Mearns Castle

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The lintel stone of the last building to be named Pollok Castle carried an inscription which indicates that a castle had stood on the site since the 12th century. The first record of a castle is on Timothy Pont’s map of c.1596, the Baronee de Renfrew no.33, where a castle named Pook is marked in the area of Over Pollok.

Lintel Stone

 

The First Known Castle

The first known castle existed as a traditional Scottish keep which Crawford in his “History of Renfrewshire” describes as “a handsome old tower, according to the ordinary model, with a large battlement”.

 

The Second Castle

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In the late 17th century Sir Robert Pollok partially demolished the keep and according to Crawford, “raised a stately large house of a new model”. Sir Robert extended the castle in stages and also laid out the extensive grounds. A detailed description of this castle can be found in “The Castellated & Domestic Architecture of Scotland from the 12th to the 18th Century'”,  by David MacGibbon & Thomas Ross, Vol lV 1892. In 1882, the castle was destroyed by fire and lay in ruins until 1886 when  William Fergusson Pollok and his wife, Jean Johnston Fergusson Pollok, had it re-built in Scottish Baronial style.

 

The Third Castle

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At the outbreak of the second world war, Miss Jane Dunlop Fergusson Pollok (20/5/1869 -14/4/1950) was the only member of the family living in the castle. It was requisitioned by the army and used as an ammunition store. Miss Fergusson Pollok continued to live in a wing of the castle until 1941 when she moved from the castle  to Pinmore House, Pinwherry near Girvan. She moved out with fourteen pantechnicons containing furniture, carpets, paintings, and silver.

Miss Fergusson Pollok never returned to live at Pollok Castle and died in 1950 . Her heir, Robert Hew Fergusson Pollok who lived in Vancouver Island, arranged for the moveable assets of the estate to be shipped out to Canada. He gave instuctions for  the castle to be demolished and the land sold. For the first time in eight centuries, the lands of Upper Pollok were no longer Pollok lands. Robert Hew Fergusson Pollok was the last of the long line of Polloks. He died in 1967 without issue.

Stone from the castle was used in the construction of the runway of Renfrew airport. The runway can be identified as a long straight section of the M8 between junction 26 and junction 27 on the approach to Glasgow Airport.

Today, no evidence of Pollok Castle remains. The original stables and the gardener’s cottage still stand in the grounds and are both private houses.

Pollok Castle Entrance
Pollok Castle Entrance
The Stables
The Stables

The east lodge was demolished in 2008 to make way for the commercial development at Greenlaw. It had a sculpture of the Pollok Coat of Arms over the front door. The West Lodge which still stands at the entrance to the estate has the initials of William Fergusson Pollok and Jean J Fergusson Pollok who rebuilt the Castle in 1886 - 1889

The Coat of Arms on the East Lodge
The Coat of Arms on the East Lodge
The inscription on the West Lodge
The inscription on the West Lodge


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The first known charter to build a castle on the present site was granted at Stirling on 8th August 1440 to the first Lord Maxwell, although a wooden structure dating from the time of Roland , the first feudal lord of  Mearns may have pre-dated it.

A second charter granted on 15th March 1449 by James II was a licence to build the present tower structure. The licence conferred on him "full power to build on his lands lying within the barony of Mearns, in Renfrewshire, a castle or fortalice; to surround and fortify the same with walls and ditches; to secure it by iron gates; and to erect on top of it all such warlike apparatus as might be necessary for the defense thereof.”

Mearns CastleThe castle was built near the Aldton (old town) and succeeded the earlier tower which may have been damaged in the civil war in 1443. It is ideally positioned with views stretching in every direction. It seems unlikely  that the castle saw any significant military activity although it is known that soldiers were garrisoned there in 1675 to harass the Covenanters. Earlier, conventicles took place in the castle.

Lord Maxwell’s main seat was at Caerlaverock Castle in Dumfriesshire and consequently Mearns Castle was used for occasional visits rather than as a permanent home for the Maxwell family. For the most part a custodian and several retainers would have lived in dwellings within the courtyard wall.

One reason that the castle has survived may be due to the size of the central hall. It is large enough to be used as a meeting place and in the 19th century was used for local functions.

Mearns Castle ChurchHugh MacDonald in his book ‘Rambles Round Glasgow’ published in the mid nineteenth century wrote:

“The members of the Mearns troop of Yeomen cavalry, previous to their disembodiment, held several of their annual balls within the precincts of the ancient hall, when the rank and beauty of the district graced it with their presence”.

In 1970 the congregation of Maxwell Church  Pollok Street, Glasgow were forced to find a new site for their church due to the construction of the Kingston Bridge. It was decided that a new church should be built adjacent to Mearns Castle.

The congregation held services in the castle hall until the church, Maxwell  Mearns Castle Parish Church of Scotland, was completed. The church is attached to the castle but the castle itself is no longer used  by the church.  The castle has deteriorated to a significant degree but could still  be restored if sufficient funds were available.

 

Mearns Castle today with Maxwell Mearns Church attached.Mearns Castle today with Maxwell Mearns Church attached

 

 


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