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Whytbank Tower, ancillary buildings and garden

A Scheduled Monument in Tweeddale East, Scottish Borders

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Latitude: 55.6291 / 55°37'44"N

Longitude: -2.8877 / 2°53'15"W

OS Eastings: 344204

OS Northings: 637638

OS Grid: NT442376

Mapcode National: GBR 838B.MY

Mapcode Global: WH7WF.MS31

Entry Name: Whytbank Tower, ancillary buildings and garden

Scheduled Date: 6 August 2020

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM13723

Schedule Class: Cultural

Category: Secular: garden

Location: Caddonfoot

County: Scottish Borders

Electoral Ward: Tweeddale East

Traditional County: Selkirkshire


The monument comprises the remains of a complex of ancillary buildings and a formal garden surrounding Whytbank Tower. The remains of the buildings are arranged around a courtyard with Whytbank Tower occupying the north west side. The garden survives as series of terraces on east facing slopes below Whytbank Tower. The monument is situated on the east slope of Knowes Hill.

The ancillary buildings are arranged around a courtyard, to the east, west and south of the tower. The tower itself was significantly reconstructed in the late 1980s/ early 1990s on the footings of the original building. Immediately to the west of the tower is a large flag stone floored building which is likely to have served as a stable/cart shed or a granary. To the east is a range of conjoined buildings, the southernmost of which was a barrel-vaulted kitchen which retains its original fireplace and ovens. This range would have had an upper floor, probably accommodating a hall and chamber. The south quadrant of the courtyard was occupied by another building that only has the south wall visible. To the east of the tower, beyond ancillary range is a formal terraced garden which retains original features such as bee boles. A line of stone-built buildings extends along the old road to the south of the courtyard and are likely to be of a later date than the tower house complex.

The scheduled area is irregular. It includes the remains described above and an area around 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 Whytbank Tower, which is a modern reconstruction, all modern signage, gates and timber handrails.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Statement of Scheduling

The national importance of the monument is demonstrated in the following ways (see Designations Policy and Selection Guidance, Annex 1, para 17):

a. The monument is of national importance because it makes a significant contribution to our understanding of the past, or has the potential to do so. The monument is an ancillary complex around a medieval tower house. This is a rare survival and the study of its form, construction and layout has the potential to enhance our knowledge of tower house complexes.

b. The monument retains structural, architectural, and archaeological attributes which make a significant contribution to our understanding of the past. In particular the monument has the potential to increase our understanding of construction techniques, phasing and use of ancillary buildings and areas around medieval tower houses.

c, The monument is a rare example of a medieval tower house complex arranged around a courtyard with a formal garden.

d. The monument is a particularly good example of a medieval tower house complex and is therefore an important representative of this monument type. Few other sites of this scale have the completeness and cohesion of the Whytbank Tower complex although most tower houses would have had associated ancillary buildings. This monument is therefore important in understanding class of monument.

e. The monument has research potential which could significantly contribute to our understanding or appreciation of the past. The monument has the potential to contribute to our understanding of medieval and early modern social and domestic organisation, the development of medieval tower house complexes and the organisation of high-status settlements associated agricultural settlement within the Scottish Borders and throughout Scotland.

f. The monument makes a significant contribution to our understanding of the historic landscape by providing insight into the layout of medieval tower houses and their ancillary structures and their place in the wider medieval landscape. Whytbank Tower is of particular interest as it was located within Ettrick Forest, a royal forest, which had a specific landuse development and is associated with Old Redhead, a deserted settlement dating to the medieval period.

Assessment of Cultural Significance

This statement of national importance has been informed by the following assessment of cultural significance:

Intrinsic characteristics (how the remains of a site or place contribute to our knowledge of the past)

The monument survives as series of well-preserved roofless domestic and ancillary buildings located around Whytbank Tower (Canmore ID 54409) and a series of terraces which are laid out as a formal garden. The tower house (excluded from the schedule) is a modern reconstruction (1988-1992) incorporating elements of the original tower (ground floor and northwest corner). Survey information from the early 1990s suggests that the remainder of the site is relatively undisturbed apart from some stabilisation and clearance works and the reconstruction of wall heads. The formal garden appears little altered and retains both its terracing and features such as bee boles which are built into one of the retaining walls.

The courtyard complex comprises a substantial two storey range to the east of the tower which probably accommodated a first-floor hall and chamber above a kitchen and other associated service and storage spaces. The remain of what is a stable/cart shed or granary is located immediately to the west. The south range is more fragmentary. Outside the courtyard to the south is another grouping of buildings of uncertain date and function and beyond them on the south side of the modern track, is the remain of a stackyard.

The present courtyard range may have replaced an earlier building group; there is a foundation of another building located beyond its' east elevation which is on a different orientation. The earlier range is orientated northwest-southeast which aligns with the orientation of the tower-house. This would suggest that the earlier range was built at the same time as the tower and that the present range is a later phase of development.

The Exchequer Rolls of Scotland from 1455-60 (Burton 1884; 524 and RCAHMS 1957; 5) show that the monument has its origins in the medieval period when it is likely to have been a possession of the Pringle family. At that time, it appears to have been one of three steads known as 'Wyndiduris' (Windydoors). One of these survives today and incorporates a medieval bastle house (scheduled monument SM13691; 2.3km north). One of the earliest cartographic depictions of Whytbank appears in Blaeu's Atlas (1654) which is based on a late 16th century map of Timothy Pont.

