Ancient Monuments

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Riddell, motte and bailey 600m north east of

A Scheduled Monument in Selkirkshire, Scottish Borders

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Latitude: 55.5153 / 55°30'54"N

Longitude: -2.7615 / 2°45'41"W

OS Eastings: 352012

OS Northings: 624874

OS Grid: NT520248

Mapcode National: GBR 944N.YR

Mapcode Global: WH7X2.KM7S

Entry Name: Riddell, motte and bailey 600m NE of

Scheduled Date: 23 August 1961

Last Amended: 27 February 2017

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM2130

Schedule Class: Cultural

Category: Secular: motte

Location: Lilliesleaf

County: Scottish Borders

Electoral Ward: Selkirkshire

Traditional County: Roxburghshire


The monument is a motte and bailey, the earthwork mound and enclosure of a castle likely to date from the 12th or 13th centuries AD.  It is visible as a substantial flat topped sub-oval mound with a bailey to the southeast and a series of deep ditches and ramparts surrounding the site.  The monument is located in woodland, on the edge of a pastoral field, at the north side of a valley carrying the Ale Water at about 175m above sea level.

The motte is situated at the head on a natural ridge and takes advantage of steep natural ground on its north and south sides.  The motte, at the centre of the monument, is the highest ground.  The motte stands to around 4m in height above the bailey and measures about 29m by 13m across the summit.  The bailey is an enclosed area of level ground, immediately southeast of the motte.  A series of earthworks, formed by a pair of banks up to 1m in height with a ditch up to 3.5m deep between them, enclose the motte and bailey on the west and north sides.  A ramped approach, from the southwest, runs across the earthworks following the natural spine of the ridge to the motte.  Another ramped access runs from the northeast of the monument, between the earthworks, directly to the motte.  Southeast of the bailey, the slope is terraced to include another smaller enclosure.  The eastern side of the monument is bounded by a narrow bank and shallow ditch.

The scheduled area is irregular on plan and includes the remains described above and an area around them within which evidence relating to the monument's construction, use and abandonment is expected to survive, as shown in red on the accompanying map.  The scheduling specifically excludes The General's Tower and all modern post and wire fences.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Statement of Scheduling

Cultural Significance

The cultural significance of the monument has been assessed as follows:

Intrinsic Characteristics.

The monument is a motte and bailey, a series of substantial earthworks which contain the archaeological remains of a timber or possibly stone castle and related outbuildings.  It is visible as a substantial mound and series of ditches and ramparts.  There are two related enclosures, one being the bailey immediately southeast of the motte and the other is smaller and set below the bailey.  The surviving earthworks are well preserved and in a stable condition.  There is good potential for the survival of archaeological deposits, artefacts and environmental information within, beneath and around the motte and bailey.  The buried archaeological deposits have the potential to provide information about the date and character of the site, while any artefacts and environment evidence would enhance our understanding of the economy, diet and social status of the occupants, as well as provide information about contemporary landuse and environment.  Scientific study of the form and construction of the monument and the remains of any structures would enhance our understanding of the character, structure and development sequence of this site and add to our knowledge of early castle architecture.

Timber castles were built in Scotland in the 12th and 13th centuries and some continued in use as late as the 15th century.  The evidence of the bailey and adjacent lower and smaller enclosure, may indicate that the site had an extended development sequence, potentially with a period of abandonment and then reuse.  Scientific study of the monument would allow us to develop a better understanding of the chronology of the site, including its date of origin, the nature of any structures and later re-use.  The motte and bailey have the potential to contain traces of other features related to the occupation of the site and these too have the potential to inform our knowledge of the daily lives of the occupants of this site.

Contextual Characteristics

There are around 300 fortified earthworks in Scotland dating from the 12th and 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 royal power and the development of centralised authority through feudalisation.  This example is of particular significance, because of its diagnostic form and good preservation, but also because it is located close to similar sites.  Approximately 6km northwest is Selkirk Castle, motte and bailey (scheduled monument reference SM2967; Canmore ID 54272) and around 11m kilometres south-southwest is Hawick Motte (scheduled monument reference SM1702; Canmore ID 54140).  The proximity of these monuments can give important insights into the distribution and chronology of medieval fortified earthworks in the region and add to our understanding of social organisation, patterns of land tenure and land-use.  

More widely, Riddell is part of a larger regional group of mottes and medieval fortified earthworks around the Scottish Borders.  The monument, therefore, has the potential to broaden our understanding of the nature of medieval lordship and crown control, and the feudalistion of land in this area.  It has the potential to broaden our understanding of the nature and chronology of medieval fortified earthworks and their place within the landscape of the south of Scotland.

Mottes are typically sited in defensible locations, often making defensive use of natural features.  Riddell is located on the head of a sloping natural ridge with the defences complementing and enhancing the steeply sloped sides.  The position of the monument in the landscape can enhance our understanding of the status of the site, communications and relationships with other territories, and the nature of land holding and control during the medieval period.

Associative Characteristics

A charter dating to 1150, offers evidence that King David I granted land at "Lilislive" to a Walter de Riddale from Yorkshire.  Lilliesleaf is the modern English name for the nearest village to Riddell.  The placename Riddell is highly likely to derive directly from the "Riddale" family name.

Statement of National Importance

The monument is of national importance because it can make a significant addition to our understanding of the past, in particular the date, construction and function of medieval earth and timber castles.  The monument retains its field characteristics to a marked degree and is a well-preserved example of its class.  The complex arrangement of motte, bailey, enclosure and series of earthworks indicates that this castle site may have had an extended development sequence.  The monument's significance is enhanced by its proximity to similar, contemporary sites.  Together these sites can enhance our knowledge of the distribution and chronology of medieval fortified earthworks in the region.  The loss or damage of the monument would diminish our ability to appreciate and understand the character and development of medieval castles, and their role in feudalisation of medieval Scotland.


Source: Historic Environment Scotland



Historic Environment Scotland reference number CANMORE ID 55482 (accessed on 27/10/2016).

Scottish Borders Council Historic Environment Record reference HER ID 75745.

Lawrie, A C. (1905). Early Scottish charters prior to A.D. 1153. Glasgow.

RCAHMS. (1956). The Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland. An inventory of the ancient and historical monuments of Roxburghshire: with the fourteenth report of the Commission, 2v. Edinburgh


HER/SMR Reference

HER ID 75745
HER ID 55482

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

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