Castle Chapter II -
According to the following
extracts from "THE COUNTY OF ROXBURGH", Vol. 1 pp. 218-221.
The house itself has an unusually long
main block of three storeys, running NE and SW and having a circular
tower projecting from the E. angle, but two wings, both at the SW end
and in alignment with the W. gable, make the plan T-shaped. The wing
projecting northwards contains the main staircase as well as three
floors above it, while the other, extending southwards, had a kitchen on
the lowest floor. Its upper floor is fragmentary. At some later time an
outbuilding has been built at right angles to the kitchen wing and
extends southwards towards the steep bank of the river. House and
cottage form two sides of a kitchen courtyard, a small level area
otherwise bounded by the declivity and by a wall running off to the NW
form the staircase wing, the access to the enclosure being a fine 17th
Century archway adjoining the wing just mentioned.
Within living memory (the work quoted
here was published in 1956) the house was in occupation. Towards the end
of the 19th century a systematic restoration was begun but not
completed, and since this survey was made, the building has been adapted
for use as a youth hostel. The fabric therefore shows many signs of
alteration. The original house was built about 14901 and during the
century that followed, it suffered many changes. In 1523 it was thrown
down, and after its rebuilding it was besieged by the French in 1549.
Then in 1570 it was attacked and burnt by the English, and in the
following years it was almost wholly destroyed. Rebuilt once more, it
remained in occupation until 1593, when James VI decided to demolish it
on the ground that the laird had succoured the Earl of Bothwell. This
was done, but the cellarage survived to become, in 1598, part of the
existing main block. In that year the surviving walls were repaired and
carried to their present height; the E. tower, if not already in being,
and the staircase wing being added at the same time, together with a
newel-stair and an outshot for a fireplace, both projecting from the
facade. The kitchen wing may be a contemporary after-thought, for there
is some reason to suppose that the original intention was to place it on
the other side of the house, extending from the staircase wing... A
third and still later wing, which no longer exists, now projected NW
from the N. corner of the main block in correspondence with the
staircase wing at the other end of the front.
The lowest storey of the circular tower
was originally lit by gun-holes of "dumb-bell" shape which
have either been built up or removed bodily. The two upper floors,
however, each have three windows and are also provided with gun-holes.
The East gable of the house shows a small chamfered window on the lowest
floor, and a large window with rounded arrises on each of those above.
The principal entrance opens at the foot
of a wide scale-and-platt staircase which has been partly renewed. This
stair rises no higher than the first floor, the ascent being continued
from this level by an adjoining turret-stair. Beneath the upper turn of
the main stair lies a small vaulted cellar entered from the stair-foot.
A second cellar, which is reached from the kitchen courtyard and
communicates with the floor above by a service stair (the small mural
staircase mentioned on p. 10) occupies the West end of the main block,
the remainder of which is divided into five other cellars, all entered
from the front, the E. one opening into the basement of the E. tower. An
arrangement such as this is neither usual nor convenient, but it would
have been improved had another stair been provided within the wing that
has been demolished.
the 17th century the first floor of the main building was given
additional height. It is now divided unequally into three apartments,
the central one being the largest. Between this and the stair-head lies
an anteroom lit from the W. and communicating with the cellar beneath it
by means of the narrow service-stair within the W. wall (the mural
stair-case referred to above). Beside the entrance there is an arched
recess, and in the wall opposite, a relatively modern fire-place. The
ante-room is shut off from the largest apartment by a modern partition
containing a wide archway. The apartment into which this opens was
almost certainly subdivided before the 19th century restoration
commenced. It has two fireplaces, the N. one, which is 10 ft 101/2 in.
wide having a modern joggled lintel resting on jambs enriched with
paterae, stars, the triquetry and the fleur-de-lys. These jambs, like
the lintel, appear to have been inserted at the time of the restoration
to replace a 17th century fireplace illustrated by MacGibbon and Ross2.
