Scottish Castles Association

Preserving the Past for the Future

SCA Castle Tour To Renfrewshire - Sep 2005

Dargavel Castle

Dargavel Castle


Location - OS Map 64 (NS 433 693)

Renfrewshire: Situated about 1 mile south of Bishopton, on minor roads south of A8, within the Royal Ordnance Factory, at Dargavel.

Nigel Tranter (1962): Dargavel is a picturesque example of a large late 16th-century mansion on the Z-plan, though it has been much altered and added to in modern times, in approximately the same style of architecture. Although still standing and in good order, it is now extremely difficult to view, being now wholly enclosed by the large precincts of the Royal Ordnance Factory at Bishopton, with all admission of visitors forbidden. It lies about a mile south of Bis hopton Station and five miles north-west of Paisley.

The original part of the house consists of a main block lying roughly east and west, with circular towers projecting at the north-east and south-west angles, as at Kelburn and Knock Castles in Ayrshire. Modern works extend to north and south. The walls are roughcast and rise to three storeys and an attic. The walling of the round towers is slightly intaken above first floor level, and one storey higher, in the re-entrant angle between the south-west tower and the main south wall, a narrow stairturret projects on elaborate corbelling. The windows, where original, are moulded on jambs and lintels, and one at second. floor level in the west gable is particularly ornate. On the north front, at first-floor level, is a rectangular garderobe projection. A renewed panel dated 1584 is inserted in the east gable, and a sundial bearing the date 1670 is placed in the wall of the south west tower.

The old entrance, now obscured by modern work, was situated in the south front, and admitted to a corridor running east and west, which gave access to the basement chambers and the main stair in the south-west tower. The ground floor contained three vaulted apartments, that to the east being the kitchen. On the first floor was the Hall, with a smaller private room to the east, the floor above being very similar. The main stair stops at second floor level, the ascent thereafter being continued by small turnpikes, one in the afore-mentioned turret and the other contrived in the re-entrant angle between the north-east tower and the north front. The tall stair-tower with the crenellated top seen in the sketch, is modern work.

Dargavel became a Maxwell possession, adding to the strength of this great South-West Border family, which seems to have most succes sfully infiltrated into this area in the 14th and 15th centuries largely as a result of judicious marriages to heiresses. The first Maxwell of Da rgavel was Patrick, son of George Maxwell of Newark, who acquired the estate circa 1516. Not far away Stanely, Haggs, Mearns, Nether Pollock, Calderwood, Cadder and other lairdships had fallen into the same acquisitive hands, so that the centre of gravity, as it were, of Maxwell power seems to have been shifting up from Nithsdale and the West March of the Border to the more central and influential Glasgow area. Were they far-seeing folk indeed -or just lucky?

Martin Coventry (1995): Dargavel House is a large L-plan tower house of three storeys and an attic, dating from 1574. It was extended and remodeled in 1670, in 1849 by David Bryce, and again in 1910. The main block has round towers projecting at two corners. The basement was vaulted, containing the kitchen and cellars, and the hall was on the first floor. A main stair led to the first floor, while the upper floors were reached by turnpike stairs. It was held by the Maxwells.

Bishopton House

Bishopton House


Location - OS Map 64 (NS 422 717)

Renfrewshire: About 3.5 miles north-east of Bridge of Weir, on minor roads north of the A8, about 0.5 miles west of Bishopton.

Nigel Tranter (1962): This plain old mansion occupies a commanding site overlooking the Firth of Clyde to the west of the village and two miles east of Langbank. It has been a tall L-shaped building of probably early 17th-century date. Slightly later both wings have been extended, at a lower level, and there is still more modern work to the south. The main block lies east and west, containing three storeys and a garret, with the wing projecting southwards and housing a wide squared stair. The original doorway lies in the west wall of the wing, at the foot of the stair, and a passage to the left admits to the two vaulted basement chambers of the main block, lit by narrow arrow-slit windows of an early type, which may indicate the incorporation of a still earlier fortalice. The ground floor of the western extension contains the old kitchen with wide fireplace. Internally the house has inevitably been much altered, having undergone many vicissitudes. At one time it became a farmhouse, but it is now the nucleus of a religious establishment, with much modern building to the south. Bishopton was the seat of the family of Brisbane from the 14th until the 17th century, when they removed to Kelsoland in North Ayrshire, which they renamed Brisbane House. From them Bishopton passed to the Walkingshaws of that Ilk, and later to Lord Blantyre.

