Scottish Castles Association

Preserving the Past for the Future

Mystery objects - can you identify them?

The two objects below were found at Ravenscraig Castle, Fife and Cadzow Castle, Lanark.

Can you identify them and guess what were they used for? Check for the answers underneath the photographs – were you correct?

LEFT: The 15th century Ravenscraig Castle, Kirkcaldy
RIGHT: Can you identify this object? Now on display in Kirkcaldy Town Museum
LEFT: The remains of the 16th century Cadzow Castle, Hamilton
RIGHT: Can you identify this object? It is currently on display at Chatelherault Country Park Centre, adjacent to the castle.

Ravenscraig Castle

This 15th century green glaze pot is an ‘urinal’ better known as a ‘Piss Pot’.

Exclusively for male use they are more commonly found at ecclesiastical sites. Melrose Abbey has a handsome collection which relieved the monks of a nocturnal trip to the reredorter (communal latrine). The handle would facilitate its use.

The contents would not necessarily be poured away but could be used in the bleaching and leather tanning activities at the abbey.

For ‘other needs’ there was the chamber pot; an example of which was found in the drain at Paisley Abbey.

Ravenscraig Castle with its massive walls and key-hole gun-holes, is an early example of a castle adapted to resist artillery. It is in the care of Historic Environment Scotland. You can see how it looked c.1902 in our Past and Present article here.

Cadzow Castle

The lines roughly scratched on a slate are the outlines for the game of ‘Merelles’ or Nine Mens’s Morris. This is a game dating from Roman times and, again, characteristic of monastic sites.

In Scotland they are found at the abbeys of Dryburgh, Jedburgh and Arbroath – the Cadzow example is an exception.

The name derives from the Latin word merellus ‘game piece’

Cadzow Castle or 'The Castle in the Woods’ as it was originally known, was designed with artillery in mind. It was built by the Hamiltons whose loyalty to Mary Queen of Scots brought about its ruin.

In the 18th century it was transformed into a ‘folly’ to enhance the view from the Hamilton dining room installed in the magnificent ducal dog kennel.

The ‘Merelles’ slate was found in 2003 during excavations. Today, although in the care of Historic Environment Scotland, Cadzow appears forgotten and is fenced off to the public. The Scottish Castles Association visited the site in 2007 – you can read more here.

Article by Scottish Castles Association member Brian McGarrigle.

Added: 28 Apr 2020 Updated: 13 Oct 2023
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