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Cornhill Castle

Also known as, or recorded in historical documents as;
Castleton Nich; Castle Stone Nick; Cornhill Tower; Cornval; Cornouaille; Cornehylle; Cornell

In the civil parish of Cornhill on Tweed.
In the historic county of Northumberland.
Modern Authority of Northumberland.
1974 county of Northumberland.
Medieval County of County Palatinate of Durham.

OS Map Grid Reference: NT85434049
Latitude 55.65773° Longitude -2.23343°

Cornhill Castle has been described as a certain Timber Castle, and also as a probable Masonry Castle, and also as a probable Tower House.

There are earthwork remains.

This site is a scheduled monument protected by law.


The first reference to a tower at Cornhill, is in 1385 when it was taken and demolished by the Scots. A survey of 1541 describes the tower as having been newly repaired and standing on the bank of the Tweed. In 1561 it is mentioned as having a barmkin (Bates). The remains consist of a natural promontory defended on the north east and north west sides by steep natural slopes, and on the South east and South West by artificial ditches with a causewayed entrance at the South angle. There are no structural remains (F1 DK 31-JAN-67). Nothing survives of the structure of Cornhill Castle which formerly occupied a spur overlooking the River Tweed at NT 8543 4049. The earthwork remains were surveyed at 1:1000 scale in 1991 by RCHME; the original plan and archive account giving fuller details of the history and present state of the remains is in the NMR. Historical evidence is mainly confined to references to its slighting and subsequent re-building during cross-border conflicts between the fourteenth and sixteenth centuries, and therefore the date and form of its original construction cannot be determined. It is first mentioned in 1335 when it was taken and demolished by the Earl of Fife (Raine; Bates). The site is formed by the precipitous river-cliff above the River Tweed, here 21m high, and the steep valley of an un-named tributary winding around the E and N sides. It is isolated on the S side by a dry ditch, crossed by an entrance causeway, connecting the stream gulley with the river-cliff to enclose a sub-rectangular area 42m NE-SW by 25m transversely. To the E of the causeway, the ditch is well-formed and achieves a maximum depth of 3.3m; here an existing gulley may have been utilised and partly re-cut. On the W side of the causeway it is up to 3.1m deep, but it has been mutilated, particularly at the entrance, where the ground slopes gently from the causeway into the base of the ditch. There is no trace whatsoever of a rampart inside or outside the ditch. A slight scarp, 0.15m in maximum height, can be traced close to the SE edge of the enclosure; apart from this and a low pile of stones, none of which appear to have been worked, the interior is featureless. The demolition of the tower and barmkin, last seen by Hutchinson about 1794, has been comprehensive. The whole site including the river escarpment and the stream gulley has been planted with deciduous trees; a number of these were felled in 1991, causing some damage (RCHME). Dodds says that the tower and barmkin were built in 1382 half a mile to the South-East in Cornhill village to guard a new ford across the river (Dodds, 1999). (PastScape)

Dodds suggests the castle was rebuilt after 1385, as a tower house, on a new site in the village. This site is now occupied by Cornhill House. This is evidence for a late medieval tower in the village and, it should be noted, there is no actual physical evidence of a masonry building at Cornhill Castle, although the site is damaged. It is also possible both sites had some defensible masonry building.
The current Coldstream Bridge was built 1763. Does this represent the site of the medieval crossing point(s)? Did these change from the date of the construction of Cornhill Castle and Cornhill Tower?
Links to archaeological and architectural databases, mapping and other online resources

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This record last updated 26/07/2017 09:21:27

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