Strathbrock is the old name for the area around the Brox Burn, which
gave its name to the town of Broxburn, near Livingston. "Brox" is a
bastardisation of Scots brock ("badger"), which in turn derives from
Brythonic broch (Welsh). The placename "Strathbrock" is thus a
Scotticisation of the Brythonic, Y Strad Broch, or "River-valley of
the Badger". The local Presbyterian church still goes by the name of
Strathbrock Parish Kirk, and other local placenames still retain
this form. Unfortunately, Strathbrock Castle no longer exists, and
little or nothing of its site remains. C18th and C19th sources
indicate that the remains of the castle were located on a small
circular hillock (possibly a motte) called Castle Hill, just to the
South of Broadyetts Farm, which also no longer exists.
From all we know, Strathbrock was inherited by the descendants of
Freskyn till the reign of Alexander III., when Mary, eldest daughter
of Freskyn of Moray, carried the manor of Strathbrock to her
husband, Reginald le Chene of Inverugie. This Reginald was
Chamberlain of Scotland in 1267, and related to the Comyn slain by
Bruce at the altar of the Franciscan church of Dumfries in 1306. His
son, also Sir Reginald le Chene, inherited his father's estates in
Caithness, Aberdeenshire, and Strathbroc, but, unlike his father, he
became a warm friend of King Robert the Bruce.
The third Sir
Reginald Cheyne died at Inverugie Castle, near Peterhead, without
male issue, in 1350, but leaving two daughters, Mariot and Mary.
Strathbrock becoming the inheritance of Mariot, she, in 1366,
settled half the barony of Strathbrock on her son by her first
husband, John Douglas, and in 1390 she resigned the other half of
the same barony to Andrew Keith, one of her sons by her second
husband. Here, then, occurs the division of the original estate into
those of Strathbrock and Kirkhill.
Concerning these two
daughters of Sir Reginald there is an interesting legend. It is said
that when his first daughter was bom, he was so enraged at the babe
not being a boy, that he ordered it to be destroyed. The mother,
however, had her child conveyed to a place of safety. In a similar
manner, the second child, likewise a girl, was preserved from the
rage of the disappointed father, who had no other children. Many
years passed, till one day, being present at a great festival, he
observed two young ladies whose distinguished and handsome
appearance attracted his attention. At that moment he was vividly
reminded of the cruel infatuation which had led him to order his own
infant daughters to be put to death, and upon expressing his lament
to his wife she confessed that his orders had been disobeyed, and
immediately introduced the two ladies to him as his own daughters.
Sir Reginald, overpowered with joy, acknowledged them at once, and
constituted them his co-heiresses.
Passing from the times of
Sir Reginald, we find Sir William Douglas mentioned in 1425 as
proprietor of Strathbrock. This Sir William had a daughter, who
married Crichton of Sanquhar.
When we come to the year 1443,
William, eighth Earl Douglas,
being proprietor, we learn that Chancellor Crichton, assisted by the
Earl of Angus, wasted, among other places, the lands of Strathbroc,
and burnt the grange — the grange, under charge of the granger,
being the home-farm attached to a manor or a monastery. And in this
connection, who can tell but the field on the farm of Forkneuk and
west of the water-filters, may have received its name " Bloody
lands" from having been the scene of the encounter that took place
on this occasion between Crichton's forces and the adherents of
Douglas of Strathbroc? In these days, lawlessness was pretty general
in Scotland. The king, James II., was a mere child, and while
Governor Livingston at Stirling Castle, and Chancellor Crichton at
Edinburgh Castle, were each intriguing for possession of his person,
the nobles were plundering and ravaging the country around them, the
most noted transgressors being the great House of Douglas. To reduce
the overgrown power of the Douglas, both Livingston and Crichton
laid aside their own quarrels for a time, and joined in concocting
the plot which resulted in William, sixth Earl Douglas, and his
brother being beheaded at Edinburgh Castle in 1440 — an event known
in Scottish history as the " Black Dinner ".
Now, while the
Douglas power was shattered in 1454, and their castles in the
neighbourhood, viz. Abercorn, Blackness, and Inveravon, were
destroyed, Strathbrock Castle seems to have escaped entire
demolition. At any rate, in 1524 we have a reference showing that
this ancient stronghold had apparently fallen into peaceful hands,
as the following testifies: —
" The king, with advice of
lords of council, confirmed a charter of his 'familiar' cleric, John
Dingwall, rector of the church of Strabrok in the diocese of St.
Andrews, by which, for the salvation of the souls of Andrew, bishop
of Caithness, &c., in pure alms, he granted to the rector of the
church of Strabrok and to his successors, his mansion, orchard, and
yard, formerly called the principal messuage and mansion of Wester
Strabrok, with buildings built and to be built; also four acres of
land on the eastern side of the same mansion, and six acres called
the Soytour land, and one acre, the Serjand acre, acquired by him in
the barony of Strabrok, county of Linlithgow, to be made for a
mansion and place of habitation, with toft and crofts, to the said
rector, to be held for the prayers in said church and chapel of the
Blessed Virgin Mary, situated near the same, and near the township
of Kirkhill, rendering annually to Mr. Walter Gudlad, vicar
perpetual of Strathbroc, and his successors, £5, Qs. 8d, &c."'
