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Clonbeith Castle

A Scheduled Monument in Kilwinning, North Ayrshire

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Coordinates

Latitude: 55.675 / 55°40'30"N

Longitude: -4.6438 / 4°38'37"W

OS Eastings: 233842

OS Northings: 645559

OS Grid: NS338455

Mapcode National: GBR 39.HFCM

Mapcode Global: WH2NQ.MMVB

Entry Name: Clonbeith Castle

Scheduled Date: 15 January 1953

Last Amended: 8 December 2017

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM314

Schedule Class: Cultural

Category: Secular: castle

Location: Kilwinning

County: North Ayrshire

Electoral Ward: Kilwinning

Traditional County: Ayrshire

Description

The monument is the remains of a tower house dating to the early 17th century. The tower house is visible as a standing building with rectangular plan, built of squared sandstone blocks. The monument is located on level ground above the Lugton Water, at about 70m above sea level.

The tower house survives to first floor height and measures about 11m north to south by 7m east to west. The entrance is at ground level and is set centrally in the eastern wall. A broken-pedimented door piece bears the date of 1607. Above is corbelling which probably supported an oriel window. This window was flanked by two others and would have lit a first-floor hall which was approached by a straight stair to the right of the entrance. A wheel-stair in the north-west corner provided access to the upper floors. The ground floor was vaulted and two square windows are set either side of the entrance doorway.

The scheduled area is irregular in plan, to include the remains described above and an area around them within which evidence relating to the monument's construction, use and abandonment is expected to survive, as shown in red on the accompanying map. The scheduling excludes all wooden and metal fences and gates, farm buildings and the top 300mm of the concrete yard.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Statement of Scheduling

 

Cultural Significance

The cultural significance of the monument has been assessed as follows:

Intrinsic Characteristics

The monument consists of the lower levels of an early 17th century tower house. The tower house stands to first floor level and would have had several floors above this. MacGibbon and Ross (1887-92) record a hall on the first floor with windows on three sides and a single large fireplace. Hearth tax records of 1691 record five hearths within 'Clonbeith House', indicating a larger structure than presently survives.

The building retains its overall plan and contains architectural and structural detail, including fireplaces, window dressings and carved stonework. The monument has potential to enhance our knowledge of the date of construction of the tower house and subsequent phases. It can add to our knowledge of construction techniques and architectural preferences of the time, and the way in which the fashion and function of such buildings developed.

Although located within an active farmyard, there is no record of an archaeological excavation. As a result there is potential for the survival of archaeological deposits, artefacts and ecofacts within and beneath the upstanding remains. Such buried archaeological deposits have the potential to provide information about the economy, diet and social status of the occupants, and about land use and environment.

The datestone (1617) above the entrance doorway indicates the castle was built in the early 17th century. It had fallen out of use and was recorded as roofless in the mid-19th century. Scientific study of the monument would allow us to develop a better understanding of the overall chronology of the site, including its date of origin and development sequence.

Contextual Characteristics

Tower houses are a widespread but diverse class of monument across Scotland. They became a popular form of residence with the Scottish nobility and lairdly class during the 14th century perhaps influenced by David II building a tower house at Edinburgh Castle. Towers houses continued to be the chosen architectural form for the residences of Scottish elites throughout the late medieval and early post-medieval periods. Tower houses provided a degree of security but were also a means of displaying wealth, social status and martial knowledge.

Clonbeith Castle is one of several 16th and 17th century defensible houses in the region, including Monk Castle (listed building number LB13661; Canmore ID 40978), Crosbie Castle (listed building number LB14282; Canmore ID 41209), Kilhenzie Castle (listed building number LB14305; Canmore ID 41510) and Auchans Castle (listed building number LB984; Canmore ID 41959). The proximity of these monuments can give important insights into the late medieval landscape and add to our understanding of social organisation, settlement hierarchy and land-use.

Clonbeith is notable for its symmetrical entrance façade with a projecting oriel window and classical detailing to the doorway. This arrangement is highly unusual in the context of the Scottish tower house, and the date of the classical detailing appears early for the seat of a small rural estate. Auchans Castle near Dundonald has a similar doorway but appears to be about 60 years later in date.

Associative Characteristics

Clonbeith was the property of the Cunninghams, who held their estate from the monastery of Kilwinning. The estate was sold to the Scotts in 1633, to James Park in 1694, then to Hew Cunninghame in 1695. The estate was then sold to the Earl of Eglinton in 1717.

Statement of National Importance

This monument is of national importance because it makes a significant contribution to our understanding of medieval and later fortified dwellings, their chronology and development sequences as well as the cultural and social influences that may have informed their development and architecture. It is an impressive structure that retains its field characteristics and contains architectural and structural detail, including window dressings, fireplaces and carved stonework. Aspects of the planning and architectural detailing of the building are of particular significance as they show Renaissance influences in what was a relatively modest tower. The tower house would have been a prominent part of the historic landscape and its importance is further enhanced by the proximity of medieval/early modern castles in the region. The loss or damage of the monument would diminish our ability to appreciate and understand the character and development of tower houses, and the structure and organisation of society and economy during the late medieval and early post-medieval periods.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Sources

Bibliography

Historic Environment Scotland http://www.canmore.org.uk reference number CANMORE ID 42042 (accessed on 04/10/2017).

Close, R. and Riches, A. 2012 The buildings of Scotland: Ayrshire and Arran. London: Yale University Press, pp44, 220.

MacGibbon and Ross, D and T. 1887-92 The castellated and domestic architecture of Scotland from the twelfth to the eighteenth centuries. Vol. 3. Edinburgh. pp374-5.

Paterson, J. 1866 History of the counties of Ayr and Wigton. Vol III – Cunninghame part II. Edinburgh.

Scotland's Places, Hearth tax records 1691-1695, Hearth tax records for Ayrshire, volume 3 (Cunninghame). E69/2/3/73. https://scotlandsplaces.gov.uk/digital-volumes/historical-tax-rolls/hearth-tax-records-1691-1695/hearth-tax-records-ayrshire-volume-3-cunninghame/37 [accessed 10/10/2017]

Scotland's Places, Ayrshire OS Name Books 1855-1857, Ayrshire Volume 1. OS1/3/41/42. https://scotlandsplaces.gov.uk/digital-volumes/ordnance-survey-name-books/ayrshire-os-name-books-1855-1857/ayrshire-volume-41/44 [accessed 10/10/2017]

Canmore

https://canmore.org.uk/site/42042/

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

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