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Tantallon Castle's Last Great Siege, 1651










Plants: image 1 0f 4 thumb Plants: image 2 0f 4 thumb Plants: image 3 0f 4 thumb
Plants: image 4 0f 4 thumb Outer trench and Ravelin bombarded Plants: image 4 0f 4 thumb
Reconstructions by Andrew Spratt - click images to enlarge
Sack of Tantallon Castle Left:
An illustration by the late Andrew Hillhouse.
High quality prints are available from his website
Andrew Spratt contributes:
In 1650 the Scots army was defeated at the battle of Dunbar by Oliver Cromwell's army. However, several Scots units of horsemen 'Moss troopers' and 'Desperado gallants' continued to resist from the castles of Innerwick, Dirleton and Tantallon. At some point Innerwick was 'quitted' by these Moss troopers before a siege could take place. Dirleton castle was then besieged using great mortar pieces which tore open the drawbrige and portcullis allowing the English to enter by storm. A fragment of one of these mortar bombs (basically a hollow cannonball filled with gunpower and a fuse) is still on dispay at Dirleton castle today.

Cromwell's forces, under General Monk, then regrouped at Dirleton using it as a camp before besieging Tantallon castle and its Desperado Gallants in 1651. The walled town infront of Tantallon's defences was attacked first. This castle-town (known today as Castleton farm) was taken after two days of street fighting where an English army of two to three thousand faced less than one hundred Scots. The Scots in the retreat burnt down two of the town's brewhouses to stop them falling into enemy hands.

These Desperado Gallants under the command of 'Captain Alexander Setton' then tried to hold the outer entrenchment, infront of the castles' Ravelin a V shaped cannon platform to keep Cromwell's 'gun-battery of granadoes and six battering pieces' as far away from the castles' main curtain wall as possible. But during the 12 day bombardment this trench was stormed and English sappers moved against the Ravelin and positioned their cannons to devastating effect, destroying Ravelin, Spurwork gate house and breaching the main curtain wall on the right hand side of the foretower, filling the great ditch with rubble. One unfortunate English sapper tried to blast open a postern door way beside the forework, at ditch level, but it is thought his leg was blasted clean off by a 6 inch forework cannon fired at almost point blank range, as he ran from the doorway.

As Cromwell's men entered by storm through the breach, the remaining Scots held out in the top of the forework, resolving to sell their lives as good as they could if quarter not be given. Surprisingly, the English seeing 'them stand gallantly to it' offered them quarter and their lives were spared. So they officially surrendered at 4 o'clock on the 21st February 1651, the last great siege of Tantallon.

See also:

  • Tantallon Castle


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    Last modified: Friday, 17 May 2024