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Ferniehirst Castle
Chapter I - The House


An interesting but rather technical description of Ferniehirst appears on pages 218-221 of THE COUNTY OF ROXBURGH , Vol. 1. (Royal Commission on the Ancient Monuments in Scotland). It has been extensively used here by kind permission of the Royal Commission on Ancient Monuments, Scotland.

The oldest parts of the Castle (late 15th Century) are the vaulted chambers used for storage on the ground floor and the domestic area known as the Kerr Kitchen, connected with the main part of the building by a tiny mural "left-handed" staircase, whose purpose is not entirely clear. It is difficult to believe that it could have been used by servants bearing quantities of food and drink; more probably it was some kind of escape route.

Similarly there is some doubt as to the original purpose of the detached building described as the CHAPEL in the work quoted here. It looks like a chapel, and may well have been one; on the other hand one would expect the chapel, in a fortified house or castle, to be part of the main building itself. Possibly it could have been used as stables, or as additional sleeping accommodation for the large body of armed men who stayed there ó what one thinks of its purpose will depend in part on whether one accepts the seventeenth-century date given in the work quoted below: if indeed it was a seventeenth-century building it probably was a chapel; if of earlier date it is more likely to have been used as stables or as a dormitory.

In the same way the "cellars" could have held cattle, not only for milk and meat, but as a living central heating system (as in some older Swiss chalets). The ruined "bothy" next to the Kerr Kitchen (described as "the adjoining out-building" in the text which follows) was probably the main dormitory for the Ferniehirst garrison; the Lairdís family itself slept in a private apartment ("The Family Apartment") on the upper floor, as in other castles. But the family, guests and garrison all ate, drank, played cards and generally lived in the magnificent great hall ("The Grand Apartment"), which is the most remarkable feature of the Castle.

The Grand Apartment (Long Gallery), more than anything else, is what gives Ferniehirst its authentic feel as a blend of home and fortress rather than a showpiece built for effect. It was built after the end of the Border Wars, but at a time when it was still possible they might start afresh, and before menís outlook on life had greatly changed; a similar hall would have existed in the original castle and certainly existed in the second Ferniehirst (the present castle is the third), its appearance and the life which the Kerrs and their guests lived there being described by two Elizabethan spies.

The Castle Chapel


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