Martin Coventry (1995): Bishopton House consists of a tall 17th-century L-plan tower house, which probably incorporates earlier work. The main block rises to three storeys and a garret, and has a projecting wing with a scale-and-platt stair. The tower was extended by a lower wing and later work. The building has been considerably altered inside and out after being remodelled in 1916-20. The original entrance, in the wing, leads to the stair and to a passage which opens into the vaulted basement. The basement contains a kitchen with a wide fireplace. Bishopton was a property of the Brisbane family from 1332 or earlier, until about 1671, and they built the castle. It passed to the Walkinshaws, Dunlops, Semples, then the Maxwells of Pollok. In the 19th century the property was held by the Stewart Lord Blantyre. The castle was used as a farmhouse, but is now part of the Convent of the Good Shepherd. Other refs: Old Bishopton.

Newark Castle - Renfrewshire

Newark Castle - Renfrewshire


Location - OS Map 63 (NS 331 745)

Renfrewshire: Newark Castle is in Port Glasgow, just north of the A8, on River Clyde, at Newark.

Nigel Tranter (1962): One of the finest examples in Southern Scotland of a great baronial residence of the late 16th century grown from a plain early tower. Newark stands on a spit of land projecting into the Clyde, hemmed in closely by the shipyards of Port Glasgow. Fortunately it is in the care of the Ministry of Works.

The buildings form three sides of a square, the south side being formerly enclosed by a curtain-wall. They date from three periods. The original is the simple square keep at the south end of the east wing, belonging to the 15th century. Next comes the gatehouse block, probably mid-16th-century, forming the west wing. The remainder, the main or north block, is dated 1597-9.

The keep rises four storeys, the topmost being projected slightly on individual corbels, representing merely the raising of the original parapet, the spouts for draining the parapet-walk still showing. This storey is now roofless. The windows have been largely altered. The entrance, now internal, was to the north, admitting to a lofty vaulted basement, formerly containing an entresol or half-floor. A turnpike stair rises in the north-east angle to all floors. Chambers, one to each floor, are well provided with garderobes.

The gatehouse portion is unusually tall, three storeys, with a gabled roof. A large arched gateway to a vaulted pend leads through to the courtyard. At the right side of this is the usual porter's bench, with a narrow arrow-slit window guarding the approach. On the left is the guardroom, from which rises the turnpike stair. The first-floor chamber has fireplace, garderobe and two windows with stone seats.

The later part is on the grand scale, and extremely interesting. All external angles have corner turrets, and in the centre of the north front a semi-circular stair-turret rises from first-floor level. The good rubble walls are well provided with various types of gunloops, and most windows have decorative triangular pediments. A striking feature is the very massive projecting chimney rising from ground level on the east wall, containing the flue from the bakehouse fireplace. The entrance is in the east re -entrant of the courtyard, surmo unted by a panel dated 1597 bearing the monogram of Sir Patrick Maxwell and inscribed THE BLISSINGIS OF GOD BE HEIRIN.

The basement contains vaulted chambers reached from a long corridor, that to the west being the kitchen, with wide fireplace, stone sink and drain. A service stair rises to the Hall above which also has another private stair in the thickness of the north wall down to the easternmost vault, no doubt the laird's wine cellar, which could thus be kept locked. The main wide squared stair rises opposite the entrance, to the first floor.

The Hall is a most handsome apartment, lit by seven windows, with a magnificent fireplace and a garderobe with gunloop. A private door admits to the turret stair up to the sleeping quarters. On this floor there is also a service room and two other apartments. On the second floor is a fine pine-floored gallery, divisible into four chambers by movable partitions, one in each wing and two in the main block, all with fireplaces-a most advanced arrangement for the period. The flooring of the garret storey above has been removed.

