Tibbers Castle

Last updated

Tibbers Castle
Dumfries and Galloway, Scotland
UK grid reference NY088811
The motte at Tibbers Castle.jpg
The motte at Tibbers Castle
Dumfries and Galloway UK relief location map.jpg
Red pog.svg
Tibbers Castle
Coordinates 55°15′51″N3°47′32″W / 55.264167°N 3.792222°W / 55.264167; -3.792222
Site information
Open to
the public
Site history
Built12th /13th century; rebuilt early 14th century

Tibbers Castle is a motte-and-bailey castle overlooking a ford across the River Nith in Dumfries and Galloway, Scotland. To the east is the village of Carronbridge and to the north west is a 16th-century country house, Drumlanrig Castle. [1]

Motte-and-bailey castle fortification with a wooden or stone keep situated on a raised earthwork

A motte-and-bailey castle is a fortification with a wooden or stone keep situated on a raised earthwork called a motte, accompanied by an enclosed courtyard, or bailey, surrounded by a protective ditch and palisade. Relatively easy to build with unskilled labour, but still militarily formidable, these castles were built across northern Europe from the 10th century onwards, spreading from Normandy and Anjou in France, into the Holy Roman Empire in the 11th century. The Normans introduced the design into England and Wales following their invasion in 1066. Motte-and-bailey castles were adopted in Scotland, Ireland, the Low Countries and Denmark in the 12th and 13th centuries. By the end of the 13th century, the design was largely superseded by alternative forms of fortification, but the earthworks remain a prominent feature in many countries.

River Nith river in Scotland

The River Nith is a river in south-west Scotland. The Nith rises in the Carsphairn hills of East Ayrshire, more precisely between Prickeny Hill and Enoch Hill, 4.4 miles (7.1 km) east of Dalmellington. For the majority of its course it flows in a southerly direction through Dumfries and Galloway and then into the Solway Firth at Airds point.

Dumfries and Galloway Council area of Scotland

Dumfries and Galloway is one of 32 unitary council areas of Scotland and is located in the western Southern Uplands. It comprises the historic counties of Dumfriesshire, Stewartry of Kirkcudbright and Wigtownshire, the latter two of which are collectively known as Galloway. The administrative centre is the town of Dumfries.


Possibly built in the 12th or 13th century, Tibbers was first documented in 1298 at which point the timber castle was replaced by a stone castle. It was the administrative centre of the barony of Tibbers until the second half of the 14th century when it shifted to nearby Morton. During the Anglo-Scottish Wars of the early 14th century the castle was captured by first the Scots under Robert the Bruce and then the English, before returning to Scottish control in 1313.

Robert the Bruce King of Scotland

Robert I, popularly known as Robert the Bruce, was King of Scotland from 1306 until his death in 1329. Robert was one of the most famous warriors of his generation, and eventually led Scotland during the First War of Scottish Independence against England. He fought successfully during his reign to regain Scotland's place as an independent country and is today revered in Scotland as a national hero.

The castle descended through the Earls of Moray and subsequently the Earls of March before coming under the control of the Scottish Crown. A 'toun' was established near the castle. While it is unclear at what point Tibbers Castle fell out of use, by the 18th century the site was used for agriculture. Archaeological investigations took place in 1864, 1912, and 2013–2014.


Edward I of England visited Tibbers Castle in 1298. Gal nations edward i.jpg
Edward I of England visited Tibbers Castle in 1298.

The origin of Tibbers Castle is undocumented, and it may have been founded in the 12th or 13th century as a timber castle. It was first recorded in 1298 when Sir Richard Siward, either built the stone enclosure castle or enhanced one which had already been added to the timber structure. [2] King Edward I of England visited the castle the same year. [3] Siward was the Sheriff of Dumfries when the area was under the control of the English and documentation from this period gives some evidence for activity at the castle. In 1302, £100 was spent on the structured while it was manned by a 23-strong garrison. [1]

Edward I of England King of England

Edward I, also known as Edward Longshanks and the Hammer of the Scots, was King of England from 1272 to 1307. Before his accession to the throne, he was commonly referred to as The Lord Edward. The first son of Henry III, Edward was involved from an early age in the political intrigues of his father's reign, which included an outright rebellion by the English barons. In 1259, he briefly sided with a baronial reform movement, supporting the Provisions of Oxford. After reconciliation with his father, however, he remained loyal throughout the subsequent armed conflict, known as the Second Barons' War. After the Battle of Lewes, Edward was hostage to the rebellious barons, but escaped after a few months and defeated the baronial leader Simon de Montfort at the Battle of Evesham in 1265. Within two years the rebellion was extinguished and, with England pacified, Edward joined the Ninth Crusade to the Holy Land. The crusade accomplished little, and Edward was on his way home in 1272 when he was informed that his father had died. Making a slow return, he reached England in 1274 and was crowned at Westminster Abbey on 19 August.

