|This image is the copyright of Andrew
Spratt who has generously given permission to display it here.
the south of North Berwick on a rocky ridge stands the surprisingly intact
ruin of Fenton Tower. The site consists of a long L-plan towerhouse with
key marks on it's north facing wall suggesting the possibility of an
enclosing barmkin wall, though there is little suggestion of it elsewhere.
reign of King David I of Scots (1124-1153) the lands of 'Fentoun' along
with the lands of Gullane, Archerfield, Dirleton and Fidra island were all
held by the Anglo-Norman De-vaux family. Who later gifted 'Fentoun' to
their English kin the De-vauxs of Lanercost Priory. In the mid 12th
century the De-vauxs built a 'castri' on the Fidra, a chapel at Gullane, a
tower of 'Eilbote' at Archerfield (which must have been a place of some
importance since King David signed a charter for the lands of Carberry
witnessed at 'El bottle' ) and finally a stone castle at Dirleton
itself during the reign of King Alexander II of Scots (1214-1249).
tower of Fenton though was not built by the De-vauxs, whose lineage merged
with the Halyburton family in the mid 14th century, but was possibly built
by Sir John Carmichael in the 1570's.As the tower datestone of 1577 bears
his initials. Although he and his wife Margaret Douglas don't
appear to have come into procession of Fenton until 1587 when the lands
were forfeited by the Whytelaws. Locally the Carmichaels also held the
ancient Hepburn stronghold of Waughton castle, near Whitekirk, for a time
when in 1569 it was attacked by "Robert Hepburn" who "came
to the house of Waughton and brake the stables and took out sixteen
horses, the laird of Carmichael being captain and said keeper of Waughton.
Then issued out the house and slew three of them, and divers were hurt of
both parties". This attack may have caused the Carmichaels to build
Fenton as Waughton eventually passed to the Hepburns by legal means.
Carmichaels originally took their name from their barony in Lanarkshire,as
'John de Carmychell' was given a charter to the lands of 'Carmychell' by William
1st Earl of Douglas of Tantallon castle
in the late 14th century. One of the Fenton Carmichael's most famous
ancestors was 'John Carmichael of Douglasdale' who in 1421 at the battle
of Bauge in France broke his lance while unhorsing the Duke of
Clarence (King Henry V of England's brother). The French account (Les
Cahiers du Baugeois') makes interesting reading, "Carmichael of
Douglasdale spurred his mount on with such dash that he shattered his
lance on the breast plate of the Duke who was unseated by the blow."
Clarence was then killed and the English army routed. The Carmichael badge
today bears an armoured hand holding aloft a broken lance in memory of
while staying at Falkland Palace King James VI (1567-1625)was surrounded
by a rebel army led by Stewart Earl of Bothwell. Fortunately the local
towns people rallied to the King's support allowing him to flee with his
life. Instead of heading to Stirling castle James caught the ferry to
North Berwick and stayed with the Carmichaels at Fenton Tower. Which
showed he had great trust in them as Fenton was not as strong as the likes
of Stirling or Edinburgh castles. James was plagued with many abduction
attempts throughout his life in 1589 Bothwell had plotted to seize the
King at Hatton castle and in 1600 in what became known as the 'Gowrie
conspiracy' the Ruthvens of Dirleton
castle tried to take the King hostage at Perth. In that same year Sir John
Carmichael, while carrying out his duties as March Warden was killed
during peace talks on the border.
appears to have escaped the wrath of Cromwell's army during the 1650's
sacking of Lothian castles ,and it has escaped the destruction of the
stone robbers who quarried at such sites in the 1700's.Though they may
have stole the tower's enclosing Barmkin wall. The remains today are
surprisingly intact and ideal for any would be restorer.