Historic tower to be saved from the ravages of time

THE UK's biggest private landowner, the Duke of Buccleuch, is to spend millions of pounds on a conservation project to preserve a crumbling medieval tower house.

The 15th century Newark Castle, scene of one of the bloodiest incidents in the turbulent Borders history, appears in poems by both Sir Walter Scott and William Wordsworth.

After surviving centuries of English attacks, the imposing building on the Duke's Bowhill Estate, near Selkirk, is finally succumbing to the weather.

The castle has A-listed status and is also protected as a scheduled ancient monument. It will undergo painstaking work over the next two years on its whinstone walls to halt its demise.

Although no figure has been set for the cost of the project, the Duke is expected to continue funding its preservation for decades to come.

Martin Purvis, building services manager for Bowhill, said the castle is a national treasure.

He said: "We have been monitoring the tower for some time and feel that it is now right to start work and prevent any further deterioration or possible instability. We're working closely with Historic Scotland as it's of great importance that we retain the tower's authenticity and integrity."

Strategically positioned on a knoll above the River Yarrow, the five-storey tower was first recorded in 1423.

In its early years it was a residence for the Earl of Douglas and its three-metre thick walls were attacked twice in the 16th century by the English before eventually being ruined by Cromwell's forces in 1650.

In 1645 the castle was the scene of a horrific massacre when 300 women and children were slaughtered after the battle of Philiphaugh. The victims were the families of Irish mercenaries fighting with royalists against the covenanters.

The castle was inhabited up until the late 17th century by Anne, Duchess of Buccleuch.

A team of stonemasons will start work in the next three weeks.

They hope to save the original vaulted ceiling in the basement, the cap houses and two circular stair wells.

In the 18th century a lot of the dressed stone was stripped to build nearby homes.

Local historian Walter Elliot said: "Its walls contain a lot of Scottish history and its position near the Ettrick Forest meant it played an important role as a court."

A spokeswoman for Historic Scotland said: "We are delighted that the project is going ahead."

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