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 Parliament.
- 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