Barony and Castle of Corsehill
|Stewarton, East Ayrshire, Scotland
GB grid reference NS255564, 620506
The remains of Corsehill Castle
The Lands of Corsehill
Godfrey de Ross was an early holder of the castle and lands of Corsehill, moving his seat here from the castle at Boarland (also 'Borland') or Dunlop hill. The De Ross family are now represented by the Earls of Glasgow. Andrew Cuninghame, second son of William Cunningham, 4th Earl of Glencairn, was the first of the House of Corsehill in 1532. In 1532 his father had granted to him the lands of Doura, Potterton, Little Robertland, and the two Corsehills. In 1538 he was also granted Cuttiswray, Clarklands, et Hillhouse. He was a great supporter of the reform movement and had his lands forfeited, later returned and died in 1545. Cuthbert Cuninghame inherited and married Maud Cuninghame of Aiket Castle. He had two sons, Alexander and Patrick, the latter being involved in the murder of Hugh, Earl of Eglinton. Patrick was murdered in revenge by the Montgomeries.
In 1691 the Hearth Tax records show the 'House of Corsehill' as having ten hearths and suggests that 83 other dwellings were located in the barony.
Alexander Cuninghame inherited and married Marion Porterfield of Duchal. Alexander's son, also Alexander, held the lands of Lambruchton and Thirdpart in 1622 and died in 1667, being succeeded by his grandson, another Alexander Cuninghame, who was given the dignity of a Baronet in 1672. Sir David Cuninghame is the last of the family to be recorded as dwelling at Corsehill 'House'.
In 1685, Alexander, the 2nd baronet, married Margaret Boyle, sister of the Earl of Glasgow. Their son David married Penelope Montgomerie, daughter of Sir Walter Montgomerie of Skelmorlie Castle. Their eldest son married the heiress of Sir David Montgomerie of Lainshaw and adopted the patronym Montgomerie-Cuninghame, however he predeceased his father and it was his son Walter, who never married, that inherited in 1770 and died in March 1814. His brother David became the 5th baronet and also died unmarried in 1814. James, the third brother, inherited and married Jessie, daughter of James Cuming of Earnside, Nairnshire. Sir James died in 1837 and Alexander Davbid inherited, however being unmarried his brother Thomas inherited and married Charlotte, daughter of Hugh Hutcheson of Southfield in Renfrewshire.
In 1820 the Corsehill lands included Bonshaw, High and Low Chapelton, Lainshaw, Kirkwood, Sandielands, Bankend, Gallowayford, and Corsehill. In 1832 Sir Thomas Montgomerie-Cuninghame of Corsehill and Kirton-holme (near Lanark) was the eighth baronet, marrying Charlotte Niven Doig Hutchison, grand-niece of William Niven of Maybole, who left her much of his wealth, this being over £100,000. The Montgomery-Cuninghame of Corsehill Baronets are still extant, with John Montgomery-Cuninghame of Corsehill and Kirton-holme, 12th. Baronet now representing the family, but with no heir.
Corsehill and Ravenscraig Castles
In A.D. 1451 the Registrum Magni Sigilli, records in Stewartoune (sic), Ayrshire, "Le Mote de Casteltoune."  Some considerable confusion exists about the sites and naming of these castles in Stewarton. The name 'Ravenscraig' has probably arisen from 'Reuincraig' which is itself derived from 'Ruin Crag', i.e. rock / stone ruins, so it isn't so much a name, as a description. We know from historical records about Godfrey de Ross and his family of Corsehill Castle, they were Lords of Liddesdale in the Borders and later on the Cunninghames became the holders. Corsehill (also Crosshill) castle is said to have been on the east side of the Corsehill Burn and only a few remains were said to exist to show its site, however the 1860 OS indicates no ruins of any description.
|The name Corsehill derives from Cross Hill. In the early days of Christian Scotland crosses, usually wooden, were erected in prominent positions and religious observance would take place when the priest visited. Later churches were built and the crosses abandoned.|
Steven states that William Dean held the feu for the area of Templehouse, now more commonly called 'Darlington'. The 1860 OS map does record the site of Templehouse which had a small fortalice associated with it. Its site was at Darlington, the village which lay just beyond Stewarton on the Kingsford road before the East Burn. This area continued to be called Templehouses for many years after the stones were removed by local people for building purposes. Corsehill Castle is shown in one old print of 1691 by Grose as Corsehill House and substantial remains existed until the railway was constructed and most of the ruins were used to build the embankment. The course of the burn was partly altered at this time. Armstrong's 1775 map clearly shows Corsehill as being on the east bank of the Corsehill Burn. The single tower that remains today (2006) of Ravenscraig / Corsehill was repaired to stabilise it and this gives it its unexpected appearance. The 1779 estate map of Lainshaw shows Corsehill as a relatively small property on the east bank of the Corsehill Burn, reached by a road branching off at Cocklebie, running across the top of what is now the Cunninghame-Watt Park and turning uphill to reach the house. An avenue of trees ran down to the town, however this was interrupted by some of the Cocklebie lands which were not planted up, although this may be a plan showing the remodelling of the estate still in progress. The ruined castle is shown as just the tower and is otherwise unnamed. The area is called the Corsehill lands. The fine old sandstone bridge which carried the road up to Corsehill was demolished in the early 1990s. A local tradition was that the iron 'jougs' on it were for imprisoning witches, although it may be that these were linked to the Barony Court functions of the old Corsehill Barony, the records of which still survive and make reference to the stocks.
