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Strathaven Castle

Strathaven Castle South Lanarkshire Scotland

The first castle at Strathaven was erected by a branch of the Baird family, descendants of Ie seignur de Bard who fought at Hastings with Duke William of Normandy, and of the Henry de Barde that attended the court of William the Lion in the 1170s. The adjacent name of Flemington is an additional clue to Strathaven's origins as a typical feudal settlement from the period of Normanisation in southern and central Scotland.

The first stone castle of Strathaven was built around 1350 but was burned down in the 1450s. By then the castle and its surrounded estates had passed from the Bairds to the Sinclairs and then to the Black Earls of Douglas. Its destruction in the mid fifteenth century was probably the result of Crown action, part of the successful efforts of James II to curb the power of his more unruly magnates. Strathaven seems to have been deliberately slighted around 1455, the same point in time that the House of Black Douglas was defeated and disgraced at Threave Castle near Dumfries. After several years in the hands of the Crown, James II gifted the castle to his loyal kinsman Sir Andrew Stewart, Lord Avondale, who began much of the structure that survives today as well as providing its alternative name. In 1534 Strathaven was acquired by the Bastard of Arran, Sir James Hamilton of Finnart, a talented military architect who served James V as Master of the King's Works. Finnart may be responsible for some of the sixteenth century finishing touches at Strathaven, such as the wide mouthed gun loops that can still be observed on the ruin.

Strathaven is a mere seven miles south from the burgh of Hamilton. As the power of the Hamilton family increased, it was inevitable that Strathaven would fall within their sphere of influence. It passed to the Marquesses and Dukes of Hamilton in 1611 and remained in their hands for the following three centuries.

A local tradition tells that the wife of a Strathaven laird so displeased her husband that he resolved to entomb her alive within the castle walls. She was led to a niche, blessed by a priest and walled up forever. Part of the walls collapsed in a storm in the middle of the century, revealing a collection of human bones.

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