The vaulted room to the rear of Drumlanrig’s Tower, which dates to the 1550s, is part of Hawick’s oldest surviving building. The ‘hidden’ tower is a building within a building and bears an interesting history.
Built by the Douglas family, it was originally an L-shaped keep similar to Smailholm Tower. It gained the name of the ‘Black Tower’ in the time of the Border Reivers, when the Earl of Surrey ordered the town to be burnt to the ground. The charred tower was one of only a handful of buildings to survive, as most medieval houses had thatched roofs. The Scotts of Buccleuch captured the Tower from their rivals, the Douglas family, in the 1570s.
Oliver Cromwell’s cavalry was quartered here after the Battle of Dunbar, whilst Covenanters attacked the Tower and stole its weapons cache in 1679. Duchess Anne Scott extended and altered the tower to become a town house, introducing the distinctive archways and expanding the building over the former courtyard. Stables were added to the rear and over 10,000 slates were used to construct the new roof.
In 1769, the tower was renovated to become a coaching inn which provided an 18th century service station for both people and horses. The opening of the railway to Edinburgh (1849) and extension to Carlisle (1862), led to a decline in fortunes and the inn became a hotel. The Tower Hotel survived through various owners until closing in 1981. A large scale investment and refurbishment allowed Drumlanrig’s Tower to re-open as a museum in the late 1990s. Today it is home to the Borders Textile Towerhouse.