100 years since 14th century David’s Tower rediscovered at Edinburgh Castle
27 November 2012
This November marks one hundred years since David’s Tower, a rare surviving fragment
of Edinburgh Castle’s medieval history, was rediscovered during excavation work by the Ministry of Works.
David’s Tower, built in the 1380s, stood 100 feet tall and was the first ever ‘Tower
House’, dominating Edinburgh’s skyline for 200 years. It was the Royal residence in the rebuilt
castle and was as high as a ten storey block of flats.
The Tower was built by King David II, after whom the Tower is named, as part of
the great reconstruction programme of the Castle following its earlier destruction by David’s father
King Robert Bruce, who ordered its demolition to render it useless to the ‘auld enemy’ – the English.
The Tower also witnessed the infamous ‘Black Dinner’ of 1440, during which the Earl
of Douglas and his younger brother were accused of treason (signified by them being served a black bull’s
head on a platter) in the presence of the 10 year old King James II. Rough justice followed immediately
– they were dragged out into the palace yard, (now Crown Square) and beheaded.
During his youth James V was kept a virtual prisoner in the Tower, by Regent Albany,
with no access to his second wife, Mary of Guise.
Nick Finnigan, Executive Manager of Edinburgh Castle said: “David’s Tower is a fascinating
part of Edinburgh Castle’s history.
“It provided a secret hiding place for Scotland’s Crown Jewels during World War
II due to fear of invasion and also witnessed the infamous Black Dinner of 1440 after which the Earl
of Douglas and his younger brother were accused of treason and then beheaded.
“I am pleased to say that recent access improvements to David’s Tower have made
it possible for us to consider taking small escorted groups to see the tower for themselves and learn
about its intriguing past.”
The Tower is now completely hidden from view, situated behind the great curved front
of the Half Moon Battery located on the South East corner of the Castle overlooking the current Esplanade.
The Tower remnants were re-discovered during excavations in 1912 by W Oldrieve from
the Ministry of Works working alongside colleagues from the newly-formed Royal Commission on the Ancient
and Historical Monuments of Scotland.
He worked out that part of the tower might still be there, and took the bold step
of digging down from the upper part of the Half Moon Battery, and emptying out tons of rubble which
engulfed it at the time of demolition.
Current archaeological analysis is now successfully revealing the complex but fugitive
development of the tower, and its relationship to the earliest palace block which grew up behind it
in the 1400s, while identifying more ‘lost’ towers of Edinburgh Castle.
Notes for editors
- Historic Scotland is an executive agency of the Scottish Government
charged with ensuring that our historic environment provides a strong foundation for a successful future
for Scotland. The agency is fully accountable to Scottish Ministers and through them to the Scottish
- The Year of Creative Scotland began on January 1, 2012 and will
spotlight and celebrate Scotland’s cultural and creative strengths on a world stage. Through a dynamic
and exciting year-long programme of activity celebrating our world-class events, festivals, culture
and heritage, the year puts Scotland’s culture and creativity in the international spotlight with a
focus on cultural tourism and developing the events industry and creative sector in Scotland. More information
about the programme can be found at: www.visitscotland.com/creative
- The Year of Creative Scotland is a Scottish Government initiative
led in partnership by EventScotland, VisitScotland, Creative Scotland and VOCAL. More information and
resources to help businesses engage with Year of Creative Scotland are available at www.visitscotland.org/yearofcreativescotland-toolkit