Symon de Fresel de cele gent
Le ot noire à rosettes de argent….
Pele Tower. Located on the Scottish Borders.
The exact location of the site is unknown, but stone from the original tower was used in the construction of the large house of the same name. The supposed site is located south west of Oliver’s Castle Hill Fort.
The area of the Tweed valley was once of the so-called lawless areas during the English wars against Scotland. Spread along either banks fo the Tweed River were a number of Tower Houses/Castles/Pele Towers, and Oliver Castle was one of them.
Located on one side was Drumelzier Tower and on the other was Tinnis, or Thanes, Castle. This string of towers, which comprised of many more not mentioned here, communicated with each other via a beacon. During the night this was done through fire, and at daytime, through the use of smoke. When these were lit, it was a call to arms for all of those who saw it.
Most famously known for its associations with the Clan Fraser as their main residence, it also has ties with the Tweedie family. The original Pele tower was one of the oldest original homesteads within the area.
The Fraser family were totally wrapped up in the battles with Edward I of England. Unfortunately for Simon Fraser, he was captured, sent to London, tortured and executed in a totally barbaric way. This brave gentleman had fought at Roslin, where three divisions of Edward’s army were beaten – Simon Fraser was known as The Hero of Roslin.
The Fraser family also held nearby Niedpath Castle, of which there are still remains today.
So, as with sites that have very little known history, we have to look at the people who held them, and their colourful lives. The following timeline is not a complete one in regards the exploits of the Frasers, but the most noteworthy events are mentioned.
Timeline for the site and its owners,
1153-1165 Lands held by Olford.
1175-1199 Oliver, son of Kylvert, built the castle/Tower. He married Beatrice of East Lothian.
c.1200 Mentioned in charters. The sons of Muryn were at the site.
1215-1248 During: Sir Gilbert Fraser was Sheriff of Traquir.
* Bernard Fraser was Sheriff of Tweedale.
1261 Held by Lawrence Fraser. He witnessed a Charter for the Monks of Coldingham.
1263 Sir Gilbert Fraser died.
1263-1266 Simon Fraser was High Sheriff of Tweedale.
1283 Simon Fraser was present at the Parliament held at Scone.
1284 Simon Fraser was present at the Parliament held at Scone.
1285 Simon Fraser supported Margaret of Norway as the rightful heiress of Alexander III King of Scotland.
1289 Simon Fraser was present at the Parliament held at Briggham.
1290 Simon Fraser was present at the Parliament held at Briggham.
1291 Simon Fraser supported John Balliol’s claim to the throne of Scotland.
1291 Simon Fraser swore allegiance to Edward I. Later in the year his son, Simon Fraser, also swore allegiance to Edward I.
1292-1293 Simon Fraser attested an act of homage to Edward I.
1296 Simon Fraser was taken prisoner by the Earl of Surrey and held for 8 months.
c.1297 Simon joined William Wallace as commander of his army.
1297 Simon Fraser renewed his homage to Edward I and accompanied him to Flanders to fight. For doing so, his family lands were restored to him.
1299 Simon Fraser died.
1303 ‘During the minority of the Queen, Sir Simon Fraser, Lord of Oliver Castle, with the assistance of the Cumyn, and with an army of 10,000 Scots, in one day gave three successive and complete defeats to different bodies of Edward the First’s army, amounting in all to not less than 30,000 mean, near Roslin, on the 27th February 1303.’ (Lauder 1874).
1306 Simon Fraser joined forces with Robert the Bruce.
1306 The male line of the Frasers died out. Simon Fraser left two daughters, Joan and Mary.
1307 Simon Fraser was captured by the Earl of Buchan and sent to London where he was executed.
1390-1406 During: The Barony of Oliver Castle was granted to Patrick Fleming by Robert II.
1473 Held by Gilbert Hay of Oliver Castle, who had married the heiress of the Fraser family.
1489 Held by William Tweedie of Oliver Castle. William and Lawrence Tweedie took Thomas Porteous to court for stealing 74 lambs from their property.
* Andrew Tweedie held the lands.
* Thomas Tweedie held the lands.
