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.
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.
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.