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Amisfield Tower, Dumfriesshire

AMISFIELD stands some five miles north of Dumfries, in the parish of Tinwald, and is perhaps the most picturesque of the Border towers. Completed in 6co, it reaches the pinnacle of 6th-century castellated architecture, and is a monument to the ingenuity and designing powers of the builder (who had previously built Elshieshields Tower). The tower is practically square on plan, measur¬ing externally ~ t~ by z8~ feet, rises four storeys to the wall-head, and is built of rubble with red freestone dressings. There is an attic in the roof with a garret above. In the S.E. angle at first-floor level is a projecting stair-turret which rises to third-floor level, where it is corbelled out to the square, and then rises a further two storeys, to be roofed and gabled at the same level as the top of the main roof. In its square stage this turret is built of ashlar. Perched above this, on the East gable of the main roof, is a watch-tower or cap-house—a most unusual construction. The ascent from ground to first floor is by a straight stair, and above to the third floor by the turnpike in the corbelled-out turret. Above third-floor level the squared tower contains two small chambers. The ascent is continued by another small turnpike in the thickness of the East wall, which terminates in the little cap-house chamber, which is provided with a fireplace, and windows in each ~vall. There are angle-turrets on the main tower at the N.E., N.W. and S.W. angles, these turrets being two-storeyed.

The entrance is in the South wall at ground-level. On entering, there is a small guard-room with a gun-loop, on the West side, and the straight stair to the first floor on the East. The ground floor is vaulted, and lit only by three gun-loops. The first-floor chamber is L-shaped, caused by the inward projection of the stair. There are three windows, and at the North end of the East wall is a garderobe provided with a small window.

A curious feature is the position of two cupboard recesses, at either end of the North wall, both some seven feet above floor-level. Between the first and second floors a small chamber has been formed over the straight stair. The second floor contains a fine room, with a window in each wall, with window-seats in two of them, and gives the impression of having been the principal room of t~ë castle. There is a large fireplace in the West wall, with a small recess. Garderobes or recesses are provided at each end of the North wall. This room has been plastered, some of which still remains, and over the fireplace some of the original decoration, in red, yellow, grey and black, can be traced. The third floor has been sub¬divided, each chamber having a fireplace. From this floor access is gained to the angle-turrets, but curiously enough they are entered a few feet above floor-level. The Northern turrets are reached by means of steps cut in the ingoings of the windows in the East and West walls, and each contains a garderobe, window and loop-holes. The S.W. turret has no steps up to it. Access to the second storey of the turrets is gained from the attic floor.

At either side of the window iii the South wall of the second floor are heraldic panels, the dexter bearing the Charteris arms with the initials I.C. and the date t 6cc, and sinister the quartered arms of Maxwell of Herries and the initials A.M. and the same date. Sir J. Charteris, the builder of Amisfield, married Agnes Maxwell, daughter of Lord Herries.

Source: The Fortalices and Early Mansions of Southern Scotland 1400 to 1650. Tranter, Nigel. Published by The Moray Press, Edinburgh & London (1935)

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