The first detailed map of the site is General Roy's Military map of the Lowlands (1747-55) which clearly shows Whytbank as "White Banks". This map shows a well-established formal garden and avenue of trees leading south to an unnamed settlement. Later map evidence shows that this settlement is Old Redhead (scheduled monument SM13722), which survives as a turf covered series of buildings. We have no clear date for the abandonment of Whytbank although it is likely to have been around the time Alexander Pringle of Whytbank built a new house to the south. Evidence to support this comes in the form of a painting of 1828 which clearly shows that main tower house was unroofed by this time. The 1st Edition Ordnance Survey map (1863) also shows that the cottages to the south appear unroofed and the tower house annotated as "ruins of".

Although the monument appears to have been partially cleared during the reconstruction works in the late 1980s/early 1990s, there are areas which are relatively undisturbed. These include areas of the courtyard around the tower, within the formal garden and in and around the south range. In these areas there is good potential for the survival of buried structures and archaeological deposits, artefacts and environmental information within, beneath and around the settlement. The buried archaeological deposits have the potential to provide information about the date, character and function of the different components of the monument, while any artefacts and environmental information such as pollen or charcoal, would enhance understanding of the economy, diet and social status of the occupants, as well as provide information about contemporary land use and environment.

Contextual characteristics (how a site or place relates to its surroundings and/or to our existing knowledge of the past)

Tower houses are found throughout Scotland and in great numbers in southern Scotland. Whytbank is of significance due to the survival of the surrounding ancillary structures and formal garden. Many tower houses would have had some or all of these elements around them, however, only a few examples now remain with upstanding features. Elibank Castle (scheduled monument SM6163; 4.67km west-southwest) may have had a similar layout as Whytbank: a 16th century document shows that Elibank had "house of stone and lime, with a hall, chamber, barn, cattle-shed, stable, dovecot, garden, orchards and beehives." Apart from a dovecot, these features can all be identified at Whytbank and there is evidence of the foundations of a structure to the east of the tower house within the garden that maybe a dovecot. Other examples which offer some, but not all, of the components found at Whytbank from Scottish Borders are Neidpath Castle (listed Building LB13857), Kirkhope Tower (listed Building LB6720/ scheduled monument SM1728), Posso Tower (scheduled monument SM3167) and Plora Craig (scheduled monument SM3157). Notably all of these except Kirkhope have early examples of terraced formal gardens.

To the south of the tower house, are the earthwork remains of a medieval settlement, which appears from historic map evidence to be related to the nearby tower house at Whytbank. The community at Old Redhead may have served as the farm or 'ferm toun' for Whytbank Tower before the house and farm was relocated to the south in the late 18th century. At Posso and Kirkhope there are nearby modern farms which may have medieval origins and at Elibank the Ordnance Survey 1st edition map shows unroofed buildings to the west of the tower which are likely to be farm buildings.

Whytbank, Plora and Elibank are located within the Forest of Ettrick, a royal "forest" and under forest law. This was an early form of land administration, intended to preserve the area as a hunting ground for the King. It is likely that all these settlements began as 'forest-steads', which was a defined area of land that was let on an annual basis. The tower and complex is likely to date the 16th century when lands within the Royal Forest was being feud. This meant that powerful local families such as the Pringles had heritable possession of land, allowing them to invest in the construction of tower houses.

Comparison with Whytbank, its ancillary structures and gardens with others within the 'Forest of Ettrick' and more widely in the Scottish Borders and other parts of Scotland could enhance our understanding of regional variations in tower houses in the medieval and post-medieval periods. It could add to our understanding of the structure of society and the form and nature of contemporary rural settlement. Study of the gardens could enhance our understanding of the development of formal gardens at high status sites in a local, regional and national context. Scientific study may add to our understanding of the type of horticulture practices, plant types and the spread and distribution of different plant species.

Associative characteristics (how a site or place relates to people, events, and/or historic and social movements)

Whytbank Tower has a long association with the Pringles, an important Border family who held many lands around Galashiels. Several other towers in the area are associated with the family including Torwoodlee (SM8687) and Smailholm (SM13614).  

Source: Historic Environment Scotland



Historic Environment Scotland reference number CANMORE ID 54409 (accessed on 10/12/2019).

Burton, G 1884. The Exchequer Rolls of Scotland, Vol. VII A.D. 1460-1469. H.M. General Register House, Edinburgh. pp.524. Available online at (accessed on 28/11/2019).

Cruft, K., Dunbar J. and Fawcett R 2006. The Buildings of Scotland, Borders. Yale University Press, New Haven and London.

Lewis and Terry, J and J. 1994. 'Whytbank Tower (Caddonfoot parish)', Discovery Excav Scot, 1994. Page(s): 5

Pringle J A 1828. 'Whytbank Tower', 'Drawn by J A Pringle Esq. 1828'

RCAHMS 1957. An Inventory of the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Selkirkshire. HMSO, Edinburgh.

RCAHMS 1967. An Inventory of the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Peebleshire. Vol.II. HMSO, Edinburgh.


Ainslie, J 1821. Ainslie's Map of Southern part of Scotland. Available online at (accessed on 02/12/2019).

Blaeu J 1654. 'Tvedia cum vicecomitatu Etterico Forestae etiam Selkirkae dictus, [vulgo], Twee-dail with the Sherifdome of Etterik-Forest called also Selkirk / auct. Timotheo Pont' in Blaeu Atlas of Scotland. Available online at (accessed on 12/12/2019).

Ordnance Survey 1863. Selkirkshire, Sheet III (includes: Caddonfoot; Innerleithen; Stow) Survey date: 1858 Publication date: 1863. Available online at (accessed on 16/12/2019).

Roy, W 1752-55. Military Survey of Scotland 1747-55. Available online at (accessed on 03/12/2019).

Wilson, T 1778. 'A Plan of the lands of Whitebanke, the property of Alexander Pringle of Whitebank, Esq, survey'd in the year 1778'.


Source: Historic Environment Scotland

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