domingo, 8 de março de 2009

The Scottish tower or fortified house.

A tower house is a particular type of stone structure, built for defensive purposes as well as habitation. Such buildings were constructed in the wilder parts of Great Britain, particularly in Scotland, and throughout Ireland, beginning in the High Middle Ages and continuing at least up to the 17th century. The remains of such structures are dotted around the Irish and Scottish countryside, with a particular concentration in the Scottish Borders where they include peel towers and bastle houses. Some are still intact and even inhabited today, while others stand as ruined shells.

Tower houses are often called castles, and despite their characteristic compact footprint size, they are formidable habitations and there is no clear distinction between a castle and a tower house. In Scotland a classification system has been widely accepted based on ground plan, such as the L Plan Castle style, one example being the original layout (prior to enlargement) of Muchalls Castle in Scotland.

The few surviving round Scottish Iron Age towers known as brochs are often compared to tower houses, having mural passages and a base-batter, (a thickening of the wall that slopes obliquely, intended to prevent the use of a battering ram) although the entrances to Brochs are far less ostentatious.

In Ireland, there are well over 2,000 tower houses extant and some estimate that there were as many as 8,000 built during the Middle Ages. The construction of the majority of tower houses is thought to have commenced in the early fifteenth century AD and lasted until the mid-seventeenth century. After 1580 many lords built fortified houses and strong houses although tower houses continued to be built until the guns of the Cromwellian rendered such private defences more or less obsolete. It is possible that many were built after King Henry VI of England introduced a building subsidy of £10 in 1429 to every man in the Pale who wished to build a castle within 10 years, Ireland being under English control at the time (Statute Rolls of the Parliament of Ireland, Reign of Henry VI, pp 33-5) although recent studies have undermined the significance of this grant, demonstrating that there were many similar grants at different times and in different areas. Tower Houses in Ireland were built mainly by the Catholic Anglo-Irish but also by the Gaelic Irish and more recent Protestant and Presbyterian settlers. Many of these structures were positioned within sight of each other and a system of visual communication is said to have been established between them, based on line of sight from the uppermost levels, although this may simply be a result of their high density. County Kilkenny has several examples of this arrangement such as Ballyshawnmore and Neigham. County Clare, although outside English control, is known to have had approximately 230 tower houses in the 17th century, some of which were later surveyed by the notable Irish antiquarian Thomas Johnson Westropp in the 1890s. The Irish tower house was used for both defensive and residential reasons, with many chiefly families building tower houses during the 15th and 16th centuries on their demesne lands in order to assert status and provide a residence for the senior lineage of the family.

Wider perspectives

While tower houses are appropriately attributed to the British Isles as their main occurrence, examples from elsewhere in Europe, the Middle East and the New World exist, usually in areas which had a somewhat similar social structure. For example, the Yemeni city of Shibam had hundreds of tower houses which were the tallest in the world. There are also, for instance, numerous examples of tower houses in Georgia in the Caucasus, where there was a clan-like social structure (surviving here into the 19th or even 20th century) in a country where fierce competition over limited natural resources, led to chronic feuding between neighbours. One theory suggests that private tower like structures proliferate in areas where central authority is weak, leading to a need for a status symbol incorporating private defences against small scale attacks.

Tower houses can also be found in the Mani peninsula in southern Greece; again an area of scarce resources, poverty, spectacular feuding, long lived vendettas, and a history of lawlessness and independence from central authority. A very good description can be found in the book Mani by Patrick Leigh-Fermor.

Most notable in the New World might be considered a focal element of the Mesa Verde Anasazi ruin in Colorado, USA. There is a prominent structure at that site which is in fact called the "tower house" and has the general appearance characteristics of its British Isles counterparts. This four story building was constructed of adobe bricks circa 1350 AD, and its rather well preserved ruins are nestled within a cliff overhang; moreover, other accounts date this ruin somewhat earlier. The towers of the ancient pueblo people are, however, both of smaller ground plan than Old World tower houses, and are generally only parts of complexes housing communities, rather than isolated structures housing an individual family and their retainers, as in Europe.

