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Cessnock Castle

Castle (Medieval)

Site Name Cessnock Castle

Classification Castle (Medieval)

Canmore ID 43690

Site Number NS53NW 2

NGR NS 51076 35517

Datum OSGB36 - NGR


Ordnance Survey licence number 100057073. All rights reserved.
Canmore Disclaimer. © Copyright and database right 2018.

Digital Images

Administrative Areas

  • Council East Ayrshire
  • Parish Galston
  • Former Region Strathclyde
  • Former District Kilmarnock And Loudoun
  • Former County Ayrshire

Archaeology Notes

NS53NW 2 51076 35517

(NS 51273550) Cessnock Castle (NR)

OS 6" map (1968)

Cessnock Castle now forms three sides of a square, and consists of a massive and lofty square tower of 15th or possibly earlier origin, altered in its upper works in the 17th century, to which large extensions have been added in the late 16th and 17th century. The walls of the vaulted basement chamber of the keep are 18th thick, and would seem to indicate a very early nucleus for the castle, first mentioned as a property in 1296. The oldest extension lies to the NE; at right angles to it is the N block, now forming the main house, dating from the mid-17th century. The W wing dates from the second half of the 17th century, as does the octagonal stair tower which contains the present main entrance. The castle was restored in 1890.

D MacGibbon and T Ross 1892; N Tranter 1965

Cessnock Castle, the residence of Baron Robert de Fresnes, is in an excellent state of preservation, having recently been completely restored. The keep has been harled. Stones dated 1675 and 1680 were seen in the later walls. A modern wall now encloses the courtyard on the S.

Visited by OS (JLD) 22 August 1956

As described; the only structural change is the loss of the bell tower on the NW gable end of the tower. It is still a private residence of the de Fresnes family.

Visited by OS (JRL) 30 July 1982

Architecture Notes


Owner: Captain the Baron R De Fresnes

Architect: John Railton (decorated ceilings - restoration ?)

Thomas Leadbetter - restoration 1890


Nat. Lib. Watercolour Sketches by Thos. Brown, Vol. II No. 39 - 1 view

Nat. Lib. Scottish Field January 1933 - Cessnock ceiling copied for Sy Winifreds Church nr Welbeck

Scottish Record Office

Survey and measuring of (Cessnock Castle).

Letter from John Dick to Alexander, Earl of Marchmont.

Mr Runciman and James Williamson have surveyed the whole house and will report to his lordship in order that his directions may be given. They have measured the height and width of the old Hall, Drawing room and chimney and have ordered the writer to lay in lime and provide about 20 trees.

1726 GD 206/591/1

Repair of Cessnock Castle

Letter from John Dick to Alexander, Earl of Marchmont.

He reports that the timber, deals and lime that Mr Runciman considered necessary for the repair of Cessnock have been bought.

1727 GD 206/591/4

Repair of Cessnock Castle

Letter from John Dick to Alexander, Earl of Marchmont.

John Williamson has taken down the gable and found the condition of the wall bad. He refuses to proceed with the side wall further than the window sill. John Dick has written to Mr Hall to arrange for Mr Runciman to come and see it.

1727 GD 206/591/5

Repair of Cessnock Castle

Letter from John Dick to Alexander, Earl of Marchmont.

John Williamson has rebuilt the gable up to the height of the Drawing room and the jambs of the chimney are set. However Mr Runciman has not returned to give directions regarding the timber and plasterwork and the writer considers it is time the work was begun.

1727 GD 206/591/6

Repair of Cessnock Castle

Letter from John Dick to Alexander, Earl of Marchmont.

John Williamson is rebuilding the gable but Peter Muir cannot reline the Drawing room because the floor must be lifted once the gable is finished and the pend in the Kitchen secured. Meantime he is levelling the ceilings to be plastered and putting in timber between the posts of the Old Hall. They await Mr Runciman and his plasterer.

1727 GD 206/591/7

Repair of Cessnock Castle

Letter from John Dick to Alexander, Earl of Marchmont.

John Williamson has put in the lintels on the windows of his lordship's closet. Mr Runciman came and gave Peter Muir directions concerning wright work particularly of the new windows. The three of them working together put up two beams through the garret and rested them on the gables in order to decure the roof.

1727 GD 206/591/8

Repair of Cessnock Castle

Letter from John Dick to Alexander, Earl of Marchmont.