Originally these lands belonged to the family of Danielstoun of that Ilk. Sir Robert Danielstoun left two heiresses, one of whom married Sir Robert Maxwell of Calderwood, carrying Newark into that family, in 1402. The barony was thereafter known as Danielstoun-Maxwell. All the extant building, there fore, was erected by the Maxwells, to the power and prestige of which it remains an enduring monument. James Fourth appears to have been a frequent visitor to Newark, which is just across the estuary from the royal fortress of Dumbarton. The Lord Treasurer's accounts refer in 1497 to 'Item, to ane bote to fech wyne fra the schip twys, quhea sho lay at the New Werk. 4s 8d.' And in 1498 'Item, in Dumbertone, to the bote that hed the Kingis gere on burd, to the New Werk. 6s.' In 1668, Sir Patrick Maxwell sold the surrounding land to the magistrates of Glasgow, to provide a convenient harbour for the vessels of city merchants-hence Port Glasgow.

Martin Coventry (1995): Standing on a spit of land into the sea, Newark Castle consists of a much extended simple square 15th-century keep. To this was added a 16th century gate house block and a large late 16th-century range, to form three sides of a courtyard. The remaining side was formerly completed by a wall. The old keep rises to four storeys, the top storey being built from the original parapet. The windows of the keep have been enlarged. The entrance leads to a vaulted basement and to a turnpike stair, which climbs to all floors.

The tall gatehouse block is three storeys high with a gabled roof, An arched gateway leads to a vaulted pend, which opens into the courtyard, A turnpike stair leads to all floors from a guardroom. The later large range has bartizans at the corners, and the walls are pierced by gunloops. A semi-circular stair-tower, with a conical roof is corbelled out from first-floor level. This building is dated 1597. The basement is vaulted and contains a kitchen, with a wide fireplace, a cellar and a wine-cellar with a small stair to the hall above. The hall, on the first floor and reached by the main stair, has a richly decorated fireplace. The second floor contains a gallery. Newark was originally a property of the Dennistouns or Danielstouns, but passed by marriage to the Maxwells of Calderwood in 1402, who built the castle. James IV was a frequent visitor. One of the family, Patrick Maxwell, was involved in the murders of Patrick Maxwell of Stanely and the Montgomery laird of Eglinton, in 1584 and 1596 respectively, during a series of feuds. The castle was abandoned as a residence early in the 18th century, and was handed over into state care in 1909.

Ranfurly Castle
Ranfurly Castle


Location: OS Map (NS 384 652)

Renfrewshire: About 0.5 miles south-west of Bridge of Weir, on minor roads south of A761, in Ranfurly Golf Course.

Martin Coventry (1995): Ranfurly or Ranforlie is a small ruined early 15th century keep and courtyard. Only two storeys remain of the keep, and three cellars of the ranges of buildings within the courtyard. The castle probably replaced the nearby motte [NS 384650]. It was a property of the Knox family, one of whom was John Knox, while another was a Protestant Bishop of the Isles. It passed in 1665 to the Cochrane Earls of Dundonald, then was sold to the Hamiltons of Holmhead, then to the Aitkenheads. Other refs: Castle Hill, Ranfurly. RCHMS – 1965 - Ranfurly Castle (remains of) (NR) as 6" map (1968) A/. Ranfurly Castle was built by the Knoxes about 1440 (W W Lyle 1975). When described by Murdoch, the keep was standing three storeys high. There were arrowslits in the walls of the ground floor, while the main entrance was at first floor level. An East wing, the most modern part, was added (according to Murdoch) about 200 years later, and a South wing, "which provided, on the ground floor, three good vaults for cattle and stores, and probably as many rooms above for the family", was built at an indeterminate date (of Mearns Castle NS55NE 6). R D McKenzie 1902; T Murdoch 1885 B/. Ranfurly Castle, a typical 15th/16th century tower, about 6.0m square, survives to a height of about 7.0m. The walls are of rough random rubble with quoins of dressed stone. In the East wall is a single slit window with a wide internal splay, and a door opening. The latter is carried up into the first storey and now appears as a narrow opening 5.0m with a rough voussoired archhead. The absence of any trace of a ground floor arch-head probably indicates some adaptation of the tower when the other buildings were added. These buildings comprise a range of structures formed by rubble walling and probably only those of the tower we re roofed, the other appearing more like cattle pens. The whole structure appears to represent the incorporation of the tower into a steading or similar dwelling. Visited (WW) 28 July 1955. Previous field report confirmed. Visited (EGC) 3 July 1964.

Johnstone Castle - Renfrewshire

Johnstone Castle - Renfrewshire


Location: OS Map 64 (NS 425 623)

In Johnstone, on minor road south of A737, just south of Quarrelton in Tower Place.

