Scottish Castles Association

Preserving the Past for the Future

Castle Warfare Part V: The English capture of Lochwood Tower 1547

Lochwood Tower, aka Lockwood Tower and not to be confused with the other, restored, LochHouse Tower just a few miles away in Moffat, is situated amidst woodlands near Moffat in Dumfries. A strong 15th-century L-plan tower house built upon the remains of an earlier castle a motte and bailey of the 12th century. It stands to first floor level apart from a single corner tusk which ascends as far as the corbels of the wall walk.

Lochwood Tower exterior
Lochwood Tower - note wall walk corbels

In recent years debris was cleared and some attempt made to consolidate the walls but its present condition leaves much to be desired. Unexpected discoveries during clearance was its yett (iron barred gate) in situ and a medieval grave slab forming part of the staircase roofing.

The tower had been surrounded by outbuildings and gardens. The motte had been terraced at a later date as part of a landscaped garden and no doubt planted. At nearby Lincluden College the motte was similarly incorporated into a Renaissance garden.

Lochwood would be a footnote in history were it not for an event in 1547. The War of the Rough Wooing will be familiar to readers by now so suffice to say one of the lesser incidents of the war was the capture of Lochwood.

The event is recorded in a letter to the Duke of Somerset, the English commander:

"We came there about half an hour before daybreak and the greater part of us lay close without the barmekin but about a dozen of the men got over the barmekin wall and stole close into the house within the barmekin (enclosure wall) and took the wenches there and kept them secure in the house till daylight. At sunrise two men and a woman, being in the tower, one of the men rising in his shirt and going to the tower head and seeing nothing stir about he called to the wench that lay in the tower and bade her rise and open the tower door and call up them that lay beneath. She so doing and opening the iron door and a wood door without it, our men within the barmekin brake a little too soon to the door and the wench perceiving them, leaped back into the tower and had almost got the wood door shut but one of our men got hold it that she could not get it closed. So the skirmish arose and we scaled the barmekin and broke open the wood door and she being troubled with the wood door left the iron door open and so we entered and won the Loghwood; where we found truly the house well purveyed with salted beef, malt, barley, oatmeal, butter and cheese."

The English were well pleased:

"It was a fair large tower, able to lodge all our company safely, with a barmekin, hall, kitchen and stables all within the barmekin and was kept with two or three fellows and as many wenches."

Lochwood Tower barmekin
Lochwood Tower - Barmekin looking towards entrance where the attack took place

It is interesting how a few were considered capable of holding a tower as in Lochwood's case six so long as they maintained alertness.

The English garrisoned Lochwood for three years until 1550 when, with the collapse of the war against the Scots and their French allies, they took the road home having accomplished nothing.

The French ambassador's words to the Duke of Somerset, had proved prophetic. Somerset had warned the ambassador to keep his nose out of English affairs with the warning:

My master is strongest

to which the imperturbable Frenchman replied:

My master's purse is the deepest

And so it proved!

Clan: Seat of the Clan Johnstone

Article by SCA member Brian McGarrigle.

Added: 24 Apr 2017 Updated: 26 Feb 2021
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