Sanquhar Castle

 

Sir William "the Hardy" Douglas (d 1298) turned to Thomas Dickson(5) for help in recovering Sanquhar Castle in 1295. Thomas, the hero of the hour, made an unopposed entry in a wood cart with which he blocked open castle gates. He killed the porter with his dirk and he slew three gate wardens with an axe. The castle was retaken before the English defenders could rise from their beds. When 3,000 English later appeared to lay siege to the castle, Thomas slipped out through a secret passage to warn William Wallace. Wallace rescued the castle, with the English losing 500 men in the process.

 

The present Sanquhar Castle was built by the Crichton family from about 1400. They chose a strong location, with ground falling steeply to the River Nith to the west and the Townfoot Burn to the north. The natural defences were supplemented by a ditch cut around the east and south of the site. This remains impressively deep on the eastern side of the castle.

The castle that gradually emerged over the following two hundred years comprised a rectangular curtain wall, within which were four ranges of buildings. To the north of the main castle was a walled outer courtyard which would have contained service buildings. At the south west corner of the castle was a four storey keep that contained the Crichtons' private rooms. This is where James VI would probably have stayed when he visited Sanquhar Castle in 1617.

 

In 1639 the Crichtons, by then the Earls of Dumfries, sold the property to Sir William Douglas of Drumlanrig, who later became the 1st Duke of Queensberry. He later built Drumlanrig Castle a few miles away as a much grander residence for his family. But after spending just one night in his new home Sir William returned to Sanquhar Castle, where he lived for the rest of his life. After his death the family moved to Drumlanrig and left Sanquhar Castle to begin its slow decline.

 

In 1895 John Crichton-Stewart, the 3rd Marquess of Bute, acquired Sanquhar Castle and began work intended to restore his ancestral home to its former glory. The work ceased on his death in 1900 and what remains today is a peculiar mixture of original stonework and restoration, all overlain by the effects of a further century of decay.

 

Notes:
1.  James Douglas, 2nd Duke of Queensberry (1662-1711), was born in Sanquhar Castle on the i8th of September 1662
2.  Archibald Douglas of Fingland died in Sanquhar, 1714
3.  Charles Douglas of Holmhill (d. 1792), Agent and chamberlain to Duke of Buccleugh was born in Sanquhar Castle
4.  Birthplace of William Douglas of Fingland, 1762
5.  Thomas Dickson married Margaret, daughter of Sir William "Long Legs" Douglas.

 

See also:
•  Battle of Sanquhar (1297)

 

 

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