After initial European tower houses appearing in Ireland, Scotland and England during the High Middle Ages, Toy traces the appearance in other parts of western Europe as early as the late 14th century, especially in parts of France and Italy.

The Fortified House in Scotland is a five-volume book by the Scottish author Nigel Tranter.

Written between 1962 and 1970, it covers almost seven hundred buildings in Scotland which fall under the general description of "fortalices, lesser castles, peel towers, keeps and defensible lairds' houses". As such castles are included (although not the largest examples like Edinburgh or Stirling castles), as well as many smaller, semi-ruinous tower houses. Tranter illustrated each one with pen and ink sketches.

The work was an expansion of The Fortalices and Early Mansions of Southern Scotland 1400-1650, which Tranter had written in the 1930s. However, much of the updated work has itself been superseded or has fallen out of date, and the author never claimed the work to be scholarly. However original first editions are very collectable, as are complete sets. The first four original volumes were published by Oliver & Boyd, with the fifth by W. & R. Chambers. The work was reprinted in 1977 and 1986 by James Thin, under their imprint of The Mercat Press. Tranter made some revisions to the material for the reprints, but they were not described as revised or second editions. The additional entries which had appeared in the original fifth volume were also redistributed across their appropriate volumes for the reprints.


* Volume 1: South East Scotland (1962)

o covering West Lothian, Midlothian, East Lothian, Peeblesshire, Roxburghshire, Selkirkshire and Berwickshire

* Volume 2: Central Scotland (1963)

o covering Stirlingshire, Fife, Kinross-shire, Perthshire and Clackmannanshire

* Volume 3: South West Scotland (1965)

o covering Renfrewshire, Lanarkshire, Ayrshire, Wigtownshire, Kirkcudbrightshire and Dumfriesshire

* Volume 4: Aberdeenshire, Angus and Kincardineshire (1966)

* Volume 5: North and West Scotland and Miscellaneous (1970)

o covering Inverness-shire, Nairnshire, Banffshire, Moray, Caithness, Sutherland, Ross and Cromarty, Argyllshire, Buteshire, Dunbartonshire, Orkney and Shetland and additional structures not included in earlier volumes.

Peel towers (also spelt pele) are small fortified keeps or tower houses, built along the English and Scottish Borders, intended as watch towers where signal fires could be lit by the garrison to warn of approaching danger. By an Act of Parliament in 1455 each of these towers was required to have an iron basket on its summit and a smoke or fire signal, for day or night use, ready at hand.

Preston Pele tower, Northumberland

A line of these towers was built in the 1430s across the Tweed valley from Berwick to its source, as a response to the dangers of invasion from the Marches. Others were built in Cumberland, Westmorland and Northumberland, and as far south as Lancashire, in response to the threat of attack from the Scots and the Border Reivers of both nationalities ( remembering stories of Armstrong's last stand)

Apart from their primary purpose as a warning system, these towers were the homes of the Lairds and landlords of the area, who dwelt in them with their families and retainers, while their followers lived in simple huts outside the walls. The towers also provide a refuge so that, when cross-border raiding parties arrived, the whole population of a village could take to the tower and wait for the marauders to depart.

In the upper Tweed valley, going downstream from its source, they were as follows: Fruid, Hawkshaw, Oliver, Polmood, Kingledoors, Mossfennan, Wrae Tower, Quarter, Stanhope, Drumelzier, Tinnies, Dreva, Stobo, Dawyck, Easter Happrew, Lyne, Barnes, Caverhill, Neidpath, Peebles, Horsburgh, Nether Horsburgh, Cardrona, etc.

Embleton Tower (formerly Embleton Vicarage), Late 19th Century

Peel towers are not usually found in larger places which have a castle, but in smaller settlements. They are often associated with a church: for example Embleton Tower in Embleton, Northumberland is a fine example of a so-called vicar's pele and the one at Hulne Priory is in the grounds of the priory. Hawkshaw, ancestral home of the Porteous family at Tweedsmuir in Peeblesshire, a peel tower dating from at least 1439, no longer stands but its site is marked by a cairn.

