Rowallan & the Earls of Loudoun

The Muirs or Mures of Rowallan may take their name from their earliest coat-of-arms which showed the head of a Moorish warrior but it is probable that this was an early form of heraldry known as 'Canting Arms' in which the subject represented the name of the bearer in pictorial form. Thomas de la More was the executor of the will of Dervorguilla Balliol, the mother of King John Balliol and the family continued to retain strong ties with the Balliol family and their supporters the powerful Comyn family, and were given, or in some cases inherited lands, through marriage, from these families. The Muirs of More held lands in Ayrshire, Lanarkshire and Berwickshire. In 1347, Elizabeth Mure of Rowallan married Robert II and became his Queen.
Rowallan Castle 

Rowallan Castle can be found in East Ayrshire between the villages of Fenwick and Kilmaurs. The castle presently known as Rowallan Castle was built for the Corbett family around the beginning of the 20th century but the picturesque ruins which lie next to it are of an early 16th century castle built around a 13th century keep which was the home of the Muirs. It was built on a slight mound next to the Carmel Water with the buildings forming three sides of a courtyard which was completed on the forth side by a wall. It has two round towers at either side of the main door which were added around 1567, and are quite unusual for a Scottish castle. The main building itself is three storeys high. 

Recent archaeological excavations were undertaken at Rowallan Castle as part of a programme of repair and consolidation of the site by Historic Scotland, their findings show evidence of much earlier occupation. Work within the late medieval tower revealed a Bronze Age burial pit, a series of timber structures and a stone platform. The burial pit contained a layer of cremated human bone and a food vessel, lying on its side, which also contained bone. The food vessel was dated by comparing it to similar local types to circa 2100-1700 BC. Traces of at least three episodes of timber building predating the stone tower were revealed, with radiocarbon dating techniques have suggested construction dates for these of around circa 100 BC and 300 BC respectively. Analysis of plant remains from the fill of a post, dated to the first millennium, identified wheat, barley and rye. 

The Muirs 

The earliest records of the Barony, in the 13th century show that at that time in the reign of Alexander III, the estate was owned by Sir Walter  Comyn. Sir Walters' daughter Isobel's hand in marriage was given to Sir Gilchrist Mure by the King as a result of his valour during the Battle of Largs in 1263. As Isobel was the sole heir of Rowallan, the estate then became the property of Sir Gilchrist. The Mure line ended at Rowallan with Sir William, the 16th Lord of Rowallan in 1700 who had represented Ayrshire in Parliament. During that time there were many notable family members including the noted Covenanter, writer and poet Sir William Mure. The line continued though through the daughter of the 16th Lord, whose own daughter married Sir James Campbell, third son of the Earl of Loudoun who then became the Lord of Rowallan. He too represented Ayrshire in Parliament from 1727 to 1741 and he died from wounds on the field of Fontenoy in 1745 fighting the French. His son, Major-General James Mure Campbell of Rowallan became the fifth Earl of Loudoun in 1782 uniting two great Ayrshire houses; that of Rowallan and that of the Campbells of Loudoun near Galston. 

His daughter, Flora, Countess of Loudoun, is famous in her own right as a close friend and Lady in Waiting to Queen Victoria who eventually was shunned by the Royal family due to an alleged pregnancy out of wedlock, a scandal only proved false by a medical examination that proved that the swelling in her belly was actually caused by a cancerous growth which led to her tragic death. Her treatment at the hands of the Royals led to a drop in popularity for Victoria, who was heckled during public engagements and had eggs thrown at her carriage. 

The Origins of the Earldom of Loudoun. 

The roots of the Earldom of Loudoun go way back to the days of David I (1084-1153), when Richard de Morville was Constable of Scotland. De Morville held many lands and Baronies in the country including that of Cunningham. Well known for being generous towards the church, friends and vassals, he gifted a James de Loudoun a charter for the extensive lands which still bear the name of Loudoun. His daughter, Margaret married Sir Reginald de Crawfurd who was the High Sheriff of Ayrshire and the couple's eldest son, Hugh de Crawfurd of Loudoun succeeded them. Hugh's daughter Margaret, it has been alleged was the mother of the Scottish hero, Sir William Wallace. The estate later passed to the Campbells with the marriage of Susannah Crawfurd to Sir Duncan Campbell a friend of Robert the Bruce. 

The First Earl of Loudoun 

The Campbells of Loudoun really came to eminence in 1601 however when Sir Hugh Campbell, Sheriff of Ayr, was created a Lord by James VI. His granddaughter, Margaret, who became the sole heir, married Sir John Campbell of Lawers, who was created the First Earl of Loudoun in 1633 by Charles I. John Campbell also became known as a leading Covenanterand was an active commander in the field and eventually was chosen to preside over the opening of the Scottish Parliament in 1641 and became High Chancellor and First Commissioner of the Treasury. A supporter of Cromwell during the Civil War, he was expelled from his post as Chancellor and fined a hefty 12,000 pounds on the Restoration of Charles II. 

John Campbell, the 4th Earl of Loudoun 

Another member of the Campbell family worthy of note was John, 4th Earl of Loudoun, who was a distinguished soldier who held many illustrious offices both at home and overseas. During the Jacobite uprising of 1745 he raised a massive regiment of Highlanders for the Government and was instrumental in the Government victory. In 1756 he became Governor in Chief of the British province of Virginia and very soon after was appointed Commander in Chief to all the British forces in America. He was also second in command of British forces sent to Portugal to fight the Spanish in 1762. Even age 70 he was tireless, now back home in Ayrshire, he set about one of the most extensive and ambitious tree planting projects anywhere in the country eventually being credited with the planting of over a million trees. All the time that he had been serving abroad his interest in horticulture had led him to collect specimens of valuable trees of every kind which were sent home forming one of the most comprehensive collections of trees in Europe. These exotic trees, especially many willows, were interspersed throughout plantations of thousands of indigenous species creating a landscape that Tannahill referred to as 'Loudoun's bonnie woods and braes'. 

Loudoun Castle 

Loudoun Castle, near Galston was the home of the Campbells of Loudoun. This 19th century building now stands on the spot of an older castle. Unfortunately a fire in 1941 tragically destroyed most of the Castle, but the walls which remain today once formed the building created by Fiona Mure-Campbell, Countess of Loudoun and Marchioness of Hastings in the early 1800s. When it was built, the Castle was known as the 'Windsor of Scotland'. It can be visited today as part of Loudoun Castle Theme Park. The castle was once the home, allegedly, of the sword of Sir William Wallace, which had been passed to the Crawfurd family, once Lords of Loudoun, and cousins of the patriot. Many castles have ancient yew trees nearby, the traditional wood for making longbows and it was under the 'Auld Yew Tree' at Loudoun Castle that Peers discussed draughts of what was to become the Treaty of Union in 1707
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