Nigel Tranter (1962): Now rising gauntly amongst the streets of a modern housing scheme built in the former policies of the estate, to the south of the burgh of Johnstone, this castle has had a chequered career. Originally the fortalice was named Easter Cochran and owned by the family of that Ilk, one of whom was ennobled as Lord Cochrane of Dundonald in 1647, and Earl of Dundonald in 1669. It was acquired however by the Houstons of Johnstone, across the River Black Cart, in 1733, who disposed of their previous property but brought the name of Johnstone across he river to bestow on this castle. The Houstons greatly added to and altered the former mainly 16th-century fortalice in the years that followed, 'gothicising' it in unsightly fashion. Now, the estate taken over by the burgh, most of the extended mansion has been pulled down and only the original left, though unfortunately itself much scarred by 19-century 'improvements'. The building is now used as a store in connection with the burgh services. The castle as it now stands is L-shaped, and consists of a comparatively little -altered main block of three storeys and a garret, lying east and west, with a wing, now built in the form of a massive Gothic tower, projecting northwards and rising a storey higher. The more authentic main block has a number of features. A two-storeyed angle-turret crowns the east gable to the north, and no doubt contained a small turret-stair to give access to the rather unusual watch-chamber which projects on corbelling in the re-entrant angle. The roof-line of both turret and watch-chamber has been altered in unsightly manner. A squared shot-hole opens from the lower part of the turret. Notable is the very massive chimney-stack of this east gable, housing the kitchen flue. An empty heraldic panel-space, surrounded by a rope-moulding, is situated in an unusual and lofty position below watch-chamber and turret. The doorway is in the re -entrant at the foot of the north wing or tower, and above, at second-floor level, are two large corbels for a machicolated projection from which a drastic welcome could be poured down upon unwelcome vis itors. The doorway is guarded also by an arrow-slit to the left. Apart from two tiny windows at basement level, and others built up, the wing has been so altered as not to be worth describing. The entrance has a vaulted porter's lodge, and opens on to a vaulted passage, from the left end of which the main block basement chambers are reached. The kitchen occupies the east end, and has a great widearched fireplace in the gable. The vault to the west was the wine-cellar, with the usual private stairway in the thickness of the south-west walling, to the floor above. Here, as ever, was the Hall, now greatly altered but still retaining a garderobe and a very deep window embrasure - which gives the impression of a nucleus older than the 16th century. The vaulted bas ement corridor into the north wing is now walled off, and this area otherwise altered; but no doubt originally it would give access to the main stairway. The upper floors were inaccessible.

Martin Coventry (1995): Originally called Easter Cochrane, Johnstone Castle is an altered 16th-century L-plan tower house. It consists of a main block of three storeys and a garret, and a wing, remodelled as a massive Gothic tower, which rises a storey higher. A two storey bartizan crowns the gable of the main block, and there is a massive chimney-stack from the original kitchen. The walls are pierced by slits. The entrance, in the re-entrant angle, has a porter's lodge. The entrance leads to a vaulted passage, from which the basement chambers are reached. The basement contains the kitchen, with a wide arched fireplace; and the wine-cellar with a small stair, in the thickness of the wall, climbing to the hall above. The hall, on the first floor, has been altered. The property was owned by the Cochranes, who became Earls of Dundonald in 1669, and called their property Easter Cochrane. It passed to the Houstons in 1733, who changed the name back to Johnstone. They extended the castle in 1771, and in 1812 it was remodelled in the Gothic style. Frederick Chopin visited the castle in 1848. The castle was taken over by the local council, and most of the mansion was demolished in 1950: only the old part survives. It stands in a housing estate, and is apparently used as a store.

Barr Castle, Renfrewshire

Barr Castle, Renfrewshire


Location - OS Map 63 (NS 347 582)

Renfrewshire: About 0.5 miles west and south of Lochwinnoch, just south of the A760 about 0.25 miles north of Barr Loch.

Nigel Tranter (1962): This is an early 16th-century tower, standing in a timbered park about one mile west of Lochwinnoch, and readily seen from the road. Unfortunately it is now in a bad state of repair, having much deteriorated even since the author first saw it. Although then roofless the gables at least were standing. Now these have gone also, save for a chimneystack.

