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 The History
of
The Castle of St Monance

This is still in its earliest stages: generally secondary sources form the basis for the following. Hopefully, readers will continue to offer insight and direction as to where additional evidence may be found to support or supplant the ideas presented here and to correct any errors that may be found.

The earliest whispers detected of ownership of the castle site is in Alexander III (1241-1286; reign 1249-1286) spending part of his childhood at the St Monance residence of his half-sister Marjory Canmore and his brother-in-law, Sir Alan DurwardThe real name of Alan Durward is unknown.  Durward is a derivation of Warden of the Door, a title believed to have been given to him as a very close associate of Alexander II. ( c.1218-1275).  Whether remains of the castle of Alan Durward will ever be found or excavated at the current site of the castle is unknown.  This may well have been a motte-type castle, a wooden or stone or earthen structure, whose remains would have been incorporated into the castle’s foundation, or traces of a full-blown stone castle may yet be discovered.

The castle's siting on a promontory into the Firth of Forth is eminently defensible, needing only one side to be walled or guarded. 

During the years 1265-67, Alan Durward erected a shrine or chapel to the local saint, a hermit whose cave is near the current church.  His name was St. Monan and he is associated with the early days of Christianity in the area, perhaps a monk from Iona.

  A century later, King David provided funding for the erection of a church on the spot and William Dishington, their immediate neighbour to the south, was responsible for these works in the 1360's. 

Durward’s wife Margery was the daughter of King Alexander II (1198-1249; reign 1214-1249), born prior to his marriage to Mary de Soules, the mother of Alexander III. 

 

Margery and Alan had three daughters (by an unknown woman, he also had a son, Alan, who predeceased his father).     

The Durward was of Norman descent and had close ties to the royal family.  His father and grandfather had been Keepers of the Door for the king and the family name changed with Alan from de Lundin to Durward, in recognition of this role which had become hereditary.  Alan was perceived as the epitome of knighthood during the reign of Alexander II and for his services to that monarch he was rewarded in 1230 with the lordship of Urquharthttp://www.aboutscotland.com/ness/urquhart.html in Moray, following the area’s revolt against the king, with significant assets and the king's daughter Margery of Scotland, as his bride.  Durward's first wife was Isabella, Countess of Athole by whom he may have had a daughter who only lived a few years. They had no male heir and the title was inherited by the son of her first marriage. After Alexander II’s death, Durward was one of the guardians to the minor Alexander III.

 The issue of Marjory’s il/legitimacy was later to play a significant role in the family’s fortunes.  In 1251 when Alexander III was in England to wed the daughter of Henry III, Alan lost his status as Guardian of the young king due to it being revealed that he and the Chancellor of Scotland (the Lord Abbot of Dunfermline Abbey) were attempting to have the Pope declare Marjory legitimate so that she might succeed to the throne in the event of Alexander III dying without issueAnnals of Dunfermline, http://www.tulbol.demon.co.uk/dunfermline/annals1.htm#index .

Edward I of England, “Longshanks” was invited to select the legitimate heir following the death of the “Margaret, the Maid of Norway” (1286-1290) granddaughter and sole heir of Alexander III, en route to assuming her Scottish throne. In 1281, when 13 prospects put their claims forward, among them was one of Alan and Marjory’s heirs, Nicholas de Soulis, through their daughter Emerguarde, who claimed the throne through that line of Marjory to Alexander II. Had it been possible to prove her legitimacy, his would have been the senior claim.

Margery and Alan had three daughters who survived him, and one son who did not.  At his death, his estate was divided equally  between the three daughters Early Sources of Scottish History, p.674, quoting Bower (ii, 122), he died in 1275, and was buried at Coupar . .  and his lands were divided among his three daughters . . . :  Ermengarde, Anna and one whose name is unknown. 

Ermengarde, their eldest daughter married Nicholas de Soulis who is subsequently recorded as being of Fife.  Their second daughter Anna, married Colbran MacDuff (?-1270), the 8th Earl of Fife, who was murdered by Sir Patrick Abernethy. The third daughter married John Bisset.

Which daughter inherited the castle is unknown.  While some have suggested as logical that the MacDuff lordship of Fife would have taken the castle, one could argue that would be unnecessary since the castle is located a relatively short distance from their castles of Elcho, MacDuff and Wemyss.

