Thursday, December 27, 2012

Kirkland Fort, Kirkcudbright

Kirkland Fort
Near Kirkcudbright

Kirkland fort lies about half a mile to the East of Kirkcudbright and just off the B727. It's only really discernable once identified on the ordnance survey map, and blends in with the surrounding countryside.

Above. Kirkland Fort looking South East.

The above photo shows a South Easterly view of the fort, with the scooped 20 foot summit laying hidden beneath the gorse bushes ( left hand side of the photo) The second part of the scarped summit can be seen just to the right, again covered in gorse. The gorse bushes grow around the rim of the top of the fort, measuring around 90 by 85 feet. Aerial photos show the full extent of the layout of the fort, neatly outlined by the gorse.

Above. The summit of Kirkland Fort looking North East.

Above. Another view of the fort looking South East.

The gap in the gorse bushes would appear to be an entrance way into the fort, about 20 feet wide. Ditches and banks still survive only on the Southern side of the fort. This is not considered a good example of a rock cut fort owing to its position with higher ground on nearly every side.

Above. Sketch and plan view of Kirkland Fort.

Kirkland Fort is regarded as perhaps one of the simplest forms of fort......a man-adapted naturally occurring outcrop of rock, scooped\quarried in its centre, with simple ramparts cut from the surrounding rocks and earth. 

Stable Isle, Kirkcudbright

Stable Isle (Rough Isle)
Loch Fergus

It may be small, but it's perfectly formed....Stable Isle (also known as Rough Isle) lies at the Southern end of the now drained Loch Fergus, less than a mile North West of Kirkcudbright. This small island was part of a larger, lake bound, complex that was once the seat of the Lords Galloway. The site as a whole, including Palace Isle ( to the North) was the site of Castle Fergus.

Above. Stable Isle from the North.

Stable Isle is the smaller of the two islands, and seems to be linked with Palace Isle by an earthen causeway. The aerial shots of both Stable and Palace Isles on both Multimap and Googlemaps are excellent, and show the islands themselves, the surrounding ramparts and the remains of causeways. A number of historical documents seem to have the two islands names mixed up....which is possibly the reason that only Stable Island appears as a named entity on the Ordnance Survey maps. 

Palace Isle\Fergus Castle, Kirkcudbright

Palace Isle\Fergus Castle
Loch Fergus

For such an unassuming site, this is really a very important part of Southern Scottish history. Palace Isle (along with Stable Isle) once housed Castle Fergus, the seat of the Lords Galloway, and reputedly the first Norman castle in Scotland. It was built by the first Lord of Galloway, Fergus, who held sway over much of South Western Scotland in what is now modern day Kirkcudbrightshire and Wigtownshire. Fergus was a great patron of the Scottish church, and enjoyed good relations with the Scottish King, enabling him and his family to remain in power and rule relatively peacefully until the death of King David I.

Above. Palace Isle looking South.

Palace isle is nearly 240 metres long from North to South, and roughly 105 metres wide (at it's widest point) from West to East. There are earthen remains of a causeway at the North Eastern side, though I'm not sure if this is contemporary with the castle or is a more recent addition. 

Above. Looking towards the remains of the causeway.

Palace Isle is split roughly into two parts. The Northern most portion is roughly circular, and is surrounded by banks and ditches that must have added the defensive qualities of the site when surrounded by water. To the South, is a longer and narrower raised platform, separated by a ditch running West to East. There is no evidence of an earthen causeway linking the two islands together....perhaps there was a wooden causeway or bridge here. 

Above. Panoramic shot of the fort looking South.

This must have been an impressive site in its heyday....a large island in the middle of the loch, suitably protected by the surrounding waters and with whatever buildings that may have existed here. This would indeed have been a palace suitable for a Lord with dynastic ambitions.

Above. Another Southerly view of the fort.

Above. Looking South East.

Above. The earthworks from the West.

Above. Close up view of the banks and ditches at the West side of the fort.

Above. The fort looking East.

Above. Another Southerly view of the earthworks.

The Old Kirkcudbright website tells us that the 'castle' that existed here, was of a Norman design, with towers at each corner and high walls....though no other accounts of the time describe the fortifications as such, or indeed in any way. 