The tower is well-built of coursed rubble, rising to four storeys beneath the parapet, with a garret storey above. It formerly stood within a courtyard. The entrance is at ground level in the west wall, and was formerly enhanced by a small porch, though this would not be original. This door gave access to the two vaulted basement, chambers. Directly above it at firstfloor level is another doorway, now built up, which would be the principal door of the tower, reached by the usual removable timber stair, for security. The interior of the tower is now in accessible, but a good description of it is given in MacGibbon and Ross's invaluable work. The ground-floor doorway admits to a vaulted lobby at the north end of which rises the turnpike stair. Of the two basement vaults that to the north was the kitchen, with a large arched fireplace. The Hall on the first floor measured 24 by 17 feet and is provided with a large fireplace, a fair-sized mural chamber in the north-east angle, and a number of aumbries or wall-cupboards. The south-west angle houses a small private turnpike stair to the floors above. These upper floors contain two apartments each, and this extra private stair allows access to all without passing through others, an unusual luxury in a castle of this date.

The parapet is supported on a continuous corbel-table of three members, returning right round the tower, with open rounds at the angles, which have risen slightly higher than the parapet itself, as is common in West Country fortalices. There are gunloops and arrow-slit windows. Little or no trace of the courtyard now survives. Barr Castle appears to have been built by the family of Glen, but by the 17th century had passed to the Hamiltons of Ferguslie.

Martin Coventry (1995): Barr Castle is a well-preserved 15th-century keep of four storeys and a garret, modified in the 16th century and later. A plain corbelled-out parapet has four open rounds. The walls are pierced by gunloops and other slits. The gables have collapsed except for the chimney stack, and little survives of a courtyard. The basement contained the kitchen and a cellar. A turnpike stair led up to the hall, on the first floor, which had a large fireplace. Each of the upper floors contained two private chambers, reached by a turnpike stair. Barr was built by the Glen family, but in the 17th century passed to the Hamiltons of Ferguslie. They abandoned the castle in the 18th century for a new house, itself replaced in the 19th century by a mansion.

Corsehill Castle
Corsehill Castle


Location - OS Map 64 (NS 416 465)

Between the A735 and the railway north of Stewarton are two fragments of a massive early Cunninghame tower measuring about 13m by 12m over walls 2.4m thick above the bas ement vault and 3m thick below. The only surviving features are a fireplace high up and part of the wall of a stair near the NE corner.

Craufurdland Castle

Craufurdland Castle


Location - OS Map 70 (NS 456 408)

Renfrewshire: About 2.5 miles north-east of Kilmarnock, on minor roads south of B7038 and west of A719, just north of the Craufurdland Water.

Nigel Tranter (1962): This is a small tower, of uncertain date but probably of the late 15th or early 16th century, attached to a large modern mansion. The site is a strong one, on the high bank of the Craufurdland Water about three miles north-west of Kilmarnock. The old tower occupies the west end of the present building, and is of three storeys and an attic. It is oblong on plan, the walls being roughcast, and is of rather squat appearance. The parapet is of ashlar, and is borne on continuous corbelling of three members and is provided with open rounds at the angles. Within the parapet is the usual gabled roof containing the garret chamber, and at the north-east angle the turnpike stair rises, to finish in a crowstep-gabled caphouse. An unusual feature is the position of the south window at second-floor level in the west wall, which is placed slightly higher than its companion to the north, causing it to break into the corbelling, which is raised to accommodate it as at Sorn Castle in the same county. In the west wall is a wide gunloop near ground level. The interior has, as usual, been much altered to connect up with the modern house, but the arrangements would be after the normal plan of kitchen in the vaulted basement, Hall on first floor, and private rooms above. The Craufurds of Craufurdland must have one of the longest territorial connections in Ayrshire, indeed in all Scotland. Sir Reginald de Craufurd was Sheriff of Ayr in the early 13th century, and married the heiress of Loudoun. His grandson John acquired the property of Ardoch, in the reign of Alexander Second, and re-named it Craufurdland. The long line of Craufurd lairds seemed to be broken in 1793. Colonel John Walkingshaw Craufurd, who, though a loyal officer of King George, was also a loyal friend, remained true to his friendship with the last Earl of Kilmarnock, of neighbouring Dean Castle, who was executed for his share in the Jacobite Rising of 1745-Craufurd indeed being said to have held a corner of the cloth which received the head of his unfortunate friend. For this kindly but impolitic act his name was reverted to the foot of the Army List.

