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Stranraer, George Street, Castle Of Saint John


Site Name Stranraer, George Street, Castle Of Saint John

Classification Castle

Alternative Name(s) Stranraer Castle; Castle Prison; The Chapel; Castle Kennedy

Canmore ID 60751

Site Number NX06SE 11

NGR NX 06090 60821

Datum OSGB36 - NGR


Ordnance Survey licence number 100057073. All rights reserved.
© Copyright and database right 2016.

Digital Images

Administrative Areas

  • Council Dumfries And Galloway
  • Parish Stranraer
  • Former Region Dumfries And Galloway
  • Former District Wigtown
  • Former County Wigtownshire

Archaeology Notes

NX06SE 11 06090 60821

(NX 0609 6082) Castle Prison (NR)

OS 1:1056 map (1849)

Castle (Rems. of) (NR)

OS 25" map (1894)

See also NX06SE 25.

Stranraer Castle, also known as The Chapel and Castle Kennedy, has been a good example of a 16thc L-plan keep; it measures 35 feet by 28 feet - the longer axis being east-west and has a projection of 4ft 9ins, northwards from the north wall at the north-west corner, and this projection is 11ft 9ins wide. In the 17th c the castle was heightened and structurally altered to fit it for use as the town gaol.

D MacGibbon and T Ross 1889; RCAHMS 1912.

This building is generally as described. It is topped by a small cap house and belfry with parapet walk. The remains are in a fair state of repair and the building is used by Stranraer Town Council for various purposes.

Visited by OS (WDJ) 8 February 1963

(Excavation and consolidation work reported by Tabraham and Lewis).

C Tabraham and J Lewis 1979

Three areas were excavated prior to the refurbishment of the castle into a Heritage centre. In the main hall a small inner chamber at the rear of the fireplace was cleared of about 90cm of earth and bird droppings to reveal two stone steps. The wooden floor in front of the chamber was removed and after clearing about 30cm of debris and a modern cement step the original stone slabbing was revealed.

In the main hall a small section (71 by 51cm) of flooring from the centre of the room was cleared and the area below excavated. Pieces of oyster shell and a bird bone were recovered.

In the ground floor entrance area a section (116 by 170cm) was excavated to reveal at a depth of 21cm a floor level and a section of a drainage channel. No finds were recorded.

Excavation record and photographs held in Stranraer Museum.

Sponsor: Wigtown District Council.

E Ritchie 1989.

Architecture Notes

Non-Guardianship Sites Plan Collection, DC28785- DC28793. 1980 & 1982.


Scottish Records Office

Stranraer Proposed conversion of Stranraer Castle to a prinson. Robert Wallace, architect c. 1790-1874 criticises plans he has been sent and describes his own plans for the conversion. The letter accompanied these plans sent to William Leggat.

1820 GD 135/Box 61/26/2

Conversion of the Castle into a Goal [Gaol].

Minutes of Meetings of Commissioners of Supply, Payments, Accounts and receipts.

Contractor: Kenneth Mathieson

1819-1822 GD 135/Box 61/26/1-14

(Undated) information in NMRS.


Watching Brief (2009 - 2010)

NX 06090 60821 During 2009–10 a series of watching briefs were undertaken in advance of building work connected with the restoration of the Castle of St John. The removal of modern floor slabs on the roof-top exercise yard revealed the original mortar sub-surface and the vaulted roofs of the third floor debtors’ cells constructed in 1820. Removal of modern floor slabs in the first floor hall revealed a set of steps, probably 16th-century in date.

Three external trenches close to the S wall (CSJ 09 B), the N wall (CSJ 09 C) and the NE corner of the building (CSJ 09 D) showed that the area around the castle had been heavily disturbed by service trenches and 20th-century landscaping. The only surviving archaeological deposits were relic traces of the original foundation cut for the castle which were recorded in the N and S trenches.

Archive: RCAHMS (intended). Report: Dumfries and Galloway SMR

John Pickin – Dumfries and Galloway Council

Watching Brief (7 July 2010 - 31 August 2010)

Landscaping works in the vicinity of the Castle of St John, an early 16th century tower-house in Stranraer, revealed traces of the foundation trench surviving in places along the south wall. It had, however, been heavily disturbed along its length by later buried services. Some of these appeared to date back to the mid-nineteenth century, when the structure was converted into the town jail.

Information from Oasis (rathmell1-111512) 28 March 2013


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