Morham: The Search For A Lost East Lothian Castle

In the 12th century an imposing castle overlooked a secluded river valley near Haddington in East Lothian. The tower was the residence of the Morham family, who give their name to the village found there today. By the 18th century the castle was gone, destroyed and the stone robbed for the construction of other buildings. No trace is visible today, though the position is marked on several historic maps.

Join the Whiteadder project as we look for evidence of the remains of the castle of Morham!

History

Thomas de Morham, previously known as Thomas Malherbe, was granted the lands of Morham in the 12th century. It is likely that the castle in some form also dates from this century. The Morhams owned the lands until 1322 when the estate passed into the hands of Sir John Gifford, of Yester. The lands of Morham change hands several times, even being granted by kings. In 1585, the document that grants Morham and Hailes to Francis Stewart, mentions the “tower” and “fortalice” of Morham; confirming the presence of a fortified structure on the site. The castle was fortified again in 1593 and after this there are few mentions of the castle until the 18th century. The old Statistical Account of the 1790s mentions that “although there is not one stone of the castle… left upon another, yet there are many people alive who remember the remains of it, and speak of it as a large extensive structure”.

The Site?

The site of Morham Castle is best known from the mapping evidence. Below is an extract from the 1st Edition Ordnance Survey Map where the “Site of Morham Castle” is marked. The site of Morham Castle is also mentioned in the old Statistical Account of the 1790s and is stated to have been “on an eminence, near the church”. Similarly, the new Statistical Account states that it is “on a point of land near the church, and overlooking the glen below”.

You can look for evidence of the castle’s location on the National Library’s mapping website, here.

Previous Work

In 2013 and 2014 a geophysical survey was undertaken by the Edinburgh Archaeological Field Society at the site of Morham Castle marked on the 1st Edition OS Map. Although the survey did not find any clear evidence of the castle, a few linear and square or rectangular anomalies were present on the plan, possibly indicating heavily degraded archaeology. These features will be the target of our excavations in 2019.

 

The Excavations – Take Part!

Excavations will take place from Tuesday the 27th of August until Saturday the 31st of August. Onsite hours will be from 9am til 4pm. Whether you are a well-seasoned digger or this is your first time wielding a trowel, the excavations are open to all. There is no cost for participating in the excavations, and training will be given in excavation and recording techniques aligned with the BAJR Archaeology Skills Passport (which is also provided).