Cornhill Castle

Has been described as a Certain Timber Castle (Motte), and also as a Certain Masonry Castle, and also as a Possible Tower House

There are earthwork remains

NameCornhill Castle
Alternative NamesCastleton Nich; Castle Stone Nick; Cornhill Tower; Cornval; Cornouaille; Cornehylle; Cornell
Historic CountryNorthumberland
Modern AuthorityNorthumberland
1974 AuthorityNorthumberland
Civil ParishCornhill on Tweed

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)

Gatehouse Comments

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?

- Philip Davis

This site is a scheduled monument protected by law

Not Listed

Historic England (PastScape) Defra or Monument number(s)
County Historic Environment Record
OS Map Grid ReferenceNT854404
HyperLink HyperLink HyperLink
Copyright Norman MacKillop and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons license.View full Sized Image

Most of the sites or buildings recorded in this web site are NOT open to the public and permission to visit a site must always be sought from the landowner or tenant.

Calculate Print


  • Dodds, John F., 1999, Bastions and Belligerents (Newcastle upon Tyne: Keepdate Publishing) p. 33-4
  • Salter, Mike, 1997, The Castles and Tower Houses of Northumberland (Malvern: Folly Publications) p. 39
  • Graham, Frank, 1993, Northumberian Castles Aln, Tweed and Till (Butler Publishing) p. 11
  • Jackson, M.J.,1992, Castles of Northumbria (Carlisle) p. 45
  • Pevsner, N. et al, 1992, Buildings of England: Northumberland (London) p. 133
  • Rowland, T.H., 1987 (reprint1994), Medieval Castles, Towers, Peles and Bastles of Northumberland (Sandhill Press) p. 16
  • King, D.J.C., 1983, Castellarium Anglicanum (London: Kraus) Vol. 2 p. 347 (tower only)
  • Graham, Frank, 1976, The Castles of Northumberland (Newcastle-upon-Tyne: Frank Graham) p. 121
  • Long, B., 1967, Castles of Northumberland (Newcastle-upon-Tyne) p. 87
  • Harvey, Alfred, 1911, Castles and Walled Towns of England (London: Methuen and Co)
  • Tomlinson, W.W., 1897, Comprehensive Guide to Northumberland (Newcastle-upon-Tyne) p. 544
  • Mackenzie, J.D., 1896, Castles of England; their story and structure (New York: Macmillan) Vol. 2 p. 372 online copy
  • Bates, C.J., 1891, Border Holds of Northumberland (London and Newcastle: Andrew Reid) p. 11-12, 17, 29-30, 53, 72, 80 (Also published as the whole of volume 14 (series 2) of Archaeologia Aeliana view online)
  • Raine, J., 1852, History and Antiquities of North Durham (London) p. 321
  • Mackenzie, E., 1825, View of the County of Northumberland Vol. 1 p. 339 online copy
  • Hodgson, J. and Laird, F., 1813, Beauties of England and Wales; Northumberland Vol. 12 p. 227
  • Hutchinson, Wm, 1785-94, The History and Antiquities of the County Palatine of Durham Vol. 3 p. 496- online copy
  • Hutchinson, Wm, 1776, A View of Northumberland (Newcastle) Vol. 2 p. 11 online copy


  • Chandler, John, 1993, John Leland's Itinerary: travels in Tudor England (Sutton Publishing) p. 345
  • Toulmin-Smith, Lucy (ed), 1910, The itinerary of John Leland in or about the years 1535-1543 (London: Bell and Sons) Vol. 5 p. 67 online copy


  • King, Andy, 2007, 'Fortress and fashion statements: gentry castles in fourteenth-century Northumberland' Journal of Medieval History Vol. 33 p. 376, 378
  • Bates, C.J., 1891, 'Border Holds of Northumberland' Archaeologia Aeliana (ser2) Vol. 14 p. 11-12, 17, 29-30, 53, 72, 80 online copy

Primary Sources

  • 1584, Report of the Commissioners on the Borders (1584) under Lord Hunsdon; largely the work of Christopher Dacre. Online transcription
  • 1561, The Survey Booke of Norham and Ilandshire, taken and made in the 3rd year of our Sovereign Lady Elizabeth, Queen of England, etc. Survey of Norham and Islandshire
  • 1541 View of the Castles, Towers, Barmekyns and Fortresses of the Frontier of the East and Middle Marches Survey of the East and Middle Marches
  • Brewer, J.S. (ed), 1867, Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic, of the Reign of Henry VIII Vol. 3 p. 852 No. 1986 online copy
  • 1415 Nomina Castrorum et Fortaliciorum infra Comitatum Northumbrie online transcription


  • Historic England, 2016, Heritage at Risk North East Register 2016 (London: Historic England) p. 21 online copy
  • Historic England, 2015, Heritage at Risk North East Register 2015 (London: Historic England) p. 22 online copy
  • English Heritage, 2014, Heritage at Risk Register 2014 North East (London: English Heritage) p. 22 online copy
  • English Heritage, 2013, Heritage at Risk Register 2013 North East (London: English Heritage) p. 24 online copy
  • English Heritage, 2012, Heritage at Risk Register 2012 North East (London: English Heritage) p. 38 online copy
  • English Heritage, 2011, Heritage at Risk Register 2011 North East (London: English Heritage) p. 37 online copy
  • English Heritage, 2010, Heritage at Risk Register 2010 North East (London: English Heritage) p. 35 online copy
  • English Heritage, 2009, Heritage at Risk Register 2009 North East (London: English Heritage) p. 44 online copy
  • Keith Blood and Colin Lofthouse, 20-DEC-1991, Cornhill Castle Survey (RCHME)