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.
While tower houses are appropriately attributed to the
Tower houses can also be found in the Mani peninsula in southern
Most notable in the
After initial European tower houses appearing in
The Fortified House in
Written between 1962 and 1970, it covers almost seven hundred buildings in
The work was an expansion of The Fortalices and
* Volume 1: South
* Volume 2:
o covering Stirlingshire,
* Volume 3: South
o covering Renfrewshire, Lanarkshire, Ayrshire, Wigtownshire, Kirkcudbrightshire and Dumfriesshire
* Volume 4: Aberdeenshire, Angus and Kincardineshire (1966)
* Volume 5: North and
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.
A line of these towers was built in the 1430s across the
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
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
Nowadays some towers are derelict while others have been converted for use in peacetime;
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."
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
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
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
As an eastern European example, one may look to
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
Keeps exist in a remarkable variety of shapes and sizes. They may be of 'square' variety, generally found on the
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
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
The fourteenth century residential keep, Château de Largoët, in
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.
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
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
The keep of
One of the most famous keeps in
The cylindrical donjon (keep) of
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
The Story of
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
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
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.
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
www.primelocation.com/uk-estate-agents/properties/a/rett/uk/y/sr/s/ - 64k -