Kirkconnell Castle, Dumfries and Galloway
New Abbey, Kirkconnell
B road off A710
Kirkconnel Castle is a pele tower built separately away from the fortified bastille house, with its walls some 3 foor thick. Near the doorway to the kitchen can still be seen the marks where the Maxwells sharpened their swords ready to fight rival clans.
The ancient, fortified site dates back to Saxon times of the mid 11th-century during the time of Malcolm Canmore.
The early castle of Kirkconnell was a sister castle to the original nearby Caerlaverock Castle.
In later years Kirkconnell and the Maxwell family play an important part in the Catholic resistance against persecution and allegiance to the Jacobite cause.
Today the fortified house is a private residence so access is accordingly restricted and privacy should be respected.
~ History ~
1248 ~ Herbert Maxwell, Castellan of Kirkconnell Castle, third son of Edward, Baron of Caerlaverock Castle, accompanies St. Louis of France on Crusade to the Holy lands.
1410 ~ Janet de Kirkconnell marries Aymer Maxwell of Caerlaverock Castle, bringing the powerful Maxwell family name Kirkconnell.
1562 ~ John Knox, leader of Scotland's reformation, draws up extensive laws and punishments against the practising Catholics, but finds that these are unenforceable in the area in and around Kirkconnell, due to the significant proportion of the inhabitants and powerful families being staunch Catholics.
1589 ~ Commissioners are ordered by the Privy Council to enforce the Acts against the Catholics in Dumfries and Galloway, including Kirkconnell but despite their efforts and punishments apprehending leading figures, the local faithful remain loyal to their faith.
1608 ~ Robert Biggart, minister of Kirkconnell, with religious tensions continuing, complains "On 25th August last, David Creichtoun of Kirkconnell, Edward Creichtoun there, Patrick Perk there, and others, all armed with swords, staves and daggers, came without any cause to complainer's manse and glebe, where he and his servants were mowing the meadow, and there invaded them and wounded the complainer in the head and left arm. Since then they daily threaten him so that he dare not repair to his own house or parish kirk for fear of his life."
1628 ~ Following continued persecution against the Catholic faith, "The Privy Council take energetic measures against certain persons of the south-west province, including Herbert Maxwell of Kirkconnell, Charles Brown in New Abbey, (grand-nephew of the Abbot), Lady Mabie (sister of Kirkconnell), John Little, master of the household to the Earl of Nithsdale, and many others, all persons in respectable circumstances. It is found that these individuals proudly and contemptuously disregarded both the excommunication and the horning which they had brought upon themselves by persisting in their 'obdured and popish opinions and errors, haunted and frequented all public parts of the country, as if they were free and lawful subjects and were reset, supplied, and furnished with all things necessary and comfortable unto them, a great encouragement to them to continue in their erroneous opinions, whereas if this reset, supply and comfort were refused to them, they might be reclaimed from their opinions, to the acknowledgment of their bypast misdemeanours.’ As if to mark more effectually the infamy of these recusants, a pair who had been excommunicated for adultery were classed with them."
1647 ~ Persecution against the families of Kirconnell continues on account of the faith of their forefathers. The sentence of excommunication is passed upon the Countess of Nithsdale, John, Lord Herries and his wife, Dame Elizabeth Maxwell, elder of Kirkconnell, and about thirty others.
1659 ~ Captain Edward Maxwell of Kirkconnell is charged with "inviting Lady Nithsdale and Lady Semple, both excommunicat for Popery, to a public feast. Confesses that he invited the Lady Semple, but knew not that she was excommunicat, and that Lady Nithsdale came to visit his wife in her seikness".
1745 ~ The staunch Jacobite James Maxwell fights for Bonnie Prince Charlie at the Battle of Culloden. Following the harsh Hanoverian repercussions against the Catholic Jacobite's, a faithful servant of the Maxwell family, named Lottomor, dies and is buried at Sweatheart Abbey. But so great is the bigotry and the bitterness against Catholics, that next morning his dead body is found to have been brought back to Kirkconnell and cast on the dunghill.
The Hanoverian Colonel, who commanded the troop of Dragoons stationed in Kirkconnell house, being most indignant, wished to have the poor man re-buried in the Abbey by his soldiers and guarded. The Laird of Kirkconnell, however, does not wish this, stating "We will bury him here, in consecrated ground, where he will rest in peace." This was accordingly done.
1750 ~ James Maxwell returns from France where he had fled to with Bonnie Prince Charlie. He brings with him French brickmakers to begin the building of one of the first brick houses in all of Scotland.
1762 ~ James Maxwell dies, aged fifty-four years of age.
1800's ~ James’s son William follows in his fathers footsteps and builds a chapel block extending the family home further still. The Catholic chapel was purposely made to look more like a mill with windows.
1827 ~ Dorothy, grand-daughter of James Maxwell, succeeds as Lady of Kirkconnell and lives to the ripe old age of seventy-seven.