and REPENTANCE TOWER
Hoddom Castle was built by Sir John Maxwell as a headquarters and military base to support his duties as the Warden of the Scottish West March. It fell into disuse following World War II and is in a dilapidated state. A fortified watchtower, Repentance Tower, is found on the adjacent hill.
Hoddom formed part of the Lordship of Annandale which was acquired by the Bruce family around 1124. They granted it to another Anglo-Norman family who took the name de Hodlem and probably built the first fortification within the manor shortly afterwards. Located on the north bank of the River Annan, this became known as Hoddom Old Castle. The manor remained part of the Lordship of Annandale and passed through numerous owners before being acquired by Herbert Herries of Terregles no later than 1486. It remained with his family until 1543 when the then owner, William Herries, died without leaving a male heir resulting in his substantial estates being divided amongst his three daughters. The southern portion of Hoddom went to Anges Herries who married Sir John Maxwell of Terregles. His regional holdings were further enhanced in 1563 when the Scottish reformation enabled Sir John to acquire the adjacent lands of Trailtrow from the Knights Hospitallers. It was on this site that the new castle was built, re-using masonry quarried from the old fortification. Despite its location in Trailtrow, it acquired the name Hoddomstanes.
A letter by Thomas Randolph dated May 1565 confirms that Hoddom Castle along with Repentance Tower and Annan Castle were under construction at this time. Thomas stated "in Annan town he has builded a fair tower [and] within two miles of it he [builds] two other forts - the one great - the other a watch tower of great height". He was not exaggerating about Hoddom when he described it as "great" for the castle is the largest tower in the Border region. Unlike contemporary towers it was never intended to serve as a high status residence and was built with the security of the border region firmly in mind. Sir John Maxwell had served as Border Commissioner since 1546 and as the Warden of the Scottish West March since 1561. Hoddom Castle was intended to serve as his headquarters.
Hoddom Castle was dominated by the Tower House, a four storey L-plan structure designed to be first and foremost a military site. The basement was a barrel-vaulted chamber equipped with gun-loops on all sides. The first floor was occupied by the Great Hall whilst the levels above provided accommodation, some of which had additional gun-loops for artillery. The Tower House was located in the north-east corner of a quadrangular enclosure that was protected by a barmkin (curtain wall). Two storey round towers occupied the remaining three corners. A ditch surrounded the site.
Sir John Maxwell was a close ally of Mary, Queen of Scots and supported her cause during the civil war with the Regent, James Stewart, Earl of Moray. Following the Queen's defeat at the Battle of Langside (1568), Maxwell was ordered to surrender Hoddom Castle. He refused and Moray led a force into the borders and besieged it on 20 June 1568. A spirited action followed but the garrison surrendered after only one day and thereafter the castle was entrusted to Douglas of Drumlanrig who also assumed the role of Warden of the Scottish West March. It was recaptured by Mary's forces in 1569 but in Autumn 1570 was attacked and taken by an English force under Lord Henry Scrope. The castle was allegedly slighted at this time although there is little evidence of substantial damage having occurred.
In January 1578 Sir John Maxwell was re-appointed as Warden of the Scottish West March. Once again he made Hoddom Castle his central stronghold in the region as did his son, William, who held the same commission after his father's death. The Union of the Crowns in 1603 and the subsequent pacification of the border region saw Hoddom Castle become increasingly irrelevant. It was sold to Sir Richard Murray of Cockpool in 1627 although he seemingly made little use of the site. He was followed by his brother - Sir John Murray, Earl of Annandale - in 1637 and made Hoddom Castle his primary residence. Accordingly the site underwent a transformation with the stair tower extended by an additional storey.
Following the death of Sir John Murray in 1653, Hoddom Castle passed to Sir David Caregie, Earl of Southesk. It was sold in 1688 to John Sharpe of Collieston, a Dumfries burgess and Member of Parliament. It remained with his family until 1769 when it passed to Charles Kirkpatrick (who then changed his name to Sharpe). He made numerous modifications to the castle and this probably included dividing the upper floors into multiple rooms. He was followed by his son, Lieutenant-General Matthew Sharpe, who commissioned architect William Burn to make significant upgrades to the castle including substantial extensions to the south and west of the Tower House.
Hoddom Castle was purchased by Edward Brook, a Huddersfield mill owner, in 1877. He demolished some of the structures to the north and replaced them with a Jacobean style range between 1878 and 1891. Despite these upgrades, by the 1920s the castle had gone out of use as a high-status residence. It was requisitioned as a hospital during World War II and, although returned to the family after the conflict ended, it was beyond their ability to repair and was abandoned. In 1953 the south and west wings were demolished giving a clear view of the sixteenth century Tower House.
Repentance Tower was built concurrently with the construction of Hoddom Castle by Sir John Maxwell. Sited on top of Trailtrow hill it had a clear view south across the Solway Firth and was intended to serve as a watchtower. It was fitted with a large bell and platform for a beacon. One bell ring indicated that the enemy was near, two that they were approaching and four they were coming in force. Duly warned the populace would have sheltered behind the barmkin of Hoddom Castle.
The tower was clearly intended to withstand a direct assault. The thick walls were only penetrated by a handful of openings consisting of narrow windows and gun-loops plus a small entrance on the ground floor. The roof was topped with stone slabs presumably to mitigate against any fire-hazard associated with the beacon. The tower had few domestic considerations with no latrine nor any fireplaces suggesting it was never used as an enduring residence.
Precisely how Repentance Tower acquired its unusual name, which is carved over the entrance, is uncertain but was perhaps an attempt by Sir John Maxwell to atone for some previous act of treachery. Sir John had pledged allegiance to Henry VIII of England during the 1540s and, when he dramatically changed sides at the Battle of Durisdeer, hostages held as assurance of his loyalty were executed. It was perhaps this act that prompted the tower's name. Alternatively it may have been to mitigate for the demolition of the Trailtrow Chapel, which originally occupied the site of Repentance Tower, to provide the stone for the castle. Given the lack of domestic facilities inside the tower, it is tempting to consider that the repentance was being actually being done by those unfortunate enough to have to keep watch within it.
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Hoddom Castle is a derelict ruin located within a caravan park. There is no public access to the castle itself but it can be seen from adjacent rights of way. The contemporary Repentance Tower is within easy walking distance although strong footwear is recommended if visiting that site and note that the tower itself cannot be accessed.
Hoddom Castle. Hoddom Castle was built by Sir John Maxwell to support his duties as Warden of the Scottish West March. A fifth storey was added to the Stair Tower around 1637 by Sir John Murray, Earl of Annandale. The roof of the Stair Tower was restored in 1889 but, based on contemporary illustrations, is similar to the original design.
Repentance Tower. Concurrent with the construction of Hoddom Castle, Sir John Maxwell built "a watch tower of great height" on top of Trailtrow hill. The square structure was clearly intended to withstand an attack as evidenced by its narrow (and few!) windows. It was topped with a great bell and platform for a beacon.
Hoddom Castle is in a caravan park and accordingly well sign-posted. However, if you are not arriving with a caravan the car park is found on the B725 near the junction with the B723. A circular walk will take you to both Hoddom Castle and Repentance Tower. This involves walking along a portion of the (relatively quiet) B725.
Estate Access / Parking
B725, DG11 1BA