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There are many theories around how Pumpherston became so-called. It was rumoured that the "pump" or "pumper" came from the oil shale works, that would have pumped the shale oil into tanks to be delivered to factories and homes. That theory falls apart as Pumpherston Castle existed some 250 years before the shale industry was started (by James "Paraffin" Young, in the late 19th century). A better theory is that the castle was built by someone called "Humphrey" and passed to his son. In late 17th century Scotland, "son of Humphrey" would have been known as "ap Humphrey", which sounds like "pumphrey", hence Pumphreys-ton or Pumpherston.

Pumpherston estate was at one time the seat of a baronial residence of considerable strength and proportions. Sommers (New Statistical Account [NSA] 1845) refers to Pumpherston Castle as a work of great antiquity, adding that it had long been in ruins, and lately entirely removed. This building is marked in Blaeu's Atlas, 1662, and formerly stood in a field of about 15 acres in extent, E of the present farm-steading, which is still surrounded by a park wall of stone and lime. The SE corner of the field is very fertile and is regarded as the garden of the castle. A dovecot formerly stood within the same enclosure, in front of the farmhouse, and an ancient keep or look-out tower occupied a situation at the top of the bank rising from the river Almond.
H B M'Call 1894

The owner of Pumpherston Castle was The Earl of Buchan, he is shown as the Heritor of that Estate. The Estate of Pumpherston lies within the lands of Lord Torphichen (Sandilands) who is the Principal Heritor. The house of Lord Torphichen still stands in Midcalder, not far behind the Ancient Kirk O' Calder.

There was a castle at Pumpherston, the ruins of which remained till the beginning of the 19th century. No structure relating to these buildings was found.



Recorded as far back as the 16th century as Over Howden, the Howen estate belonged to the Douglas family of Pumpherston. In 1601 a complaint was made to the Privy Council that "upon the 7th of the said month, William Borthuik.....and others, at nine hours of the morning came to the complenaris landis of Over Howden and there slew two of his horses while ploughing and wounded his ploughmen, so that they dared not labour his lands. The accused, not appearing, are ordered to be denounced His Highness as "rebels".


Near to the farm steading of Nether Craig was the house of Nether Howden, the major portion of which lands, together with Over and Nether Craigs, were, during the present century, incorporated in the one farm of Craigs(1) — more properly called Craigs and Howden. These lands belonged, in 1602, to Joseph Douglas of Pumpherston, by whom they were conveyed to James and Henry Mekill, lawful sons of the late Thomas Mekill in Watterstoun, redeemable for the sum of £400.


 After the death of James Douglas, the last laird, the estate passed by purchase to Alexander Hamilton, bailie of Strathbrock (now Uphall), who acquired the various rights of Isobel, Margaret, and Janet Douglas, and Elizabeth Darg, the four heirs-portioners of the deceased James Douglas of Pumpherston, as well as certain other encumbrances affecting the lands, between 1698 and 170L He did not, however, long enjoy his acquisition, but died prior to 30th April 1703, when John Hamilton, his son, was retoured his heir.



1.  There is also a Craigs in Dumfriesshire which was in Douglas hands in the 19th century - see Douglas of Baads


See also:

  • Douglas of Howden


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