However he ultimately rose again to the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel, and became Falconer to the King in Scotland. At his death he settled the estate on Thomas Coutts the banker. Litigation followed on behalf of the family, and eventually the property came back to the Craufurds in the person of his aunt Elizabeth, who had married John Houison of Braehead, in Midlothian. Her daughter, another Elizabeth, inherited both properties, and her son took the name of Houison-Craufurd. The Houisons of Braehead are famous as the heirs of Jock Howieson who came gallantly to the rescue of James Fifth, the Gudeman 0' Ballengeich, on the occasion when he was attacked by vagrants at Cramond Bridge, where Jock was labouring in a nearby field. In gratitude the King bestowed on him the adjacent lands of Braehead, which happened to be Crown property, at a 'fee' of providing a basin, ewer, and towel for the King's service when required to do so, in memory of Jock's washing of the blood from the royal victim, a ceremony still occasionally performed by the Houison-Craufurd laird.

Martin Coventry (1995): Craufurdland Castle incorporates a much-altered 16th-century tower house, with a corbelled-out battlement, at one end, with extensions from the 17th century. It was remodelled as a castellated mansion, with further additions in the 18th and 19th centuries. A square gabled caphouse crowns the stair. The basement is vaulted, but the tower has been much altered inside. The King's Room has a fine plaster ceiling with the date 1668. The Crawfords held the property from the early 13th century. John Crawford of Craufurdland was killed at the Battle of Flodden in 1513. In 1793 the property passed to the Howiesons. The castle was restored in the 1980s, and is still occupied. Other refs. Crawfurdland Castle.

Mearns Castle

Mearns Castle


Location - OS Map 64 (NS 553 553)

Renfrewshire: About 3 miles south-west of Barrhead, on minor roads south of A77 just east of Ne wton Mearns, about 0.3 miles north of the Earn Water.

Nigel Tranter (1962): Overlooking a steep valley about one mile south of Newton Mearns, this castle stands high, in a very strong position, in rolling country now being rapidly built over. Though long ruinous, it is stoutly built and entire to the wallhead. Formerly the keep was enhanced by curtain walls, outbuildings, gatehouse and drawbridge for a moat, but the merest traces of these remain. We can date this 15th-century fortalice exactly, for Herbert, Lord Maxwell received a royal warrant to erect it in 1449.

The keep is four storeys in height, and oblong on plan. Curiously enough the lowermost courses of masonry in the 10 foot thick walls are of rough and large rubble, whilst above rises well cut ashlar, the reverse of the usual stonework situation. Evidently the 15th century keep was erected on the foundations of an earlier and cruder building. The wallhead has been crowned by a parapet carried on large individual corbels of three members, fairly widely spaced for the dropping of missiles on attackers below. Above this level is now ruinous, but there would appear to have been a solid flat platform roof rather than the normal gabled roofing within the parapet-walk, traces of which still remain. This may be explained by King James Second's licence to fortify the castle including the words: "to erect on the top of it all warlike apparatus necessary for its defence"' It would be interesting to know just what is meant by warlike apparatus. The ground-floor entrance leads into the vaulted basement chamber, while an entrancepassage gives access to a straight stairway in the thickness of the walling, rising to the first floor, above which a turnpike stair ascends in the north-east angle. The main entrance, as is quite usual for this period, was at first floor level, by a round-headed doorway which, though now built-up, can still be traced, reached by a removable timber stair, as added security precaution. The Hall, on this floor, is also vaulted, this stone ceiling being particularly high. There does not seem to have been an entresol or halffloor at the springing of the vault, as is often the case, but the extra height appears to have been designed to accommodate a small minstrels' gallery, which has its own windowed wall-closet, contrived half-way up to the ceiling, and reached from the turnpike stair. The Hall windows have stone seats. The floor above has been similar but unvaulted. From its mural chamber on the south front a garderobe projection has jutted out, presumably for sanitary rather than defensive purposes by its position, the large corbels for the support of which may be seen just below parapet level, as in sketch. The stair caphouse and the parapet itself have disappeared. The Maxwell family gained the valuable lands of Mearns by marriage with the Pollock heiress about 1300. John, Lord Maxwell fell at Flodden. His son, the Lord Robert, was an ambassador extraordinary to France, and was taken prisoner at the Battle of Solway Moss, languishing in the Tower of London until ransomed. In 1589 James Sixth wrote to William, 5th Lord Herries (another Maxwell, and a Catholic) commanding him to deliver up sundry castles including that of Mearns. In the mid- 17th century the Maxwell chief, now Earl of Nithsdale, sold Mearns to Sir George Maxwell of Nether Pollock. Later it passed to the Shaw-Stewart family of Inverkip and Ardgowan.

