Ancient Monuments

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Pennytersal Farm, motte 235m south west of

A Scheduled Monument in Inverclyde East, Inverclyde

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Latitude: 55.9048 / 55°54'17"N

Longitude: -4.6621 / 4°39'43"W

OS Eastings: 233677

OS Northings: 671171

OS Grid: NS336711

Mapcode National: GBR 38.0WSH

Mapcode Global: WH2MK.CV55

Entry Name: Pennytersal Farm, motte 235m SW of

Scheduled Date: 11 February 2011

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM12893

Schedule Class: Cultural

Category: Secular: motte

Location: Kilmacolm

County: Inverclyde

Electoral Ward: Inverclyde East

Traditional County: Renfrewshire


The monument comprises the remains of a motte, a steep-sided artificial mound upon which the principal tower of an Anglo-Norman castle would have stood and which dates to the medieval period. The monument is visible as a well-defined earthwork located on the SW edge of a terrace at around 100m above sea level. A now canalised tributary of the Gryfe Water is located 70m to the west.

The visible element of the monument is a turf-covered, flat-topped and roughly circular mound of earth and stone. The mound is around 3m high and measures approximately 27m E-W by 23m transversely. The north side shows some evidence of disturbance to the original structure, interpreted as a possible quarry scoop.

The area to be scheduled is circular in plan, centred on the monument to include the remains described and an area around within which evidence relating to its construction, use and abandonment may survive, as shown in red on the accompanying map. Specifically excluded from the scheduling to allow for maintenance are the above-ground elements of a post-and-wire fence that crosses the south of the scheduled area.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Statement of Scheduling

Cultural significance

The monument's cultural significance can be expressed as follows:

Intrinsic characteristics

The monument is visible as a prominent earthwork, the form of which indicates that it is a motte, the remains of an Anglo-Norman timber castle. This was a defensive structure which may also have acted as an estate centre and a symbol of prestige for the owner and residents. Apart from the potential quarry scoop in the north side of the motte and some animal burrows on the west side, the monument does not appear to have been significantly disturbed and retains good field characteristics. The surrounding area also appears undisturbed. Mottes are often associated with baileys (enclosed courtyards adjacent to or surrounding the motte). In this example a potential bailey has been noted in the past as terracing on the west side and as a slight mound on the south and east sides. More recent interpretation suggests this could be a natural terrace on the west, and no remains are now visible on the east and south sides.

The motte retains a good proportion of its original shape, extent and structure and is likely to preserve evidence of its construction, use and abandonment phases. It may also seal evidence for settlement or other activity that predated it. There is high potential for the survival of evidence for timber buildings and upstanding defensive works, both on the motte itself and in the surrounding area. There is also a potential for the survival of a ditch around the motte, a feature often found in conjunction with mottes. This and other surviving negative features have an inherent capacity to retain palaeoenvironmental evidence within their fills. Such deposits can help us reconstruct the environmental conditions when the monument was built and in use, as well as details of the diet and economy of the inhabitants. The lack of evidence for stone buildings on the site suggests it was abandoned relatively early, enhancing the likelihood that archaeological remains of the timber castle are well preserved.

Contextual characteristics

This is one of over 300 fortified earthworks in Scotland that may date from the 12th or 13th centuries. Many timber castles were associated with the establishment of Anglo-Norman lordships during and after the reign of King David I. They played a role in the consolidation of state power and the development of centralised authority, representing the fortified dwellings of an immigrant population and the introduction of a European model of land tenure and feudal obligations. The role of these fortified settlements was symbolic as well as functional, marking and protecting the lands of emerging lordships and the routeways through them. Timber castles are most numerous between the Clyde and the Solway, but there are also examples along other main route ways, often by significant water courses, such as those to the north of the Forth in eastern Scotland and stretching up to and including the Moray coast. This example is located close to the Gryfe Water, a major watercourse cutting north-west to south-east across the area. Other examples survive in Caithness, Argyll and the Highlands. They are comparatively rare monuments in the former county of Renfrewshire, though other examples are known at Castle Hill at Bridge of Weir, and Milton Bridge, both in Kilmacolm parish, and at Lochwinnoch, Renfrew, and Eaglesham.

Many mottes were accompanied by baileys, defended outer courtyards that housed buildings and activities that could not be accommodated within the limited space on top of the artificial mound. The alleged terracing on the west of this motte perhaps represents the site of a bailey, but there is no clear field evidence for man-made defences to confirm this suggestion. The upstanding masonry remains of Duchal Castle lie around 2.67 km south-south-west of this motte. This proximity between a timber castle and a stone castle enhances the significance of both of these individual sites, allowing examination of the transition from mottes to stone castles, both locally and, by extension, nationally. Complex archaeological remains are probably associated with both these sites, preserving evidence for the nature and chronology of the transition and allowing future researchers to address issues such as whether occupation was continuous or interrupted by a period of abandonment. The timber and stone castles probably both acted as manorial estate centres, rather than simply as high status dwellings, and associated buried archaeological remains probably survive in the surrounding landscape.

Associative characteristics

The monument is noted on the First Edition Ordnance Survey as 'Mote Hill' indicating that it has long been recognised as an antiquity. Further research is required to find which estate and landowner this motte may have been associated with, but the concentration of three mottes around Kilmacolm is likely to be associated with one or possibly both of the Lyle family, associated with the later Duchal Castle or the Dennistoun family, another notable landowner in this area in the medieval period.

National Importance

The monument is of national importance because it has an inherent potential to make a significant addition to the understanding of the past, in particular the construction and function of early medieval strongholds. It retains a significant proportion of its field characteristics and is a well-preserved example of its class, with little sign of later disturbance other than limited animal activity and possible quarrying. From this site, we can learn much about medieval castle construction as well as the wider control of land and route ways in SW Scotland. Its importance is enhanced because it can be compared with two other mottes of similar form in close proximity, as well as a later stone castle, and can provide supporting information about the transition from timber to stone castles in Scotland. The loss of this example would significantly diminish our future ability to appreciate and understand settlement and land tenure in medieval Scotland.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland



RCAHMS records the monument as NS37SW 9. The West of Scotland Archaeology Service records this site as 7023.


Tabraham C, 1986, Scottish Castles and Fortifications. Edinburgh: HMSO

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

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