Alan Durward had many titles during his life.  He was Justiciar of Scotland between 1246 and 1251 and again in 1256-1257.   He was granted the lordship of Urquhart by Alexander II, was earl of Atholl through his first marriage; claimant to the earldom of Mar. lord of half the lands of St. Monans along with his brother-in-law the earl of Buchan and the holder of extensive estates in Angus, the Mearns and Mar (much of modern Tayside and Grampian; as well as the castle and property of Bolsover in the English Midlands.  He was Chief Justiciar of the Realm and a Member of the Council of Regency during the king’s minority years.  Another of Alan’s titles was that of Earl of Kintyre-Oneil.  This thanage was alienated by Alexander II to Alan DurwardScotland c1000-1200:  The Shire, the Thane, the Sheriff and the Sherriffdom, p. 14.  http://www.scottishhistory.com/sherrifs.htm.   However, conflicting evidence raises some questions.   Local history in Kintyre indicates that Colin Durward was Lord of Oneil in 1234 and the lands of Coull, Kincragy and Corse belonged to himKincardine O’Neil, page 1, http://www.cushnieent.force9.co.uk/kinker.html.  This would appear to have been an uncle or brother.  Similarly, was he an earlier warden of the door who was replaced by Alan, or had it become a family title and position?   Or, could it merely be that this is a variant of the spelling of Alan, resulting from a period in which there was little standardization (for instance, Doorwood is one of the variations of his surname.   In 1233 Alan built a hospice for travellers on the north/south road of Kincardine O’Neil.  The foundations of this building can still be seen in the churchyard.

On 7 March 1338, the church of Kincardine O’Neil was erected into a prebend of the Cathedral Church of St Mary and St Machar in Aberdeen by a gift of Duncan, Earl of Fife.  Duncan had clearly inherited some of the lands of the Durwards.

 The next name associated with the property, though not necessarily the castle, is Sir John Kinloch (c1411-?) of Cruvie and St. MonanceJohn Kinloch's antecedents are yet undiscovered.  One interesting possibility is that he is connected to the de Keveliock name:  the family into which David of Huntingdon married.  .  He died without sons and his two daughters, Margaret and Janet, inherited his estate.  Janet married John Ramsay and we have been unable to trace the heirs of that relationship.  However, there is record of a Ramsay selling an interest in the Cruvie property to a Sandilands and Carnegie in the 16th centuryMike Salter, The Castles of the Heartland of Scotland, p.34   “This massive L-plan tower on a rock was probably newly built in 1509 when Sir James Sandilands of Calder in Midlothian granted to his uncle James Sandilands half of the lands of Cruivie “with the mansion”.  Sir James grandfather, who died c1500, had obtained the estate by marrying the heiress of John Kinloch.  In 1540 James V granted half of the barony of Cruivie including the tower to Henry Ramsay, heir of David Ramsey of Colluthie.  Margaret Carnegie, co-heiress of Elizabeth Ramsay sold her portion of the estate with the tower to her father David Carnegie of Colluthie in 1583”.

John’s daughter Margaret married James Sandilands (1433-c.1505) of Calder [a title associated with the MacDuff as the Oneille/Durward heir – but that connection has also not been determined] and Edinburgh on 25 July 1453.  Margaret died about 1493 after bearing two children, John, (1464-1493/4) and Christian (1467-1520).  Christian married David Hepburn (born 1464).

Margaret’s son, John Sandilands, inherited his father’s property of Calder, a title associated with the MacDuff family, and that branch of the family can be traced in the histories of the Lords Torpichan. Margaret’s castle of St. Monance was not inherited by her children. Instead, James Sandilands’ son, another James, by his second wife, Margaret Ker, inherited that estate.

The Sandilands are an interesting family:  first records I have located of the direct family are in relation to the marriage of Eleanor Douglas (1325-1360), daughter of Archibald the Grim and his sole legitimate heir, to James Sandilands (1319 – pre-1358).  By some means, Sandilands was persuaded to abandon the claim their son would have had to the Douglas estate in favor of her illegitimate half-brother.

