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Barr Castle

A Scheduled Monument in Johnstone North, Kilbarchan, Howwood and Lochwinnoch, Renfrewshire

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Coordinates

Latitude: 55.7884 / 55°47'18"N

Longitude: -4.6382 / 4°38'17"W

OS Eastings: 234679

OS Northings: 658157

OS Grid: NS346581

Mapcode National: GBR 39.88PQ

Mapcode Global: WH2N4.QRJY

Entry Name: Barr Castle

Scheduled Date: 28 November 1935

Last Amended: 11 February 2011

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM1650

Schedule Class: Cultural

Category: Secular: bailey

Location: Lochwinnoch

County: Renfrewshire

Electoral Ward: Johnstone North, Kilbarchan, Howwood and Lochwinnoch

Traditional County: Renfrewshire

Description

The monument comprises the remains of Barr Castle, a late medieval tower house first constructed in the early 16th century. It is visible as the ruins of the tower and surrounding areas of grass-covered rubble. The monument was first scheduled in 1935 but an inadequate area was included to protect the remains; the present rescheduling rectifies this.

Lying in an arable field to the south of Lochwinnoch, Barr Castle stands on a low ridge. The tower itself is a rubble-built rectangular building. The tower is four storeys high and survives to the height of the corbelled base of the wall head and parapet; on its S side, the chimney stack and part of the gable also still survive. The entrance to the tower is on the W side, although this is a later alteration with the original entrance at first floor level. Window openings survive on all four sides of the building and several gun ports are also visible. Also visible on the tower walls are several elements which indicate later alterations and extension of the castle, and possible adjoining buildings, including blocked doorways and a visible sloping roof line on the S wall. Next to the entrance in the NW corner is a fragment of wall attached to the tower and extending west, which appears to be part of an extension built when the castle was remodelled in the 17th century. Surrounding the tower are several areas of rubble, which may represent the remains of a former courtyard or barmkin, and of the buildings which stood around the tower. A large piece of dressed stone lying in the field around 90m north of the tower is believed to be a former gatepost and could mark the extent of a bailey believed to have existed in this area.

Access to the interior of the tower is now prevented by a locked iron door and at one point an attempt has been made to wall up the entrance, as evidenced by the remains of part of this wall. However, the interior appears to survive up to first floor level, with two vaulted rooms present on the ground floor and a circular stair in the NW corner providing access upwards.

The area to be scheduled is approximately rectangular on plan, to include the remains described and an area around them within which evidence relating to the monument's construction, use and abandonment may survive, as shown in red on the accompanying map. The area to be scheduled specifically excludes the above-ground elements of the post-and-wire fence surrounding the tower to allow for its maintenance.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Statement of Scheduling

The monument's cultural significance can be expressed as follows:

Intrinsic characteristics

The monument consists of a ruined early 16th-century tower house which underwent extensive alterations in the late 17th century. The fabric of the castle is well preserved and it still stands almost to full height, with only the parapet level missing.

Although Barr Castle is presently ruinous, its remains offer significant archaeological potential. As a tower house which was in use for several centuries, the tower and surrounding area are likely to hold valuable archaeological information relating to the occupation of the tower. These remains could inform us of the daily life of the inhabitants of the tower and of how their needs changed over time, evidenced by the alterations to the structure itself. The remains of the former curtain wall and ancillary buildings of the castle are likely to survive as buried deposits and could provide information on the layout of the castle and the functions of the other structures on site.

Several elements of the castle are of particular archaeological interest. The surviving structure has the potential to tell us a great deal about the design and construction of tower houses in Scotland and of the changing needs they served over time. Equally the areas around the castle have the potential to inform our understanding of daily life within the castle through buried deposits of material from the tower itself. The evidence for a barmkin, characteristic of Renfrewshire tower houses but a feature that rarely survives, possesses excellent potential to enhance our understanding of the domestic organisation of a lordly dwelling of the late medieval period.

Contextual characteristics

Primarily built as dwellings for lordly families, tower houses fulfilled practical and symbolic roles and functions. Found across Scotland, tower houses appear in a variety of forms built between the 15th and 17th centuries. Among the earliest documented examples of tower houses is David's Tower within Edinburgh Castle (built around 1387).

Whatever their design, many tower houses operated as estate centres. These were places where taxes could be collected, records were kept and the grievances of tenants aired before the lord or his representatives. As a lordly residence, guests could be entertained within the main hall, the main public space within a tower house, while the upper private chambers offered comfortable accommodation for the lord, his family, and important guests. Often occupying strategic positions in the landscape, tower houses could and did control access to certain routes, monitoring movement along rivers and coasts, and keeping watch against enemy attack.

The construction of a tower house required a license from the Crown and at times landowners whose property exceeded a certain value were expected to build tower houses. In this regard, tower houses expressed the feudal superiority of the landowner over his subjects and stood as a statement of his family's power, influence and wealth.

Associative characteristics

Barr Castle was constructed in the early 16th century, seemingly by the Glen family. It then passed into the hands of the Hamiltons of Ferguslie at the end of the 16th century and they retained the castle until it was abandoned for a new mansion in the 18th century.

The castle is noted on early Ordnance Survey mapping and is already listed as ruinous on the 1st Edition.

National Importance

The monument is of national importance because it has an inherent potential to make a significant addition to our understanding of the past, in particular the design, construction and use of later medieval tower houses, as well as associated barmkins and the ancillary buildings within them. The tower's good condition, the apparent lack of further development or alteration after the 17th century, and the evidence of the outer barmkin all enhance this potential. The loss of this example would significantly impede our ability to understand the later medieval period in this part of Scotland.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Sources

Bibliography

RCAHMS record the monument as NS35NW 7; West of Scotland Archaeological Service SMR as 6749 (copies of these short reports are appended).

References

Mason, G 2000, The Castles of Glasgow and the Clyde, Musselburgh: Goblinshead

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

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