Oliver Castle Site.  

The actual site of Oliver Castle in Tweedsmuir is a bit of a conundrum. Blaeu's map of 1654 shows two Oliver Castle sites one on either side of the Bield burn shown as N.(ether). and O.(ver) Olifer Castel respectively. The Nether Olifer Castel site on the north side of the Bield burn is the one shown on current Ordnance Survey maps as the traditional site of Oliver Castle - NT 099250. It is on a flat topped knowle with a stand of trees planted on it on the slope of the hill - Nether Oliver Dod - overlooking the ford at Chapel Knowe.

But what of the Over Olifer Castel on the south side of the Bield burn?  Was this the castrum Oliueri of c1200 where Adam et Cosouold filli Muryn aput castrum Oliueri (Adam and Cososwald, sons of Muirenn, at Oliver's Castle) were among witnesses(6).   This indicatea that there was an abode name "Oliver" but no person of that name residing there at that time.

 The map (2) above shows the concentration of Bronze Age sites around the confluence of the River Tweed and the Talla/Fruid Waters and Chapel Knowe.  It is  probable that the castle site was originally part of this rich Bronze Age landscape.  See page on Early Peoples.  Particularly note section 2j covering the near by Bronze Age site behind Oliver House comprising cairn/cist/urn.  On the above map this cist is shown opposite the confluence of the Tweed and the Talla Water.  It is unlikely that any evidence of the Bronze Age remains on the castle site under discussion as any stones from a cairn or from a cist would have been incorporated into the later Iron Age hill fort.  This strategic site also gave line of sight for signal fires to be seen at Fruid Castle via the tower at Hawkshaw.    

The Rev. Thomas Muchet writing in the first Statistical Account of 1791-1799(1)  states that "vestiges of ancient castles still remain at Oliver and at Fruid".  What the Rev. Thomas Muchet must have been viewing - from the windows of his manse - was probablly the vestiges of the iron age fort at Oliver as most of the material from the castle had already been recycled by the Tweedies into their new Oliver House c1649.   However, the Rev. was not alone in thinking  that the remains of the castle were still evident as George Chalmers (4) writing in 1810 on the subject of Oliver Castle noted "there exists only a small remain" also William Chambers (3) writing in 1864 stated that "Oliver  must have been originally a very strong place both from its position and from the size which is still apparent, although only an indistinct outline and a few stones are to be seen , while the site is covered in trees."   One would have thought  that these trees could not be the same trees that are on the site in the present day.    The RCAHMS in their survey of the site No. 521 in 1967 (2) noted the following "The surface of the knoll has been very much disturbed by tree-planting, felling and replanting and at the date of visit it was covered with long grass interpersed with small trees"  More about Oliver Castle on the Tweedies of Oliver page.  The vestiges at Fruid were more significant - more about this on the Frasers of Fruid page.

The surveys in 1967 by the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland(2) failed to find any mediaeval evidence on the tree covered site - see previous paragraph - although it had been an iron age hill fort.  Further information on the hillfort in the online Atlas of Hillforts of Britain and Ireland, No SC 3551 (5). More information about the Oliver Castle site on section 2h on the page Early Peoples and also on the online archive Canmore - ID 48510 and it is a Scheduled Monument.  A more recent study has been done by the Scottish Place Names Society (6).  

oliver castle from hog hill 01.jpg

 Site of Oliver Castle in clump of trees centre right with present Oliver House in centre of picture 

oliver castle with trees.jpg

Above - site of Oliver Castle in clump of trees.


On right site prior to 1902(7)

Above - Site of Oliver Castle in trees lower left, taken from Nether Oliver Dod, showing the amazing view of the Talla Valley with the reservoir in the distance.  Oliver House in trees to the right.  Image taken c2005 before any clear felling and replanting had taken place of the commercial 1970s Sitka Spruce plantations seen in the image. 


1)  Muchett, Thomas, Rev; The 1791-1799 Statistical Account of Scotland, EB Publishing, Edinburgh, 1979. Parish of Tweedsmuir, pp 991-994. 

2)  Royal Commission on the Ancient Monuments of Scotland, Inventory for Peeblesshire, HMSO, Edinburgh, 1967. Vol 1 for map p16 (Annotated in black by the Ed.). Vol 2 for Oliver Castle site p262.  Canmore ID 48510 for Oliver Castle site.

3)  Chambers, William;  A History of Peeblesshire, Edinburgh, 1864. p318.

4)  Chalmers, George; Caledonia: An Account, historical and topographic, of North Britain, London, 1810. Vol 2 p918.

5) Lock G, Ralston I, 2017, Atlas of Hillforts of Britain and Ireland (Online).

6)  Patterson, William; Journal of Scottish Place name Studies, clann tuirin, Perthshire, 2017. Vol 11, p93.

7)  Tweedie, Michael; The History of the Tweedie or Tweedy Family, A Record of Scottish Lowland Life & Character, Griffiths & Son, London, 1902. p142.

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