Stapleton Tower

Stapleton Tower, Dumfries and Galloway

~ History ~

1018 ~ Clan Irvine settle, through marriage, on the lands between the River Esk and the River Kirtle, south of Lockerbie, in Dumfriesshire, building themselves the Tower of Bonshaw.

1226 ~ Robert de Hirewine of Dunfriesshire witnesses a Charter in 1226.

1260 ~ A further Charter from the Bishop of St Andrews is witnessed by Robert de Iruwyn.

1411 ~ As neighbours and supporters of the Bruce family, the Irvines are granted the Forest of Drum by King Robert the Bruce. Alexander, 3rd Laird of Drum, fights at the Clan Battle of Harlaw, engaging in single combat with Hector Maclean of Duart Castle. Both die as a consequence.

1424 ~ The 4th Laird Irvine is knighted for his role in negotiating the release of King James I from captivity in England.

1542 ~ At the Battle of Solway Moss, Christopher Irving of Bonshaw Castle commands the light horse for the Scots 18,000 strong army against a much smalle English army of some 3,000 for King Henry VIII. He survives the defeat to continue resistance against King Henry VIII. In one conflict, Christopher Irving of Bonshaw leads a running battle with English forces but eventually getting caught in a flanking attack by the English, ncurres heavy losses.  Having been taken prisoner, he renewes his former oath in true Borderer style and is later released.

1547 ~ The 7th Laird is killed at the Battle of Pinkie, on the banks of the River Esk against King Henry VIII's victorious English army.

1550 ~ A truce between England and Scotland gives many Border Clans the opportunity of renewing old feuds. 

1554 ~ The Kirkpatricks kill a younger son of Christopher Irving of Bonshaw.

1563 ~  The Irvings bide their time when Edward Irving of Bonshaw, the new laird, kills the Chief of the Kirkpatricks of Closeburn.

1564 ~ At a meeting of the Scottish Privy Council the marriage of Christopher, the son of Edward Irving of Bonshaw, and Margaret, daughter of Johnston, is forbidden due to the increasing influence and power held by the Irving-Johnston alliance in the West Marches. 

1566 ~ The marriage finally takes place with little consequence to either Clan.

The Irvings fall out of favour with Queen Mary, having given her support in her early struggles, so, in true Borderer style, they change sides and join the  Regent Moray. 

1570 ~ The Earl of Sussex raids Dumfriesshire with 4,000 men, damaging many towers and castles, Bonshaw being one of them.  The Irvings again fall out of favour, with Edward Irving of Bonshaw, spending a short time in prison before being released.

1585 ~ The Irvings and Johnstons are at war with the Maxwells following a raid by the Maxwells into Johnston territory. A peace treaty is eventually achieved with Johnston handing over the lands of Irving to Maxwell. 

The Irvings however have no intention of complying with these terms and when Maxwell claims Kirkconnel Castle, he is met with defiance from William Irving, a son of the laird of Bonshaw, and retreats. 

Maxwell lays siege to Bonshaw but again retreats with no result.  Maxwell makes two further attempts later in the year with the same outcome.

1586 ~ The Irvings and Johnstons, backed by the Grahams of Netherby, take Maxwell and his ‘police force’ by surprise, capturing and holding Maxwell prisoner even though he is seriously wounded. 

A force of Maxwells, Douglases and others raid the Irvine's. Later in the same year the Clan feuds are set aside whilst the Borderers joined together to oust the Regent Arran.

The Tower of Stapleton is built by Edward Irvine.

1593 ~ The Irving-Johnston alliance fight the Maxwells at Dryfe Sands. 

The battle ends up being the last Clan battle to be fought in Scotland.

The result is that the Irving-Johnston forces inflict a crushing defeat on the Maxwells from which they never recover, with Lord Maxwell slain on the field of Battle.

1626 ~ Following the death of Edward Irvine in the previous century, the tower had been passed to Fergus Graham. This is now contested by his son's lay siege to Stapleton Tower. The Commissioeners of the Middle Shires are directed to recover the Tower by force.

1715 ~ The 14th Irvine Laird of Drum Castle fights for the Jacobite Cause at the Battle of Sheriffmuir.

1745 ~ John Irving, younger of Bonshaw, now appointed Collector of Land taxes, takes no part in the Jacobite Rebellion, but William Irving and his eldest son James, Edward Irving and John Irving of Whitehill, are all reported for aiding Bonnie Prince Charles.

1770 ~ The Irvine's build a new mansion near to Stapleton Tower which now forms their main living quarters. 


North East of Annan


Off B6357


DG12 6RD

Stapleton tower is believed to have been constructed by Edward Irving who was designated as 'Of Stapleton' in the late 16th century.

The Tower can be found not far from a private track that leads to the mansion, within a field backed by trees in a quiet location.

Due consideration should be given due to being on private land.