Scheduled Monument

Dundarg Castle, fort and castleSM2450

Status: Designated

Documents

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Summary

Date Added
08/06/1964
Last Date Amended
20/01/2004
Supplementary Information Updated
23/06/2015
Type
Prehistoric domestic and defensive: fort (includes hill fort and promontory fort), Secular: castle
Local Authority
Aberdeenshire
Parish
Aberdour (Aberdeenshire)
NGR
NJ 89463 64852
Coordinates
389463, 864852

Description

The monument consists of Dundarg Castle, a medieval castle dating to the late 13th/early 14th century, constructed on the site of a prehistoric promontory fort. The monument was first scheduled in 1963. The monument is being rescheduled in order to define more clearly the extent of the scheduled area.

Other than a tantalising reference in the Book of Deer to the presence at Aberdour, in the 6th century AD of a cathair or fortified place, Dundarg is first mentioned in relation to events of 1334, when Henry de Beaumont refortified an existing castle at Dundarg, which may have been originally constructed by the Comyn earls of Buchan. The castle was besieged by and fell to the Warden of Scotland, Sir Andrew de Moray in December that year. Although not conclusive, the accounts of the siege appear to suggest that a bombard was employed by Sir Andrew de Moray, the first document use of an artillery piece in Scotland. The castle appears to have been slighted and abandoned after the siege although architectural evidence suggests the it may have been briefly re-fortified, perhaps in the period 1550-60, when it is known that nearby Findlater castle was by the Coastal Defence Commission with a view of adapting them to the new requirement of artillery warfare.

The castle is situated at the foot of a N-facing coastal slope, where a series of banks and ditches cuts off a triangular piece of gently-sloping ground. This is flanked by steep slopes on all sides except along the broad S approach and at the NE extremity, from which a narrow spine runs out to link with a flat elongated promontory on which there is a series of turf-covered foundations, which were excavated in 1911. This inner ward of the castle was protected by a red sandstone gatehouse, which survives to a height of about 3m, and contains evidence of two separate phases of construction.

The outer defences are trivallate, with a shallow outer ditch (ploughed out) and dumped bank, a middle ditch and dumped bank and a broad, flat bottomed inner ditch with low inner bank. It is likely that the outer pair of defences are prehistoric (prehistoric material has been found on the site) although perhaps subsequently altered in the medieval phase of occupation. Excavation has shown the inner bank and ditch to be of a different construction; the bank overlies the remains of a medieval mortared wall, suggesting refortification after the destruction of a light curtain wall. At the western extremity of this inner line of defence lies the foundations of a substantial masonry structure, perhaps a tower. There are indications from the 1911 excavations of other structures at the eastern terminal. However, a modern house was built in this area in 1938 obscuring the remains. Within the outer enclosure there are the remains of another ditch system, which appears to represents a different phase of pre-historic occupation of the site.

The area to be scheduled encompasses the castle, including outer ditch system, the outer ward and the inner ward on the promontory. Excluded from the schedule is the modern house and garage, and the upstanding sections of the modern boundary walls. Also excluded is the top 30cm of ground surfaces beneath the roadway and the hard standings. The area is irregular in shape and has maximum dimensions of 192m NNE-SSW and 194m WNW-ESE as shown in red on the attached map; the house and garage are shown as specific exclusions on the map marked by red lines within the boundary of the area to be scheduled.

Statement of National Importance

The monument is nationally important as a multi-phase high status defensive and domestic site. It appears to have had two phases of prehistoric defences and at least two, if not three phases of medieval fortification. Similar prehistoric multiple phase prehistoric/medieval sites are known along the southern coast of the Moray Firth. Dundarg therefore has the potential to inform us about the development, construction and function of these complex and productive sites.

The 14th-century refortification of the site is also important not least because of its association with Henry de Beaumont, whose claim to the lands of Buchan was a contributing factor to the collapse of the Treaty of Northampton, which led to Edward III intervention in Scotland and the invasion of Edward Balliol. The remains of early 14th-century work at the castle are an important survival, for the work was carried out at a time when major castle building was stagnant. In plan the work shares similarities to other 14th-century castles such as Tantallon and St Andrews. The documentary evidence for the siege of Dundarg and the possible early use of canon enhances the monuments importance.

References

Bibliography

The monument is recorded by RCAHMS as NJ86SE 17.

References:

Beveridge W 1914, 'Notes on excavations at Dundargue Castle, Aberdeenshire, and on a stone circle and grave at New Deer, Aberdeenshire', PROC SOC ANTIQ SCOT 48, 84-90.

Bogdan N and Bryce I B D 1991, 'Castles, manors and 'town houses' survey', DISCOVERY EXCAV SCOT 1991, 25.

Cruden S 1960, 'THE SCOTTISH CASTLE', Edinburgh, 202.

Fojut N and Love P 1984, 'The defences of Dundarg Castle, Aberdeenshire', PROC SOC ANTIQ SCOT 113, 449-56.

Fojut N and Love P 1981, 'Dundarg (Aberdour): castle and fort', DISCOVERY EXCAV SCOT 1981, 11.

MacGibbon D and Ross T 1887-92, THE CASTELLATED AND DOMESTIC ARCHITECTURE OF SCOTLAND FROM THE TWELFTH TO THE EIGHTEENTH CENTURIES, 5v, Edinburgh, Vol. 4, 390-1.

Simpson W D 1954, DUNDARG CASTLE: A HISTORY OF THE SITE AND A RECORD OF THE EXCAVATIONS IN 1950 AND 1951, Aberdeen University Studies 131, Edinburgh, (Castle excavation).

Simpson W D 1960, 'Dundarg Castle reconsidered', TRANS BUCHAN CLUB 17, 4, 1954-6, 9-25.

About Scheduled Monuments

Historic Environment Scotland is responsible for the designation of buildings, monuments, gardens and designed landscapes and historic battlefields. We also advise Scottish Ministers on the designation of historic marine protected areas.

Scheduling is the way that a monument or archaeological site of national importance is recognised by law through the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979.

We schedule sites and monuments of national importance using the criteria published in the Historic Environment Scotland Policy Statement.

The description and map showing the scheduled area is the legal part of the scheduling. The additional information in the scheduled monument record gives an indication of the national importance of the monument(s). It is not a definitive account or a complete description of the monument(s). The format of scheduled monument records has changed over time. Earlier records will usually be brief and some information will not have been recorded. Scheduled monument consent is required to carry out certain work, including repairs, to scheduled monuments. Applications for scheduled monument consent are made to us. We are happy to discuss your proposals with you before you apply and we do not charge for advice or consent. More information about consent and how to apply for it can be found on our website at www.historicenvironment.scot.

Find out more about scheduling and our other designations at www.historicenvironment.scot. You can contact us on 0131 668 8716 or at designations@hes.scot.

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Printed: 12/12/2018 22:01