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Castles of Scotland
Lochwood Tower


Lochwood TowerLochwood Tower (or Lochwood Castle), the seat of the Johnstone Clan, lies a few miles southwest of Moffat in Dumfriesshire, Scotland. It is located in upper Annandale. Lochwood is situated in the Parish of Johnstone, which takes its name from (or gave its name to) Lochwood's owners. The name Lochwood is derived from a forest (wood) near an ancient lake (loch), which later became a bog known as Lochwood Moss. Parts of the forest still exist in the form of thousand-year-old oak trees (the "Royal Oaks") which grow adjacent to the Lochwood Tower site.

Today Lochwood is in an advanced state of ruin. During the 1960s, Alastair M.T. Maxwell-Irving, FSA Scot. cleared away much of the vegetation growing on the ruin and conducted an archeological survey.

During the 1980s, the present Chief of the Johnstones, the Earl of Annandale and Hartfell, cleared away the rubble caused by the collapsing tower, restored the two-chambered vaulted basement (one of which chambers was the dungeon), and cemented the remaining walls firmly in place. At this time he found various artefacts, including the original iron yett (gate) to Lochwood. In 1547 the English soldier Sir Thomas Carleton described Lochwood as a fair large tower with a barnekin (surrounding stone wall), hall, kitchen and stables all within the barnekin. On the outside, the tower measures 43 feet 4 inches from east to west, and 34 feet from north to sourth.

The floor plan of the tower was slighly L-shaped, with a spiral staircase in a wing in the northeast corner. The remains of the courtyard, surrounded by the barnekin, averages approximately 150 feet from north to south, and 95 feet from east to west.

It appears that the first Johnstone land holding in Scotland may have been further south, as the first such known land was at the southern end of Annandale. Gilbert, son of John (Gilleberto filio Johannis), later known as Sir Gilbert de Jonestone, received from William Bruce, Lord of Annandale, the use of a parcel of land with a building between the years 1194 and 1214. It is possible that the land in Annan was not the first or only parcel held by the Johnstones.

In any event, it is not known when the first Johnstone occupied Lochwood. On the Lochwood site are the remains of a Norman-style motte and bailey castle the type of wooden fortification on a hill which was common before the days of stone castles. It is generally believed that the existing three-tiered motte was built by Sir Gilbert de Jonestone or his father John, although this cannot now be established conclusively. In fact, it is possible the the Johnstones did not occupy the Lochwood site until after the Black Douglas Rebellion of 1455, in which the Johnstones assisted the King in putting down the most powerful family in Scotland. This would not be surprising, as during most of the fourteenth century Annandale was either a war zone or under actual English military occupation. Also, for long periods of time, Annandale was under the dominion of the Black Douglases.

The Exchequer Rolls of the mid 1450s contain an entry for the landholdings of the estate of Adam Johnstone of Johnstone (d. 1454) which list Johnstone-tenement, Bel-tenement, and Kirkpatick. Lochwood is not mentioned by name, and it is possible that the Johnstones were not in possession of Lochwood at this time.

The stone castle of Lochwood was probably constructed during the lifetime of John Johnstone of Johnstone, who was Chief from 1454 through 1493, although this is not certain. The first known reference to the stone tower of Lochwood, by name, was in November 1476, in a Latin document in which John Johnstone of that Ilk (Johannes Johnnestoune de eodem) conveyed the five-merk lands of Wamphray to his son John. (W. Fraser) The document was written and signed at Lochwod.

From then on, Lochwood is frequently mentioned in connection with the Anglo-Scottish frontier. The English captured Lochwood by stealth in 1547, when a woman inside opened the gate at dawn. They found the castle very well provisioned and held Lochwood until 1550, burning it as they left. In 1585 Lochwood was burned again, this time by the rival Maxwell family, destroying the Johnstone charter chest and jewels. In his gallows humor, Robert Maxwell stated that he burned Lochwood so that Lady Johnstone might have light to put on her hood!

By the late 1600s, Lochwood was outmoded as a residence and its owner, the Earl of Annandale, spent most of his time in Edinburgh on government business. The Marchioness of Annandale was at Lochwood as late as June 1706, and she wrote a letter from there to the Earl of Marchmont. However, by this time Lochwood's days as the chief home of the Johnstones were over. It was probably abandoned soon afterward, and is said to have burned a few years later.

Impressions would like to thank Jeffrey M. Johnstone for his help in compiling this brief history. Check out the Clan Johnstone page for further information.


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