The death of Alexander III of Scotland in 1286 led to a succession crisis resulting in English rule of Scotland under Edward I. Robert the Bruce's family was one of the claimants and in 1306 he was crowned king, leading to war with England. [4] The first phase of Bruce's campaign in 1306 was to capture the English-held castles of Ayr, Dalswinton, Inverkip and Tibbers. [5] Control was given to John de Seton until the English recaptured the castle from the Scots, [6] hanging the defenders, [3] and a larger garrison, this time numbering 54, was installed. In 1313 the Scots regained control of the region. From there Tibbers Castle remained in Scottish hands, and was possessed by Thomas Randolph, 1st Earl of Moray. He was succeeded by Thomas Randolph, 2nd Earl of Moray and John Randolph, 3rd Earl of Moray. When John died at the battle of Neville's Cross in 1346 the earldom along with Tibbers Castle was given to Patrick, Earl of March. His son inherited in 1369 and acquired the barony of Morton which probably became the administrative centre for the barony of Tibbers. The estates descended through the Dunbar family until 1435 when their lands were confiscated by the Scottish Crown. In 1450 or 1451, King James II of Scotland subsequently gave Tibbers to George Crichton, Lord High Admiral of Scotland and later the 1st Earl of Caithness. When he died in 1454 the property again came under royal control. [6]

Alexander III of Scotland King of Scots

Alexander III was King of Scots from 1249 until his death. He concluded the Treaty of Perth, by which Scotland acquired sovereignty over the Western Isles and the Isle of Man. His heir, Margaret, Maid of Norway, died before she could be crowned.

Ayr Castle castle in South Ayrshire, Scotland, UK

Ayr Castle was a castle situated at Ayr in Scotland. Once considered a royal castle, nothing remains of it above ground.

Dalswinton Castle, also known as Comyn's Castle, was a castle that was located to the south-east of Dalswinton, in Dumfries and Galloway, Scotland.

A 'toun' or township at Tibbers was mentioned in 1451, and the presence of the castle did not prevent the town from being attacked and by Sir Alexander Stewart of Garlies in 1547. [7] It is unclear when Tibbers Castle fell out of use, but in the 18th century, the ridge on which the castle sits was used to grow crops. [8] Part of the structure was demolished to reuse materials such as lime. [9] The "Mote de Tibbris" is mentioned in the Registrum Magni Sigilli in 1489 and 1541. [10]

Township (Scotland) subdivision of land in Scotland

In Scotland a crofting township is a group of agricultural smallholdings holding in common a substantial tract of unimproved upland grazing. Each township comprises a formal legal unit. Like older Scottish land measurements, such as the davoch, quarterland and oxgang, the extent of a township often varies according to the quality of the land it is on, and this can range from a hundred to a few thousand hectares. There is often a substantial tract of unimproved upland common grazing - known as a "shieling" or "àirigh" which is held in common. This tends to be used in the summer, but with the advent of fertilisers it is often used in colder times as well.

The interpretation of Tibbers has changed over time, and in the 18th century it was thought to be a Roman fort though it was later understood to be a medieval castle. [11] The name of the castle led to the suggestion that it derived from Tiberius Caesar, [3] however 'Tibbers' comes from the Gaelic word 'Toibar' meaning a well. [1] The earliest recorded excavation at Tibbers Castle took place in 1864, which recovered two coins from the reign of Edward II of England (1307–1327) and a dagger from the early 15th century. The site was surveyed in 1912 with no further archaeological investigation until the 21st century. [12] It was designated as a scheduled ancient monument in 1937. [13] In 2013 and 2014 the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland carried out measured and geophysical (using resistivity and a gradiometer) surveys at Tibbers with funding from Historic Scotland and the Castle Studies Trust. [14]

<i>Castra</i> ancient Roman fortification

In the Roman Republic and the Roman Empire, the Latin word castrum was a building, or plot of land, used as a fortified military camp. In English, the terms Roman fort, Roman camp and Roman fortress are commonly used for castrum. However, scholastic convention tends toward the use of the words fort, camp, marching camp and fortress as a translation of castrum.

Tiberius Augustus

Tiberius was the second Roman emperor, reigning from 14 AD to 37 AD, succeeding Augustus.

Excavation (archaeology) Exposure, processing and recording of archaeological remains

In archaeology, excavation is the exposure, processing and recording of archaeological remains. An excavation site or "dig" is a site being studied. Such a site excavation concerns itself with a specific archaeological site or a connected series of sites, and may be conducted over as little as several weeks to over a number of years.


