Castles in Inverclyde
Ardgowan Castle (Also known as Inverkip Castle)
The castle is located in the grounds of Ardgowan House near Inverkip. It is a three storey ruin that dates to the late 15th century.
In 1306 , Inverkip was besieged by supporters of Robert Bruce, led by Robert Boyd of Cunningham. In 1403, King Robert III granted the lands of Ardgowan to his natural son, Sir John Stewart. The castle is dated to the late 15th century.
In 1667 Archibald Stewart was created a baronet. The 3rd baronet married, in 1730, Helen Houston, heiress of the Shaws of Greenock. Their son Sir John Shaw-Stewart, 4th Baronet, commissioned a design for a new house from the architect Hugh Cairncross. Construction began in 1797, and was completed around 1801, after which the old castle was abandoned. The ruin was consolidated and repaired in 1936.
This is a fortified tower house in Levan. A building had been on the site from the 14th century, but the present structure was substantially enlarged after 1547 and formed part of the Ardgowan Estates. In the 19th century a large mansion was built within a few metres of the ruined castle and was given the same name. The original castle was renovated in the 1980s and is now run as a bed & breakfast. It is still reputed to be haunted.
Castle Wemyss (Not to be confused with the one in Fife or the Sugar Estate in Jamaica)
Castle Wemyss was a large mansion in Wemyss Bay, Scotland. Built around 1850 for Charles Wilsone Brown, a property developer who had plans to develop the land around Wemyss Bay.
Wilsone Brown sold the mansion to Sir John Burns (later Baron Inverclyde) in 1860. Burns commissioned the architect Robert William Billings to remodel the house in the Scottish baronial style, expanding the original structure by adding a new floor, new wings and a clock tower to the south-east corner.
Castle Wemyss became a fashionable destination for many well-known visitors, including Lord Shaftesbury, Anthony Trollope, General Sherman, Henry Morton Stanley, Peter II of Yugoslavia, Emperor Haile Selassie and members of the British Royal Family.
It is reputed that Trollope wrote part of Barchester Towers whilst at Wemyss Bay, and that ‘Portray Castle’ in The Eustace Diamonds was based on Castle Wemyss. Whether this is true or not, Trollope places Portray in a similar geographical location, with a description which is very like that of the castle and its grounds. Trollope did however include the real Castle Wemyss in his travelogue How the ‘Mastiffs’ Went to Iceland, a record of a trip from the Clyde to Iceland in June and July 1878.
The house remained in the Burns family until the death of Alan, 4th Baron Inverclyde in 1957. None of his family were able to afford the cost of maintaining such a large property and it was sold to a developer. Inverkip Power Station was built on the northern part of the estate grounds.
Greenfield legislation meant that whilst much of the larger estate was developed as Wemyss Bay grew in the 1960s and 1970s, the house itself was left untouched. Gradually falling into decay (and subsequently de-roofed to avoid payment of housing rates) it was not until 1984 that it was finally demolished. In the 1990s the grounds themselves were finally redeveloped, and all that now remains of the house is a broken flight of stone steps and a flagpole. An established monkey puzzle tree marking the entrance to the drive had to be removed for safety reasons. However, the locally formed Woodlands Trust have started to reclaim the Victorian fernery from the rhododendrons. Formal paths have now been established in the woods which are immediately adjacent to the site of the former castle.
Only fragments of this castle remain in it’s position on high rocky crag where it was naturally defended. It stands between the Green Water and the Blacketty Water .
The estate belonged to the Lyle family in the 13th century. It is possible the castle was built in the 12th Century and therefore be the first Lyle castle was Duchal motte. The castle was garrisoned by the Earl of Lennox in 1488, and was beseiged by the King in 1489. The property passed to the Porterfields in 1544.
No trace of this castle remains. Once it overlooked over looking Kip Water.
Dunrod Castle, formerly a property of the Lindsays, stood a little S of the lands of Flatterton. Its stones were used for wall-building, so that all that remained in 1856 was a slightly raised, grassy mound covering the foundations.
The parish of Inverkip’s chief claim to fame (or notoriety) was in relation to witches in the mid 17th century. A local verse recalls
“In Auld Kirk the witches ride thick
And in Dunrod they dwell;
But the greatest loon amang them a’
Is Auld Dunrod himsel’.”
‘Auld Dunrod’ was the last of the Lindsay family of Dunrod Castle. As the result of a dissolute life he lost all his possessions and fell into the black arts. Local reputation had it that he was in league with the devil, and he died in mysterious circumstances in a barn belonging to one of his former tenant farmers. Nothing now remains of the castle which stood at the foot of Dunrod Hill.
Easter Greenock Castle
Not much is known about the design of Easter Greenock Castle, we know it was near the burgh of Greenock and was built sometime in the mid-sixteenth century.
The lands belonged to the Crawfords of Kilbirnie in Ayrshire who acquired them during the reign of Mary, Queen of Scots. Cartsburn extends from the Carts Burn on the west along the River Clyde to the point where the boundary falls out at Old Clyde Forge. The lands of Cartsburn were originally part of the barony of Kilbirnie and became the patrimony of a younger brother of that family, whose posterity ended in the person of David Crawford of Cartsburn in the reign of Charles I.
