History in Structure

This site is entirely user-supported. See how you can help.

Duns Castle, with Screen Walls and Sundial

A Category A Listed Building in Duns, Scottish Borders

We don't have any photos of this building yet. Why don't you be the first to send us one?

Upload Photo »

Approximate Location Map
Large Map »


Latitude: 55.7818 / 55°46'54"N

Longitude: -2.3559 / 2°21'21"W

OS Eastings: 377778

OS Northings: 654338

OS Grid: NT777543

Mapcode National: GBR C1ZL.R6

Mapcode Global: WH8X1.SXCY

Entry Name: Duns Castle, with Screen Walls and Sundial

Listing Date: 9 June 1971

Category: A

Source: Historic Scotland

Source ID: 335327

Historic Scotland Designation Reference: LB4108

Building Class: Cultural

Location: Duns

County: Scottish Borders

Electoral Ward: Mid Berwickshire

Traditional County: Berwickshire

Find accommodation in


Circa 1320 tower house incorporated in substantial later additions and alterations, principally by James Gillespie Graham in 1818-1822. 4-storey, 10-bay Gothick crenellated, sandstone ashlar house, altered in 1966. Battered base course; machicolated eaves course; crenellated parapet. Principal windows with pointed arches.

S (PRINCIPAL) ELEVATION: grouped 1-1-3-1(entrance bay)-3-1. ADVANCED ENTRANCE BAY with octagonal corner towers with blinded arrow openings to each stage (4 stages in total). Single storey advanced at ground as porch with octagonal piers flanking, each headed with quatrefoil detailed entablature with eagle statues above. Hoodmoulded flat pointed-arch entrance with supporting shafts. Ornamental machicolations. Crenellations raised further at centre with Hay heraldic motif (shield flanked by 2 archers with ?Spare Nought? on ribbon beneath). Tall tripartite window to 1st floor spanned by flat hoodmould. Canted oriel window with mullioned and traceried windows, crenellations above. Crenellations to parapet (of bay) raised at centre; gargoyle to each side. 3-Bay Group (To Right Of Entrance): 4-storey; bays grouped asymmetrically, with centre bay close to bay to left. Bipartite windows to each bay, each floor, except at ground. Traceried windows at 1st floor with balconies on moulded brackets. Tudor hoodmoulds to remaining openings. Gargoyle to centre. BAY TO OUTER RIGHT: advanced square-plan with chamfered corners. String course dividing each stage. Window with trefoil windowhead and hoodmould. Gargoyle to each chamfered corner. 3-BAY GROUP (LEFT OF ENTRANCE): bipartite pointed-arch square-headed windows with hoodmoulds to 2nd and 3rd storeys. Moulded brackets supporting ashlar gothic-detailed stone balustrade. Window to each floor of bay to centre and to left (except window at ground off-line). Later alterations in 1966, bay to right at ground, with boarded door with windows flanking. Date carved to detail at foot of window at 1st floor. Gargoyles flanking bay to centre. PENULTIMATE BAY TO LEFT: advanced; tripartite trefoil-headed window at ground with squared hoodmould; quadripartite window with squared hoodmould at 1st floor; window at 2nd floor same as that at ground. Gargoyles to either side. Crowstepped gable with blinded opening in gablehead and fleur-de-lis finial. BAY TO OUTER LEFT: advanced squared-plan tower of 4 stages with string course at wallhead and parapet with extra stage; window at each stage, including above string course; hoodmould to 3rd stage. Gargoyle to centre.

S ELEVATION TO SCREEN WALL (TO W OF MAIN HOUSE): 11-bay single storey crenellated wall with buttresses defining the bays. Raised 5th bay with flat opening as entrance to stabling to N; ornamental machicolation; octagonal ashlar lantern with openings, cornice and ornamental open-crown with ashlar finial. Later sun-canopy to immediate left. Crenellated and machiolated tower to outer left.

E ELEVATION: 2 bay; bay to left advanced; chamfered corners to tower with string courses dividing each stage; gargoyles to corners. Oriel window with tripartite mullioned and traceried window and crenellated head at principal level; bipartite window with hoodmould at wallhead. Crenellations raised to centre with gargoyle at eaves course. Corbelled square-plan crenellated turret to right with 2 arrow windows. E ELEVATION OF LOWER 5-STOREY WING PROJECTING TO N: 3-bay, irregularly disposed. Window at ground of bay to centre, window to 1st floor slightly off-centre. Small windows to outer left. Bipartite windows to each floor of bay to left, except to ground. Advanced octagonal crenellated tower as bay to right with string courses dividing stages. Arrow windows to each stage (4 in total). Later ashlar doorpiece in re-entrant angle with Tudor-arched studded boarded door with 3-pane glazed upper section; later rectangular plaque carved with "built 1320"; gothic niche and statue above.

N ELEVATION: grouped: 1-1-3-2-4. Drum tower to CENTRAL 3-BAY GROUP; battered base course; cill course to mullioned and traceried 1st floor windows with linked hoodmoulds; bipartite square-headed hoodmoulds; gargoyles between bays. Blinded bipartite window at ground of BAY TO IMMEDIATE LEFT; traceried window with moulded bracketed balcony at 1st floor; bipartite window at 2nd and 3rd floors. Gargoyles either side of windows. Octagonal tower to OUTER LEFT, as to E elevation. 2-BAY GROUP TO RIGHT OF CENTRAL GROUP set back considerably. Canted bay to left with bipartite window to centre with square-headed hoodmould; gargoyle above. Bipartite windows to upper floors of bay to left. 4-BAY GROUP TO OUTER RIGHT: advanced and raised. Outer bays advanced further with narrow windows to 2 upper storeys. Bipartite windows, bay to inner left to upper 2 storeys, square-headed hoodmould to upper storey. Bipartite window with square-headed hoodmould in bay to inner right (at intermediate storey).