Nowadays some towers are derelict while others have been converted for use in peacetime; Embleton Tower is now part of the (former) vicarage and that on the Inner Farne is a home to bird wardens. The most obvious conversion needs will include access, which was originally difficult, and the provision of more and larger windows.

Bastle houses are found along the Anglo-Scottish border, in the areas formerly plagued by border Reivers. They are farmhouses, characterised by elaborate security measures against raids. Their name is said to derive from the French word "bastille."

The characteristics of the classic bastle house are extremely thick stone walls (1 meter or so), with the ground floor devoted to stable-space for the most valuable animals, and usually a stone vault between it and the first floor. The family's living quarters were on the floor above the ground, and during the times prior to the suppression of the reivers, were only reachable by a ladder which was pulled up from the inside at night. The only windows were narrow arrow slits. The roofs were usually made of stone slate to improve the bastle's fire-resistance. Bastle houses have many characteristics in common with military blockhouses, the main difference being that a bastle was intended primarily as a family dwelling, instead of a pure fortification. Many bastle houses survive today; their construction ensured that they would last a very long time. They may be seen on both sides of the Anglo-Scottish Border.

An L-plan castle is a castle or towerhouse in the shape of an L, typically built in the 13th to the 17th century. This design is found quite frequently in Scotland, but is also seen in England, Ireland, Romania, Sardinia and other locations. The evolution of its design was an expansion of the blockhouse or simple square tower from the Early Middle Ages. As building techniques improved, it became possible to construct a larger building footprint and a more complex shape than the simple blockhouse tower. A more compelling motivation for the L plan was the ability to defend the entrance door by providing covering fire from the adjacent walls. This stratagem was particularly driven by the advent of cannon used by attackers.

It was common for the union of the two wings to have very thick wall construction to support a major defensive tower in the union area. For example, the stone walls of Muchalls Castle in Scotland are over 14 feet thick at the ground level. Built in the 13th century, these walls are thought to have supported a substantial defensive tower. A 17th century reconstruction consisted of a probably equally tall structure, but one suited toward 17th century living and whose upper story footprints mimicked the lower course.

Other examples of Scottish L-plan castles are Culzean Castle built in the late 16th century in Ayrshire; Dalhousie Castle built as a 15th century towerhouse near Dalkeith in the Lothian region; Dunnottar Castle a partially ruined castle perched on a cliff by the North Sea near Stonehaven; Erchless Castle, a 14th century Norman Castle in Inverness-shire; Fernie Castle constructed in the 16th century in Fife; and Neidpath Castle built by Clan Fraser in the 13th century near Peebles.

Irish L-plan castles include Balingarry Castle, which originated as a pre-Norman ringfort, but was modified as a high Middle Ages L-plan towerhouse; Balingarry Castle is located in the town of Balingarry. Gleninagh Castle is a 16th century towerhouse in a state of partial preservation. The L-plan design is also present in Rathmore Castle in County Meath.

As an eastern European example, one may look to Ilmov County, Romania to Herasti Castle, which includes elements of Italian Renaissance design. In Cagliari, Sardinia are two surviving structures known as the Pisan Towers. Each of these towers, as well as a third structure destroyed by English and Spanish naval power, is an L-plan design. The structures date from the year 1217 and are each 30 meters in height. The towers served as important lookouts over the sea and toward the island interior.

A keep is a strong central tower which is used as a dungeon or a fortress. Often, the keep is the most defended area of a castle, and as such may form the main habitation area, or contain important stores such as the armoury, food, and the main water well, which would ensure survival during a siege.

An earlier word for a keep, still used for some medieval monuments, especially in France, is donjon; a derivative word is dungeon. In Germany, this type of structure commonly is referred to as a bergfried.

Keeps exist in a remarkable variety of shapes and sizes. They may be of 'square' variety, generally found on the British Isles, cylindrical, octagonal, both regular and irregular polygonal forms, or a combination or several of these features. Effectively, some castles in fact, were no more than a keep and often these are referred to simply as tower houses.

Often early keeps were just square towers with very thick walls, scarcely more than a residential hall, such as Château de Langeais. This structure later developed into the more recognizable rectangular residential keep by the eleventh century.

