1557 Blantyre Tower & Fortalice

This is an extract from an old charter dated 24th July 1557 which proves Blantyre had a Castle, right in the middle of it, where Janefield Place is now, near Stonefield Crescent and Hunthill Road. Taken from the Glasgow protocol records, there’s an intriguing early mention of Blantyre and specifically of a lost and forgotten Castle or Tower in High Blantyre.

The late Neil Gordon touched upon this as I have done a few times in articles, but this extract sent to me kindly from Chris Ladds, is an excellent find and confirms beyond any doubt that once a fortified Tower or Castle stood in High Blantyre at Old Mains, now where 12 Janefield Place is.

With nothing else around it, no Main Street, no buildings or homes, this would have been an excellent position, above the open fields of what is now Kirkton Park. There is a huge drop between Old Mains Place and the lower farm fields and a great defensive position.

1557 Fortalice of BlantyreThe record, which is over 459 years old within 2 entires dated 27 March 1557 and 24th July 1557 tells of the West part of the tower and fortalice at Old Mains, Blantyre, together with orchards and other pertinents being given to William Hammyltoune, together with half of Blantyre Mill and associated mill rights and land. The deal was done on 22nd March 1556 – 57 in presence of John Millar in Millheugh (or Millhaugh), James Clerk of Auchinraith and William Hegait, a notary. William Hamilton was likely also at the time the landowner of Blantyreferme. The deal was to be done, where John Dunbar of Blantyre (or John Dunbar of Enterkin) would sell half of the castle to William.  (The Dunbars were a nationally important family closely associated with the Canmore dynasty. It was they who founded the Priory in the late 13th Century.) Remember, this was taking place in 1557 and as such, the castle may have been there a long time before. It is probable the nearest building to this would have been the first church inside the kirkyard not far off in Kirkton.

A book “Castles of Scotland” by Martin Coventry suggests this castle had a moat, which I suspect is a reference to a comment made in 1859 within the Valuation book. Also, an ancient Scottish Charter granted the Tower and Fortalice of Blantyre permission to hold a market there once a week. It could be that the structure was simply by that time, a fortified large house, in the shape of a tower. It is not recorded on any old map of the town except for a strange tower like feature on a 1654 map that is unexplained and unlabelled.

As for the ‘half the tower, if indeed as the place name may indicate, then there may have been a series of buildings around the courtyard, and so rights may have been being granted to a wing. The remaining occupant has a liferent, and therefore presumably the arrangement would come to and end on his death.

Within the 1557 entry, the witnesses who would have had association with these lands in some way, were James Lindsay of Cambuslang, James Hamilton, James Dickson and Kethigern Malcolmsoun, miller. The names of Lindsay and Macolmsoun are interesting especially if they were early versions or gave rise to Lindsay Hill or Malcomwood near Millheugh. The July 1557 extract confirms the existence of names like Barnhill and Sydes. Arstoune Mylne is unknown and may have been a forgotten mill or place in Blantyre.

The Blantyre Mill was likely the ancient and old mill at the bottom of the Pech Brae, (not to be confused by the later 1727 mill). If so, and knowing Jean Claude Nattes sketched that mill in 1799, it confirms that the mill had existed there for around 250 years even at the time Nattes sketched it!

The tower I think is more interesting. Today, there’s no evidence left of a ancient tower, fortalice or moat although stones have been dug up at that location at Old Mains, High Blantyre. It is suggested by Neil Gordon that the Castle must have been demolished, perhaps due to its poor condition then a farmhouse was built, being demolished before the current house was built in 1762. This is something I intend to explore more as I don’t agree with Neil’s viewpoint. I cant find evidence of a farmhouse in the intervening period although i think the first old Mains property was used as a farmhouse. The 1859 valuation book suggests the (fortalice) house with the moat was demolished around 1809, around the same time the current house was built. This is evidence I think has been missed out by other history enthusiasts. Certainly, the period of time and ownership immediately before 1762, which will take some time to investigate.

So, it would appear that High Blantyre DID have a Castle. Attached is a photoshopped image of how it may have looked. I have used the correct location and architecture of the era, putting it all into a modern context. How many people drive by Stonefield Crescent and Hunthill Road today, knowing nothing of this…….


On social media:

Helen Robb Fascinating. Xx

Hazel Aitken I used to stay at 8 Janefield Place, and this would have been where my house was. Pity we didn’t find any artifacts when digging the garden LOL.

Anne Mackie You do find the most interesting artifacts of Blantyre xxxxxx

Leave a Reply