The building most closely associated with the Reiver is that variously called the Tower-house, the Border Tower and the Peel or Pele Tower.
They come in all sorts of shapes and sizes, small, medium and large.
The Tower can be viewed as a development of an earlier form of defence, introduced in to the country by the Norman invaders - the Motte and Bailey Castle.
The word “motta” means a clod of earth and this is used to describe a mound of earth which was thrown up on which was placed a Keep or “Donjon”
The classic motte shape, which can be seen at the Motte of Urr, just up the valley of the river Urr from Buittle.
The earth for the mound would be dug out from a ditch around the motte or around the whole castle. On it would be built a timber tower of two or, sometimes, three stories. Into this tower the family of the castle and their defenders could retreat in times of danger.
The bailey is an enclosed courtyard, surrounded by a wooden palisade, which housed the services needed to keep the castle functioning eg the Great Hall (where the Lord of the Castle and his family and retainers would have dined, been entertained and slept), the kitchen, the blacksmith’s shop, the stables, the hay lofts, the wood stores, the brewing house etc etc.
After the Crusades, the timber construction of the Motte & Bailey began to be replaced by stone.
The Tower House, especially in the Borderland, shared many of the features of the Motte & Bailey. The Keep became the Tower. The Bailey became an area surrounded by a wall, around 3m (10 feet) to 4.5m (15 feet) high, called a “Barmkin” or “Barnekin”, containing the services (as above) and into which livestock and people could be gathered in times of danger. The owner could either live in the Tower or in a house in the barmkin and could retreat into the tower for defence.
In 1547, when Lochwood Tower (the main strength of the Johnstons) was captured during Carleton’s Raid it was described as “having an encircling barnekin wall which enclosed a hall, kitchen, stables, sleeping quarters and the main keep”.
Even the name “Peel” Tower points to an earlier form. The palisade round the bailey was formed from “pales”, a word which became “pele” or “peel”. The term Pale for a palisade or fence survives in the English language when we describe someone as “beyond the pale”. This is derived from the pale or palisade which surrounded the Anglo-Norman settlement in Dublin. Anyone who was beyond the pale lived outside this ie the native Irish and so was considered of lower class.