Tower In Kelso, Borders
A fine example of a 16th-century tower house, located just west of the village of Gordon, in the Scottish Borders
Greenknowe Tower is a 16th-century tower house, located just west of the village of Gordon, in the Scottish Borders. Although a roofless ruin, the stonework of the tower is well preserved, and represents a fine example of a later tower house, built more as a residence rather than as a place of defence.
It was built in 1581 by a minor landowner, James Seton, and he lived here with his wife Janet Edmonstone. The lintel above the main entrance carries the date of construction, the shields of the Seton and Edmonstone families, and the initials IS and IE: the "I"s should be read for "J"s. The Seton family had owned land in the Parish of Gordon since marrying into the Gordon family: who in turn had been granted the estate by Malcolm II in 1018.
Though it now stands alone on its hill, the tower originally stood as the centrepiece of a large enclosure, within a stone wall. Outbuildings associated with the tower were scavenged by local people for building stone after the tower fell into disuse in the late 19th century.
Greenknowe was built with defence in mind; the walls are perforated with numerous ruin-holes, allowing the defenders a clear line of site in any direction. The tower is situated on a low natural mound, which was originally surrounded and defended by marshy ground. Only one door gives access to the tower, another sign of how important defence was to the Seton family. The door is in the re-entrant angle, where the two wings meet, and was defended by a solid wooden door in front of a yett, or iron grill. The yett was designed to provide backup support to the door and to prevent attackers from simply burning the wooden door down to gain access to the interior.
Greenknowe is an example of an L-Plan tower, with a main block of four storeys, and a stair wing on the east side of five storeys. The main block is around 10.5m by 7m, with walls 1.2m thick. The wing projects 3.3m and is 4.5m wide.
In the 1600s the tower was purchased by the Pringle family of Stichel, one resident being the noted Covenanter, William Pringle. By 1850 it was no longer lived in, and in 1937 it was placed in state care by the Dalrymple family, who also contributed towards its consolidation. Today Greenknowe Tower is a Scheduled Ancient Monument and is in the care of Historic Environment Scotland.
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There is a small gate and footpath leading from the layby to the tower which can be easily seen from the road.
Place contributed by Andrew Gardner
I love being outdoors, in nature, and experiencing the relaxation it brings. Wandering through the northern countryside seeing unexpected buildings, historic places and occasionally surprised wildlife is one of life's great pleasures.
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