The form and function of the keep changed with time and varied depending upon the region where it was built. As the keep was a defensive structure, the shaping trend changed to adapt to the developments in weapon technology. For example, the round or cylindrical keep was first introduced as a defence against the battering ram. A battering ram could cause severe damage to a side of a square tower, but merely would glance off the side of a rounded one. Also, a round tower is much harder to undermine successfully than a square one. Rounded towers also have the advantage of less "dead ground", or, areas not visible from the tower summit.

By the early twelfth century, cylindrical keeps had become popular and they remained prominent in France until the end of the medieval period (e.g. Montlhéry, Rouen). Variations on the rounded type began to appear at the same time. These included towers with triangular, prow-like projections (such as Château-Gaillard), polygonal keeps such as at Orford and Cardiff Castle, or "multi-lobed" keeps such as Clifford's Tower.

From the early thirteenth century onward many castles were designed without traditional keeps, instead the preferred plans for defensive structures were concentrated in the walls and towers of the enceinte, or in a gatehouse. Early examples may be seen at Château de Boulogne-sur-Mer, in Boulogne-sur-Mer and Bolingbroke Castle in Bolingbroke, Lincolnshire, and later, at The Bastille. In some castles the gatehouse took over the functions of the keep, serving as refuge, residence, and command post, such as at Harlech Castle.

The fourteenth century residential keep, Château de Largoët, in France

As nobles became more interested in grand halls and comfortable living quarters, the keep lost its domestic role. Although keeps continued to be used and built, there is evidence that many had a reduced role, demonstrated by the lack of residential amenities in the tower plans, such as latrines and chimneys.

In Western Europe, however, the defensible residential keep experienced a resurgence before the end of the medieval period, as towers were built to house nobles and their retinues securely, but at a very high level of comfort and luxury (e.g. Raglan Castle, Ashby de la Zouch Castle, Château de Vincennes, and Château de Largoët). This luxurious type was particularly popular in late medieval Scotland up until the 1600s (e.g. Craigievar Castle). Another word for this type of keep is the tower house.

Norman or Romanesque keep

An archetypical form for the keep in the British Isles is the Norman keep, so-called because they were built throughout England and Ireland by Norman nobles. Norman keeps usually have several distinguishing features in common and the type was very popular during the eleventh and twelfth centuries. Most have towers at each corner, which usually extend above the main keep to form watchtowers. In many cases spiral staircases were contained in or near these corner towers. Another common feature was the fore building, which contained the entryway to the keep, its most vulnerable point. This structure extended from the side of the keep and often, was approached by stairs, as the entryway usually was above ground level. Sometimes a drawbridge guarded the top of the stairs.

Inside, there usually is a central dividing wall that divides the interior in two parts. The living quarters for the noble or castellan of the castle were usually at the top of the keep, the great hall or halls were below the keep, and storage rooms were at the bottom of the structure. Keeps on this general plan may be seen throughout England and Ireland, with many examples in France as well, where they are known by the names donjon carré (a square keep) or donjon roman (a Romanesque keep). Examples include the Tower of London and Rochester Castle in England and, Domfront and Loches in France.

The Shell Keep at Gisors on the top of a motte


A unique form of keep is the shell keep which essentially, is a masonry 'fossilization' of a palisade lining the top of a castle defensive mound or motte. In a shell keep a strong wall was built around the top of the motte, and the domestic buildings were built against it, leaving a round courtyard in the middle. These differ from most keeps in that they are not a tower, but a defensive enclosure, although their purpose as a last refuge, as well as living quarters, is similar to other keeps. Good examples are Restormel Castle in Cornwall and Gisors Castle in Normandy.

Famous keeps

The keep of Vincennes protected by its own isolated enceinte

One of the most famous keeps in Europe is the White Tower of the Tower of London, constructed by William the Conqueror in the aftermath of the Norman Conquest.

The cylindrical donjon (keep) of Rouen, shown above, is all that remains of the large city fortress where Joan of Arc was imprisoned during her trial for heresy.

