An article from

'The Topographical, Statistical, and Historical Gazetteer of Scotland'

Published by A.Fullarton and Co. - 1848

Eglinton Castle

EGLINTON CASTLE, a noble mansion, the seat of the Earl of Eglinton, situated on the banks of the Lugton, in the south of the parish of Kilwinning, district of Cunningham, 2 miles north of Irvine in Ayrshire, and 20 from Glasgow. This edifice is of a castellated yet modern and very stately and magnificent structure, and was built about the year 1798. A spectator, looking upon it from any part of the lawns, has high conceptions of its grandeur, and of the taste and opulence of its proprietor; and the more minutely he surveys it, he experiences these conceptions becoming more lofty and brilliant. There is a large circular keep, and at the corners are circular turrets joined together by a curtain, to use the language of fortification. The whole is pierced with modern windows, which in some degree destroy he castellated effect, but add to the internal comfort. The interior of the fabric corresponds with the magnitude and the beauty of its exterior. From a spacious entrance-hall, a saloon opens, 36 feet in diameter, the whole height of the edifice, and lighted from above; and from this the principal rooms enter. All the apartments are spacious, well-lighted, and furnished and adorned in the most superb manner. One of them in the front is 52 feet long, 32 wide, and 24 from floor to ceiling. Every thing about the castle contributes to an imposing display of splendid elegance and refined taste. Nor are the lawns around it less admired for their fine woods, and varied surfaces and beautiful scenery. The park around the castle is 1,200 acres in extent, and has one-third of its area in plantation - The first of the ancient and originally Norman family of Montgomery, who settled in Britain, was Roger de Montgomery, or Mundegumbrie. Under the banner of William the Conqueror to whom he was related - he obtained great distinction; and, accompanying that monarch into England, he, in 1066, commanded the van of his army at the battle of Hastings. In guerdon of his bravery, he was created Earl of Chichester and Arundel, and afterwards Earl of Shrewsbury, and, in a short period, lord of no fewer than 57 lordships throughout England; and, at the same time, received extensive possessions in Salop. Having made a martial incursion into Wales, he captured the castle of Baldwin, and imposed upon it his own name of Montgomery, a name which not only it, but the romantically situated town in its vicinity, and the entire county in which it stands, have permanently retained. The first of the family who settled in Scotland, was Robert de Montgomery. Walter, the son of Allan, the first steward, having obtained from David I. several Scottish estates, Robert accompanied him from Wales to take possession of them, and received from him the manor of Eaglesham in Renfrewshire. This was, for two centuries, the chief possession of the Scottish section of the Montgomeries. John de Montgomery, seventh laird of Eaglesham, married Elizabeth, daughter and sole heir of Sir Hugh de Eglinton, and niece of King Robert II., and obtained through her the baronies of Eglinton and Ardrossan. At the battle of Otterburn he had the command of part of the Scottish army under the brave Earl of Douglas, and, by his personal valour snd military conduct, contributed not a little to the celebrated victory which was achieved. The renowned Henry Percy, well known by the name of Hotspur, who was general of the English army, Sir John Montgomery took prisoner with his own hands; and with the ransom he received for him, he built the castle of Polnoon in Renfrewshire: see article Eaglesham. His grandson, Sir Alexander Montgomery, was raised by James 11., about 1488, to the title of lord Montgomery, and inaugurated into the officeof king's bailie of Cunningham. His son, Hugh, was elevated, about 1508, to the title of Earl of Eglinton; and, a few years previously, in June, 1498, obtained a charter to himself and his heirs of the office of bailie of Cunningham, and chamberlain of the town of Irvine. About the time of his obtaining this charter, a feud arose between him and Lord Kilmaurs, which continued between the families, and occasionally blazed forth in deeds of violence, and originated tedious and fruitless appeals to umpires, till after the union of the crowns. Hugh, one of the line of Earls, came into possession of the earldom when considerably under 16 years of age; and having, for a time, been placed or rather coercively brought under the curatorship of his grand uncle, Sir Neil Montgomery, of Langshaw, he eventually enjoyed his inheritance during only ten months when he fell the victim of his family's hereditary feud. Riding from his own castle, towards Stirling, on the 20th of April, 1586, he was, at the river Annock, waylaid and shot by David Cunningham of Robertland, and other Cunninghams, the emissaries of the Earl of Glencairn, the descendant of Lord Kilmaurs. Though this atrocious act of assassination created a strong sensation throughout the country, and was afterwards partly punished by Robert, the master of Eglinton, it was at length, under the feeble and capricious administration of the pedant, James VI., formally pardoned. So late as twenty years after this event, on the 1st of July, 1606, the old feud broke out in a violent tumult at Perth, under the very eyes of parliament and the privy-council. In the 18th century, all the valuable improvements in gardening, planting, and agriculture, which, during half-a-century, were made in the parish of Kilwinning, and throughout a great part of Ayrshire, proceeded, in a great measure, from the spirited exertions, combined with the fine taste of Alexander, Earl of Eglinton. Nor was his successor in the peerage less distinguished for his magnificent and costly, though considerably unsuccessful, schemes to enrich the district of Cunningham, and advance the public weal of Scotland, by improving the harbour of Ardrossan, and cutting a canal to it from the city of Glasgow: see ARDROSSAN. Happy would it be for themselves, their posterity, and the population of the territories in which their estates are situated, if persons of rank and fortune copied the example of this munificent and patriotic nobleman. But something different must be said respecting the enormous expenditure, at Eglinton castle, in the month of August, 1839 upon a gorgeous pageant, in imitation of the tournament of the Middle ages, a "passage of arms," as a tilt with wooden poles smoothly rounded at the end over lists carefully strewn with saw dust five inches deep, yielding soft repose to unhorsed knights, was somewhat facetiously termed. - Susanna, the third wife of Alexander, the ninth Earl of Eglinton and daughter of Sir Archibald Kennedy of Culzean, is celebrated for her personal beauty, and for her transmission of a nobleness of mien, distinguished at the period as "the Eglinton air," to a family of one son and seven daughters.  





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