Scottish Castles Association

Preserving the Past for the Future

The history of Tibbers Castle may have to be rewritten

Tibbers Castle, Dumfries, occupied a crucial position in the Wars of Independence. It was so highly regarded that in 1298 Edward I of England personally contributed £100 towards its construction - only to see it fall to Robert the Bruce 8 years later. Retaken - and its commander hanged - it resorted to the Scots the year before Bannockburn when, in accordance with Bruce policy, it would have been levelled.

Tibbers, until now, has been little known or regarded but the research carried out by the Castle Studies Trust has changed all that.

It had long been regarded as a motte and bailey castle of the 12th century - albeit with 2 baileys - upon which the following century was built a stone castle. The latter was a trapezium with 5 round towers, 3 of which were massed at the entrance, all carried out in the best-quality stonework.

A geophysics survey has uncovered an enclosure, invisible to the naked eye within the current castle. It now appears that when the castle was originally built it was quite a small earth and timber castle, which was then enlarged with stone buildings on top of the motte and the 2 larger baileys now visible, created during the Wars of Independence at the turn of the 14th century.

So what was until now regarded as 12th century work is in fact early 14th, brought about by the rupture of relations between Scotland and England. This provides a fresh window into the Wars of Independence.

Twin 14th century baileys (division marked by the 2 figures) with 12th century motte in background
Interior tower of the 13th century stone castle standing upon the 12th century earth motte
Prof Richard Oram
Professor Richard Oram

Professor Richard Oram, President of the SCA, states:

The results of this research are very exciting and greatly help our understanding of this important site and of early castle building in Scotland.

The survey was carried out by funding from the Castle Studies Trust (CST) and Historic Environment Scotland (HES). You can read more about it by clicking here.

The SCA and the CST have a close relationship and it is hoped there will be a joint visit to Tibbers organised in 2016.

Article by SCA member Brian McGarrigle.

Added: 26 Oct 2015 Updated: 16 Oct 2023
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