1565 William Tweedie held the lands.
1611 Thomas Tweedie held the lands.
* Patrick Tweedie held the Barony of Oliver Castle.
1649 Date stone on house.
1655 Patrick Tweedie died.
1657 Held by John Tweedie.
1669 John Tweedie died, and Thomas Tweedie inherited the lands.
1731 Thomas Tweedie died, and James Tweedie inherited the lands.
1734 Date stone on house.
1780 House built on site. Reusing some of the original stonework.
1834 Lawrence Tweedie gave the estate to his nephew George Stodart.
1869 George Tweedie-Stodart died and was succeeded by his son Thomas Tweedie-Stodart.
Archaeologically, thumbscrews were found in the area of the proposed site for Oliver Castle – an interesting artefact! Were they used on the English or Scottish side? We will never know, but they are certainly a reminder of the way punishment and torture were handed out in those turbulent times of unease along the Borders.
Click on the title for this poem – The Lord of Oliver and Neidpath.
References & Bibliography
Anderson. W. 1877. The Scottish Nation: Or, The Surnames, Families, Literature, Honours, and Biographical History of the People of Scotland. Volume 2. A. Fullarton & Company.
Bannatyne Club (Edinburgh, Scotland). 1850. Origines Parochiales Scotiae: The Antiquities Ecclesiastical and Territorial of the Parishes of Scotland. The Bannatyne Club.
Dalrymple. Sir. D. 1819. Annals of Scotland: From the Accession of Malcolm III in the Year MLVII to the Accession of the House of Stewart in the Year MCCCLXXI, to which are Added, Tracts Relative to the History and Antiquities of Scotland, Volume 2. Archibald, Constable & Co.
Dixon. B. H. 1889. The Border or Riding Clans. J. Munsell’s Sons.
Fraser. A. Baron Saltoun. 1879. The Frasers of Philorth. Volume 1. Printed for private circulation. No printer name given.
Fraser. A. 1895. The Clan Fraser in Canada. Mail Job Printing Company.
Glasgow Archaeological Society. 1893. Annual Excursion of the Society for 19891 and 1892. Transactions of the Glasgow Archaeological Society. Vol. 2, Part 2, (1893), pp. 215-245.
Grant. J. 1873. British Battles on Land and Sea. Volume 1. Peter & Galphin.
Lauder. Sir. T. D. 1874. Scottish Rivers. Edmonston and Douglas.
Low. A. 1856. Scottish Heroes, in the Days of Wallace and Bruce. Volume 1. Hurst and Blackett.
Marshall. W. 1875. Historic Scenes in Forfarshire. Oliphant.
McNamee. C. 2012. The Wars of the Bruce’s: Scotland, England and Ireland 1306 – 1328. Birlinn.
Ministers of the Parishes of Roxburgh, Peebles and Selkirk. 1845. The New Statistical Account of Scotland: Roxburgh, Peebles, Selkirk. W. Blackwood & Sons.
Peter. D. M. 1856. The Baronage of Angus and Mearns. Oliver & Boyd.
Robb. G. 2018. The Debatable Land: The Lost World Between Scotland and England. Pan Macmillan UK.
Roger. C. 1889. The Book of Wallace. Volume 2. Grampian Club.
Smibert. T. (ed.). 1850. The Clans of the Highlands of Scotland: Being an Account of Their Annals, Separately & Collectively, with Delineations of Their Tartans, and Family Arms. J. Hogg.
Taylor. J. 1858. Edward I of England in the North of Scotland. Robert Jeans.
Tweedie. M. F. 1902. The History of the Tweedie, or Tweedy Family: A Record of Scottish Lowland Life & Character. W. P. Griffith & Sons.
Tytler. P. F. 1866. The History of Scotland from the Accession of Alexander III. to the Union. Volume 1. Nimmo.
Veitch. J. 1875. The Tweed, and Other Poems. J. Maclehose.
Veitch. J. 1893. The History and Poetry of the Scottish Border: Their Main Features and Relations. Volume 1. William Blackwood & Sons.
Wilson. J. M. 1860. Nelsons’ Hand-book to Scotland: for Tourists. T. Nelson and Sons.