Mearns Castle

Mearns Castle

As you travel along Broom Road East in Mearns towards Mearns Castle High school, you will see an imposing medieval building towering above the landscape. This historically significant structure is Mearns Castle, which was built in 1449 for Lord Herbert Maxwell of Caerlaverock.

King James II of Scotland granted Maxwell a licence to: “build a castle and to surround it and fortify it with walls and ditches, to strengthen it by iron gates and to erect on top of it all warlike apparatus necessary for its defence”.

From this we can assume that the times were suitably dangerous to warrant such a stronghold.

It is likely that the castle was built on the site of an older structure established by Roland de Mearns. The first 10 feet of the building consist of rubble masonry and then upwards from this the castle is built from much higher quality material, hinting at this earlier building.

The castle is a square tower 30′ x 44′ and rises to height of 40′, with walls a formidable 10 feet in depth. It is three storeys high with the main entrance (now walled up) on the first floor and this would probably have been accessed by a removable wooden ladder, which could have been taken up if attacked.

The ground floor would have been used as storage, and the top level as accommodation for the higher status occupants or guests. In the middle, on the first floor, the great hall can be found, with high vaulted ceilings and a minstrel’s gallery. When in use, this would have been hung with tapestries and warmed by a huge fire, and must have seemed quite grand.

The Main Hall, Mearns Castle, being used for worship

The building would have been surrounded by an outer wall or ‘bamkin’, and inside this there would be other necessary buildings, such as storerooms, stables, a bakery and so on. The outer wall was surrounded on all sides by a defensive ditch, which would be crossed by a drawbridge leading to a gatehouse.

The Maxwells were powerful knights in the service of the Scottish Crown, and held the important border castle of Caeralverock. The final Maxwell to own the castle was Sir George of Nether Pollok in the 17th century.

Despite its fortifications, there are no records of the castle being involved in any conflict. During the Covenanting period in the 1600s, the castle did have a military use, as it housed a garrison of dragoons who terrorised the local area.

In the late 1960s, the castle was used for worship by a congregation from Glasgow who had to be relocated, due to the building of the Kingston Bridge. This became Maxwell Mearns Parish Church, and eventually they moved into a new modern building constructed adjacent to the old castle. Today, the castle remains in the ownership of the Church of Scotland and has a category A listing.

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