History

 

Mearns Castle was built by Lord Herbert Maxwell after he received a Royal warrant authorising its construction in 1449. He was a powerful magnate whose main power-base was centred on Caerlaverock Castle in Dumfries in southern Scotland. Mearns was one of his secondary manors and it is likely that his visits were few and far between although it later became the main seat for a cadet branch of the Maxwell clan. The castle remained with the family until Sir George Maxwell of Nether Pollok handed it over to the Crown during the seventeenth century.

 

The castle comprised a four storey rectangular block built upon a spur of high ground overlooking the Broom Burn. The ground floor consisted of a vaulted storeroom, the first floor was the Great Hall (which was also vaulted) whilst the levels above provided the high status accommodation. The original entrance was on the first floor. The flat area to the immediate north-west of the tower would originally have been a courtyard enclosed by a barmkin (curtain wall) within which were the ancillary buildings such as brewhouse, bakehouse and stables. A ditch surrounded the entire site.

 

The tower was constructed in a most unusual manner. The lower courses were built from roughly cut rubble whilst the levels above were ashlar. Given the latter was inevitably more expensive than the former, this may suggest that the tower was constructed upon the foundations of an earlier (and cheaper!) fortification.

 

It is not clear when the castle went out of use but skirmishes were recorded there in the 1670s as the Government assigned dragoons to the castle to harass Covenanter rebels. By the early nineteenth century the tower was a roofless ruin but it was re-roofed (with concrete) circa-1842. In the late 1960s the tower's Great Hall was used as a church but in the 1970s a new structure was added to perform this function which directly abutted the tower. This circular building was constructed over the site of the former barmkin.

 

 

Bibliography

 

CANMORE (2016). Mearns Castle. Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland.

Coventry, M (2008). Castles of the Clans: the strongholds and seats of 750 Scottish families and clans. Musselburgh.

Cruden, S (1960). The Scottish Castle. Edinburgh.

Dargie, R.L.C (2004). Scottish Castles and Fortifications. GW Publishing, Thatcham.

MacGibbon, D and Ross, T. (1892) The castellated and domestic architecture of Scotland from the twelfth to the eighteenth centuries. Edinburgh.

Simpson, W.D (1959). Scottish Castles - An introduction to the Castles of Scotland. HM Stationery Office, Edinburgh.

Tabraham, C (2000). Scottish Castles and Fortifications. Historic Scotland, Haddington.

Tranter, N (1962). The fortified house in Scotland. Edinburgh.

What's There?

Mearns Castle is a mid-fifteenth century Tower House. The exterior can be viewed at anytime but, due to structural instability, there is no access to the interior.

Mearns Castle. The main structure consisted of a four storey, rectangular Tower House. The modern entrance is on the ground floor but the original access was on the first floor. Note the unusual construction of the tower with roughly cut rubble being used for the lower courses whilst ashlar was used for the first floor and above. The former was a (relatively) cheap way of building castles whilst the latter inevitably incurred much more expense. Given the whole tower would have been harled, the change in building technique had nothing to do with appearance and more likely suggests the castle was built in several phases. This probably indicates the tower, which was built in 1449, was constructed upon the foundations of an earlier fortification

Church. Mearns Castle was used as a church during the mid-twentieth century but the deteriorating structure prompted the construction of a dedicated structure in the 1970s. This is directly connected to the old castle.

Machicolation. A box like machicolation is visible on the structure.

MEARNS CASTLE

Mearns Castle was a four storey, rectangular tower house built in 1449 by the powerful Maxwell family. It was ruinous by the nineteenth century but was later restored and used as a church until the 1970s when a dedicated building was constructed directly abutting the old castle.

Getting There

Mearns Castle is found just under one mile to the east of Newton Mearns. The site is accessed via an unnamed road off Waterfoot Road. The castle itself is not sign-posted but there is a sign for 'Maxwell Mearns Castle Parish Church'.

Mearns Castle

G77 5LE

55.769806N 4.309291W