View of Greenknowe Tower from Blaeu's Atlas, 1654.
Greenknowe from Blaeu's Atlas c.1654.
© National Library of Scotland
Greenknowe Tower, 19th century.
Greenknowe Tower, late 19th century.
Details from Greenknowe Tower, 2005.
Details from Greenknowe Tower, 2005.
The Seton Collection © 2005
Greenknowe Tower, from the grounds, 2002.
Greenknowe Tower, from the grounds, 2002.
The Seton Collection © 2005

A History of Greenknowe Tower

From the 12th till early in the 14th century the parish of Gordon was the original seat of the Gordons, ancestors of the Duke of Richmond and Gordon and of the Marquis of Huntly; and a farm in its western division retains to this day the name of Huntlywood.

Greenknowe Tower stands about half a mile west of the Berwickshire village of Gordon It is a well-preserved L-plan tower house built in 1581, the date of which is on the lintel stone over the main entrance, was placed there by the Seton family of Touch who built it. The tower stands on a small hill and is surrounded by marshy grassland.  It was a comfortable house, built as a family stop-over home, as well as for the defense of the farmlands.  In compliance with the King's order of the time, that all lands of a certain size and value were to be protected by a tower and by fortifications, Greenknowe was born. 

Alexander Seton, second son of William Seton 1st Lord Seton, obtained the estate by marrying the heiress of the Gordon, and then became the 1st Lord Gordon. The lands of Greenknowe passed to Alexander Seton's son, Alexander Seton 1st Earl of Huntly, and then his son who founded the Seton's of Touch and Tullibody and Greenknowe bears the initials of it's builders, James Seton of Touch and his wife Janet Edmonstone. 

In the 17th century it passed to the Pringles of Stichel and was the home of the famous Covenanter Walter Pringle of Greenknowe.  Later still, it was occupied by the Fairholms, before passing to the Dalrymples.  It was abandoned in 1850 and the lands were consolidated in the 1930s, and later gifted to Historic Scotland.

At the death of the farmer Gordon Bruce at Greenknowe, a receipt was issued to Mr Lyall for the goods he bought at Greenknowe farm sale, Gordon, Berwickshire, on the 15th of May 1862 when the Tower farm was liquidated.  Mr Lyal bought over three hundred pounds worth of goods, including twenty lots of farm equipment, over thirty sheep, four cows, a horse and a donkey and cart.

Farm sales or 'roups' are traditionally held when a farmer dies or retires and has no one to pass the farm onto. The sale usually takes place at the farm, with professional auctioneers organising the sale. Friends and neighbouring farmers congregate to buy the items and are encouraged to spend as much as possible, as the money raised goes to the retired or deceased farmer's family.

The tower is very small, only 22' x 36' with walls 5-7' thick, and the rooms on each floor are very small, as well.  It has a main block of four storeys and a higher wing. Three of the corners have bartizans (Turrets), and the walls are pierced by gunloops.  The kitchen is in the vaulted basement, and you can see the remains of the arched fireplace on the wall.  Under the main stair is wedged a small lobby with a gunport. A range added beyond the north gable has been demolished, but some foundations remain.

Inside of the Tower or Castle, if you look carefully, you can see the Garderobe, or Guard Room, just behind the Yett (Iron Gate) to the right as you walk in the entrance.  A wide newel stair rises only to the first floor, the rooms above are accessed from the turret stair.  To the left on the entrance, before you climb the stairs to the main floor, is the entrance to the Kitchen in the Basement.  After going up the Main Staircase, you enter into the Hall, or main room on the first floor, there you have the option of goin inside to the Hall of continue on upwards in the  narrow spiral Turret Staircase.  The shorter wing is smaller, and contains the spiral staircase.  Inside the Hall, you can see what would have been the upper floors, and the main fireplace which is along the side wall of the Tower's Hall.  Climbing the spiral staircase, you can reach the top floor and view out to the Bartizan, or Turret.

Gordon itself is a village and a parish in the W of Merse district, SW Berwickshire. The village, West Gordon, stands 500 feet above sea-level, 8 miles NW by N of Kelso; whilst its station, on the Berwickshire loopline of the North British, is 10½ miles NNE of St Boswells, 6 ENE of Earlston, 4 WSW of Greenlaw, and 11½ WSW of Duns. It consists of along street, containing some good shops and dwelling-houses; is surrounded with small enclosures belonging to the inhabitants; and has a post office.

The parish anciently comprehended Dirrington Laws district, now annexed to Longformacus, and another district now forming part of Westruther. It is bounded NE and E by Greenlaw, SE by Hume, S by Earlston, W by Legerwood, and NW by Legerwood and Westruther. Its utmost length, from E by N to W by S, is 63/8. miles; its utmost breadth, from N to S, is 43/8. miles; and its area is 9739 acres, of which 25¾ are water. Eden Water winds 2¾ miles east-north-eastward along the north-western border, then 4 ¼ miles south-by-eastward across the interior; whilst Blackadder Water traces 1 ¼ mile of the boundary with Greenlaw. The surface, gently undulating, but higher for the most part than any district in the eastern division of the Merse, declines to 450 feet above sea-level; along the Eden, thence rising to 666 feet near East Gordon, 782 near Rumbleton Law, 731 near Hexpath, 619 near Fallside, 891 at an ancient camp near the NW border, and 788 near Huntlywood. The rocks are partly Devonian, chiefly Silurian; and much of the land has, since the opening of the present century, been reclaimed from moss or moor to a state of high cultivation. Some two-thirds of the entire area now are arable; 500 acres are under wood; and the rest is pastoral or waste.

The well-preserved ruins are now in the care of Historic Scotland.

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    Greenknowe History
    Greenknowe Gallery
        The Interior
        Old Photo
        Floor Plan
        Front View
        Entrance Door
    Estate Sale Reciept