A cap-house (sometimes written cap house or caphouse) is a small watch room, built at the top of a spiral staircase, often giving access to a parapet on the roof of a tower house or castle. They provided protection from the elements by enclosing the top of the stairway, and sometimes incorporated windows or gun loops. They were built in various forms, including square turrets, simple boxes, or small houses with gabled rooves, which were sometimes large enough to provide accommodation for a look-out.[1][2][3][4][5][6]

Helen's Tower in Northern Ireland, built in the 19th century in the Scots Baronial style, features a prominent cap-house (shown on the right)

Cap-houses were an authentic feature of the design of medieval and early-modern tower houses in Scotland, and were a frequent element used in the later Scottish Baronial architecture.


Medieval and early-modern cap-housesEdit

Nineteenth-century Scottish Baronial cap-housesEdit

See alsoEdit

  • Turret—a tower that projects vertically from the wall of a building
  • Bartizan—an overhanging projection from the wall of a building
  • Garret—an attic or top floor room in the military sense; a watchtower from the French word garite


  1. ^ Lindsay, Maurice (1994). The castles of Scotland (2 ed.). Constable. p. 469. ISBN 9-780094-734302.
  2. ^ Maxwell-Irving, Alastair M. T. (2014). The Border Towers of Scotland 2: Their evolution and architecture. Stirling: Alastair M. T. Maxwell-Irving. p. 320. ISBN 9-781907-931376.
  3. ^ Gifford, John (1996). The Buildings of Scotland: Dumfries and Galloway. London: Penguin Books. p. 578. ISBN 9-780140-710670.
  4. ^ Toy, Sidney (1966). The Castles of Great Britain (4 ed.). London: Heinemann Educational Books. p. 201.
  5. ^ Pevsner's Architectural Glossary. New Haven: Yale University Press. 2018. p. 40. ISBN 9-780300-223682.
  6. ^ Stevens Curl, James; Wilson, Susan (2016). Oxford Dictionary of Architecture (3 ed.). Oxford University Press. p. 146. ISBN 978-0-19-967499-2.