Occupying a ridge on the west bank of the River Nith, the earliest phase of the castle consisted of a small bailey or enclosure. This bailey was revealed by the geophysical survey in 2014 which also indicated that it contained timber buildings. [15]

When Richard Siward remodelled the castle c.1298 it is likely that he added the motte with its stone enclosure castle and replaced the single small bailey with two large enclosures south of the motte. These enclosures may have housed a market as was the case at Lochmaben Castle. [16] There are few examples in Scotland of earthwork castles being rebuilt in stone. The four-sided motte measures 44 by 27 metres (144 by 89 ft) at the summit. The enclosure castle on top is roughly rectangular, measuring 26.8 by 11.6 metres (88 by 38 ft), with a round tower at each corner. Little survives above ground of this structure, though the south-south-east tower survives best. The south side of the enclosure castle had an additional tower which tower with the south-south-east corner tower flanked the entrance. Inside, the castle had a well on the east side and a range of buildings extending along the west and north sides; these likely contained a great hall, the kitchens, and a chamber. [17] There was a postern gate just south of the north-east tower. [18] This phase of Tibbers is "one of the few authentic surviving remnants of English castle building in Scotland during the Plantagenet occupation." [19]

At its greatest extent Tibbers Castle measured 330 metres (1,080 ft) by 85 metres (279 ft). The courtyard of the enclosure castle is the inner bailey. The outer and outermost baileys each cover an area of about 0.4 hectares (0.99 acres). The ramparts enclosing the site survive to a height of 0.5 metres (1 ft 8 in) and are between 3.4 and 5.5 metres (11 and 18 ft) wide. [20] Double baileys are uncommon, with examples at Windsor and Llandinam. [21]

See also

Related Research Articles

Drumlanrig Castle castle in Dumfries and Galloway, Scotland, UK

Drumlanrig Castle is situated on the Queensberry Estate in Dumfries and Galloway, Scotland. The category A listed castle is the Dumfriesshire home of the Duke and Duchess of Buccleuch and Queensberry.

Doune Castle Castle in Scotland

Doune Castle is a medieval stronghold near the village of Doune, in the Stirling district of central Scotland. The castle is sited on a wooded bend where the Ardoch Burn flows into the River Teith. It lies 8 miles (13 km) north-west of Stirling, where the Teith flows into the River Forth. Upstream, 8 miles (13 km) further north-west, the town of Callander lies at the edge of the Trossachs, on the fringe of the Scottish Highlands.

Urquhart Castle castle that sits beside Loch Ness

Urquhart Castle sits beside Loch Ness in the Highlands of Scotland. The castle is on the A82 road, 21 kilometres (13 mi) south-west of Inverness and 2 kilometres (1.2 mi) east of the village of Drumnadrochit.

Sandal Castle medieval castle in England

Sandal Castle is a ruined medieval castle in Sandal Magna, a suburb of the city of Wakefield in West Yorkshire, England, overlooking the River Calder. It was the site of royal intrigue and the setting for a scene in one of William Shakespeare's plays.

Edzell Castle

Edzell Castle is a ruined 16th-century castle, with an early-17th-century walled garden. It is located close to Edzell, and is around 5 miles (8 km) north of Brechin, in Angus, Scotland. Edzell Castle was begun around 1520 by David Lindsay, 9th Earl of Crawford, and expanded by his son, Sir David Lindsay, Lord Edzell, who also laid out the garden in 1604. The castle saw little military action, and was, in its design, construction and use, more of a country house than a defensive structure. It was briefly occupied by English troops during Oliver Cromwell's invasion of Scotland in 1651. In 1715 it was sold by the Lindsay family, and eventually came into the ownership of the Earl of Dalhousie. It was given into state care in the 1930s, and is now a visitor attraction run by Historic Environment Scotland. The castle consists of the original tower house and building ranges around a courtyard. The adjacent Renaissance walled garden, incorporating intricate relief carvings, is unique in Scotland. It was replanted in the 1930s, and is considered to have links to esoteric traditions, including Rosicrucianism and Freemasonry.

Morton Castle castle in Dumfries and Galloway, Scotland, UK

Morton Castle is located by an artificial loch in the hills above Nithsdale, in Dumfries and Galloway, south-west Scotland. It lies 2.5 miles north-east of Thornhill, and once formed part of a chain of castles along the strategically important Nith Valley, which runs from the Solway Firth north to the Clyde Valley.

Duffus Castle castle in Moray, Scotland, UK

Duffus Castle, near Elgin, Moray, Scotland, was a motte-and-bailey castle and was in use from c.1140 to 1705. During its occupation it underwent many alterations. The most fundamental was the destruction of the original wooden structure and its replacement with one of stone. At the time of its establishment, it was one of the most secure fortifications in Scotland. At the death of the 2nd Lord Duffus in 1705, the castle had become totally unsuitable as a dwelling and so was abandoned.

