Greenknowe Tower is a classic L-plan Scottish tower house replete with defensive features. It was built in the late 16th Century for the wealthy Seton family. Later it was owned by the author and famous Covenanter Walter Pringle before it was abandoned in the 19th Century.
Greenknowe Tower was built by James Seton of Touch in 1581. His ancestor Alexander Seton had gained the lands around the tower in the early 15th Century when he married an heiress of Clan Gordon.
Greenknowe Tower is a four storey tower with a five storey stair wing on its east side. It is a classic L-plan with 1 metre thick walls. Its entrance is in the corner of the L where the two parts meet and it still has its original iron yett.
The tower had a number of defensive features in addition to the well-guarded entrance. A low barmkin wall enclosed the courtyard containing a stable block and storehouses. There are three corner bartizans on the south-east and north-west corners of the main block and on the south-east corner of the wing. The bartizans would have provided a good lookout point and given defenders a safe position to fire at any attackers.
The tower sits on a small mound and was surrounded by marshland when it was first built.
Inside, the tower provided comfortable accommodation. The main hall was on the first floor. The upper floors were divided into two rooms and the wing had additional spaces. All the rooms had fireplaces.
The entrance led into the basement where there was a kitchen and cellar.
The Seton family became wealthy through their involvement with the trade in coal between central Scotland and London. Their wealth made them eligible to marry into noble families and they ended up with lands throughout the Lothians and as far north as Aberdeenshire.
By the mid-17th Century Greenknowe Tower was in the possession of the Pringles of Stichel. Robert Pringle bought the tower for himself and his son in 1637.
His son was Walter Pringle - a prominent Covenanter and author. It is thought that Walter refurbished the tower and enlarged the windows on the upper floors. He also added an extension to the north.
Walter participated in the Battle of Dunbar against Cromwell's army. As a result of his beliefs he was imprisoned at Edinburgh Castle for a time in 1660. He was released quite quickly, fined numerous times, and eventually confined to his home at Greenknowe and three miles around provided he gave a bond for his "peaceable and inoffensive behaviour".
Greenknowe Tower was occupied until the early 19th Century. It was abandoned and passed into state care in 1937.
Today it is still looked after by Historic Scotland. It is a Scheduled Ancient Monument and it is possible to visit it. There are, however, no facilities at the tower and strong footwear is recommended.
Owner: Historic Scotland
Greenknowe Tower seen from the east
John Seton's inscription above the doorway