Martin Coventry (1995): Mearns castle is an altered 15th-century keep, square in plan, of four storeys, which stood on a rocky outcrop. It was enclosed by a wall, and is said to once have had a drawbridge. The entrance leads to the vaulted basement and to a straight mural stair to the first-floor hall, which is also vaulted. The original main entrance was through an arched doorway at first floor level, now sealed, which would have been reached by an external stair. The property originally belonged to the Pollocks, but passed by marriage to the Maxwells of Caerlaverock in 1300, and they built an earlier castle. The licence to build the existing castle was given in 1449. One of the family was killed at the Battle of Flodden in 1513, while another, an ambassador to France, was imprisoned in the Tower of London in 1542 until ransomed. The property later passed to the Maxwells of Nether Pollok in 1648, then the Stewarts of Blackhall. The castle was abandoned and became ruinous, but restored in 1971 to link two Church of Scotland buildings. It is apparently deteriorating.

Blackhall Manor - restored

Blackhall Manor - restored, and before


Location - OS Map 64 (NS 490630)

Nigel Tranter (1962): This interesting house, recently and lovingly restored, stands about a mile south-east of the centre of Paisley, in an area now largely built up. It was once the fortalice of an ancient estate belonging to an important branch of the house of Stewart, the nearby lands of Renfrew being, of course, the original base of the High Stewards of Scotland who in due course became the Stewart kings. Blackhall was conferred on Sir John Stewart by Robert the Third, Bruce's great grandson, in 1396, and the descendants of whom are now the Shaw Stewart baronet family of A rdgowan and Inverkip. Blackhall remained in their possession until 1956, although they left it in 1710, when it became a farmhouse and subsequently degenerated into ruin, with its roof removed in the 1840s. It is good to see it saved and once more restored to be a family home. The plan is a simple oblong, lying east and west, with a squared stair-tower of modest dimensions projecting southwards, this housing a turnpike stair. There are three storeys, with the gables and stair-tower crow stepped. The restoration involved the rebuilding of the upper storey, the reinstallment of dormer- windows on the south front and of a late and massive kitchen-chimney replacement stack centrally on the north front. There is a round-headed doorway on the south and relieving arches over most of the windows. A number of interesting features were revealed at the restoration. These include three shot-holes, one on the stair-tower having beside it a stone carved with three hearts, another guarding the door. A weather-worn coatof- arms is carved on one of the gable skew-putts. Internally the basement contained the kitchen and two vaulted cellars. The kitchen is provided with a slopdrain, and there is a garderobe with external flue and its own small ogee-headed window. The hall on the first floor has elaborate jambs for the fireplace, and a heart carved upside-down on the west walling. A private room opens to the east of the hall. There is an unusual arch and corbelling supporting the stairway above firstfloor level, leading to the bedroom accommodation above. The present owners are greatly to be congratulated on this excellent work of restoration.

Martin Coventry (1995): Renfrewshire: About 0.25 miles south of Paisley Abbey, north of A726, just south of the Cart Water, at Blackhall. Blackhall Manor is an altered 16th-century house of two storeys and an attic. A projecting tower contains a turnpike stair. The walls are pierced by shot-holes. The vaulted basement contained cellars and a kitchen. The hall and a private chamber occupied the first floor. The lands were granted to Sir John Stewart by Robert III in 1396, although Blackhall is mentioned in the 13th century. Much of the present house was built by Stewart of Ardgowan in the 16th century. It was used as a farmhouse after 1710, was roofless and ruined by the end of the 19th century, but restored in the 1980's, and is occupied.


Details here are extracted from –
Nigel Tranter – The Fortified House in Scotland - Volume 3 - South West Scotland
Martin Coventry – The Castles of Scotland - 2nd and 3rd Editions

Added: 28 Sep 2005 Updated: 18 Apr 2022
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