The Sandilands’ family almost certainly did major construction and restoration on the site of an earlier castle.  One of the many mysteries to be uncovered will be an attempt to determine to which period the many additions/replacements can be allocated.  For over 150 years they were the lords of the lands.  In 1622 Sir William Sandilands and his son and heir, Sir James Sandilands, Knight Friar of St Monans, Granted a charter to the feuars “erected the port and town of St Monance in an free Burgh of Barroney” . . .  For the sum of ‘ten pounds usual money of this realm’ he rented to them annually ‘the mair and sward’, pointing out that they had never been charged before.  Courts were held three times a year at the castle.   They gave the village of St Monance baronial rights:  while retaining to themselves the benefits of the village economy.

Between 1644 and 1649, another James Sandilands (1623-1666/7) ran through the family fortune in a mere five years.  In 1949, facing bankruptcy, he sold the castle to General Sir David Leslie (?-1682).

David Leslie was considered by many as the most able general of Scotland’s CovenantersDavid Ross, Scotland – History of a Nation, Lomond Books, 1998, p.196 during the civil war.  As the fifth son of Patrick Leslie of he had to make his own fortunes.  He served in Europe for 30 years with Gustaf of Sweden before returning to Scotland to serve on the side of the Covenanters during the war.  It was his brilliant cavalry charge at Newark Castle in England that saved the day and led to King Charles I’s surrender to the Scottish forces, led by his relative, Alexander Leslie, Commander of the Covenanter’s forces.  Leslie then led the troops at Philiphaugh and that defeat led to Montrose being ordered to abandon the fight and flee to the continent.

However, with the beheading of Charles I by the English, David Leslie’s allegiance changed and he joined the Royalist forces.   Unfortunately, the extreme Presbyterians were in control of all government activities, including the army.   In 1650, Oliver Cromwell invaded Scotland after Charles I’s execution and when Scotland was preparing to crown his son, Charles II.  David Leslie was now the leader of the Royalist forces and for two months was successful in harrying and defeating Cromwell.  However, on 3 September 1650 Cromwell defeated the Loyalist army at Dunbar after the Committee of Divines, the religious leaders who governed both army and country, insisted that Leslie abandon his strong military position and attack.  At least 3,000 Scots were killed and 10,000 made prisoner.  Within a short period Leslie was captured and sent to the Tower of London where he languished for the next nine years, until the return of the crown after Cromwell’s death.

David Leslie was rewarded by King Charles II with the title of Lord Newark: both the name by which St. Monance was referred and the name of the castle in England at which battle he defeated the King’s father’s army and led to Charles I’s capture and ultimate regicide. David Leslie also received a pension of L500 per annum from his grateful monarch.

David Leslie did very extensive renovations to the castle:  adding an additional story to the buildings and adding the unique Dutch gables to the roof of the main hall.  While local lore attributes the building of the doo-cote in celebration of his release from the Tower (1661), this is not accurate.   It is listed among the assets of the castle in 1649 when he was using it as collateral and is of the style of the early 16th century, not 17th.

After his death in 1682, his son, another David, assumed the title and inherited the castle.  When he died in 1694 he left his estate to his five daughters (Jean, Mary, Elizabeth, Grizel and Christian), his only son, another David, having pre-deceased him.

To David’s eldest daughter, Jean “Green Jean” Leslie (?-1739/40), went the castle.  She married Alexander Anstruther (1652-1743) and they held the castle briefly until her husband’s bankruptcy in 1725 forced its sale.

A nephew, Sir John Anstruther bought St Monance castle at the auction held to settle Alexander’s debts. The castle remained in this branch of the family until Sir Wyndham Carmichael Anstruther sold it to the Baird family in the 19th century.

By the 19th century, the castle was no longer a residence for the Anstruther or Baird families.  It was not the castle but the property associated with the barony that had value.  The castle had deteriorated into storage space for farmers and accommodation for servants of the family who resided in nearby Elie.

 

By the 19th century, the castle was no longer a residence for the Anstruther or Baird families.  It was not the castle but the property associated with the barony that had value.  The castle had deteriorated into storage space for farmers and accommodation for servants of the family who resided in nearby Elie.