Upon Fergus' death, he was succeeded by his youngest son, Uchtred, who is reputed to also have taken up residence in the castle or palace at Fergus. Uchtred jointly ruled Galloway with his brother Gilbert (Gille Brigte) but their relationship was one of typical brothers....they fought about everything, and when the Scottish King William was captured by the English at the battle of Alnwick in 1174, Gilbert accused Uchtred of being a traitor and being responsible for the King's capture. Gilbert followed Uchtred back to Castle Fergus and murdered him there, mutilating his body in the process. Gilbert took complete and sole control of the Galloway lands from this moment on, choosing to reside at Castle Fergus as his brother and father had done before him. Gilbert eventually died in 1185, but only after killing and driving out as many Norman settlers as he possibly could, building up a predominantly Gaelic following and therefore alienating himself and Galloway from both the Scottish and English Kings. He was succeeded by Uchtred's son, Roland, who set about making his Lordship secure against both the English and the Scottish, by building many fortresses around the Kirkcubrightshire area, including Buittle, Kenmure and Motte Brae in Kirkcubright. 

There appears to be no evidence that Roland, or his successor, his son Alan, resided at Castle Fergus, and the site slowly slips from historical record. It's possible that it was dismantled along with many other fortifications in Scotland, when King Robert the Bruce regained control of huge swathes of land from the English. Whatever buildings were still standing, were burned down by Thomas Huthinson in 1499. In 1570, some stone walls were still standing, and were subsequently quarried and removed by the MacLellan family to provide stone for the castle in the middle of Kirkcudbright. 

The site is easily accessible from the roadside and there are a few places to park safely.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Coroghan Castle, Canna

Coroghan Castle

I know this is only a fairly distant shot of this castle, but the sheer beauty of the surroundings mean it duly earns it’s place on the web site. Canna is the Westernmost island in the small chain of The Small Isles in the Scottish Inner Hebrides off the West coast of Scotland. It is linked to a tiny island, off it’s South Eastern tip, by a tidal sand bank, called Sanday. The island is littered with the remains of iron-age forts, standing stones and small settlements.

The castle lies at the Eastern end of Canna, on a stone stack that projects out into the sea. The photo shown here shows a view of the castle from Canna Harbour, peering past the headland that houses the modern ferry pier. All that remains, are the lower portions of a tower, built into the naturally occurring stone stack. Although records exist stating that this stone stack was used as a place of refuge between 1577 and 1595 no building was referred to. It is therefore thought that the ruins seen today, probably date from the late 1600’s. This was a small fortification rather than a larger traditional castle, built into the rocks of Coroghan Mor, has walls under a metre thick, and measures around 3 metres by 2 metres internally. Entrance to the tower is by a doorway set in the East wall at the end of a steep sloping footpath. It’s possible that there would have been other buildings on the summit of the stack, providing further accommodation and protection.

The Isle of Canna web site.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Catterlen Old Hall, Catterlen

Catterlen Old Hall

Situated just a few yards to the North of Catterlen Hall, the site of the original late 12th century hall can be still be seen in the field.

All that remains now though, is a rectangular 30 by 20 metre grass covered platform with huge boulder foundations protruding through the turf.

The platform survives to a height of around 1 metre above the surrounding field.

The large hollow, shown above, possibly represents the remains of a cellar or basement. It is edged with stones half buried in the turf.

The Pastscape website tells us that there are also faint traces of foundations of a South wing and cross hall in the field adjacent to the tower's platform, though at ground level it was impossible to see these earthwork remains. Alleged to have been built sometime around 1170, it was later replaced, in 1460, by the tower and hall to the South.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Catterlen Hall, possible second tower!

Catterlen Hall
Possible second tower

Peter F. Ryder suggests that the masonry remains, shown below, that lie to the East of Catterlen's hall and tower, could be the remains of a second tower. He suggests that Catterlen originally possessed two towers at the East and West end of a walled enclosure. There are, hidden within these walls, a vaulted basement with a blocked spiral stair case, lending some strength to his assertions.

Above. The lower level of the alleged second tower. 

