The Scottish Liddel is an unusual
site and this article should be read in conjunction with those on the English Liddel
and Hermitage castle.
It is often claimed that the Scottish Liddel was built by Ranulf Soulis
as the caput of his barony after the site was granted to him by Prince David of Cumberland
(1113-24), or maybe after he became king of Scots (1124-53).
this there is zero evidence, although Ranulf did have interests in the
valley of Liddel later known as Liddesdale. Ranulf was acting
a witness to Scottish documents before July 1138 and was last mentioned
after 1165 when he had been royal pincerna or butler for kings David, Count Henry, Malcolm IV and
William the Lion. This meant that he was born
before 1120 at the earliest, not, as is often claimed, that he was a
contemporary of King David
(d.1153) who had been born between 1082 and 1090. It is
interesting to note that as early as the period 1140-52, Ranulf Soulis
witnessed a grant by the bishop of Glasgow to Robert Bruce
(d.1190). The witness immediately prior to him was William
Turgis (d.1164), the lord of English
This may suggest that the Vale of Liddel was already split into a
south-eastern English and a north-western Scottish part with the
boundary being the Liddel Water itself up to Kershope, the Kershope
Burn then forming a west to east boundary through the moors.
add to the confusion, before his death in May 1153, King David I
confirmed a ploughgate of land which Ranulf Soulis, pincerna, had
granted to York Hospital as well as the land of Kershopefoot (Gresoppa)
granted by William (Fitz Turgis) Rosedale and his wife,
King David also confirmed before 1150, but after 1147, another of
Ranulf Soulis' grants, in this case the church of Liddesdale to
Jedburgh priory. This church was dedicated to St Martin and
discussed under the English
Ranulf Soulis had a younger brother, William, who predeceased him, but
left 3 sons, Ranulf Soulis (d.1207), Richard and Fulk. On
Ranulf's death in the period 1165-72, Ranulf his nephew (d.1207)
succeeded him, but was murdered in his own house by his servants in
1207. The terminology used makes it quite clear that Ranulf
killed in a house and not a castle although it is possible that his
house was within a castle, in which case such would most likely have
Ranulfus de Sules
occisus est in domo a domesticis suas.
Nowhere in this is Liddel castle mentioned despite current Wikipedian
fantasies to the contrary.
During his tenure of Liddesdale Ranulf (d.1207) made one surviving
grant to Jedburgh. This ran that he granted:
Wambehope towards the west
with all the enclosures and purtenances just as the waters fall into
the aforenamed Wambehope up to where those waters meet under the
castles and thence ascending as far as the path that stretches over the
wood as far as Harelaw (Harelawe),
to hold with the pasture which they have had from me in the valley of
Liddel just as the cirograph that was made between us testifies....
Wambehope now appears lost but Harelaw still exists just north of the
Liddel Water opposite Catlowdy. Again this strengthens the
argument for an English and a Scottish lordship in Liddesdale.
On Ranulf's murder in 1207, his younger brother Fulk Soulis (d.1222+)
succeeded him. Fulk was succeeded by his son, Nicholas Soulis
(d.1264), before 1235, when he witnessed a royal charter at Edinburgh castle.
Nicholas died in 1264 at Roxburgh
where he had been sheriff since at least 1237. At the time he
called ‘lord of the valley of Liddel, the most eloquent and
man in the Scottish kingdom'. He was succeeded by his son,
William (d.1293). In 1278 he was used by King Alexander III to
negotiate against war with Edward
I after various Scotsmen had attacked England over the River
Tweed. By 1285 he was justiciar of Lothian and pincerna to King Alexander III.
He also apparently inherited his father's sheriffship of Roxburgh. On 1
February 1292, he was acting as Edward
I's sheriff of Inverness,
but died before November 1293. At some point before 1251 he
married Ermengarde Durward, a great granddaughter of Ermengarde
Beaumont (d.1234), the wife of King
William the Lion
(d.1214). This marriage gave their son, Nicholas Soulis
a claim to the throne as one of the competitors of 1292.
William Soulis had at least 4 children, Nicholas and John being his 2
known sons. John lived until 1310 and married Halwise
grandson of Walter Fitz Alan (d.1241), the forefather of the Stewart
kings of Scotland. Only their daughter, Muriel Soulis
(d.bef.1320), survived them and took their lands to her husband,
Richard Lovel (d.1351). It was necessary to mention this John
Soulis (d.1310) as he is often confused with his nephew, John Soulis
(d.1318), the son of Nicholas (d.1296).
Nicholas Soulis (d.1296), the elder brother of John (d.1310), married
Margaret Comyn, the daughter of Earl Alexander Comyn of Buchan
(d.1290). The couple had at least 4 children, 1 girl and 3
Thomas (d.1304), William (d.1321) and John (d.1318). Three of
4 children were to play their part in the history of the Vale of
Liddel. Apparently the eldest son was Thomas and he died
of the brothers in 1304, seized of Heugh in Stamfordham,
Northumberland, despite the fact he was in rebellion against King Edward I (d.1307).
That Thomas was the elder child seems evident due to his political
activities from 1292 onwards, though none of these involved Liddlesdale
as at the time it and Hermitage were all held by John Wake (d.1300) and his wife, Johanna (d.1314).