Elsdon Castle

Elsdon Castle is a castle in the village of Elsdon about 10 miles (16 km) to the southwest of Rothbury, in Northumberland, England, and also known as Mote Hills. The site is a Scheduled Ancient Monument.

The Motte of Urr is the remains of a 12th-century motte-and-bailey castle located near the Haugh of Urr in Dumfries and Galloway, Scotland.

Mochrum village in Dumfries and Galloway, Scotland, UK

Mochrum is a coastal civil and Church of Scotland parish situated to the east of Luce Bay on the Machars peninsula and 8 miles (13 km) southwest of Wigtown and in the historical county of Wigtownshire in Galloway, Scotland. It covers 22,000 acres (8,900 ha) and is approximately 10 miles (16 km) in length and 5 miles (8.0 km) in breadth. The parish contains the eponymous village of Mochrum, as well as Port William and the clachan of Elrig.

Thetford Castle 11th-century castle in England

Thetford Castle is a medieval motte and bailey castle in the market town of Thetford in the Breckland area of Norfolk, England. The first castle in Thetford, a probable 11th century Norman ringwork called Red Castle, was replaced in the 12th century by a much larger motte and bailey castle on the other side of the town. This new castle was largely destroyed in 1173 by Henry II, although the huge motte, the second largest man-made mound in England, remained intact. The motte, recognised as a scheduled monument, now forms part of a local park, and the remains are known variously as Castle Hill, Castle Mound and Military Parade.

Pilsbury Castle

Pilsbury Castle was a Norman castle in Derbyshire near the present-day village of Pilsbury, overlooking the River Dove.

Cruggleton Castle castle in Dumfries and Galloway, Scotland, UK

Cruggleton Castle is a multi-period archaeological site on coast of the The Machars, in the historical county of Wigtownshire in south-west Scotland. It is located at Cruggleton Point, around 4.5 kilometres (2.8 mi) east of Whithorn and 6 kilometres (3.7 mi) south-east of Sorbie. Excavations in the 1970s and 1980s revealed several periods of use, from the 1st century AD to the 17th century. The first stone tower was built in the 13th century, on an earlier motte.

Perth Castle castle in Perth and Kinross, Scotland, UK

Perth Castle was a 9th-century castle in Perth, Scotland. The Danes attacked the castle in the 9th century.

Dumfries Castle was a royal castle that was located in Dumfries, Scotland. It was sited by the River Nith, in the area now known as Castledykes Park.

Granard Motte remains of a motte-and-bailey castle and National Monument in Granard, County Longford, Ireland

Granard Motte is the remains of a motte-and-bailey castle and National Monument in Granard, County Longford, Ireland.

Richard Siward (died 1311) 13th-14th century Scottish noble

Richard Siward, Lord of Kellie, was a 13th-14th century Scottish noble.

Lochwood Tower architectural structure in Dumfries and Galloway, Scotland, UK

Lochwood Tower, also known as Lockwood Castle, is a ruined 16th-century L-plan tower house, about 6 miles (9.7 km) south of Moffat, Dumfries and Galloway, Scotland.


  1. 1 2 3 Dixon, Anderson & O'Grady 2015 , p. 3
  2. Dixon, Anderson & O'Grady 2015 , pp. 3, 28
  3. 1 2 3 Coventry 2006 , p. 603
  4. Barrow 2008
  5. Brown 2004 , p. 200
  6. 1 2 Dixon, Anderson & O'Grady 2015 , pp. 3–4
  7. Dixon, Anderson & O'Grady 2015 , p. 4
  8. Dixon, Anderson & O'Grady 2015 , p. 8
  9. Smith 1845 , p. 503
  10. Christison & 189091 , p. 211
  11. Chalmers 1807 , p. 137; Dixon, Anderson & O'Grady 2015 , p. 5
  12. Dixon, Anderson & O'Grady 2015 , p. 5
  13. ( Historic Environment Scotland & SM711 )
  14. Dixon, Anderson & O'Grady 2015 , pp. 9, 11
  15. Dixon, Anderson & O'Grady 2015 , p. 26
  16. Dixon, Anderson & O'Grady 2015 , pp. 13, 28
  17. Dixon, Anderson & O'Grady 2015 , pp. 1314, 1718, 27
  18. Dixon, Anderson & O'Grady 2015 , p. 20
  19. Royal Archaeological Institute 1940 , p. 334
  20. Dixon, Anderson & O'Grady 2015 , pp. 12–13
  21. Dixon, Anderson & O'Grady 2015 , p. 10


Further reading

Coordinates: 55°15′51″N3°47′32″W / 55.26417°N 3.79222°W / 55.26417; -3.79222