Claypotts Castle

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Claypotts Castle     

 


Once held, briefly, by the Douglas family, Claypotts Castle is a late medieval castle in the suburban West Ferry area of Dundee, Scotland. It is one of the best-preserved examples of a 16th-century Z-plan tower house in Scotland. Now surrounded by modern housing, the castle is maintained as an Ancient Monument by Historic Environment Scotland. At present, it is open to the public on only a small number of days each year.

The castle was originally built by John Strachan around 1569–1588 according to dates inscribed on stones that make up parts of the castle, which make its construction longer than usual for such a small building. The land on which the castle was built was originally leased by the Strachan family from the Tironensian Abbey of Lindores starting in the early 16th century.

In 1601 the Strachan family sold the castle to Sir William Graham of Ballunie who later sold it to Sir William Graham of Claverhouse. The castle became the property of the crown in 1689 after the death of the then current owner Viscount Dundee John Graham of Claverhouse at the battle of Killiecrankie. In 1694 the castle was given to James Douglas, 2nd Marquess of Douglas. Graham never slept a night at Claypotts, however – his seat was at Dudhope Castle in Dundee. Claypotts was left to be inhabited by farmworkers.

The castle later became the property of his son the Duke of Douglas and after his death in 1761 became the subject of a legal battle for the next eight years until the courts ruled Archibald Douglas to be heir. Ownership later passed to the 13th Earl of Home through marriage who later gave the castle to the state in 1926. It is now in the care of Historic Environment Scotland.

There is a legend that the castle was once home to an industrious brownie who helped the servants with their work, but that he left in disgust because of a lazy kitchen maid.

Claypotts is also said to be haunted by a ‘White Lady’. One tale is that she is the ghost of Marion Ogilvie, mistress of Cardinal David Beaton who was murdered in 1546. She is said to be seen at one of the windows on the 29 May each year: the date of Beaton’s death. It seems more likely, however, that she lived at Melgund Castle, as there was apparently no castle here in 1546. The building is also said by some to be haunted by John Graham of Claverhouse, Bloody Clavers(1), mentioned above, although this is somewhat unlikely bearing in mind he apparently never even visited.

The castle consists of projecting towers at opposite sides of a rectangular main block, known as a Z-plan tower house. This was a popular design in the 16th century and allowed defenders to fire along the faces of the main block from both towers, although it is unlikely that the castle would have had much of a defensive role given its domestic scale


Notes:
•  John Graham of Claverhouse, Viscount Dundee, also known as ‘Bloody Clavers’ for his persecution of Covenanters in Galloway, and ‘Bonnie Dundee’ after his death at the Jacobite victory over the forces of William and Mary at the Battle of Killiecrankie in 1689.


Source

 

Sources for this article include:
  • Historic Environment Scotland
    •  The Castles of Scotland; Martin Coventry

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    Last modified: Sunday, 02 June 2019