Shown to the right is the tallest keep remaining in existence, the donjon of Château de Vincennes, which is located in a suburb of contemporary Paris. Previously this distinction was held by the donjon of Coucy in Picardy.

The Story of Earlshall Castle and its type.

Among the glorious buildings that have survived in Fife there are few to match the ancient fortalice of Earlshall standing superb in its dignity and ancient power in the Parish of Leuchars at the sea girt Eastern end of the peninsula of Fife, aloof to a march of science that has brought supersonic air machines incongruously to blast their way around its battlements.

Here is a proud house whose pride, once humbled, has been restored by lairds conscious of a great responsibility. Six centuries ago the estate on which the house now stands was part of the barony of King Robert III's brother the Duke of Albany who exercised baronial power in the peninsula as Earl of Fife, but a third part of the Leuchars Lordship was granted by Robert III in the fourteenth century to Thomas Monypenny, laird of Pitmilly in Fife, an estate given to his ancestor Ricardus Monypenny in 1211 by the prior of St. Andrews. A family of great antiquity the Monypennys carried a dolphin in their arms suggesting that they came originally from the Dauphiny in France, the province that in 1343 was transferred by Humbert Dauphin de Vennois to Philip VI de Valois on condition that the heir to the French crown should for all time be called the Dauphin and bear the dolphin of the Dauphiny in his arms.

William Monypenny, descendant of Thomas, fought in the service of Charles VII de Valois, Charles the Victorious, and was rewarded in 1444 with the lands of Congressault. As an ambassador from France sent to negotiate the marriage of Princess Eleanor of Scotland to the Dauphin he was styled Natif d 'Ecosse, courrier d 'conseillères of the King of France but despite being a natif d'Ecosse and granted a Scottish peerage by James II of Scotland his love of France over shadowed his interest in Leuchars estate known then as Leuchars-Monypenny and after his death his son exchanged the barony with Sir Alexander Bruce of the Airth family for the latter's lands of Escariot in France.

This was in 1495. Two years later Bruce's ownership was ratified by James IV when he bestowed upon Sir Alexander by charter "the lands of Earlishall and the Prusk'' but it was left to his son, also Sir Alexander Bruce, to build in 1546 the original Earlshall castle, the nucleus that has changed so little in four centuries.

To his great grandson, Sir William Bruce, goes the credit for restoring and developing the original castle into the magnificent fortified house that stands today despite the vicissitudes that intervened, credit shared by his second wife whose tombstone in Leuchars Kirk reads " D. Agnes Lyndesay, Lady to William Brvce of Erishall, who in her life was charitable to the poor, and profitable to that house, dyed 1635. ..." It was in fact her considerable fortune that went to the rich embellishment of Earlshall that has endured through the centuries.

Sir William died a year later, to be succeeded by his eldest son Andrew who married a great-grand-daughter of King James V, father of Mary Queen of Scots who rode from St. Andrews to hunt over the lands of Earls-hall. In 1664 he in turn was succeeded by his elder son Andrew then aged 34 and destined to go down in history as a savagely cruel persecutor of the Covenanters when he took a commission in the Royalist army under Claver-house. Commander of the force that massacred Richard Cameron and his band of devotees of pure Presbyterian-ism against the Episcopalian being forced on Scotland by Charles II, the band that inspired the formation of that great Scottish regiment, the Cameronian, Andrew Bruce is recorded as paying a guinea to hack off Cameron's head and hands with a dirk and selling them in Edinburgh for £500.

Ever one for the main chance this laird of Earlshall subsequently and publicly abjured allegiance to Bishops, to the Pope, to King James II, at just the right time to curry favour with King William III and he died at Earlshall in the odour, albeit synthetic, of sanctity though it is said that his restless ghost haunts the great tower.

His only son Robert who had no heir was the last of the line of Bruces of Earlshall and, through the marriage of one of his daughters, the estate passed to the Hen-dersons of Fordell in Fife and in 1852 Sir Robert Bruce Henderson, the last baronet of Fordell, sold Earlshall for £68,000 to Lieut. Colonel Samuel Long of Bromley Hill in Kent.

