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You are here: Information & History | General History - Castles

General History

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General History - Castles
Cot (Kat) Castle
Ringsdale Castle
Kemps Castle

Cot (Kat) Castle
Not much is known of this mysterious castle which once enchanted the banks of the Avon. Resting on a precipitous cliff face, the castle or ‘Keep’ as it should be known, was home to the Hamiltons in the year 1500AD. The failure of Edward I to impose lasting peace in Scotland brought about three centuries of border warfare. With the constant destruction and changing possession of castles, it proved to be time consuming and expensive task to constantly maintain and defend great fortresses. Thus the 14th and 15th centuries saw the evolution of a type of ‘keep’ or ‘tower house’ more appropriate to the limited resources of the defenders. This stone structure was both fireproof and capable of being defended should the castle be stormed. Basically it was a type of fortified house rather than a castle. In Ireland and Scotland keeps tended to be smaller than their English counterparts, a compromise between comfort and security where the sudden raid was feared more than the prolonged siege.

The basic type of keep was either square or rectangular rising through three or more storeys enclosing hall, chamber, kitchen, chapel and final place of refuge. Cot castle was probably very similar to the keep (tower house) within Craignethan castle which is thought to date from the 15th century. Cot castle is noted in Bartholomew’s Castles map of Scotland as a ‘keep’ and in 1836 there were said to be remains still visible.

In the 1937 Statistical Account of Stonehouse mention is made of Cot castle in the following extract: “Among the documents discovered in 1887 in the Hamilton Chamberlain’s office, is a notarial instrument, narrating that in terms of a charter granted by himself, Alexander Hamilton of Catcastell, passed to the one-mark of Woodland and the half-merk land of Brownland, lying in the barony of Stanehouse and the sheriffdom of Lanark and there gave sasine of these lands with his own hands to James Wynzet, his heirs and assignees in usual form, 29th January 1511-12.”

Cot castle farm was later built on this site but fell into disrepair and was abandoned at the end of the 1970’s. There was also a railway station sited here for transporting goods. Various derivatives of name are listed under placenames.
Ringsdale Castle
Like Cot castle, Ringsdale was probably a Scottish ‘keep’ rather than a castle. It once stood high on the roof of the Avon gorge overlooking the winding waters of the river. The name of the castle possibly derives from the ancient language of the Britons, Rhyn, signifying a promontory or hill. The word has been corrupted in pronunciation to Ringsdale. Today all that remains of the castle is the raised ‘motte’ at the summit of the gorge overlooking the river bank. Even the romantically located Glenavon cottage which once stood next to Ringsdale has vanished though a small corner of its walls still stands marking its resting place.

On a map of 1838, there is marked a mill known as Cloxy mill (Clocksy, 1864) near the remains of Ringsdale castle. Today there are still ruins of the mill to be seen on the banks of the Avon, but no records of its origins.

Castles appear to be abundant in this area. On the outskirts of the parish can be found the sites of Allanton, Brocket, Plotcock, Glassford and Darngaber castles.
Kemps Castle
During my research into castles within the parish I came across ‘Kemp castle’ in several statistical accounts including Robert Naismith’s book, which states that one of the names given to Cot castle in the past had been Kemp castle. Naismith refers to Bleau’s map of 1596 as his reference. I initially took this information for granted and used it in my booklet ‘The Historic Sites of Stonehouse’. As I have found in the past, it is often wiser to research the subject matter personally, for when I consulted the map I found in fact that there were two ‘Kat castles’ and a ‘Kemp castle’ where we more commonly know as Castlehill.

My theory is that Kemps castle, was that of the former fortification of Lord Lee, known as Castlehill just off the Spittal Road. My
case then, and now, is based on the following information. Firstly, the case against Kemps castle being Castlehill is at first viewing quite strong in comparing the location of the castle against neighbouring homesteads on Blaeus map, with those of the more accurate William Forrest map of 1816. For instance, Rogerhil (Rogerhill, 1816), Lochhead (Lochhead, 1816), Goushill (Golfhill, 1816), Tounhead (Townhead, 1816), Blakwood (Blackwood, 1816), Woodhead (Woodhead, 1816), Birkwood (Birkwood, 1816), Wolburn (Wellburn, 1816) and Kellylies (Kellowlees), all lie above the siting of Kemps Castle of Blaeus map, suggesting the castle probably lay nearer Kirkmuirhill or Lesmahagow.

