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Preserving the Past for the Future

Riddell House (Roxburgh) - Past and Present


The roofless shell of Riddell House – a mansion near Lilliesleaf, a rural Parish in north east Roxburghshire – incorporates a medieval tower which in its turn was preceeded by a 12th century motte and bailley proving that Riddell had been in occupation for around 800 years. This is so often the case with Scottish houses – what appears to be a homogenous building frequently conceals a complex past.

Riddell 1900 present
TOP: Riddell House in 1900
BOTTOM: Riddell House as it stands today

In December 1943, when occupied by the army, Riddell House burned down and has sadly remained a tree-encroached ruin ever since.

The earliest portion appears to be a 14th century tower house with its thick walls and kitchen arch. Elsewhere can be discovered 16th century detail but, from the 17th century, it was a tale of alteration until its nemesis in the 20th.

In the woods nearby stands Riddell Motte with an unusual rectangular bailley. This was strongly defended by a ditch and two ramparts. It would have been abandoned by the time the family moved to the tower.

A man known as Walter de Riddale from Yorkshire is noted in 1150 and he is responsible, no doubt, for the motte. Many Normans came to Scotland on the invitation of David I and the remains of their earthen castles dot the landscape to this day.

Riddell tower
Riddell's 19th-century tower standing on a motte

In 1885 Major General Sprot erected a folly in the form of a crenellated tower on the top of the motte, visible in the photo above, which dominates the site today.


Article by SCA member Brian McGarrigle.


Date posted: 05 Aug 2016Last updated: 05 Aug 2016


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Default: Earliest comments appear first Comments found: (2)
Comment by: Gordon C Scott on Tue, 20th Dec 2016, 4:37 pmRef id: 127

Are there plans to permenantly preserve this structure or let it decay? My mothers family are Riddell's and genealogy has traced back to these ancestors that lived there. I would appreciate any information on this subject. Thank you for your consideration. Gcscott@windstream.net

Comment by: Brian McGarrigle on Sat, 24th Dec 2016, 6:08 pmRef id: 133

Highly unlikely unless its has the potential for development. A current example is Ury House in Aberdeenshire, long in ruin, where £80m is being invested to transform it into a championship golf course with housing - this is the sort of money we are talking about. A similar site is Slains Castle where projects come and go ...

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