The Thompson family purchased the property from the Bairds for farming purposes.  The castle was merely a curiosity that graced a corner of those lands.  As a young boy, John Thompson played on the crumbling remains and dreamed of winning the lottery and restoring the castle to its former glory.  After his father’s death and realizing that with a young family and with responsibilities of both father and farmer his priorities had changed and the lottery had not been won.  However, he did want to share with others the love he had for the castle and to stop the inevitable ruination that was befalling the castle.  In 2000 John and uncle transferred ownership to the Crewe & Nelson family so that the historical research, archaeology and restoration work he had wished for could become a reality.  These pages represent the initial research into the castle’s history.  There are many gaps and documentation may never be found.  But the search is on.

Erskine Beveridge, 1889, courtesy of David McBain

By the 19th century, the castle was no longer a residence for the Anstruther or Baird families.  It was not the castle but the property associated with the barony that had value.  The castle had deteriorated into storage space for farmers and accommodation for servants of the family who resided in nearby Elie.

The Thompson family purchased the property from the Bairds for farming purposes.  The castle was merely a curiosity that graced a corner of those lands.  As a young boy, John Thompson played on the crumbling remains and dreamed of winning the lottery and restoring the castle to its former glory.  After his father’s death and realizing that with a young family and with responsibilities of both father and farmer his priorities had changed and the lottery had not been won.  However, he did want to share with others the love he had for the castle and to stop the inevitable ruination that was befalling the castle.  In 2000 John and uncle transferred ownership to the Crewe & Nelson family so that the historical research, archaeology and restoration work he had wished for could become a reality.  These pages represent the initial research into the castle’s history.  There are many gaps and documentation may never be found.  But the search is on.

Erskine Beveridge Photograph, 1889, courtesy David McBain

By the 19th century, the castle was no longer a residence for the Anstruther or Baird families.  It was not the castle but the property associated with the barony that had value.  The castle had deteriorated into storage space for farmers and accommodation for servants of the family who resided in nearby Elie.

The Thompson family purchased the property from the Bairds for farming purposes.  The castle was merely a curiosity that graced a corner of those lands.  As a young boy, John Thompson played on the crumbling remains and dreamed of winning the lottery and restoring the castle to its former glory.  After his father’s death and realizing that with a young family and with responsibilities of both father and farmer his priorities had changed and the lottery had not been won.  However, he did want to share with others the love he had for the castle and to stop the inevitable ruination that was befalling the castle.  In 2000 John and uncle transferred ownership to the Crewe & Nelson family so that the historical research, archaeology and restoration work he had wished for could become a reality.  These pages represent the initial research into the castle’s history.  There are many gaps and documentation may never be found.  But the search is on.

 

The Thompson family purchased the property from the Bairds for farming purposes.  The castle was merely a curiosity that graced a corner of those lands.  As a young boy, John Thompson played on the crumbling remains and dreamed of winning the lottery and restoring the castle to its former glory.  After his father’s death and realizing that with a young family and with responsibilities of both father and farmer his priorities had changed and the lottery had not been won.  However, he did want to share with others the love he had for the castle and to stop the inevitable ruination that was befalling the castle.  In 2000 John and uncle transferred ownership to the Crewe & Nelson family so that the historical research, archaeology and restoration work he had wished for could become a reality.  These pages represent the initial research into the castle’s history.  There are many gaps and documentation may never be found.  But the search is on.

 

Sketch by D McBain, 1948, courtesy of his son, David McBain

In the summer of 2000 Simon Wilson, a distinguished architect from West Wemyss commenced the architectural drawings and Tim Upson-Smith and Jonathan Trigg added the archaeological stone by stone dimensions of the current structure.  Tim Upson-Smith did the inking of these drawings [link to drawings].

The archaeologist, Derek Alexander, is doing preliminary geophysical and topographic work.  We hope to be ready to do the initial phase one of the dig on the site within the next two years.

Peter Gillies, the laird of Ballencrieff Castle, who took a burned out and abandoned (for 200 years) ruin in East Lothians and turned it into the most exciting restoration of a private residence in Scotland, has agreed to act as special advisor on the restoration phase.

Many consents and approvals must be sought before work can commence, but the dream is there and the history is waiting to be discovered and revealed.

A grand adventure awaits . . . join in the fun.  Visit us often and send along any suggestions you may have for research or the site.  And wish us sunny skies at our Stormy Castle . . .