Redhouse Castle




Andrew Spratt contributes:

To the west of the East Lothian village of Longniddry stands the grand looking ruin of Redhouse castle. The first long oblong plan tower with barmkin courtyard wall was built shortly before 1600 by John Laing, the Keeper of the Signet. It is very likely that he used rubble from the nearby Longniddry castle which was slighted in 1548 by the Scots, because its owner 'Hugh Douglas of Londniddry' had sided with the English during the wars of the 'Rough Wooing' when the English used fire and sword throughout the Lothians to try and force the marriage of the infant Mary Queen of Scots (1542-1567/87) to the English Prince Edward.


Redhouse soon passed to the Hamilton family and was later remodelled by Sir John Hamilton which gives the ruin its grand appearance today. He extended the oblong plan keep into almost an L-plan with ornate conical roofed long bartizans and crowstepped gables. A lectern type Doo'cot was added alongside the original Barmkin gateway and gable markings on the east facing side of the original tower trace a great lean-to blockhouse. Beyond the barmkin are several gun-loops built into a long low set outerwall protecting today's modern garden.


After the 1746 Jacobite rebellion the Hamiltons forfeited the estate of Redhouse and the castle fell into decay. But unlike other castles in the Lothians it didn't become the local quarry and has remained surprisingly intact, since all that is missing is the roof and floors and the lean-to buildings in the courtyard. The castle would be ideal for any would-be reconstruction builder.



  Image result for redhouse castleRedhouse Castle today


A tale contributed by Fred Vincent:


1400s ~ Redhouse is in the possession of the powerful Douglas family(1). During these turbulent times invasion and cross-border raids are commonplace.


The Scottish Lowlands are being ravaged the the English and so the Earl of Douglas leaves Redhouse with all the men he can muster, leaving instructions that the castle should be held. Douglas’ plan to harry the invaders leaves Redhouse, the least important of his possessions, vulnerable to attack. The defense of the castle is left to the warden Gilbert Rae and the housekeeper Jean Currie.


Whilst Douglas and his men are away from the castle, Gilbert tries to seduce the housekeeper who refuses his attempts. His attempts eventually lead to being hit in the face that sends him reeling. Her eyes then glance at a dagger hanging on the wall.


Gilbert also noticed this. He then realises what danger he has put himself into, remembering Jean is kin with the laird. And so, in an act of submission, he places the blade to his chest. He is relieved when she takes and breaks the dagger, throwing it to the ground. He begs her to marry him, and they fall into each other's arms, only for their love making to be interrupted by the sudden arrival of Gibbs, the laird’s page.


He had been with his Douglas master but had been sent back to Redhouse with urgent news. “There are 30 English horsemen, heavily armed, on their way,” he exclaims in between catching his breath. “Our master entreats you to save the castle.” Gilbert and Jean look at each other. “Jean, should we arrange to defend the castle, and if so where will you be safest?” he asked her. “Gilbert I have just promised to be your wife, and so by your side I will stand or fall. Fight to the death I will by your side, and it will not be with a broken dagger.” Then she pauses, thinking. “But there is a better way to defend this castle and keep our lives. If you decide on this course, I will play my part. I will meet these rough men with kindness and hospitality and dare them to do us harm.”


Gilbert thinks for a moment and looks at Jean. He nods and exclaims: “Show temper and reap death, show kindness and avoid destruction! Let us live and save the castle!” Jean begins preparation of a great welcoming feast for the English soldiers. Meanwhile, Gilbert summons Petrie, the laird’s piper. “Set out into the countryside and assemble every villager you can find. Tell them to bring what they have that can make noise, whatever they can muster, drums, sticks, pipes. Then lead them to the crow wood and let them stand in the darkness of the night until the cry is raised ‘the Scots are advancing’.


At that point you must lead them towards the castle, making as much din as you are able.” The piper nods and vanishes into the darkness. The castle is soon ready. Not only has Jean prepared a table fit for a king, she has also stored what valuables she can carry into the dungeon. Gilbert ordered the page Gibbs to hide. It would be his job to run to the wood to give the order to advance, once Gilbert had given him the cue: “Bring forth the piper!”


No sooner had the page squeezed into his hiding place than the sound of horses heralds the arrival of the English horsemen. Gilbert stands at the open gates and welcomes the soldiers. Their leader immediately demands to see their Douglas laird. “The Douglas is away with his men, but I am the warder and I bid thee welcome in the Douglas’ name. His daughter awaits within, with a table for feast and in the courtyard, there is fodder for your horses.” “There is a stench of treachery here,” exclaims one of the horsemen.


But then Jean emerges. “Welcome, gallant gentlemen, my father is away, but his hospitality awaits you.” She convinced them that all is genuine and sincere, and so the famished soldiers are soon dismounted and feasting in the hall. They at first behaved with caution, but as the ale flows, they became more noisy and lecherous. Jean does her best to avoid lurching hands as she serves her guests.


It was time, thought Gilbert, to set the plan into motion. “Bring forth the piper,” he calls, and a shadow flashes past the open castle gates. Moments later there is a cry, “the Scots are advancing!” with the sound of hundreds advancing through the wood, sending the drunken soldiers into panic.


They English horsemen flee, mounting their horses and galloping into the darkness in full flight. Within moments the courtyard is empty of horses, except one. Jean hears a man shouting and when she opened a door he emerges. He had been locked in the room in his panic. He is the leader of the horsemen, and he too flees, just in time to see the ‘army’ arrive. And then, within minutes, the Douglas arrives with his men to find his courtyard full of villagers laughing, shouting, banging drums.


The laird, well pleased summons Jean and the Warder. “You have saved the castle, Gilbert Rae, how can I reward you?” he asks. “Without your Jean I would not have been able to do so sire, and it is her hand that I request.” Douglas turns to his housekeeper: “And what do you say, mistress Jean?” “He has won my heart, my Lord, at the dagger point, and here it is, so I have promised to marry him.” “You have wooed Jean as a Douglas should be wooed and so I consent to you marrying Jean of Redhouse,”


And so later, Gilbert and Jean are married.



1.  1421 ~ Archibald Douglas, the 4th Earl of Douglas, grants the land, along with his estates of Ballencrieff and Gosford, to his mistress Christan de Ramsay. A defensible house is built in order to secure the land.

By the 1470's,  John Laing, Bishop of Glasgow and Lord Chancellor of Scotland comes into possession of Redhouse.




See also:

•  Douglas of Longniddry


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