N ELEVATION OF 2ND SCREEN WALL: 13-bay (grouped 1-1-3-1-2-1-2-1-1) curving to N, starting from central 3-bay group of N elevation of house, terminating at stable block. Wall screens service court and monopitch single storey outbuildings. Crenellated. Buttress to outer left. Blank bay; octagonal engaged tower with arrow window; pointed-arch window with hoodmould; boarded cupboard door (possibly a round-arched opening); bipartite window with square-headed hoodmould; bay advanced with broad bipartite window with hoodmould; window with hoodmould to 2 bays; advanced and raised broad bay with tripartite window with square-headed hoodmould; blinded window with hoodmould to each of 2 bays; advanced and raised bay with arrow windows to each level; blinded arrow window with hoodmould.

W ELEVATION: 5-bay. Bowed bay to centre with tripartite windows to each storey- trefoil-headed at 2nd and 3rd floors, and with square-headed hoodmould to 3rd floor. Boarded door at ground of bay to immediate left; windows to each floor above, hoodmoulded at 3rd floor. Blank to each floor of bay to immediate right. Square-planned tower, slightly advanced, to outer left with narrow windows to each floor. Advanced square-planned tower to outer right with point-arched windows to each stage, hoodmoulded to wallhead, and blinded opening to parapet; gargoyle to centre (as to outer left of S elevation).

Variety of windows, some timber sash and case. Lead and asphalt platform roof; slate roofs to service court and outbuildings. Ashlar stacks and brick stacks, including ashlar 3 flue wallhead stack with angled shafts to centre of 3-bay group right of centre, S elevation; 2 flue wallhead stack with angled shaft to chamfered corner of outer right, S elevation. Tudor crenellated can to curved screen wall (to N).

INTERIOR: complete Gothick interior in good condition, with new staircase added in 1966 to W of main stair. Walls to 14th century tower house are approximately 8 ft thick. Gothic detailed cast-iron balustrade with timber handrail to stair. Broad Tudor arch to 1st landing, vaulted ceiling; gothic niches, with canopy to centre. 2-storey arcaded and fan-vaulted HALL; ashlar-painted walls and plasterwork; pendant boss over stair, canopies and sculpted corbels; hollow metal shafts to clustered keel columns to arcade. DRAWING ROOM: timber dado and panelling; stone Tudor-arched chimneypiece; ribbed ceiling with Hay shield/arms to centre. DINING ROOM: (within 14th century tower house); later alterations (circa 1886) include oak panelling to ceiling; original Tudor-arched stone chimneypiece set within timber Chinese dragons and with carved panels above showing scenes from life of George, Lord Seton, by John Steele. Later geometric ceiling based upon quatrefoil shape repeated. STUDY: elaborate fanned and ribbed vaulted ceiling.

SUNDIAL: stone free-standing sundial, located in front of S elevation. 2 steps to octagonal pedestal with quatrefoil details to lower section; blind-arcading to shaft; foliate detailing to frieze and cornice.

Statement of Interest

The original tower was built as the keep to the lands bestowed on Thomas Randolph, Earl of Moray, by Bruce, circa 1320 (MacGibbon and Ross,

p266). Its history is rather uncertain, having possibly been razed by the English in the 16th century. The basic older fabric which survives is an L-plan construction. A tall, 5-bay single-pile range had been added by the 1790s with a lower crenellated 4-bay range to the W. Robert Hay was making alterations and improvements to the estate in the later 18th century (see list description of the Pavilion Lodge) and in 1781 he was getting estimates for work from John Baxter and John Hay. Work had been completed by 1787. Plans survive which show that Hay was thinking of extending the house to the E to the designs of Baxter, in 1794, and changing the orientation of the house so that the entrance was to the E, with a hall-cum picture gallery- cum billiard room- cum library at 1st floor level (which was never executed). However, the bowed addition to the N between the tower and W range (a typical feature of Baxter) was built at the cost of ?4,600, incorporating the kitchen at ground, drawing room at 1st floor and bedroom at 2nd floor, which has been totally refaced by Gillespie?s alterations. William Hay decided to remodel the house further, choosing the Gothick style for its Picturesque quality. Richard Crichton was commissioned to design a scheme, one drawing of which is dated May 1817. Upon Crichton?s death in August that year, Hay turned to James Gillespie (later to adopt Graham at the end) to continue the scheme. Gillespie took some of Crichton?s ideas although the external rhythm of the S elevation is considered to be much more visually interesting. He retained the N-S orientation of the building. The tower was left mainly intact, but the emphasis of the design lay now at the entrance with a screen wall to the W screen the service quarters and stabling from the approach. The W range was heightened and the whole was embellished with turrets and towers, pointed windows and hoodmoulds. The contract was signed in April, 1818, and the final account was submitted to Hay in 1822. The scheme encompassed the interior, where the Gothick is dominant and reflects Gillespie?s eclectic interpretation of gothic detailing. This interest is one that blossomed under his friendship with AWN Pugin. Indeed, there has been the suggestion that the ceiling of the study might be the work of Pugin, and the form the ceiling takes does contrast to some extent with that of the drawing room and hall. No documentary evidence has been found to prove this however.

Recommended Books

Other nearby listed buildings

BritishListedBuildings.co.uk is an independent online resource and is not associated with any government department. All government data published here is used under licence. Please do not contact BritishListedBuildings.co.uk for any queries related to any individual listed building, planning permission related to listed buildings or the listing process itself.

British Listed Buildings is a Good Stuff website.