John Williamson has now finished all the stonework of Cessnock and departed for Redbraes Castle. John Dick would have prefered that he has stayed until the marble chimneypieces for the Dining room and the Bed-chambers had arrived. Mr Runciman had paid a visit and his plasterers were busy. The Drawing room was laid.

1727 GD 206/591/9

Cessnock. Reparation of the Tower

The Earl of Marhmont wishes a report on progress. He hopes there is some advance in plastering the rooms.

If difficulties arise John Dick is to consult William Hall.

Letter from the Earl of Marchmont to John Dick, Factor.

1727 GD 158/1317/ Page 170

Layout of the Gradens and Reparation of the House and Tower. Lord Polworth has designed the entry to the Tower to go up to the Burnhouse Hill Park on a line with Lord Loudon's entry and make a circle where they meet. He asks for a report on progress of work at the House and The Old Tower.

Letter from Alexander, Lord Polworth [later E of Marchmont] to George Boiue, Gardener at Cessnock. 15th February.

1723 GD 158/1507/ Page 87-88

Proposed repair of the house at Cessnock.

'I expected to hear what was determined to be done with the House, at least what it would cost to put it to rights. I would not lay much money upon it, and if the Gavelor any part of the Drawing room is to be taken down and built up again, it may be built as it now is that the lining may serve, only there must be two windows in the Library, as in the room below...'

Letter from Ld. Polworth [later E of Marchmont] to John Dick [Factor] Sept. 16th

1723 GD 158/2507/ Page 204

Layout of the Gardens at Cessnock

Lord Polmont asks George Bouie to forward a plan of the garden.

Letter from Lord Polworth [later Earl of Marchmont] to George Bouie,

Gardener at Cessnock. June 17th.

1723 GD 158/2507/ Page 163-4

Memorandum of the Reparations at Cessnock.

The side wall and the gavel of the Drawing room and closet to be rebuilt.

The chimney to be put in the corners in both rooms.

Windows to be placed in both rooms as in the Plan Ld. Polworth sends.

The breasts of all six windows are to be limited to 1 1/2' from the floor.

The Old Tower is to be taken down and the stone used.

An exact Plan of the whole house is to be made.

Letter from Ld. Polworth [later E. of Marchmont] to John Dick [Factor] Dec 6th

1723 GD 158/2507/ Page 246-249

Layout of the Gardens at Cessnock. Instructions sent to George Bouie.

The slopes, banks and bottom on the South side of the House are to be planted up thoick with flowering shri=ubs, except the cascade 'which must continue and be finished off fifty feet broad, the breadth of the entry.'

Letter from Lord Polworth [later Earl of Marchmont] to George Bouie.

Gardener at Cessnock December 9th

1723 GD 158/250T/ Page 251-252

Layout of the Gardens at Cessnock.

' I have got your letter of the 14th January with two sheets of the Plan enclosed and likewise the two sheets of the Plan that were in John Dick's letter... I sent home some time ago 10,000 elms, some figgy trees and some grafts and Hornbeam seeds'.

Letter from the earl of Marchmont to George Bouie. Gardener. February 15th

1725 GD 158/2515/ Page 197-198

I have got your letters of the 19th and 28th December with the sheets of the Plan etc enclosed in them ..... I have sent over of late years, several trees as Alders, Elm and Figs and likewise grafts and seeds; let me know what of them are come to Cessnock. where they are planted and sown and how they thrive'.

Letter from the Earl of marchmont to George Bouie. Gardener. February 1st

1725 GD 158/2515/ Page 193

Reparation of the Tower

'I would have no time lost in setting about the reparations I have appointed to be made at the Tower'.

Letter from the Earl of Marchmont to John Dick. Factor.

1727 GD 158/1317/ Page 161

The making of a clock [? for the Tower of Cessnock.]

' I have sent for Shannon the clockmaker and his master ...

I have spoke with them and they can make the clock to go for a week ...

The clock to answer the little bell will not need to be above a foot square

but they will not make it under #10 and it will not be ready in 7 or 8 months'.

Letter from Alexander to his father, Patrick, Earl of Marchmont.

1707 GD 158/1161/1


Photographic Survey (7 May 1959)

Photographic survey of the exterior and interior of Cessnock Castle, Ayrshire, by the Scottish National Buildings Record/Ministry of Works, in May 1959.


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