Cas­tle was used in time of Wal­lace and Bruce, ex­ca­va­tions re­veal

The Scotsman - - Around Scotland - By GE­ORGE MAIR

Ex­ca­va­tion­so­faformer­mot­te­and-bai­ley cas­tle in Dumfries and Gal­loway have re­vealed it was in use at the time of Sir Wil­liam Wal­lace and Robert the Bruce.

The Mote of Urr near Dal­beat­tiewa­sex­ca­vat­ed­be­tween 1951 and 1953, but the re­sults have only now been pub­lished 65 years on.

Find­ings, pub­lished by GUARD Ar­chae­ol­ogy, show the con­struc­tion and ear­li­est oc­cu­pa­tion date to the late 12th cen­tury, with con­tin­ued oc­cu­pa­tion over 200 years. The cas­tle was in use dur­ing the Scot­tish Wars of In­de­pen­dence, when Wal­lace and Bruce and English King Ed­ward I were known to be ac­tive in Dumfries and Gal­loway.

The ear­li­est phase com­prised the con­struc­tion of the motte-and-bai­ley cas­tle and its ap­par­ent de­struc­tion by fire, after which a large cen­tral stone-lined pit for an oven, fur­nace, kiln or bea­con was dug. The pit con­tin­ued in use when the motte was height­ened in a sec­ond phase of oc­cu­pa­tion and en­closed by a clay bank and pal­isade. In its fi­nal phase, when the motte was height­ened yet again, ev­i­dence for a pos­si­ble dou­ble pal­isade en­clos­ing the sum­mit of the motte was found. A trench across the moat around the motte re­vealed three phases of the ditch and ev­i­dence for a tim­ber bridge across the moat.

Prof Richard Oram of Stir­ling Univer­sity, who car­ried out ex­haus­tive his­tor­i­cal in­ves­ti­ga­tion, said the lands of Urr changed own­er­ship nu­mer­ous times be­tween the es­tab­lish­ment of the motte in the 12th cen­tury and its de­cline in the later post-me­dieval pe­riod.

“The iden­ti­ties of the own­ers of the site in the 13th and 14th cen­turies are only partly known his­tor­i­cally. Urr was prob­a­bly partly de­stroyed dur­ing the Wars of In­de­pen­dence in the early 14th cen­tury and there is a large gap in the doc­u­men­tary record for the lat­ter part of the 14th and first half of the 15th cen­turies, by which time the es­tate was be­ing rented out to tenant farm­ers.”

The ex­ca­va­tion was car­ried out in the 1950s by ar­chae­ol­o­gist Brian Hope-tay­lor.

Prof Bar­bara Craw­ford of the Univer­sity of St An­drews said: “Brian Hope-tay­lor was a charis­matic and per­spi­ca­cious scholar, though like some other ar­chae­ol­o­gists he did not find it easy to write up the re­sults of his ex­ca­va­tions for pub­li­ca­tion. It is with ap­pre­ci­a­tion of Brian Hopetay­lor’s skills as an ex­ca­va­tor of im­por­tant me­dieval sites that I wel­come this pub­li­ca­tion.”

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Top, Brian Hope-tay­lor is in the back row, sec­ond from the left and, above, an ae­rial view of the Mote of Urr near Dal­beat­tie

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