Hawthornden Castle is a five-bay castle style L-plan tower house, built in 1638, and a ruinous 15th century tower, set around a triangular courtyard. It is built on a steep rock promontory above the River North Esk. The northeast range is a 1638 restoration of an earlier 15th century building. The northwest range was built in 1638. An attic and stair were added in the 19th century. The main block is three storeys high (on a laigh, or basement, floor) with a garret. It is built of pink sandstone rubble with ashlar dressings. There is a band course and eaves course to the southeast elevation of northwest range and a round tower to the north angle with string and eaves courses. It has crowstepped gables.
Northeast (entrance) range:
The northeast elevation is formed of an irregular five bays grouped two-two-one. The remains of the castle keep are to the outer left and a two-bay crowstepped gabled block is to the right of centre. It has an architraved doorpiece with armorial pediment at ground level in the bay to the outer left and a timber, bossed door. A half blocked window is set at second floor level and a small garret window below the eaves above. The bay to the right has a window at first floor level, a window at the second floor with garret window above and wallhead stack set between the bays. The two-bay block to the right of centre has a window at ground level in the bay to left, a window at second floor level with a blocked garret window above. The bay to the right has a window at ground level, a window at first floor level with a blocked garret window above and gablehead and stack above. There is a window at first floor level in bay to outer right and a window breaking the eaves at the second floor above.
The southwest elevation has two bays with the 15th century tower adjoining to the south. It has an architraved doorway with a timber door at ground level in the bay to right of centre and a window at the first floor above. There is a window at each floor in the bay to left. An inset flat-headed doorway with segmental-arch opens at ground level into the keep. A deep-set replacement wrought-iron gate gives access into a barrel-vaulted recess.
The northwest elevation is formed of an irregular six bays, grouped two-one-two-one. The two-bay group to the right of centre has a bipartite window at ground level in the bay to right. There is a bipartite window at the first floor and a window at the second floor. It has a small crowstepped gable above. There is a window at the first floor in bay to left and a window at the second floor above. The single-bay tower to left of centre has a two-leaf timber panelled door with strip fanlight. There is a window at each floor and a conical roof with ball finial and weather vane above. The two-bay crowstepped gabled group to the outer left has a window at the first floor in the bay to right. There is a small garret window above. In the bay to the left there is a window at second floor level and a gablehead stack to the centre above. There are windows at the ground floor and the first floor in the bay to the outer right.
The southeast elevation is an irregular seven-bays. There is a raised, pedimented, large commemorative plaque at ground floor in the bay to the centre, with square a commemorative plaque above. There is a non-aligned window at the first floor and a non-aligned dormer window with monogrammed pediment above. In the bay to the right of centre an architraved and corniced doorpiece with armorial plaque above is at ground floor level. There is a window at first floor above and a dormer window with monogrammed pediment above. There is a window at the ground floor in the bay to penultimate right, a window at first floor above and a dormer window with monogrammed pediment. The bay to the outer right has a pedimented window at the first floor. There are windows at ground and first floor with a monogrammed pedimented dormer window above in the bay to the left of centre. A part-glazed door is at ground floor in the bay to outer left, which is slightly set back. There is a window at first floor above. Tripartite French windows are at ground to the left (west) return. There is a bipartite window at first floor level and a monogrammed and dated armorial triangular plaque to a crowstepped gablehead above.
The remnants of the 15th century castle border a sheer drop to the valley below and close the third side of triangular courtyard.
The glazing patterns are of various dates, including some of 18th century date with thick astragals, and a row of 19th century dormers. The windows are mostly twelve-pane timber sash and case, with some nine- and four-pane also. The south range has a grey slate roof with slate to the dormers and the tower. It has ashlar coped stacks and cast-iron rainwater goods.
This was partially refurbished in 1990 when the southern chamber has been brought back into use as a small library/ study area with a storage room above, connected by a spiral staircase.
A circular wall of squared cream sandstone rubble surrounds the well, which is sited in the triangular courtyard facing the glen.
The drinking fountainhead dates to the 17th century. It is rectangular in plan with a carved armorial shield in a pediment and obelisk finial above. It is sited to the east of the main house and built of weathered, droved pink sandstone with a repaired plinth. It has a hemispherical drinking cup to the centre of the square body.
A detached, single storey, two-bay shed stands at the north angle of house. It is square in plan with a crowstepped gable. It has a raised architrave and boarded door in each bay to the northeast front. A boarded door is set to the right of the southwest elevation.
Gatepiers and boundary walls:
The gatepiers are built of square-plan ashlar with cornice and pyramidal cap. The boundary walls are of squared rubble walls with rounded cope.
There are caves in the glen beneath the castle. There is a long, low tunnel with small sunken chambers along the left hand side. One contains an iron gallery overlooking the well shaft from the courtyard above. It terminates in a three-sided chamber lined with nest boxes carved into the walls forming a doocot. The castle has always been renowned for this warren of caves and a range of stories abound as to their purpose. Suggestions have been put forward that they provided shelter for Scots troops facing English attacks. Despite their probable Bronze Age origins, there is no definitive answer to their date or purpose.
Statement of Special Interest
William Drummond, the poet and son of Sir John Drummond who acquired the Barony around 1600, restored the castle by 1638. His achievement is marked by a plaque in the courtyard. This courtyard is partly shaped by the precipitous drop to the River North Esk below. It is entered through the 15th century northeast range via a pend, closed to the outside by a 17th century door with some original fittings. The heraldic plaque of Bishop Abernethy, dated 1795 is set above. During the mid-19th century servants' accommodation was added, hence the appearance of dormer windows. At this time the baronial stair tower was added to the north. The extreme west angle, jutting furthest out into the valley, has been recently restored and bears the date plaque 1995.
Statutory address and listed building record revised in 2018. Previously listed as 'HAWTHORNDEN CASTLE, INCLUDING GATEPIERS, BOUNDARY WALLS, WELLHEAD DRINKING FOUNTAINHEAD AND OUTBUILDING'.
Ordnance Survey (surveyed 1852, published 1854) Edinburghshire. Sheet 12. 6 inches to the mile. 1st Edition. Southampton: Ordnance Survey.
Groome, F (1892) Ordnance gazetteer of Scotland. A survey of Scottish topography. Edinburgh. p473
MacGibbon, D. and Ross, T. (1896) The castellated and domestic architecture of Scotland from the twelfth to the eighteenth centuries, volume 4. Edinburgh. pp. 173-6.
McWilliam, C. (1987) The buildings of Scotland. Lothian except Edinburgh. London. pp248-249.
New Statistical Account (1834-45) Parish of Lasswade, Vol. 1. pp 330-2.
RCAHMS (1929) The Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments and Constructions of Scotland. Tenth report with inventory of monuments and constructions in the counties of Midlothian and West Lothian. Edinburgh. pp. 112-14.
Statistical Account (1794) Parish of Lasswade, Vol.10. pp 284-5.
Thomas, J. (1995) Midlothian: an illustrated architectural guide. RIAS/Landmark Trust. pp48-9, 54.
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Printed: 18/10/2021 17:15