Murslant (Muirsland, 1816) and Southfield (Southfield, 1816) appear to be in close proximity to Kemps castle but no record of a castle appears on Forrests map in the vicinity. There does, however, appear the name of a dwelling named Kerse between Southfield and Muirsland at the meetings of the Nethan Water and Teglum Burn, which would appear to be a possible siting according to Blaeus map. (Carse; an extensive stretch of earth or sand left by a flood or flow, especially in a river valley).

The cartographer of the 1654 map is not precise in recording the localities of steadings, as we can trace many of these sites to present day farms and manor houses, which don’t translate to the ordnance survey maps of the early 19th century onwards. However, some place names and landscape features are easily identifiable. These features have led me to the conclusion that Kemps castle is most probably Castlehill, by locating known place names with natural features.

This was done by first locating Dalserf at the horseshoe on the Clyde, clearly identified on both maps, with the homestead of Dalbeg recorded on both maps in close proximity to the horseshoe in the river. At the north end of the horseshoe, on both Blaeus map and Forrests map, a river leads directly to the siting of Kemps castle (Castlehill). On Blaeus map, the river is named Nether B. (presume B. means Burn), compared with the 1816 map which records the river as Dalserf Burn. However, Dalserf Burn passes through the village of ‘Netherburn’. Having confirmed the ‘burn’ on both maps, I was able to link the steadings of Korsall (Cornsalloch, 1816), Milburn (Millburn, 1816), Brumfild (Broomfield, 1816) and Murhead (Muirhead, 1816) along the burn to Castlehill.

Another point in favour of the location and origin of Kemps castle, relates to Kitchen and Barbers map of 1781, which shows the castle prominently situated in the general location of ‘Castlehill’. For ‘Castlehill’ not to be mentioned, on this, or Blaeu’s map only 35 years later by William Forrest, would suggest to me that they are one and the same residence. Castlehill according to records appears to have been in ruin in 1710, though Kemps castle is recorded as such on James Dorrets maps of 1750, 1751 and 1761. The last recorded reference to the name relates to Robert Campbells map of 1790. On Robert Ainslies map of 1789 the castle here is record as Bridgeholm Castle. By 1885, however, no evidence was present of its former existence according to Naismith. Today only the ruins of a later 19th century farm are found.

Whatever the answer to the mystery surrounding Kemps castle, Stonehouse possesses, over the past 400 years, many lasting place names of historical record which in their content shed light upon the development of the village.

Castlehill today lies about 600 feet above sea level, commanding an excellent panoramic view of the surrounding countryside. In 1710 Castlehill belonged to Lord Lee who later moved to Cambusnethan House in the Clyde Valley. The site was said to be ruinous and it is possible that it then merely became known as Castlehill.

In the Scots dialect kemp means; one who fights in single combat, or a professional fighter, a variety of potato, or a stalk and seed head of rib grass. It is possible that this castle had been an ancestral home of the Kemp family, of whom there was a large concentration in the Hamilton area at one time. Hamilton still retains the name by way of ‘Kemp Street’ off Quarry Street. The name, however, is more commonly associated with Aberdeenshire.

There are two Kat castles on Bleau’s map, one of which we know to be present one located at the head of Strathaven Road. The second appears to be in the region of High Longridge (Langrigg) farm and is indicated merely as ‘Kat castle B’. A more detailed analysis of the maps has also led me to believe that the ‘B’ in Blaeu’s Nether B. (Netherburn) will also be the case for Kat castle B. which I first thought was an earlier ‘Cot (Kat) castle’, but on reflection think this ‘B’refers to a burn leading to Cot castle.

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