Torwoodlee Tower is a ruined early 17th century tower house standing on a terrace high above a bend in the Gala Water, built close to or on the site of an earlier castle.
Who built the earlier keep and when doesn’t seem to be known, but Torwoodlee is most associated with the Pringle family, who possessed it as far back as the 15th century and so have lived there for over 500 years.
In 1501 William Hoppringill, a son of James Pringle of Smailholm, took a tack (or lease) of land at Torwoodlee. William’s son George was included on the lease in 1509, and the following year William bought Torwoodlee.
William was killed at Flodden in 1513, and the old tower at Torwoodlee passed to George. But in 1568 Torwoodlee was sacked by a band of 300 Elliots and Armstrongs, and George was killed.
Torwoodlee passed to another William Hoppringill, and upon his death in 1577 it was inherited by another George Hoppringill, or Pringle. In 1601 this George built a new tower house, the ruins of which are what still stand today. It is approached by a long avenue of trees, terraced out of the hillside.
This new tower was rectangular on plan, and built approximately north to south across a terrace in the steep lower slopes of Mains Hill. The main block measures around 8.0m east to west by a probable 23.0m north to south, although the exact value of this latter measurement is unknown as the north end of the block has been destroyed.
The main entrance was in the east wall at ground level, through a doorway into a projecting circular stair tower, from which a straight straight stairway led up to a landing on the west wall of the first floor. Above the doorway, around which is a carved surround, is a niche which would’ve contained a carved armorial panel, although this has now been removed.
A stone carved with the date 1601 and the initials GP and MS (for George Pringle and presumably his wife) is built into the hallway of the nearby Torwoodlee House.
The ground floor consisted of a basement level divided into three vaulted chamber, and access to it was through a small doorway to the left of the main entrance. Te kitchen is thought to have been situated in the northern most chamber. All the vaults have now fallen, and the stones from them now lie piled within the castle walls.
In the south wall of the basement level is a gun loop, pointing out over the hillside below.
The first floor would have contained the principle rooms, such as the main hall, which seems to have been at the south end of the block as there are tall windows at this end.
On the second floor there would have been bedrooms, although this floor has now entirely gone, the walls standing to a maximum height of around 9.0m at the south end.
The external stair tower seems to stop at first floor level, above which it is corbelled out, with carved decorative details, to form a square caphouse. Below the small window in the caphouse is a gunloop.
The north end of the tower seems to have been built into the hillside, but the walls here have fallen and the stones removed. A wing apparently projected to the east from the main block, running along the hillside and containing further vaulted cellars, although this too has now gone entirely.
Running east from the site of this wing was a courtyard wall. The corresponding wall on the south side, which featured loopholes spaced at a distance of around 1.7m, has now gone, although the wall of a lower terrace still stands.
To the west of the castle was a steeply sloping walled orchard or garden, although this area is now densely planted with pine trees. In the west wall there is a built-up doorway which would once have given access to the garden. The west wall also features large windows which would originally have looked out over the gardens.
Torwoodlee Tower continued to be the home of the Pringle family until James Pringle of Bowland succeeded his uncle to become the 9th laird of Torwoodlee, and set about building a new house in 1783, further east along the hillside.
Presumably Torwoodlee Tower fell out of use soon after this, and was possibly used as a source of stone for the new house.