Then there became the vicissitudes, years of neglect, which reduced a superb example of the Scottish fortified house, to a near ruin, to a state of decay, enough to deter anyone from the immense task of restoration. Happily it did not deter Mr. R. W. R. Mackenzie of Stormontfield, Perthshire, who acquired the dilapidated property in 1891 and set about restoring it to the zenith of its former glory. His architect was none other than R. S., after-wards Sir Robert, Lorimer and Earlshall stands today as a unique memorial to his genius. The entrance to the courtyard, and so to the main door of the house set at the foot of the great tower, is the archway in the curtain wall bearing the arms of Sir William Bruce. The tall oval tower with its stone stairway spiralling through four floors to the battlemented roof is the primary external feature. Joined to this by the main body of the house with the great gallery and the other public rooms is another tower, cylindrical and lower, and the journey between the towers is quite an experience for the uninitiated visitor.

The ground floor, accessible from outside by a modest side entrance, set in a continuation of the curtain wall, contains a labyrinth of vaulted kitchen quarters and offices. Above are the lofty dining hall and drawing rooms divided by a tall screen whose period beauty disguises the fact that it was copied by Lorimer from a screen in Falkland Palace. Surmounting the entire building between the towers there stretches the most remarkable feature of a remarkable house, the great gallery fifty feet in length and famous for the riot of tempera heraldic paintings and proverbs dated 1617-1620 and covering the whole of the flat roof and its wide curved frieze.

As the arms of the Bruces and other great families, some connected with them by marriage, are interspersed with fanciful devices purporting to be the arms of, for example, Hector of Troy, David King of Israel, Julius Caesar, Judas MacCabeus and Charlemagne, and as there is further embellishment in the form of exotic animals, it is thought that intentional humour played a part in the whole fantastic decoration. On the other hand they might have been inspired by a manuscript, not very long discovered, in which Sir David Lindsay of the Mount when Lord Lyon King-at-Arms drew and coloured the arms of the principal Scottish nobles and embellished it with the same fanciful heraldic and animal devices painted some 80 years later in the great gallery of Earlshall at the instigation of Sir William Bruce and his Lady Agnes.

The restoration of the painted roof was one of Lorimer's supreme achievements. When Mr. Mackenzie engaged him it was in such a state of decay from years of rain percolating through the rotting roof above that sections had fallen in. Piece by piece with infinite patience and loving care the painted surface was stripped from its rotten wood and glued to sound wood which was then secured to the repaired outer roof. When this intricate work was completed the whole pictorial pattern was reverently restored to its original splendour.

The central block of the house contains no bedrooms, all of which are interspersed precariously yet comfortably up the two towers, the main bedroom in the dominant tower having inevitably a secret escape passage.

Lorimer was not only an architect of houses. He was a late 19th early 20th century Capability Brown and the Earlshall garden which he created out of rough farm land can best be described in his own words taken from Christopher Hussey's book of his work : '' The natural park comes up to the walls of the house on the one side, on the other you stroll out into the garden enclosed. That is all-a house and a garden enclosed ; but what a paradise such a place can be made. Such surprises- little gardens within the gardens, the ' month's' garden, the herb garden, the yew alley and the kitchen garden too, and this nothing to be ashamed of, to be smothered away from the house, but made delightful by its laying out ".

Monkton House near Edinburgh. this very fine house is at present, for sale, in excellent condition and with lovelly gardens, has many fine period details still preserved, and the styles of the the various periods of its construction give it a noble character, well worth looking at the agents site, or if you are near Edinburgh, try contacting the agents direct for veiwing.

Property for Sale From Estate Agent - Rettie & Co - Edinburgh ...

Offers in excess of £1,600,000; House; 6 bedrooms, 3 reception rooms, 3 bathrooms. Rettie & Co - Edinburgh - Sales. House for sale - Monkton House, ...Monkton House, Musselburgh, East Lothian
Quite outstanding fortified Laird's house with tower dating from pre 1500
Charming 'B' listed cottage, outbuildings and approximately 3 acres of mature garden and woodland
Oak panelled.. - 64k -

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