The so called 'Ravenscraig' and Corsehill (NS 416 415) Castles were separate entities, and a vague memory persists of Templehouse and its fortalice at Darlington on the lands of Corsehill farm, may have caused some extra confusion as in the King’s Kitchen tale of the location of the Baronial residence. An area opposite the site of Templehouses was known as 'The Castle'. and this may reflect the existence of the castle or fortalice here (Hewitt 2006). An old road also crossed the river here and ran up to Robertland Castle and Nether Robertland (Lainshaw 1779). Many references can be found to Corsehill in old records, none for 'Ravenscraig', but several for 'Reuincraig', although as stated, this is very unlikely to be anything more than a description of a ruin that was also probably called 'Corsehill', 'ruined Corsehill', then 'Reuinedcraig' and finally 'Ravenscraig'.
Archibald Adamson in his 'Rambles Round Kilmarnock' of 1875 only records three castles, these being Robertland, Auchenharvie and Corsehill. He makes no mention of the name Ravenscraig, calling the site he visited Corsehill. Aitken only marks Crosshill Castle in 1829 on the west side of the Corsehill Burn. The first OS maps show only the existing castle site.
To sum up, the map in Pont's 'Cuninghame' of 1604 - 8 shows two buildings, "Reuincraige" and "Corshill", at approximately NS 417 467 and NS 422 465 respectively, and Dobie comments that the two have often been confused, but that "Reuincraig" stood on the W of the Corsehill Burn and "Corsehill Mansion" on its E. "Reuincraig", he says, was so modernised about 1840 that it was difficult to realise that it had been ruined in 1608, while the ruins of "Corsehill" were removed about the beginning of the 19th century and only foundations could be traced when he wrote. He also thought that "Reuincraig" (i.e. Ruin Craig) was not an original name. If Dobie is correct, the ruins published as "Corsehill Castle" on the OS 6", must be those of "Reuincraig", both because they are standing remains, and because they are on the W bank of the burn. Macgibbon and Ross, describing "Corsehill Castle" at the end of the 19th century as a very ruinous mansion, evidently of late date and apparently of the L-plan, and ascribe it to the period 1542-1700, must be referring to "Reuincraig". Grose, in 1791, published an illustration of "Corshill House", but does not give its exact position. As, however, he mentions that "at a small distance from this ruin are some small remains of a more ancient building belonging to the same family", he is also probably referring to "Reuincraig", the "small remains" being those of "Corsehill".
General Roy's Military Survey of Scotland (1745–55) marks 'Ravenscraig' as 'Old Corsehill' and also marks the 'new' Corsehill on the other side of the burn, thereby apparently confirming that they both had the same name and one replaced the other, although only 'Old Corsehill' is still in any way visible, just the main foundations of 'new' Corsehill being apparent in 2007, the rest of Corsehill House was removed in the 19th century. The same map shows buildings named 'Temple' in the area of 'Templehouse'.
A tunnel or Ley tunnel is said to run from near Ravenscraig Castle down to the Annick Water just up stream of Lainshaw Castle. The tunnel was crawled through by the grandfather of a local man. This tunnel may be related to the drainage of the nearby, flooded quarry, the Water Plantation area and other Lainshaw estate lands.
The Baron-Court book
A remarkable survival is the Baron-Court book of the Baron-Court of Corshill, having been in the possession of Mr John Brown of Stewarton and published by the Ayr & Wigton Archaeological Association in 1884. The records start in 1666 and ends in 1719.
An old thatched cottage at the top end of Stewarton, on the road to Glasgow, had the name of "King's Kitchen Head", more recently called Braehead. It was nearly adjacent to the old baronial residence of Corsehill and was part of that barony. Further along the road is Kingsford and further along still is King's Well and the King's Stable. The story is told of a King who whilst on his progress of administering justice was given hospitality, for some long forgotten reason, at this cottage. The wife of the house begged the King for the life of her husband who was one of those to be tried by the King. The others were hanged, but the King dismissed the husband with the admonition "to be a better bairn.".
