Cornhill Castle

Cornhill Castle
650m north east of Cornhill Bridge
Summary of Monument
The remains of a medieval tower house and barmkin, set within a small, naturally defended promontory demarcated on the south side by a prominent ditched feature. The site is situated upon a high promontory overlooking the River Tweed and is identified as that of the well documented Cornhill Castle.
Reasons for Designation
The remains of Cornhill Castle is designated for the following principal reasons: * Survival: despite the fact that the tower house has been levelled, Cornhill Castle retains significant archaeological deposits. * Potential: there is still much to learn about medieval settlement and society in the Border areas of England, and this monument adds significantly to our knowledge and understanding of the form and role of defensive settlements at this time. * Association: the settlement sits between the strongly defended border strongholds of Norham and Wark on Tweed castles (both Scheduled Ancient Monuments) which provide strong contemporary association. * Period: as a Border stronghold, this monument makes a significant contribution to our knowledge and understanding of the period.
Tower houses are a type of defensible house particularly characteristic of the borderlands of England and Scotland. The need for such secure buildings relates to the unsettled and frequently war-like conditions which prevailed in the Borders throughout much of the medieval period. They were being constructed and used from at least the C13 to the end of the C16 and they provided prestigious defended houses permanently occupied by the wealthier and aristocratic members of society. As such, they were important centres of medieval life. Solitary examples were normally accompanied by a small outer enclosure defined by a timber or stone wall and called a barmkin and occasionally by contemporary or earlier earthworks. Around 200 examples of tower houses have been identified of which less than half are of the free-standing or solitary tower type. All surviving solitary towers retaining significant medieval remains will normally be identified as nationally important.

Cornhill Castle is first recorded in a document in 1385 when a tower was taken and demolished by the Earl of Fife; that it was rebuilt is evidenced by its inclusion in a list of castles drawn up in 1415 where it is described as the 'Turris de Cornhill' held by Willimi Swinhowe. By 1542, the tower was described as being 'as newe and embattled, covered and put in good repparacion by one Gilbert Swynnhowe' who 'entendeth … to buylde a barmekyn about the said tower'. It was besieged and taken again by the Scots under the French General d'Esse in 1549 when it is described as being a castle 'built after the old fashion, strong and every way tenable'. In 1561 it was still a tower with a barmekin but by 1584 'Cornell Towre' belonging to Thomas Swynney was 'decaied by warres of late tyme'. In 1794, the antiquarian Hutchinson, notes 'a tower near the bridge opposite Linnel House' which he assumes is part of the remains (of Cornhill castle) surrounded with a ditch called 'castle-stone-nich'. A plan of Cornhill estate in 1824 and the Tithe Award Map of 1843 while showing no detail of the castle or its earthworks depicts the field immediately to the south of the site as Castle Stone Nick.
The buried and earthwork remains of a small castle are situated in a prominent position on a high spur above the River Tweed, which here forms the National border between England and Scotland. The castle is visible as a sub-rectangular enclosure, which measures a maximum of 42m north-east to south-east by 25m transversely. The west side of the enclosure is afforded natural defence by the precipitous river-cliff some 21m high above the River Tweed and the north and east sides by the steep valley of an unnamed tributary. It is enclosed on the south side by a ditch between 3.1 and 3.3m deep, connecting the stream with the river cliff; there is a well preserved entrance and causeway through the south side of the monument. A slight scarp a maximum of 0.15m high is visible along the south-east edge of the enclosure. The buried remains of the former tower, barmkin and associated features survive within the interior of the monument.

Extent of Scheduling: the scheduling includes the full extent of the promontory upon which the castle sits and the ditch which defines it to the south. It extends to the foot of the natural slope to the north-west, the stream line to the north-east and the fence line to the south (but not including the fence). This is an irregular shape measuring approximately 92m north-south by approximately 80m east-west at its greatest extent and which includes a margin of 2m around the monument in order to ensure the adequate protection of the castle.