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Lochmaben was granted to Robert Bruce in the mid-twelfth century by King David I. Robert was of Norman descent and his ancestor, Adam de Brus, had accompanied William I in the conquest of England. The family had been granted lands in Cleveland, North Yorkshire but Robert was enticed to come north as the Scottish King sought to encourage Norman immigration. Such men were given lands in unruly parts of Scotland and used their martial skills and castle building expertise to help bring Scotland firmly under Royal control. Granted the Lordship of Annandale in 1141, flooding of his property saw Robert take over Lochmaben shortly after. He built the first Lochmaben Castle, an earth and timber motte-and-bailey fortification, at this time.

This initial castle was still in use in the late thirteenth century at the outbreak of the First War of Scottish Independence. In 1290 the English King had been asked to arbitrate on the Scottish succession following the death of the Alexander III's only heir, Margaret. The then owner of Lochmaben Castle - Robert Bruce, Fifth Lord of Annandale - was one candidate but Edward I ultimately ruled in favour of John Balliol whom he anticipated would be his vassal. However, when faced with impossible demands for manpower to support a continental war, Balliol rebelled. A swift English victory at the Battle of Dunbar (1296) led to Balliol being deposed but soon after William Wallace rebelled and defeated an English army at the Battle of Stirling Bridge (1297). The English gained the upper hand the following year in a campaign that also saw Lochmaben Castle taken by Edward I. In 1299 Sir John Maxwell led a force from nearby Caerlaverock Castle and tried but failed to retake the castle. Soon after, the English commenced construction of a new earth and timber fortress - Lochmaben Pele - on the site of the current castle as a replacement intended to control the road between Carlisle and Glasgow.

Lochmaben Pele came under attack in 1301 and was burnt but the site was re-occupied and rebuilt by the English under the oversight of Richard Siward. When Robert the Bruce, Seventh Lord of Annandale started his 1306 rebellion (which would see him become Robert I) he captured Lochmaben Pele but it was re-taken by Edward, Prince of Wales. In 1314, after the decisive English defeat at Bannockburn, Lochmaben Pele was voluntarily surrendered to the Scottish King but was captured back by the English in 1333 when Edward III, fresh from his victory at Halidon Hill, resumed the war with Scotland. Lochmaben would remain an English stronghold for the next 50 years acting as a supply base for military operations in Scotland.

The inner bailey of the castle was rebuilt in stone in the fourteenth century with two substantial towers projecting over a flooded moat. The rest of the defences remained earth and timber however as the frequent fighting with the Scots did not afford an opportunity for more permanent works to be undertaken. Indeed by 1385 the castle had been captured, lost and recaptured no less than eleven times! The final exchange left it in Scottish hands when Archibald the Grim, Earl of Douglas and Lord of Galloway seized it in 1384. The castle remained under the control of his family until 1455 when it was confiscated by James II as part of his suppression of the Black Douglas. It then remained a Royal possession and hosted several Royal visitors over the years including James IV (1503), James V (1542 before the Battle of Solway Moss) and Mary Queen of Scots (1565).

In 1588 the castle was seized by Lord Maxwell, a Catholic who was seeking to overthrow the Protestant monarchy. Along with Maxwell's other castles - Caerlaverock, Langholm and Threave - the King ordered Lochmaben to surrender. At that time it was held by David Maxwell, brother to the Laird of Cowhill, who refused to surrender believing himself safe due to the lack of Royal artillery. But James VI had borrowed numerous artillery pieces from the English Warden in Carlisle and bombarded the fortress. On 9 June 1588, after a two day siege, the castle fell and David, along with five of his supporters, were hung outside the walls despite previous pledges of safe conduct. This was the swan song of the castle though as just 15 years later the 1603 union meant it ceased to have any military purpose and fell into disrepair.

The Lochmaben Stone is a megalith standing in a field, nearly a mile west of the Sark mouth on the Solway Firth, three hundred yards or so above high water mark on the farm of Old Graitney in Dumfries & Galloway in Scotland. Together with a smaller stone it is all that is left of a stone circle dating back to around 3000BC

The Lochmaben Stone was a well known, well recognised and easily located 'marker' on the Scottish Marches and as such it performed a number of functions prior to the Union of the Crowns, such as arrangements for truces, exchange of prisoners, etc.

Raiding parties met here before launching expeditions into England and Scottish armies assembled here before major incursions or defence operations took place. It may well have been a tribal assembly point. An army was ordered to assemble here as late as 6 February 1557.

In 1398 an exchange of prisoners took place when English and Scots representatives, the Dukes of Rothesay and Lancaster met at the Lochmaben Stone. The prisoners were released without ransoms and any that had already been paid were to be returned.

Its use by the Marcher Lords or Wardens suggests that the Scots regarded the Lochmaben stone as being the southernmost limit of the Scottish realm. In 1398 an indenture was made at 'Clochmabenstane' for the men of Tyndale and Redesdale to meet from Whitsunday to Michaelmas at Kershope Bridge. The Commissioners not only met here, but "gave bail for their good behaviour to one another."

The Auchinleck Chronicle records that on 23 October 1448 a Scottish Army under the command of Hugh Douglas, Earl of Ormonde, and Sir John Wallace of Craigie won a resounding victory over the invading English forces of the younger Henry Percy, 2nd Earl of Northumberland. There is nothing to mark the site of the River Sark battle ground. 3,000 Englishmen were slain or drowned in flight. Many prisoners were taken. Estimated Scots losses range from a low of 26 to a high of 600, the most serious of whom was Sir John Wallace of Craigie, Sheriff of Ayr, who was mortally wounded, dying some time after the battle.

In 1473, the Scottish and English Ambassadors met to agree that more frequent meetings of the marcher Wardens were to be held at the six recognised sites on the marches. These were 'Newbyggynfurde, Redaneburn, Gammyllispethe, Belle, Loumabanestane and Kershopebrig and the meetings were to be held at successive venues. On the 26th. March 1494 the commissioners of both countries met at the Lochmaben Stone to finally settle the long running dispute over the 'Fish Garth' across the River Esk.

The Merkland Cross is a monolithic floriated wayside cross, standing 3m high, which was erected on a conspicuous site in Kirkpatrick-Fleming parish, SE Dumfriesshire, 21/8 miles WNW of Kirkpatrick village at the side of the Roman road that became the main route into Annandale. The M74 motorway now passes by just a few metres away the monument. The sculpture is traditionally thought to be of 15th-century date. The floriated cross-head is an evolved form of the bracelet motif.

But why the cross was erected here is a mystery. It could have been erected as:

a marker for a market or meeting place, for the now lost village of Markland
a preaching cross
a memorial, being said to commemorate the site of the violent death of a member of the Maxwell family.

But, there are at least three versions of a tradition in which a military commander is reputed to have been slain here in unusual circumstances, the least implausible of which relates to the death of John, Master of Maxwell, Steward of Annandale, in the running fight which started in Lochmaben in July 1484, between the English force under the outlawed Scots, Alexander, Duke of Albany, and James, Earl of Douglas.

Lochmaben Castle



Sources for this article include:
  • Canmore
  • carothers-carruthers.com

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    Last modified: Friday, 17 May 2024