Here, then, is a charter bristling with points of interest and
Selecting a few, we learn, firstly, that in the year
1524 the eastern and western portions of the parish were known as
Easter and Wester Strathbrock. Secondly, the principal mansion of
Wester Strabrock would be the old Castle of Strathbrock. Certainly,
it could not be Houston, and we know of no other. Thirdly, there are
two feudal legal expressions giving us glimpses of ancient land
tenure, requiring explanation, viz., Soytour land, and Serjand acre.
The Soytour was probably the deemster of the barony court, who held
land under a tenure which obliged him to appear in court on behalf
of his superior. The Serjand was one who held land from the superior
on condition of his regulating the division and interests of vassals
in runrig-lands and small crofts, a functionary corresponding to
what we term a ground officer, or in some respects a general officer
But the most interesting point in this charter for
our present purpose, is that John Dingwall, a well-known court
chaplain in his day, granted, in 1524, his mansion, along with his
orchard and several acres, as a place of habitation for the rector
of Strathbrock and his successors, on condition that prayers be
offered by them for the salvation of the souls of Andrew, Bishop of
Caithness, and others in the church of Strabrok and chapel of the
Blessed Virgin, situated near the same, and near Kirkhill. In other
words, Strathbrock Castle became, about fifty years before the
Reformation, the presbytery or priest's residence, or, as we say,
the manse of the parish clergyman, on condition that masses be sung
for ever for the repose of the souls of the Bishop of Caithness and
others specified by name.
As we ponder over the story of
Strathbrock Castle, created, we might say, out of the ruins of ruins
— a few place-names and scattered references in old musty records, —
and as we think of the great and powerful who lived within its
walls., and played important parts in the annals of their time, it
comes vividly home to us that the lapse only of a few centuries is
sufficient to bring a mighty change over the scene, and plunge us in
forgetfulness. Oblivion, it would seem, is a magician, whose
uplifted wand causes the past to disappear, and the old to give
place to the new. For who that passes by the site of this ancient
Castle of Strathbroc, recalls memories of Freskyn the Fleming, or
the mighty house of Douglas, or the lordly Cheynes or the
industrious monks of Newbottle, or the generous priest, John
Dingwall, — alas!
Extracted from: The history and antiquities of the Parish of Uphall",
Rev. James Primrose, 1898
- The estate of Strathbrock belonged anciently to the family
of Sutherland, passed successively to the Douglases, the Earls
Marischal, the Earls of Winton, and the Oliphants.
- Sir Lewis Stewart, an 'eminent lawyer' who 'flourished under
Charles l' acquired the estate from the Oliphants. His
grand-daughter Katherine, heiress of Sir James Stewart of
Strathbrock (or Uphall) and Kirkhill, who died in 1671, married
David Erskine, second Lord Cardross. Thus estate thus passed to
the Erskine family.
- This snipppet from The history and antiquities of the parish
of Mid-Calder needs clarification: ...After the death of James
Douglas, the last laird, the estate passed by purchase to
Alexander Hamilton, bailie of Strathbrock (now Uphall), who
acquired the various rights of Isobel, Margaret, and Janet
Douglas, and Elizabeth Darg, ...
- ...as George Crichton's heir, the King obtained Strathbrock...
and ... abetting Robert Douglas in his efforts to deprive the
king of the succession to Strathbrock and burning the ...
On the burnside, immediately S of Broadyetts farm, is a small
conical knowe, said to be the site of an ancient castle or peel
tower, of which nothing now remains. Mr G Gray (of Broadyetts)
removed some of its walls some years ago when making improvements to
The Earl of Buchan notes that the ruins of
Strathbrock Castle were visible at the beginning of the 18th
century. Primose notes that Castlehill, on the opposite side of the
road to Broadyetts, was traditionally the site of the castle, and
while excavating there "lately" several carved stones were found,
and the foundations of the castle wall were discovered running
obliquely acros the Market Road (Main Street).
of oyster shells have been found in the garden of Castlehill, also a
Medieval tripod pot was found in 1887 on the opposite side of the
burn from Castlehill; a late 16th century sword has also been found.
Primrose also suggests that the "stanks" in Fivestanks and Stankards
were fishponds, associated with the castle.
It does not seem
to have been entirely demolished in 1454, like the neighbouring
Douglas castles (e.g. Abercorn) for in 1524 it was owned by J
Dingwall, rector of Strathbrock (Uphall) Church. (The mention of a
small conical knowe in the ONB is suggestive of a motte, which would
be appropriate for a 12th century date. Later stone buildings could
have been built on the motte.) Buchan 1792; J Primrose 1898
Middleton Hall, which dates from around 1700, may be on the site,
and is now a residential home for the elderly, and there are no
longer any suggestions of a motte.
See alsoDouglas of Strathbrock
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