Archaeology & Architecture
the Castle of St Monance
Works of art, reports of digs and records of architecture open up
the gates to historical mysteries. It is these records, the paintings and
drawings of professional artists and amateur visitors; the notes of travellers
along the roads of the East Neuk the research of professionals and the
expositions of architects exploring the efforts of those who went before them
who reveal the secrets of the past.
Where to begin,
is the question.
The early 21st
century saw modern research begin to open the past for the present.
And challenged 21st century dreamers to dig through the entrails of the past.
It also produced
more questions than were answered.
if the tower was 15th century: why the shot holes, who was the enemy,
who was the builder and what happened to the dry moat that must have protected
the castle: when was it filled in?
Why was no
licence issued or recorded for the building of such a structure?
Did no visitor
or resident describe this space that most interests the 21st century explorer?
Are there documents yet to be discovered that will provide a picture in words?
What was the
arched stone feature to the south west of the castle?
Was there a
walled garden as a contemporary map at
Kelly Castle suggests?
What is the
bricked structure on the face of the cliff to the south?
Was there a
tunnel to the sea or to the village kirk,
as local legend attests?
What was the
route taken up from the sea by smugglers, one of whose
ghostly spectre is said to haunt the castle to this day?
Was the sun
reflecting off the castles red roof,
according to a contemporary traveller, hitting upon red pantile tiles?
Many roofs in St Monans village still sport these relics of another time.
Originally, these tiles came as ballast in ships returning from Holland and
would certainly have complemented General Sir David Leslie's Dutch gables
and been highly compatible with the tastes he developed during the 30 years he
spent serving on the continent with the Protestant forces allied against Rome.
This section is
dedicated to the arts:
the paintings, writings, architecture and archaeology
that will meld with the practiced eye of the engineer and dreamer
to recreate the old and new "warks" of the Castle of St Monance of other times.
* * * * * * * *
1892 a marvelous series of five volumes
describing the architecture of
Scotlands castles was completed. David
MacGibbon and Thomas Ross, both architects, wrote the monumental work,
The Castellated and Domestic Architecture of Scotland
from the Twelfth to the
Eighteenth Century. In
the fourth volume they describe Saint Monance as follows:
castle is situated on a rocky cliff overlooking the Firth of Forth, not
far from the ancient church of St. Monans.It appears to have been built at two periods. The
southern or earlier portion is represented by ground floor vaults and
the strong south wall of enceinte, which only remain.These vaults form an oblong structure measuring about 75 feet
from north to south by 28 feet wide.The later portion . . . is built in continuation northwards, but
is only 22 feet in width.The
thick east wall and the round tower, 25 feet 6 inches in diameter at the
north-east angle, are evidently erected on portions of the older
edifice.The total length
of the edifice is 128 feet.
castle is approached from the north-east only, being on all other sides
well defended by the sea and precipitous rocks.There has been an arched entrance gateway in the enclosing wall
adjoining the round tower at the north east angle.This was strongly defended with double gates, each secured with
bars inside, the holes for which still exist . . .Facing the gateway is the entrance door to the newer structure.It is of a Renaissance character, projected in front of a
circular faced tower . . .In
this tower is the staircase, which continues to the top.Immediately inside the gateway three is another entrance doorway
to the castle, leading, by a descending passage, to a half-sunk
apartment in the round tower.From
this passage a doorway opens into the kitchen fireplace, and gives
access to the kitchen, which has also a door to the staircase.
kitchen is a fine vaulted apartment, lighted by windows on either side.Its large arched fireplace just referred to is similarly lighted
by windows on both sides.Besides
the above entrance doors, there is a door in the round tower outside the
gate.Its sill is about 3
feet above the ground, being on the level of the first floor,
immediately over the half-sunk story.This door in undoubtedly a late insertion, as it would have been
absurd to have made the provision for defence found here and then to
have left a door outside of it all.
round tower contains five floors, each provided with a fireplace.At every stage the shape of the rooms varies in a most
extraordinary manner, no two floors being the same in plan.
to the upper floors is not now attainable, the stairs and floors being
entirely ruinous.We have
already remarked on the door opening into the back of the kitchen
arrangement exists on the floor above, where, from the room over the
kitchen, a door leads into the flue of the kitchen fireplace, which is a
place of considerable size, being about 12 feet by 6 feet.This flue has apparently been partly joisted over, and some kind
of wood and plaster construction seems to have been erected in it,
possibly for the purpose of smoking or curing meat.An arrangement of a similar kind existed at Elphinstone Tower and
courtyard on the south side of the castle occupies the remaining flat
surface of the rock, and contains some remains o walls and vaults,
which, like the whole place, are in a ruinous and neglected state.
. . In 1649 St. Monans with the castle of Newark, was sold to the
famous soldier, David Leslie, whose career in the civil wars of his time
renders his name illustrious in the history of Great Britain.After the Restoration he was created Lord Newark, with an annual
pension of five hundred pounds..
It is not unlikely that the
buildings as we now see it was the work of David Leslie.The advanced Renaissance work of the newer portion corresponds
with the style of his time.The
north wall seems to have been then rebuilt, and the windows of the tower
and east wall enlarged and finished with facings after the manner of the
period . . .
Salter has spent the last two decades riding about Scotland, England,
Wales and Ireland detailing castles and their histories.These soft cover volumes make great reading for anyone who wants
to take along a book illuminating the castles as they are visited.He also produced a single volume with a few lines on each castle.It is great to keep in your pocket or purse to keep track of
castles visited and when.Ours
notes 11 January 2000 for our first visit to this wonderful ruin.In his volume, The Castles of
the Heartland of Scotland, he writes of St Monance on page 53
under the name of Newark:
the 15th century the Kinloch family built an unusual type of
castle here comprising a palace or hall-house 23.6m long by 8.5m
wide with a court up to 16m in width between it and the sea-cliff.The building contained a hall and private room end to end and
three spacious vaulted cellars.It
passed to the Sandilands family who in the early 16th century
added a narrow extension containing two upper rooms over a kitchen to
the north end wall.On the
north east corner is a drum tower 8m in diameter, now much ruined, which
was furnished with gunloops protecting the adjacent north-facing gateway
of which only the east jamb survives. . . . . In 1649 the castle was
sold to General Sir David Leslie.Between
1661, when Charles II created him Lord Newark, and his death in 162 he
remodeled the apartments, adding a further storey and the curvilinear
Baroque style gables of which only one fragment remains.There were outbuildings of this period and earlier in the court,
and other outbuildings lay against the cliff edge so that they were
mostly or wholly below courtyard level.