Corsehill Castle and King Malcolm Canmore
This is a well known local story and one version given by Robert Cunninghame in 1740 in his manuscript, entitled the Right Honorable the Earl of Glencairn's family, is that MacBeth murders his cousin, King Duncan I. The king's son, Malcolm Canmore (big head in Gaelic) tries to reach temporary safe refuge in his castle of Corsehill (also Crosshill). MacBeth's men were almost upon Malcolm when he sees a peasant, Friskin (or Friskine), turning hay in a barn (or pasture) nearby. Friskin hides Malcolm who then escapes to England with Friskin as a retainer. King Harthacanute of England and Norway gave them protection. When Harthacanute died his successor King Edward the Confessor gave Malcolm an army which permitted him to conquer Scotland and kill King MacBeth. The grateful King Malcolm III (1031 to 1093) gave Friskine the thanedom or Baillery of Cunninghame and the family took this name, together with the motto of 'Over fork over' which they retain to this day. It is also said that the Cunninghames were 'Masters of the king's horses' and that they took their motto from this position in the 'punning way' which is typical of the armorial bearings and mottos of many an aristocratic family.
In another version of the story, it is stated by Frederick van Bassen who was a Norwegian historian, that the saviour of Malcolm was actually a Malcolm, son of Friskin, however in other respects the story is the same. This story does not fit with the historical record, however it is of ancient origin and a grain of truth must in some way relate it to real events. A MacBeth Hill curiously exists above Stewarton, now known as Magbie Hill. Sir William Montgomery of Giffin acquired these lands, his father being Troilus Montgomery.
The holder of the lands of Cockilbie had the 'right and privilege' of holding a weekly market and four yearly fairs.
Robertson in 1820 refers to Macbeth-hill as being part of the Corsehill lands. Troilus Montgomery became Laird of MacBeth-hill or Magbie hill in Peeblesshire.
Timothy Pont in 1604 - 08 records that so thickly was the district about Stewarton and along the banks of the Irvine populated for a space of three or four miles (6 km) "that well travelled men in divers parts of Europe (affirm) that they have seen walled cities not so well or near planted with houses so near each other as they are here, wherethrough it is so populous that, at the ringing of a bell in the night for a few hours, there have seen convene 3000 able men, well-horsed and armed."
Above Kirkwood near Dunlop is a property called 'Ravenslie', not far from 'Ravenscraig' castle. In 1820 David Cunninghame was the proprietor at a rental of £39 13s. 4d. Ravens are still found in the district.
In the 1600s Stuartoune had fairs on the first Thursday of January, the first Monday of May, and the last Wednesday of October. A weekly market on Thursdays is recorded as being not well attended.
In 1820 only six people were qualified to vote as freeholders in Stewarton Parish, being proprietors of Robertland (Hunter Blair), Kirkhill (Col. J. S. Barns), Kennox (McAlester), Lainshaw (Cunninghame), Lochridge (Stewart) and Corsehill (Montgomery-Cunninghame).
The Draffen Stone used to be located in a field near the house of the same name. Due to a housing development it has been moved to a site in front of Draffen House. It is not known whether this stone is merely a 'rubbing stone' for cattle or a menhir. It is not recorded by Historic Scotland.
Braehead House in Stewarton is a rare example of a 'Bank' from the times when private houses were used, rather than purpose-built premises. The windows of the strongroom still have their iron bars in place.
The 'Stewarton Sickness' refers to the powerful religious revival that started in 1625 and continued to involve Stewartonians in strong religious attitudes until comparatively recent times.
The Lairds of Corsehill were the Deacons Heritable of the Bonnet Court of Corsehill which regulated the activities of the Stewarton bonnet makers.
David Dale was a native of Stewarton, born in 1739, son to a grocer in the town. He started life as a cowherd and went on to fame and fortune. He was brought up in a two story thatched house at the 'cross' in Stewarton. Given the strong weaving community in the town it is ironic that he set up his factory at New Lanark, amongst other places. He was very generous to good causes, giving away up to £50,000, a small fortune in today's terms.
The first Corsehill Queen is jocularly said to be King Malcolm III second wife, Queen Margaret, niece of Edward the Confessor of England. This Malcolm III, also known as Canmore, was also Lord of Corsehill. She was canonised and St.Margaret's Chapel is the oldest surviving building at Edinburgh Castle, Highlanders however called her the 'Accursed Margaret.'
One of the Lady Robertlands of Robertland Castle was a practical Christian, mingling with the poor of the district, distributing alms and tending the sick. Lady Elizabeth Montgomerie's ghost is said to haunt Lainshaw Castle, wandering the corridors wearing a green dress and carrying a candle. She was implicated in the plot that resulted in the murder of the Earl of Eglinton.
In 1797 Magbie Hill above Stewarton has a field called 'Stone Field' which may record a standing stone now long destroyed or possibly moved as the nearby farm has two large boulders in front of it. Coal pits are marked in the vicinity of Magbie (MacBeth) Hill, possibly explaining the name, as 'mag' was a term used for poor quality coal. The nearby 'Water Plantation' was known as 'Magbie-hill Plantation'.
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