Slack's Tower

Point/Elder name :

Grid Reference : NT 64403 09893

1545 :

Remains :

Access :

Archaeology? :

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Slacks Tower

This is a well preserved bastle, very like Mervinslaw Tower. It has been constructed of clay bonded masonry and is largely complete to the wallheads. The south east wall has been reduced to first floor level, and the adjacent parts of the south west gable, but the general form is intact. The build is good, but possibly due to smaller masonry units the structure has settled in places, giving an uneven look to the walls. There are indications that there are some re-used stones on some of the window margins. To the north east of the tower is a rectangular building, divided into three rooms; this is likely to have been further accommodation. In the footings of this are some well-cut door jambs, of a quality and finish above what might be expected for such a building. Not only is the building a very good survivor of its type, matched only by Mervinslaw Tower 1.5 miles to the north, but the adjacent area is likewise well preserved, showing adjacent buildings, banks, dykes and roadways. The inventory has a good plan of the tower and its setting.

Slacks tower is a surviving example not just of a bastle but one of a series of defensive settlements along the upper Jed where the bastle was at the centre of a small farming community. (RCAHMS, Piers Dickson). Dykeraw tower can be spoken of as part of this sequence, and the line of sites run east down the Jed, with towers at Broohills, Hindhaughhead, Clessy, Roughlee, Northbank, Hilly Linn, Waterside, Mervinslaw Watties Spindles and Hass Loch. This area was surveyed in 1992 prior to forestry planting and showed a largely intact landscape preserved by grazing. Reasons for the gradual abandonment of this area are possibly due to a change in climate in the late middle ages and such ground became less productive such small communities could not be supported. However, it is possible that such places remained in use for longer, and abandonment only followed the general centralisation of farming that started in the 1750’s. There was George and William Olipher of Slacks recorded on a Jedforest Rent roll in 1669. In 1694 there is an Andrew Olipher listed, with an R Olipher and Marin Olipher, giving three hearths. An Isobell Fouller is mentioned at Slacks, as poor, and thus exempt. A John Scott is mentioned in the same document but at Slackburn. It is though that most were abandoned by the 18th C.