Ferniehirst Castle

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Ferniehirst Castle
South of Jedburgh, Scotland
Ferniehirst Castle - geograph.org.uk - 1990586.jpg
Ferniehirst Castle, keep
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Ferniehirst Castle
Coordinates 55°27′16″N2°33′04″W / 55.45444°N 2.55111°W / 55.45444; -2.55111 Coordinates: 55°27′16″N2°33′04″W / 55.45444°N 2.55111°W / 55.45444; -2.55111
Site information
OwnerLord Ralph Kerr
Open to
the public
Yes (July)
Site history
Built by Clan Kerr
In useResidential
Battles/warsoccupied by the English in 1547-49 during the Rough Wooing

Ferniehirst Castle (sometimes spelled Ferniehurst) is an L-shaped construction on the east bank of the Jed Water, about a mile and a half south of Jedburgh, in the Scottish Borders area of Scotland, and in the former county of Roxburghshire. It is an ancient seat of the Clan Kerr, and after a period of institutional use it was restored for residential use by Peter Kerr, 12th Marquess of Lothian, in the late 20th century.



Ferniehirst Castle, courtyard Ferniehirst Castle - geograph.org.uk - 1990613.jpg
Ferniehirst Castle, courtyard

Sixteenth-century conflict

The original castle, built by the Ker (or Kerr) family around 1470, was occupied by English forces in 1547, during the war of the Rough Wooing. The English were dislodged by a force of Sir John Ker's clansmen, and the Earl of Huntly reinforced by André de Montalembert and French auxiliaries led by Captain Pierre Longue in February 1549. The gate was fired, then Montalembert d'Essé brought more artillery and the soldiers set about the wall with picks and mattocks. The French soldier Jean de Beaugué described the recapture and the fate of the English captain and garrison, [1] and the aristocrat and priest Alexander Gordon wrote an eyewitness account. [2] An English army led by the Duke of Rutland recaptured the castle in June 1549, but the war was nearly over. [3]

The exiled Countess of Northumberland stayed at Ferniehirst Castle in January 1570. [4]

Ferniehirst was damaged by an English raid on 18 April 1570, after Sir Thomas Ker had raided northern England, which was also intended to intimidate the supporters of Mary Queen of Scots. [5] Another English army damaged it in 1573 on their way to Edinburgh Castle. [6] James VI attacked the castle in 1593 as the Kers had assisted Francis Stewart, 1st Earl of Bothwell, who had conspired against the king. The Kers were for a long period Wardens of the Middle and East Marches. As the building had been undermined, reconstruction of the castle began in 1598.

Later and recent uses

The castle was unused in the 18th century, and re-roofed and repaired circa 1830, with a further major restoration of a part of it in 1890. It was used as a Scottish Youth Hostels Association hostel from 1934 to 1984, apart from during the Second World War, when it was requisitioned as a billet for troops. In 1988 major repairs, restoration, and alterations were carried out by Peter Kerr, 12th Marquess of Lothian, and the castle is once again a private home. It is currently used by his second son, Lord Ralph Kerr, who also owns Melbourne Hall in Derbyshire, and is the heir presumptive to the marquessate as his elder brother the 13th Marquess, the politician Michael Ancram, has no sons (though he has two daughters). The castle is open to the public during July. It is a category A listed building. [7]

The Ker Chapel, dating from the 17th century, is part of the property. Probably originally a mortuary chapel, it was re-roofed in 1938 and had restrained conversion and repair in 1988. It is now in use as a visitor centre and is also a category A listed building. [8]


Ferniehirst Castle, visitor centre The visitor centre at Ferniehirst Castle - geograph.org.uk - 1990609.jpg
Ferniehirst Castle, visitor centre

The shorter arm of this L-plan fortalice is the 16th-century tower, containing the stair turret. The turnpike stair is in a spiral, corbelled out in the angle: apparently more for elegance than for necessity. There are many shot-holes, allowing a wide angle for musket fire, and of the more restricted shut-holes used for ventilation.

The stair spirals counter-clockwise and is known as the "left-handed staircase" as it would put right-handed attackers at a disadvantage. The story is that in 1513 when the left-handed Sir Andrew Kerr came back from the Battle of Flodden, he had his men learn to use their left hands when swordfighting. In Scotland, left-handedness has been dubbed "Corrie-fisted" or "Kerr-handed". [9]

Ferniehirst also has a romantic array of conically-capped corner turrets. These – known as studies – are not primarily defensive: they open from the rooms of the upper floor. There is some Renaissance decoration around the windows and doors. The castle is approached through a classically-styled archway.

See also

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  1. Beaugué, Jean de (1707). History of the Campaigns of 1548 and 1549. pp. 92–96.
  2. Cameron, Annie, I., ed., Scottish Correspondence of Mary of Lorraine (SHS, 1927), pp. 286-290, Gordon's account differs from de Beaugué's over some details.
  3. Merriman, Marcus, The Rough Wooings (Tuckwell, 2000), 140.
  4. Thomas Wright, Queen Elizabeth and her Times, vol. 1 (London, 1838), p. 351.
  5. Edmund Lodge, Illustrations of British History, vol. 3 (London, 1791), p. 42.
  6. Calendar of State Papers Scotland, vol. 5 (Edinburgh, 1907), 161.
  7. Historic Environment Scotland. "Ferniehurst Castle with arched gateway...  (Category A) (LB13369)" . Retrieved 15 April 2019.
  8. Historic Environment Scotland. "Ferniehurst Castle Visitor Centre (former chapel)  (Category A) (LB13370)" . Retrieved 15 April 2019.
  9. "Ferniehirst". The Castles of Scotland Goblinshead Martin Coventry. 23 January 2019. Retrieved 31 March 2019.