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Castle Hill, motte, Bridge of Weir

A Scheduled Monument in Bishopton, Bridge of Weir and Langbank, Renfrewshire

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Latitude: 55.8516 / 55°51'5"N

Longitude: -4.5824 / 4°34'56"W

OS Eastings: 238440

OS Northings: 665060

OS Grid: NS384650

Mapcode National: GBR 3C.49CW

Mapcode Global: WH3P3.L54X

Entry Name: Castle Hill, motte, Bridge of Weir

Scheduled Date: 23 December 1988

Last Amended: 11 February 2011

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM4600

Schedule Class: Cultural

Category: Secular: motte

Location: Kilbarchan

County: Renfrewshire

Electoral Ward: Bishopton, Bridge of Weir and Langbank

Traditional County: Renfrewshire


The monument comprises the remains of a motte associated with an Anglo-Norman timber castle likely to date to the 12th or 13th centuries AD. It is visible as a substantial mound with surrounding ditch, constructed in a prominent position at the top of a natural slope. It stands at around 110m above sea level in land now used as a golf course, overlooking the valley of the River Gryfe. The monument was first scheduled in 1988, but an inadequate area was included to protect all of the archaeological remains: the present rescheduling rectifies this.

The most prominent feature is an earthen mound, approximately circular on plan, that measures around 30m in diameter at its base, narrowing to 20m N-S by 18m transversely at its summit. The mound is around 7m high and its top surface is generally flat but has some undulations. At its base is a ditch up to 4.5m broad and 1m deep. The ditch does not extend to the west of the motte, where there are steep natural slopes. On the SSW side of the monument, an earth ramp of uncertain date gives access to the motte's summit.

The area to be scheduled is sub-circular on plan, to include the remains described above and an area around them within which evidence relating to the monument's construction, use and abandonment may survive, as shown in red on the accompanying map. To allow for its maintenance, the scheduling excludes the above-ground elements of a flagpole sited on top of the motte.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Statement of Scheduling

Cultural Significance

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

Intrinsic characteristics

The earthworks of this timber castle survive in relatively good condition, although it is clear that there has been some disturbance in the past. A Mr Bonar dug a trench through part of the monument before 1902 and Ludovic Mann exhibited finds described as 'samian pottery, a bronze key, green-glazed pottery, charcoal and whitening material' in Glasgow in 1911, probably from a second intervention because Mr Bonar's work is reported to have produced no 'relics'. Irregularities on the top of the motte may derive from activities conducted during World War Two. Nevertheless, the monument has good field characteristics and the motte retains a good proportion of its estimated original shape, extent and structure. The motte is likely to preserve evidence of its construction, use and abandonment phases and may seal evidence for settlement or other activity that predated it. There is high potential for survival of evidence for timber buildings and upstanding defensive works, both on the motte and in the surrounding area. The ditch survives well on three sides and may contain important palaeoenvironmental evidence that can help us reconstruct the diet and economy of the inhabitants and the nature of the immediate environment when the site was in use. 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 route ways 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 north of the Forth in eastern Scotland and stretching up to and including the Moray coast. Other examples survive in Caithness, Argyll and the Highlands. They are comparatively rare monuments in the former county of Renfrewshire, though potential examples are known at Pennytersal and Milton Bridge 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. A wide, flat area of ground to the south-east 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. However, the upstanding masonry remains of Ranfurly Castle lie only 150m north-west of this motte. The close proximity of timber castle and stone castle greatly enhances the significance of both of these individual sites, allowing examination of the transition from motte to stone castle, both locally and by extension nationally. Complex archaeological remains probably survive at 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. Specifically, we know of traces of rig and furrow cultivation to the east of Ranfurly Castle and of a possible chapel site 250m north-east of the castle.

Associative characteristics

Documentary sources suggest that lands at Ranfurly, probably including the site of this motte, passed to the Knox family, ancestors of the religious reformer John Knox, around AD 1440. The family were barons of Ranfurly and their importance is demonstrated by the signature of James III on a charter that confirmed the transfer of the barony from John Knox to Uctred Knox in 1474. It is uncertain whether there were still standing buildings at Castle Hill by 1440 and the Knox family may have been responsible for moving the residential accommodation from the motte to Ranfurly Castle, a stone building constructed 150m to the north-west. The barony remained in the family until 1665 when it passed to William, first Earl of Dundonald.

National Importance

The monument is of national importance because it has an inherent potential to make a significant addition to our understanding of the past, in particular the construction and function of medieval strongholds. It retains a significant proportion of its field characteristics and is a well-preserved example of it class, with little sign of later disturbance other than limited antiquarian investigations. We can learn much about medieval castle construction from this monument, as well as the wider control of land and route ways in SW Scotland. Its importance is enhanced because it can be compared with and is probably associated with Ranfurly Castle, only 150m to the north-west, which would allow analysis of 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 record the site as NS36NE 18. The WoSAS SMR records the site as WoSASPIN 6804.


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

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

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