Repentance Tower

Repentance Tower, Dumfries and Galloway

~ History ~

1540's ~ As part of ongoing warfare and disputes between England and Scotland, the English have captured Dumfriesshire. The local clan chiefs and Lairds are forced to become 'assured Scots' by pledging their allegiance with the giving up of hostages to the English, in order to ensure they keep to their oaths of allegiance to King Henry VIII. Among these 'assured Scots' is John Maxwell.

John has an eye on Agnes Herries and her lands that he would inherit if he secured her hand in marriage. However, as a staunch supporter of the Scottish cause against the English, and given the Maxwell's history of having supported the English against the Scots, in order to further their own local interests, he knows that this would be impossible.

However the opportunity arises when the Maxwell's turn out for the English against the Scots but upon the signal of a black flag, his men turn against the English which results in a victory for the Scots. The English flee back to Carlisle. Maxwell wins Agnes hand in marriage and the title of Lord of Herries, and with it the lands he has long coverted. The price for this is the execution of forteen of the fifteen hostages Maxwell had given to the English.

1560's ~ Sir John Maxwell builds a Tower on top of Trailtrow hill overlooking the Solway Firth whilst building nearby Hoddam Castle. He does this as part of a chain of defensive beacons which stretch along the Scottish border-lands to warn of an English invasion. He uses the stone from Trailtrow Chapel to serve not only as a defensive tower but also as a monument to the hostages who died as a result of his self serving treachary and memorial to demonstrate his personal remorse.


Hoddom, Lockerbie




DG11 1AS

Repentance Tower was clearly intended to withstand a direct assault, as well as serving as a watch beacon for both the local community so as they could seek protection at nearby Hoddam Castle, as well as notifying neighbouring watch beacons to send the warning far and wide in order to seek help.

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 is topped with stone slabs to mitigate against any fire-hazard associated with the beacon.

The tower has few domestic considerations with no latrine nor any fireplaces, as this was never used as a residence. 

The short drive from Hoddam Castle to this out-post from which it is associated, includes a fairly long walk to the top of a hill where you will find the tower built within a graveyard. The unusual name and location within a graveyard become clear when you read its history.

Terrific views across the Solway Firth towards England gives a clue to its purpose.