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Smailholm Tower goes back to grass roots

5 September 2011

Smailholm Tower, a well-preserved 15th century tower situated between St Boswells and Kelso, is to receive a ‘living roof’ to make it watertight. This is due to rain leaking through the stone flag roof which has caused damage to the upper floor.

Work is starting today, (Monday 5th September) when a layer of clay will be applied to the roof. Sedum and grass seeds will then be planted into the clay and it should take around four weeks for the roof to have a complete covering of grass which should considerably reduce the amount of water penetrating the roof.  

Two different types of ‘living roofs’ were trialled over a period of over two years and the best features of both combined for the one about to be installed.

Peter Ranson, District Architect, Historic Scotland said: “Over recent years, heavy rainfall has caused water to get into the roof of the Tower. This is a problem because of the effect on the Tower’s timber structural elements and the potential damage to the exhibition of dolls and tapestries which were inspired by Sir Walter Scott’s writing.  

The system we have chosen is fully reversible. It will considerably reduce the amount of water penetrating the roof and is also energy efficient.  We have also seen old photographs which show that a thin covering of vegetation once grew naturally on the masonry top of the Tower.  

Smailholm is a prominent landmark which is home to the Pringles and Scotts.  It was a source of inspiration to Sir Walter Scott who is buried at nearby Dryburgh Abbey.

Notes for editors

  • Historic Scotland is an executive agency of the Scottish Government charged with safeguarding the nation’s historic environment. The agency is fully accountable to Scottish Ministers and through them to the Scottish Parliament.


For further information


Jennifer Johnston-Watt
Communications and Media Officer
Communications and Media
0131 668 8070 or 07827 956 866
jennifer.johnstonwatt@scotland.gsi.gov.uk