Cessnock Castle

Cessnock castle near Galston, East Ayrshire dates from around the 15th Century. The Duke of Portland had it restored by 1900 and is now a private house. After her defeat at the battle of Langside, Mary Queen of Scots is reputed to have taken refuge there. Other visitors of note include the reformist preacher John Knox and the poet Robert Burns. Cessnock House was once the seat of the Campbells of Cessnock, one of the foremost “Westland Whig” families during the 17th century. The Laird was married to a daughter of the 1st Earl of Eglinton, circa 1513, and a later marriage connected the family with that of the Earls of Loudoun. Hew Campbell, son of George Campbell of Cessnock, married the Lady Elizabeth Campbell, younger daughter and co-heiress of George Campbell, Master of Loudoun, and progenitor of the Earls of Loudoun. Hew was born in 1615 and succeeded to the estate in 1630. Having chosen law as a profession, he was appointed Lord Justice-Clerk and Lord of Session by the Parliament in 1649, but declined to act as either. He sat as member for Ayrshire in the Parliaments of 1639-41, 1645-47 and 1649-50. He was knighted in 1649. He was punished for not showing sufficient enthusiasm at the restoration of Charles II. He was exempted from the Act of Indemnity of 1662; severe fines followed; and though he was charged with no crime, he was imprisoned for 2 years in Edinburgh Castle. 20 years later his sympathy for the Covenanters brought him under suspicion and he was charged with having “set (sat) on the rebellion of Bothwell Bridge, and chid those who deserted it.” Though acquitted of the charge the aged knight was again imprisoned, this time along with his eldest son, though neither had been convicted. The Earl of Perth was then Justice-General and did not hide the fact that he was determined to see Sir Hew detained, so that he could bestow the forfeited lands of Cessnock upon his brother, Viscount Melfort, who had recently wed a daughter of Sir Thomas Wallace of Craigie, and wished to increase his lands in Ayrshire. Sir Hew and his son were accused and found guilty and the forfeited land was handed to Viscount Melfort in 1685. Hew Campbell died at Edinburgh in 1686. Melfort’s fortune was short lived, for in 1690, George Campbell, who had shared captivity with his father Hew, was restored to the estate by Act of Parliament, and made Lord Justice-Clerk and a Lord of Session. Sir George’s daughter Margaret was married to Sir Alexander Hume, son of the 1st Earl of Marchmont, and one of the most distinguished lawyers of the time. Sir Alexander took the name of Campbell in addition to his own when he succeeded to the estate, and was raised to the bench as Lord Cessnock in 1704. He supported the Hanoverian dynasty in 1715 and ended his career as second Earl of Marchmont in 1740. This title became extinct in 1794 with the death of his son, Sir Hew. The Cessnock estate had been alienated by Sir Alexander shortly after the 1715 uprising, so that he might centralise his property in the Borders to which his own family belonged. For some time Cessnock was in the hands of the Dicks, and was acquired from them by the Wallaces of Cairnhill in 1783. It was then bought by the Scotts of Balcomie; and when Miss Scott, daughter of General John Scott, was made Duchess of Portland by her marriage in 1795, the estate became the property of the Duke of Portland.
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East Ayrshire Council

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