By the mid- seventeenth century the lands of Cartsburn and Cartsdyke belonged to John Crawford of Kilbirnie who in 1641, because of his distinguished services to the Crown during the early years of the Wars of the Three Kingdoms(1638 to 1651), was made a baronet by Charles I. He died in 1662 and left two daughters by his second wife Magdalen, daughter of Lord Carnegie, named Anne and Margaret. Anne married Sir Archibald Stewart of Blackhall the first baronet, while Margaret became the wife of Patrick Lindsay, second son of the Earl of Crawford. The lands were entailed on Margaret and her male heirs, who had to assume the name of Crawfurd with the family arms.
A charter of confirmation, dated 29 June 1663, in favour of Margaret Crawford of the lands and barony of Kilbirnie (granted by her father Sir John Crawford of Kilbirnie in 1662) including the 40 shilling land of the old extent of Cartsburn with buildings and fishings and free entry to and exit from the moor and marsh of Greenock, with the mill lands of Greenock in the barony of the same. Under this document Margaret and her heirs could sell and dispose of the lands of Easter Greenock and Cartsburn. In 1669, Margaret Crawford, by now Lady Kilbirnie, with the consent of her husband sold the lands of Easter Greenock to Sir John Schaw of Wester Greenock to whom was granted in 1670 a Crown Charter containing a clause by which Easter and Wester Greenock were to be united into a single barony, later called the Burgh of the Barony of Greenock. However, the disposition reserved the right to Cartsburn, which Lady Kilburnie afterwards conveyed to her cousin Thomas Crawfurd of Cartsburn, second son of Cornelius Crawford of Jordanhill, later the first Baron. The writs of the Forty-shilling lands of Cartsburn dating between 1628 and 1656, which were sold by Margaret Crawford, Lady Kilbirney, and her husband Mr Patrick Lindsay to Thomas Crawford of Cartsburn in 1678, are still extant and can be consulted in the National Archives of Scotland in Edinburgh. The place name Cartsdyke may be derived from Crawford’s Dyke, which was named after John Crawford of Easter Greenock who built a quay wall or dyke at Greenock in the middle of the sixteenth century.
Cartsburn was erected into a barony, and a burgh of barony with the privilege of a weekly market and several fairs, in favour of Thomas Crawfurd of Cartsburn, 1st Baron of Cartsburn by a charter of Charles II dated 16 July 1669. To the south of Crawfordsdyke lay the House of Cartsburn, the principal messuage of that barony and seat of the Crawfords of Cartsburn. The earliest account of Cartsburn is in Hamilton of Wishaw’s Accompt of the Sheriffdom of Renfrew published in 1710. He wrote “The town is mostly sub-feud to merchants, seamen, or loading-men, who have built very good houses in it, and it is a very thriving place”. The Scots Magazine reported in 1809 that “the tower has… fallen, and in the course of a few years the plough will probably pass over the remains”. However the Industrial Revolution, rather than the agricultural past, finally finished off the castle. The ruins stood in the path of the railway, and were demolished in the 1830s. The site of the castle’s location today is commemorated as Castle Road, now the only indication of Easter Greenock above ground.
This is a well-preserved castle sited on the south shore of the estuary of the River Clyde in Port Glasgow. Built in 1478 by George Maxwell when he inherited the Barony of Finlanstone (Finlaystone) in the parish of Kilmacolm. The original castle had a tower house within a walled enclosure or barmkin entered through a large gatehouse. All that remains of the outer defensive wall is from one of the original corner towers. It is thought that there would have been a hall and ancillary buildings such as a bakehouse and brew house inside the walled enclosure.
In the late 16th century the castle was inherited by Sir Patrick Maxwell, a powerful friend of king James VI of Scotland who was notorious for murdering two members of a rival family and beating his wife who left him after having 16 children. In 1597 Sir Patrick expanded the building, constructing a new north range replacing the earlier hall in the form of a three storey Renaissance mansion. At this time the barmkin wall was demolished except for the north east tower, which was converted into a doocot.
The central part of the mansion has cellars with tiny windows under a main hall with large windows, and other accommodation above that. An east wing with the main entrance door close to the main block links it to the original tower house which was suitably modified, and a short west wing connects to the gatehouse. The mansion has features of the Scottish baronial styleincluding crow-stepped gables and north corners embellished with corbelled turrets. At the centre of its north wall a stairwell supported out on corbelling gives access to the upper floor.
In 1668 the Glasgow authorities purchased 18 acres (7 hectares) of land around Newark Castle from Sir George Maxwell who was then the laird, and developed the harbour into what they called “Port Glasgow”. The last Maxwell died in 1694 and the castle had a series of non-resident owners. An early tenant was a ropemaker called John Orr who also dealt in wild animals such as big cats and bears which he obtained from ships visiting the Clyde and often housed in the castle cellars. The cellars and gardens were later rented by Charles Williamson who blocked access from the hall to stop the joiner John Gardner who rented the hall from stealing fruit stored in the cellars.
John Smith in 1895 records that the stump of the dule tree were carefully preserved in the castle grounds.