Kilnsike Tower

Point/Elder name :

Grid Reference : NT 63421 13005

1545 :

Remains :

Access :

Archaeology? :

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Kilnsyke Tower

This is the remains of a typical border bastle or Pele House, a type once common in the borderlands of England and Scotland during the 16th C. It is generally though that they were essentially defendable farmhouses, not miniature castles solely for defence. McDowall and Mercer, writing in 1974 probably best sum up the causes for bastles on the English side as ‘being needed when feudal power was in decline but had not yet been replaced with effective state power’; and this could equally apply to Scotland. In terms of typology, the layout was common. Generally most bastles in the borders did not have a vault over the ground floor, providing living for people above, space for cattle at night below. However, even by the standards of cattle sizes of the time, numbers that could have been fitted inside would have been modest. It is equally likely that the ground floor space was used for secure storage, as with many 16th C buildings in Scotland. The Royal Commission on Historical Monuments in England published a short book on the subject in 1974, ‘Sheilings and Bastles’ and while much of the examples and discussion are obviously south of the border, there is much similarity in architecture and basic type. In England there was a legal obligation to provide fortified dwellings within 20 miles of the border, and the remains conform to this. Like Mervinslaw and Slacks tower close by, there is no vault at Kilnsike and the masonry is clay bonded. The stones of the walls are large by any standard and give a cyclopean look; and while rough in appearance the work is of a high standard. Both gables are much reduced in height, but the door remains in the west gable. The ground level around the tower has risen by about 4 feet, reducing the scale of the remains. The north wall is all but gone. The south wall has a good-sized window opening as at Mervinslaw. The height of the first-floor entrance on the SE wall, and the remaining height of the NE gable suggest that this building was a story higher than Mervinslaw and Slacks. In contrast to other sites of this type, the adjacent ground has been cultivated, and all traces of outbuildings and field systems have been levelled. In 1694 a ‘Kilsyk’ is listed on the Tax roll, but no names against it. This might mean it was empty. In 1822 There is a settlement marked on the map, called ‘Kilsyke’ between Westerhouses and Ashtrees.