Crookston – Glasgow's only surviving medieval castle
Set high on a hill five miles south west of the city of Glasgow and visible for miles around is Crookston Castle – a tower house of around 1400 built by the Stuarts of Darnley.
Its design is unique for Scotland – a large rectangular tower with a small, square tower at each corner. The walls are four metres thick with masonry of the highest quality. The entrance, protected by a portcullis, leads into a barrel-vaulted basement reinforced by ribs. This level contained the well and cellars as well as the kitchen. A stair rose to the first floor where the hall, with its bold window recesses and heraldic fireplace, was surmounted by a high-pointed vault.
Unfortunately at this level the castle is much ruined. The vault is down and of the original four corner towers only one, and part of another, remain; the other two are reduced to their foundations – what happened?
In 1489, the Stewarts, by now Earls of Lennox, took part in an uprising against King James IV. The King moved swiftly. The royal artillery (including Mons Meg) was brought from Edinburgh to besiege the Lennox castles. Arriving in the west the train split, some, including Mons Meg, to attack Dumbarton, the others to attack Crookston whose walls proved no match for cannon. Under their fire the western towers fell and the castle surrendered.
Crookston was patched up but with two of its towers gone and the main block roofless, it cannot have been much of a habitation. Eighteenth century drawings depict it as a total ruin.
In the 19th century the Stirlings Maxwells of Pollock were minded to blow up the castle but changed their minds and consolidated it instead. Unfortunately they added the corbelled rounds which creates a false impression. They landscaped the grounds, scarping the original levels thus destroying archaeology. However, the castle was saved.
The Second World War and after
In 1940 the Home Guard inserted reinforced concrete floors to provide an aircraft warning platform which has not enhanced the castle’s appearance.
After the war Crookston found itself the centre of a new housing estate (the youth of which proved problematic) to become the most vandalised property in guardianship. Historic Environment Scotland decided to engage with the local community and hopefully a corner has been turned.
The 'old' castle
The name ‘Crookston’ (Croc’s Town) derives from Sir Robert Croc, who built the original castle around 1180. His work was not of stone but of earth and timber and the present castle stands within its enclosure.
Excavation of Crookston Castle
In the 1970s three years of excavation took place, the writer taking part. The brief was to establish:
Was the earthwork 12th century or prehistoric? Conclusion: Unresolved
Was there a motte below the stone caste? Conclusion: No
Why was one corner tower out of alignment? Conclusion: Unresolved
Were the two western towers ever completed? Conclusion: Yes
Due to landscaping in Victorian times, levels had been disturbed and a fourth season was deemed impractical.
The writer uncovered a Silver Groat of Robert III (Perth mint 1393-1406), pictured left, which, unfortunately, he had to hand over to Historic Scotland!
Article by Scottish Castles Association member Brian McGarrigle.