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Notes on Newark Castle, Renfrewshire


This castle, built as a place of residence rather than a fortified stronghold, stands within a few feet of the water’s edge on the southern bank of the river Clyde, near its mouth, within the county of Renfrew and parish of Port-Glasgow. The ancient barony of Newark lay partly within the parish of Port-Glasgow, but chiefly within that of Kilmalcolm, and was afterwards included in the parish of Port-Glasgow. The earliest record of it I have found is of date 1373, when Robert Danyelstoun, knight, held, inter alia, a crown charter of Finlawstoun in the barony of Renfrew and shire of Lanark. He died without male issue, and his property fell to his two daughters and co-heiresses Margaret and Elizabeth. In 1402 the latter was married to Sir Robert Maxwell first of Calderwood, who thus came into possession of the lands, which were then called Danyelstoun-Maxwell. This Sir Robert was connected through his mother, Isabella Lindsay of Crawford, with the royal family of Stuart, and the royal arms are said by some to be carved upon a panel under one of the windows to the courtyard, but it is too much worn to be identified with certainty now. Sir Robert was a man held in high esteem at the Court of Scotland, and was commissioned one of the ambassadors to negotiate for the release of James I. and of other nobles. Being of an adventurous spirit he joined in the French wars in 1420, and was mortally wounded shortly after his arrival in that country. He was succeeded by his son John, then a minor, who married first Margaret, daughter of William second Lord Borthwick, by whom he had one son and two daughters; and second Margaret Rutherford, by whom he had one son, George, the ancestor of the Maxwells of Newark, and who was known as George Maxwell of New-werk of Finlawstoune-Maxwell. The oldest remaining portions of the castle, - the two blocks forming the southern extremities of the eastern and western wings, and tinted black on the several plans, - were probably built by him in the second half of the 15th century ; for while up to this time the estate is referred to as the lands of Newark, in 1484 the wood in which is situated the place of Newark was excluded from certain lands distrained for payment of a debt of 400 merks due by Patrick Maxwell, son and heir of the late George Maxwell of New-werk of Finlawstoune-Maxwell. In 1491 Robert, Laird of Lile, acquired the place of Newark by charter under the Great Seal on account of a balance of the above debt, subject to the condition that Maxwell was to recover possession if the debt was paid within seven years; and again in 1494 it is referred to as a place and Manor House. The more modem part, forming by far the larger part of the castle (hatched in the plans), was probably built at the close of the 16th century by Patrick Maxwell, whose monogram, P.M. interlaced, is cut in panels in the window heads, and also in the tympanum of the entrance door. Here also is carved the legend, "The Blissingis of God be heirin," and the date 1597. The panel in the westmost dormer of the river front bears the date 1599.

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