The next eldest son of Nicholas Soulis (d.1296) would seem to have been
William, who Edward I recognised as an underage claimant to Liddesdale
in January 1307. However, William's younger brother, John Soulis
(d.1318), seems to have been more active in Liddesdale than his eldest
brother. It seems most likely, due to age, that it was his uncle, the guardian
John Soulis (d.1310), who may have
from Liddesdale on 10 September 1301 when he launched an unsuccessful
attack upon the English held Lochmaben
castle. His movements were then watched by English
forces operating from Roxburgh. On 1
August 1314, John Soulis (d.1318) joined Edward Bruce in invading England marching past Carlisle.
Such an attack may well therefore have come from Liddesdale.
then joined Edward Bruce's expedition to Ireland in 1315 and died with
his king at the battle of Dundalk on 14 October 1318.
Soulis (d.1321), John's elder brother, had been dispossessed of Liddesdale and The Hermitageprobably
in 1296, when his father seems to have died when against King Edward's
peace. His lands in Liddesdale were then given by King Edward to
John Wake who was holding them on his death in 1300.
In February 1307, Johanna (d.1314), the widow of John Wake,
claimed Hermitage back from the sheriff
of Roxburgh, but was informed that William Soulis, who had a claim to
the land, would also be informed and allowed to attend the inquest on
the ownership of the land. On 12 September 1307, Sheriff Robert
Mauley of Roxburgh replied to King Edward II's
enquiry that he was unable to place Johanna in seisin as the land was
held by William Soulis (d.1321) who was abroad and that all the tenants
of the lordship had fled into England.
William was certainly in control of Liddesdale on 14
February 1316, when he was one of the leaders who intercepted and
routed a raiding party from Berwick
that had attacked the region of Melrose. Before this in on 27
August 1310, William was in the service of Bishop Anthony Bek (d.1311),
the well known supporter of King
(1307-27). Quite likely the Soulis family were keeping one
in either camp at this point - a standard aristocratic
This all changed, probably with the Edwardian defeat at the battle of Bannockburn on 24 June 1314. On 7
January 1320, William was the first amongst the knights sent south by King Robert Bruce to
negotiate with Edward II.
The same year he witnessed the 6 April 1320 Declaration of
Arbroath. Immediately afterwards he was involved in a
to overthrow Robert Bruce
which led to him being captured with a few followers at Berwick.
On 4 August he was tried for treason at Scone, found guilty on his
confession, and then, stripped of all his lands including
Liddesdale. He was then imprisoned at Dumbarton castle
where he died by 20 April 1321. His cousin through his Comyn
mother, David Brechin, and several others were executed for their part
in the alleged plot.
The Scottish portion of Liddesdale then seems to have passed to his
brother in law, John Keith, although it is alleged that King Robert Bruce
granted Liddesdale to his illegitimate son, Robert Bruce (d.1322) and
that it was later held by Archibald Douglas (d.1333). In any
case, John Keith died in 1324 and on 9 October 1335, Sheriff William
Felton of Roxburgh
(d.1358) made his
accounts which mentioned the fate of the Soulis' Marcher
In this Felton stated he could make no return for:
lands and tenements in Liddesdale (Ledelsdale),
which belonged to William Soulis (d.1321), because Ralph Neville
(d.1367) holds custody of half of the said lands until the legal age of
the heir of John Keith (d.1324), who's sister, one of the heirs of
William, he [John] had married as wife, as a gift from the king of
Scotland, and held her [and the land] before the king of England was
feoffee of the county of Roxburgh,
William Warenne holds another half in fee from the gift of the said
king of Scotland and held it long before the aforesaid feoffment.
It would appear from this that these lands were quite distinct from the
Wake barony of
Liddel to the south.
Perhaps as a result of this report action was then taken to return
Liddesdale to Scottish control in 1337. The next year, 1338, Hermitage castle
was finally taken by William Douglas (d.1353) who then became known as
lord of Liddesdale. The rest of the history of Liddesdale is
better told under Hermitage
The Scottish Liddle is an odd site, built on a triangular bluff
overlooking the junction of Liddel Water with the little Kirk Cleuch
Burn. The castle then consists of an inner and outer ward
defending the apex of the site to the north. It is clear that
2 northern sides have been formed by erosion and that since the alleged
castle's founding more of these sides may have been washed
To the south the triangular inner ward, each side being roughly 170'
long, has been created by digging a 15' deep ditch across the
isthmus. This was up to 40' wide. Within the ward a
depression is thought to be the remains of a well.
South of the inner ward was a rhomboidal outer ward about 250' wide by
100' deep. This was apparently topped by a rampart on all
although only that to the south still stands some 6' high internally,
the rest being virtually level with the interior. The 2 wards
joined by a diagonal causeway to the west. From the ditch
to the south the outer rampart stood some 25' high. The 10' deep outer
ditch was wider and flatter bottomed than the inner ditch and had a
slight counterscarp to the south. It also had a curved west
where it joined the bluff down to the Liddel Water.
Surprisingly the earthworks seem to continue over the Kirk Cleuch Burn
to the east to form what appears to be the remnants of a Roman fort or
marching camp - the south-east corner of the structure being a typical
Roman playing card corner, as too is the south-west corner under the
‘castle' earthworks. The inner ditch also continues
east over the burn until it meets up with the east ditch of the
postulated fort. This continues to the north where it
over the edge of the bluff towards the Liddel Water.
No datable finds have been made from the site and the designation of
this as a motte and bailey is definitely erroneous - the lack of motte
making that patently obvious. Quite possibly this site was
a castle and, as the history related above and under the English Liddel
shows, there is no certain documentary
reference to this place, although foundations and a portion of castle
wall were supposed to have been visible 200 years ago.
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Great Scottish Castles this Spring?
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Paul Martin Remfry