Duns history society

A SHOW of hands immediately before the start of the talk indicated that many were unsure as to the exact location of Twizel Castle and that fewer had ever visited.

Nevertheless members of Dunse History Society, at their monthly meeting last Wednesday evening, found themselves enthralled by a fine talk on the history of the castle delivered by society member Catherine Kent.

Situated as it is just on the English side of the Border, high above the River Till as it enters the Tweed and commanding the historic bridge and the ancient military road it was inevitable that the castle should play a significant role in the Anglo-Scottish wars of the 14th to the 16th century. The bridge itself, probably used by the English troops on the way to Flodden, dates back to around 1500 and for a time was the longest single span structure in the country.

The speaker recounted that the first castle had been built by a George Riddell who later became Constable of Norham Castle around 1300 but by the 1400s had passed into the hands of the Heron family.

This would have been a strong fortification by this time but suffered considerable damage in 1486 in the somewhat opportunistic invasion of England by King James 1V of Scotland, allying himself to the pretender to the English throne, Perkin Warbeck.

In 1520 the property was sold to the Selby family who were wardens of the East March and spymasters and who effectively rebuilt the property.

However after the Union of the Crowns in 1603 the importance of the castle decreased and it was resold in 1685 to the Blakes of Ford Castle who again rebuilt enveloping the castle with a ‘Gothic skin’.

By 1790 when it was painted by Turner the castle had been encased in an even larger Gothic skin and being five levels tall was a very impressive structure indeed.

The 19th century saw even further expansion and plans to convert into a hydropathic hotel.

However this was not to be as the then owners decided against proceeding and largely demolished to build the present castle at Tillmouth - still, however, leaving a substantial and imposing ruin.

Against this story and with the help of the expert eye and historical knowledge of the speaker all began to make sense - the present structure a mixture of building and rebuilding over the centuries, from mediaeval fortified house to 19th century folly.

All so very clearly and very ably explained by the speaker who had made a detailed study of the property. Appetites were certainly whetted and many members who had not previously visited indicated that they would most certainly be doing so.

The next meeting is on March 28, when, following the AGM, Alistair Spence will be showing photographs from the 1950s taken by the late Leslie Chapell, who was a highly regarded local photographer and who many recall with fond memory.

The photographs cover an extensive range of life and activities in the town.