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Barnton Castle





Barnton Castle was a property which likely dated back to the 14th century or earlier. Around 1400 the barony of Over Barntoun was owned by a family known variously as Touris, Towers or de Turribus, long term owners of Inverleith.

But by the mid-15th century it was owned by the Crichton family. From 1439 onwards William Crichton, the 1st Lord Crichton, was the Chancellor of Scotland, and he was involved in a struggle to overthrow the powerful Black Douglas family.

In 1443 Barnton Castle was besieged and destroyed by William, the 8th Earl of Douglas. Amongst his troops was John Forrester, the Baron of Corstorphine, and in retaliation Crichton later destroyed Corstorphine Castle.

Around this time William Crichton invested heavily in another of his properties, Crichton Castle, and seemed to focus his attention there.

William Crichton died in 1455, leaving the barony to his daughter Janet, who was married to John Maxwell, Master of Maxwell. Their second son, George Maxwell, took possession of Over Barntoun, but some time before his death in 1460 sold it to Sir Archibald Dundas of Dundas.

Over Barntoun remained in the Dundas family until 1507, when Sir Archibald's grandson, Sir William Dundas of Dundas, sold it to Sir Robert Barton.

Sir Robert Barton was a famous sea captain, and later became Lord High Treasurer of Scotland in 1529 (and again in 1534), and Master of the Mint. His son, also Robert, married Barbara Moubray of Barnbougle.

Upon his marriage this Robert Barton assumed the name and arms of Moubray or Mowbray and took up residence at Barnbougle Castle. Barntoun passed to their second son, James Mowbray, in 1548, but around 1558 he sold it to an advocate named Alexander Machan who in turn sold it to Sir James Elphinstone, the third son of Robert Elphinstone, the 3rd Lord Elphinstone, around 1580.

In 1604 Elphinstone was created the 1st Lord Balmerino, and later his son John Elphinstone, the 2nd Lord Balmerino, was responsible for rebuilding or extending Barnton Castle, possibly to form an L-plan tower, carving the date 1623 above on of the windows.

Barnton belonged to two further John Elphinstones, the 3rd and 4th Lords Balmerino, but the 4th Lord was forced to sell it to pay off family debts in 1680. He sold it to Sir Robert Milne, who made considerable additions to Barnton in either 1681 or 1683, with Balmerino's section forming the north-west corner of the newer building.

Due to financial problems Milne sold Barnton to a George Hamilton of Binny, but his finances also suffered and he sold it to John Douglas-Hamilton, the first Earl of Ruglen, on the 24th of August 1698. He also made considerable additions to the house, and in 1718 he bought the neighbouring property of King's Cramond and combined the two estates.

Hamilton was succeeded in 1744 by his daughter, Lady Anne Hamilton, Countess of Ruglen, the widow of William Douglas, the 2nd Earl of March. Their son, William Douglas, the 4th Duke of Queensberry and 3rd Earl of March, inherited Barnton upon his mother's death in 1748, but sold it in 1770 to John Campbell, Viscount Glenorchy, the son of John Campbell, the 3rd Earl of Breadalbane.

Lord and Lady Glenorchy built a chapel to the north of the house, but Glenorchy died in 1771, and while his wife Willielma lived at Barnton from time to time, the main resident was her niece, the Countess of Sutherland. Lady Glenorchy sold the combined Barnton estate in 1785 to William Ramsay, and died the following year.

Ramsay was a director of the Royal Bank of Scotland, and around 1794 commissioned Robert Adam to remodel and extensively extend King's Cramond for his son, George Ramsay. Once the work was complete Barnton was no longer required, and around 1800 it was demolished.

King's Cramond was renamed Barnton House on the combined estate, although this house was also demolished, around 1920.

The site of Barnton Castle is under numbers 38 and 40 East Barnton Avenue. The name Barnton can be found in street names around the old Barnton estate




In 1440, George's cousin, William, Chancellor of Scotland, arranged the infamous 'Black Dinner' in Edinburgh Castle, at which the William Douglas, 6th Earl of Douglas was summarily executed.  Then in 1441 George married Lady Janet, widow of Lord Borthwick and heiress of Douglas of Dalkeith, with lands not only in Lothian but also in SW Scotland, the heartland of the Black Douglases.  The Douglases responded with force.  In August 1443 William Douglas, the 8th Earl, laid siege to George Crichton's Barnton Castle, captured and destroyed it.  George may have built Blackness Castle to compensate.


Barnton HouseBarnton House.  Was this built on the site of the former castle?


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Last modified: Tuesday, 01 February 2022