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).  For this there is zero evidence, although Ranulf did have interests in the valley of Liddel later known as Liddesdale.  Ranulf was acting as 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 Fitz Turgis (d.1164), the lord of English Liddel.  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.  To 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, Godehild.  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 it is discussed under the English Liddel.

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 was 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 been stated.

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:

La 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 (Rothomagum), where he had been sheriff since at least 1237.  At the time he was called ‘lord of the valley of Liddel, the most eloquent and wise 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 (d.1296), 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 Stewart, a 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 sons,
Thomas (d.1304), William (d.1321) and John (d.1318).  Three of the 4 children were to play their part in the history of the Vale of Liddel.  Apparently the eldest son was Thomas and he died first 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 come 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.  He then joined Edward Bruce's expedition to Ireland in 1315 and died with his king at the battle of Dundalk on 14 October 1318.

William 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 Edward II (1307-27).  Quite likely the Soulis family were keeping one foot in either camp at this point - a standard aristocratic position.  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 conspiracy 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 estates.  In this Felton stated he could make no return for:

the 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, and 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 castle.

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 the 2 northern sides have been formed by erosion and that since the alleged castle's founding more of these sides may have been washed away.  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 slight 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 sides, although only that to the south still stands some 6' high internally, the rest being virtually level with the interior.  The 2 wards were joined by a diagonal causeway to the west.  From the ditch bottom 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 end 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 to the east over the burn until it meets up with the east ditch of the postulated fort.  This continues to the north where it disappears 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 never 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.

Why not join me at other Great Scottish Castles this Spring?  Information on tours at Scholarly Sojourns.


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