Listed Building

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Status: Designated


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Date Added
Supplementary Information Updated
Local Authority
Scottish Borders
Planning Authority
Scottish Borders
NT 51315 39375
351315, 639375


Dated 1585 for Nicol Cairncross; restored 1978-97 as family residence with later additions by Philip Mercer (see Notes). 4-storey and attic, L-plan gabled tower house with 5-storey wing with extruded turret to spiral stair at re-entrant angle. Whinstone rubble with red and buff sandstone dressings. Variety of bolection, cavetto and roll moulded openings; rounded arrises, lintels and rybats. Coped skews with shouldered skewputts.

FURTHER DESCRIPTION: Tudor label mouldings to entrance at re-entrant angle; doorway lintel dated with initials of Nicol Cairncross and his wife, Elizabeth Lauder; squinch-arch above supports corbelled out stair; single pilaster-framed surround to window to left, bolection moulded window to right. 2 gun-loops to ground floor, one square-cut, one oval. Renewed dormers with Caincross arms and Mercer Crest.

Rubble 'barmkin' and 2-storey, round-arched gatehouse addition with kitchen at 1st floor adjoins to NW forming courtyard. Red sandstone dressings. Belvedered ventilator with S facing clock to ridge. Circular, squat, candle-snuffer capped outshot to NW angle. Stone forestair to S elevation leading to kitchen. Mercer crest above roll-moulded, keystoned arch.

Predominantly lead-framed glass panes set in original glazing grooves. Coped dentilled stacks. Cast-iron rainwater goods.

INTERIOR: entrance in re-entrant angle rebated for inner and outer doors. Barrel-vaulted storeroom. Large corbel-lintelled fireplace to 1st floor hall; small chapel room off. Further corbelled fireplaces elsewhere, one with shafted jambs to upper floor. Full height stone spiral stair mostly renewed, replicating the fragmentary winding newel that survived to ground floor.

Statement of Special Interest

Hillslap is a fine example of a restored 16th century tower-house in the Scottish Borders. The main body of the tower retains a significant degree of its early fabric. Window mouldings, gun-loops, fireplaces and barrel-vaulted storeroom to ground all add to its architectural and historic interest. The late 20th and early 21st century gatehouse additions make use of comparable stone materials, complementing the restored tower.

Hillslap is one of three 16th century towers sited in close proximity on Allen Water in the Glendearg area of Melrose Parish (the others being Colmslie and Langshaw, both Scheduled Monuments). Hillslap has a number of parallels with the neighbouring contemporary Buckholm Tower of 1582 (see separate listing) including the unusual absence of freestone quoins despite the wide use of sandstone dressings elsewhere, and the partitioned barrel-vaulted store-room to ground, suggesting the hand of the same mason in the design of both buildings.

The main body of the tower was carefully restored from a former shell between the years of 1978 and 1995 by the owner/architect, Philip Mercer for use as a family residence. His 2-storey gatehouse addition incorporates the roll-moulded jambs of an earlier gateway excavated on the site in 1983-4, at which time evidence of an earlier barmkin abutting the NW wing of the tower was also uncovered. A further addition dated 2002 extends the gatehouse to the W, terminating in a circular library outshot. As part of the wider tableau, the architect has created a steep rubble-built humpbacked bridge over the reinstated pond on the approch drive to the tower, adding drama to the tower s setting

Hillslap, previously known as Calfhill, was formerly part of the Appletreeleaves estate. The tower was sketched as a roofless shell in 1821 by Sir David Erskine. Shot holes within its walls were discussed by Maxwell-Irving for the Proceedings of the Society of Antiquities in 1971.

Hillslap is referred to in Sir Walter Scott s 1867 edition of The Monastery as a ruinous mansion-house . In his introduction, Scott refutes the suggestion that Hillslap, Colmslie and Langshaw towers provided the inspiration for his fictional Glendearg House in that story.

List description updated at resurvey (2010).



RCAHMS, Inventory Vol II, p570. MacGibbon and Ross, Domesticated and Castellated Architecture of Scotland, Vol III (1889) pp547-55, ills figs 488, 489 and 490. Kitty Cruft, John Dunbar and Richard Fawcett, The Buildings Of Scotland - Borders (2006) pp378-9, 47, 52, 143-4, 191, 324, 727, Pl 42. Further information courtesy of owner, Philip Mercer.

About Listed Buildings

Listing is the way that a building or structure of special architectural or historic interest is recognised by law through the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) (Scotland) Act 1997.

We list buildings of special architectural or historic interest using the criteria published in the Historic Environment Scotland Policy Statement.

The information in the listed building record gives an indication of the special architectural or historic interest of the listed building(s). It is not a definitive historical account or a complete description of the building(s). The format of the listed building record has changed over time. Earlier records may be brief and some information will not have been recorded.

The only legal part of the listing is the address/name of site. Addresses and building names may have changed since the date of listing and if a number or name is missing from a listing address it may still be listed. Listing covers both the exterior and the interior and any object or structure fixed to the building. Listing can also cover structures not physically attached but which are part of the curtilage of the building, such as boundary walls, gates, gatepiers, ancillary buildings etc. The planning authority is responsible for advising on what is covered by the listing including the curtilage of a listed building. Since 1 October 2015 we have been able to exclude items from a listing. If part of a building is not listed, it will say that it is excluded in the statutory address and in the statement of special interest in the listed building record. The statement will use the word 'excluding' and quote the relevant section of the Historic Environment Scotland Act 2014. Some earlier listed building records may use the word 'excluding', but if the Act is not quoted, the record has not been revised to reflect current legislation.

If you want to alter, extend or demolish a listed building you need to contact your planning authority to see if you need listed building consent. The planning authority advises on the need for listed building consent and they also decide what a listing covers. The planning authority is the main point of contact for all applications for listed building consent.

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Printed: 24/03/2019 13:58