The E. fireplace, which is smaller in size and entirely plain, has been
considerably rebuilt, but the locker formed within one of its jambs is
original. The four S. windows have all been enlarged; a fifth window,
octagonal in shape, seems to have been struck out through the back of a
recess intended for a dresser; on the N. two windows flanking the larger
fireplace are original and a third can be traced further E. beside the
remains of two doorways. These doorways must have been opened at
different times into the missing wing. The N. wing also contains the
entrance to the newel-stair that rises from the first to the second
floor. At the end of the room a doorway, seemingly broken out to replace
an original doorway on the other side of the E. fireplace, opens into
the E. chamber of the main block. The latter room has a fireplace in the
partition and IS lit from E. to S. At the E. corner there is a room
giving access to the tower-room, and within the wall thickness at one
end there is a close garde-robe. This tower-room was the library; it had
a fine timber ceiling divided by moulded ribs into compartments, with
carved knops pendent from some of them as well as from the centre. The
book-shelves were supported on carved brackets. Half a century ago this
woodwork was in exceedingly bad repair, and it has now been almost
wholly renewed. Small as the room is, it has three windows and two
The second floor of the main block has not been
gutted with a view to restoration and it remains pretty much as it was
when last occupied. The existing subdivision into rooms with a passage
along the N. wall is probably not of earlier date than the 18th century,
but several of the fireplaces are moulded and are as old as the 17th
century. The upper floors of the wing, however, have been restored; the
two immediately above the main staircase having been thrown into one to
form a galleried hall, while the top floor remains as a single chamber
from which entry is obtained to the "studies" at the outer
angles of the wing. The roof of this chamber seems to be vaulted. The
kitchen has a wide fireplace in the S. gable, with a sink in its W.
jamb. On the N. a staircase, which could also be entered from an
external doorway facing E., rises to the floor above, two presses being
contrived beneath it.
The adjoining outbuilding, oblong and
one-storeyed with a garret within the roof-space, is divided equally by
a cross-partition, containing a doorway which forms the only access to
the W. division, since the original access, a wide arched doorway in the
N. wall, was built up. This division shows one original window built
into the N. wall, but another window as well as a fire-place, the latter
subsequently reduced in size, have been introduced into the W. gable.
The E. chamber has no fireplace. The doorway and window in the N. wall
both seem secondary. In the S. wall there is an original window; the
doorway beside it is secondary.
CHAPEL. The chapel which dates from the
17th century and was reroofed about 1935 after a period of
deterioration, is an oblong rubble-built structure with steeply pitched
crow-stepped gables. The quoins are of freestone shaped in a Renaissance
manner. The entrance is enriched with oval rustications on each voussoir
of the arch-head and on each course of the jambs. Its impost bears a
dog-tooth enrichment. Its cornice is surmounted by an armorial panel
bearing, on the lower part, a shield charged on a chevron, three
mullets. Beneath the chevron are the initials AK for Sir Andrew Kerr and
DAS for his wife Dame Anna Stewart, partly framed within a scroll-work.
On each side of the entrance there is a window with a mullion and
transom, the rybats being alternately plain and moulded, a treatment
also represented on the lintel. Above these windows may be seen the last
vestiges of two dormers. The provision of a second doorway in the W.
gable suggests that the interior of the chapel must have been divided
into pews; this entrance, which is now built up, has chamfered arrises.
At the E. end of the building there has been a lairdís loft entered
from an external doorway in the E. gable, which must have been reached
from a forestair. Above the doorway there is a round window with plain
projecting voussoirs alternating with the moulded ones.
STABLES. This structure may be rather
later in date than the chapel and is even more ruinous. The N. end
accommodated the coach-house, identified by the wide built-up archway
surmounted by a small window in the crow-stepped N. gable. While the
remainder of the structure may have been a stable, the dimensions of its
windows and doors suggests rather that it was a dwelling.
SUNDIAL. A 17th century sundial has been
inserted in the SE face of the round tower at the E. end of the castle.
On the lower part a sun in splendour is carved and above this there are
The site itself also calls for comment.
Most castles are highly conspicuous and were always intended to be such:
one need only think of Edinburgh and Stirling in this country, or of
Durham and Carlisle among many others in England. Ferniehirst is a
hidden castle, and was built where it is for Precisely that reason, in a
fold of the ground but on top of a steep slope above the Jed Water. The
present approach road did not exist when it served as a fortress
commanding one of the main invasion routes across the Border. Raiding
parties could get past Ferniehirst, and often did, but any more
substantial force would have been seen and heard from a distance through
the trees which concealed Ferniehirst itself. This would have given time
for the Kerrs to come down and intercept the enemy, for instance at
Lintalee or near the Capon Tree (the last survivor of the ancient
Forest) while the Jedburgh men were alerted ó and Jedburgh was quite a
large town by medieval standards, probably Scotlandís fourth or fifth
ó and the Laird of Ferniehirst called out others, whether kinsmen or
associated with him by "bonds of man-rent", together with
their own armed followers.
Jedburgh also had its own Castle, more
conspicuous but for that reason less functional: it was ultimately
pulled down by the Scottish kings themselves because the English kept on
capturing and defending it. The present Jedburgh Castle is quite modern,
built about 1800, and has never seen a shot fired in anger: the town was
defended, like ancient Sparta, not by its walls but by its men.
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