inventory of the ancient and historical monuments of Roxburghshire: with the fourteenth report of the Commission, 2v, Edinburgh, 292, 293, No. 571.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

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