Above. Another view of the lower level of the alleged second tower

The photo shown above, shows the lower levels of a structure, possibly the second tower, with masonry very similar to that which the surviving tower is constructed of.

Above. The remains of a small window in the lower levels of the wall

Peter Ryder thinks this may be the remains of a garderobe chute, and that its existence suggests that upper levels to this structure were originally in place, providing further strength to his ideas of a building here, if not a tower.

Above. The gatehouse\bridge, showing the newer stone work. 

The gatehouse\bridge shown in the photo above, along with the returning wall to the left of the photo, are built of much newer material, dating to sometime in the 19th century. 

Above. Catterlen's surviving West tower.

Above. Plan (from Peter F. Ryder) of the layout of Catterlen Hall, including the assumed second tower.

Peter Ryder suggests that the site layout at Catterlen Hall, would have reflected the quadrangular form of Greystoke nearby, but with no enclosure wall and\or gatehouse surviving, it's almost impossible to tell if he is correct in his assumptions.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Salkeld Dykes?

Salkeld Dykes

These photos were taken about a mile South of Lazonby, just North of North Dykes and a few hundred yards South of Scatter Beck. I'm not saying for sure that the scarp upon which the field wall is built represents the remains of Salkeld Dykes, but it is roughly the right area, and is in marked contrast to the flat fields either side of it.

Above. Looking West. The field wall is built on an earthen bank some six to eight feet high

Above. Looking East. Rough earthworks can be seen just to the front of the field wall. 

Above. A closer view of the earthworks in front of the wall

Above. Looking West again, showing the field wall built on top of the earth bank.

The dykes are thought to have been defensive earthworks thrown up around Great Salkeld as a defence against raids and as a Parish boundary marker. These photos are a tentative suggestion of the earthwork dykes that may have existed. More information can be found at the Gatehouse website.

Lazonby Motte, Lazonby

Lazonby Motte

This large earth mound lies a few yards to the West of the church of St Nicholas, and to the East of Lazonby station. It is a huge mound, and only seems to have been labelled a motte by M.J. Jackson in his 1990 book, Castles of Cumbria. It probably stands to around forty feet high, is topped with a stone memorial cross, and has been heavily mutilated on its West side to make way for an access road to the railway station. It is visible from the aerial photos on Multimap's website. 

It's also especially visible on Simon Ledingham’s photo on the Visit Cumbria website and the page on St Nicholas.

The church of St Nicholas may well have been built in the bailey area, as other motte and bailey sites throughout Lancashire and Cumbria (Melling, Burton-in-Lonsdale, Arkham and Whittington) The present church dates only from 1864, but replaced an earlier church on this site. Easily visible from the roadside and from within the church yard, this is a quite spectacular earthwork...if only there were more documentary evidence to back it up.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

RAF Greenham Common, Greenham

RAF Greenham Common

Above. The now disused Control Tower building. 

Above. One of the massive Cruise Missile storage bunkers. 

Above. The secure area surrounding the Cruise Missile storage bunkers. 

Above. The Cruise Missile storage bunkers. 

Fantastic aerial photo of Greenham Common today.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Oxford Castle Motte, Oxford

Oxford Castle Motte

Oxford Castle was founded in 1071, not long after the Norman invasion of 1066. The original fortification may have been constructed of wood and later replaced with a stone tower. Excavations beneath the motte and in surrounding areas have uncovered evidence of pre-Norman (Saxon) habitation. The impressive St George's tower, may be from this earlier period, and can be found a few yards from the Southern side of the motte.

Above. The motte from South.

The fact that the motte appears to have been built over Saxon remains, could indicate a symbolical burying of the old (Saxon) and replacement by the new (Norman) and a firm establishment of Norman control over the city.

Above. The motte from New Road to the North.

The Norman castle was established by Robert D'Oyly, who came to England with William the Conqueror, and built very soon after Oxford was invaded. Originally standing to around eighteen metres high, it has been somewhat reduced in height now. St George's tower may have been added to the castle around 1074, using the foundations of an exisiting Saxon building. Easily seen from the road to the North and from the castle courtyard, this is an impressive motte.