Bonchester Townhead

Point/Elder name : Bonchester Townhead

Grid Reference : NT 5936 1215

1545 :

Remains :

Access :

Archaeology? : Farmstead (Period Unassigned)

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Bonchester Townhead

Tancred call this ‘Bonchester Townhead, just above Robs Cleuch, and Walter Deans writing in the 19th C held that it was the original site of Bonchester. The remains of this settlement are 200 yards above Robs Cleugh. It was described by Tancred as being the site of a small tower, ‘with the remains of a vault still visible’ in the early 19th C. However, it is not reported in the 1858 OS survey. Walter Deans’s description in the Proceedings of The Berwickshire Naturalists Club of 1886 interestingly does not mention these ruins in detail, which suggest there was little to see, but he describes masonry elements of cut stone in the adjacent march dyke, The site is now marked as a ‘farmstead’ on modern maps and attributed a medieval date. The Inventory also describes it as a farmstead and identified the foundations of six buildings, rectangular in shape. The site was planted with Sitka spruce in the late 1970’s, which obscured the remains. Before then some building footings could be seen, cropped tight by grazing. These mounds and banks are the debris left after the larger stones have been removed, although it is possible that some lower courses of in situ masonry remain. The spruce plantation was cleared in 2011 and some measurements have been made. Among the felling debris the base of two structures can be seen. The first, likely from its size to be a pele type building, measures approximately 8.7 x 13.0 metres. A short length of the north wall remains proud of the turf. The alignment is NE/SW. There are indications of a bank and ditch to the NE of the Tower. The second building is suggested by a rectangular platform 20 metres to the North measuring approximately 6 x 16 metres, on more NNE orientation. As the wall fragment of the pele site is only of one side, wall thickness is hard to judge, but in the region of 1.5m. The other four buildings mentioned in the Inventory are not clear, probably obscured by the felling debris still rotting down. In terms of size, the tower is slightly larger than others in the area Slacks being 7.5 x 11.8 and Kilnsike 7.4 x 11.6. The style of build is likely to have been similar to that at Slacks, medium sized masonry units, clay bonded on a nearly square plan. While there is no sign of dressed or shaped stones in the adjacent dykes, the stones in the dykes are certainly larger than average, and in all likelihood would have come from the tower and other buildings. The building layout suggests similarities with Hindhaughead, with a small enclosure to the NE of tower and adjacent cottage structure to the north. Above the site 20 metres to the NE is a rocky edge that appears to have been a quarry.

The lands seem to have been divided up in the 16th C, giving Over Bonchester and Nether Bonchester. This also might be Ower Bonchester, referred to in deeds as `Over Bunchester' in 1569 and `Over Bunchester' in 1588. In 1619 An Adam Turnbull of ‘Bonchester Tounheid’ gave a Bond to Walter Lorane of Gattascot for £30.00, presumably his neighbour, signed at Jedburgh. Tounheid is also mentioned in a bond of 1619. Pont’s map (1590’s) refers to Nether and Over Bonchester, although not clear which is which. It is likely to have been abandoned during the improvements of the mid-18th C. Thomas Scott was the last Scott of Bonchester, who started the nursery on the haugh ground below; by then it is likely that all farming activity was transferred to the present Bonchester Farm, or Nether Bonchester as it was called for some time.