Crookston Castle is surrounded by a defensive ring-ditch that dates back to the 12th century when Sir Robert de Croc, who also gave his name to the village of Crookston, built a timber and earth castle. Remains of a chapel founded by de Croc in 1180 have been uncovered. Evidence of an even earlier fortification on the same site has also been found. The lands of Crookston were bought by Sir Alan Stewart in 1330, and passed to Sir John Stewart of Darnley, in 1361. The Darnley Stewarts replaced the early castle with the present stone structure around 1400.
In 1489 the Stewart Earl of Lennox rebelled against James IV. James responded by bringing the cannon Mons Meg from Edinburgh and bombarding the castle, virtually destroying its western end and ensuring a quick surrender. In 1544 the castle was besieged and taken by the Earl of Arran and Cardinal Beaton, while the then Earl of Lennox was defending Glasgow Castle. At this time, Crookston was regarded as the principal house of the earls of Lennox.
Most famous of the Darnley Stewarts was Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley, who was second husband to Mary, Queen of Scots. It may have been at Crookston that the couple were betrothed, under a yew tree. The yew was felled in 1816, and a model of Crookston Castle, now on display in Pollok House, was carved from its wood. In 1572, Crookston was granted to another Stewart, Charles, the Earl of Lennox.
In 1703 the Duke of Lennox sold the castle to the Duke of Montrose, and it remained the property of the Dukes of Montrose until 1757, when it was sold by William Graham, 2nd Duke of Montrose to the Maxwells of Pollok. Following several years of abandonment, the castle was partially restored by the Maxwells in 1847, to honour Queen Victoria's visit to Glasgow. In 1931, Crookston became the first property acquired by the National Trust for Scotland, having been presented by Sir John Maxwell Stirling-Maxwell, who was one of the Trust's founder members and first Vice Presidents.
Today, Crookston Castle is a scheduled monument. Its maintenance is the responsibility of Historic Environment Scotland, and the castle is open to the public. It is the second-oldest building in Glasgow, after Glasgow Cathedral.
Crookston Castle sits atop a natural hill, emphasised by the early ring-ditch, which can still be seen. To the north is a steep drop to the Levern Water. The castle has a rectangular main block, which was strengthened by a tower at each corner. This formed an irregular 'X-plan' shape, an unusual layout also seen at Hermitage Castle. Only the north-east corner tower survives to its former height, as well as the basement of the south-east tower. The two western towers were destroyed in the 15th century and never rebuilt, repairs in the 19th century have obscured even the remains of these. The main body of the castle measures about 19m by 12m, with walls up to 3.7m thick, and the north-east tower is around 6m square.
The entrance is on the north side, adjacent to the north-east tower, and defended by a portcullis and two doors. A straight mural stair leads up to the right, while ahead is a barrel-vaulted basement with slit windows and a well. The hall is at first-floor level, and was also vaulted, rising to 8.3m high. A turnpike stair in the south-east corner gave access to another storey above the hall, as well as upper rooms in the eastern towers. The towers had one room on each floor. In the basement of the north-east tower is a prison only accessible from above, while at the top there is access to the four storeys of the tower, via modern iron ladders, opening onto an impressive view from the roof. The top of the north-east tower, including corbels, was also rebuilt in the 19th century.References:
From 1239, Raynaud, the Bishop of Quimper, decided on the building of a new chancel destined to replace that of the Romanesque era. He therefore started, in the far west, the construction of a great Gothic cathedral which would inspire cathedral reconstructions in the Ile de France and would in turn become a place of experimentation from where would later appear ideas adopted by the whole of lower Brittany. The date of 1239 marks the Bishop’s decision and does not imply an immediate start to construction. Observation of the pillar profiles, their bases, the canopies, the fitting of the ribbed vaults of the ambulatory or the alignment of the bays leads us to believe, however, that the construction was spread out over time.
The four circular pillars mark the start of the building site, but the four following adopt a lozenge-shaped layout which could indicate a change of project manager. The clumsiness of the vaulted archways of the north ambulatory, the start of the ribbed vaults at the height of the south ambulatory or the choice of the vaults descending in spoke-form from the semi-circle which allows the connection of the axis chapel to the choir – despite the manifest problems of alignment – conveys the hesitancy and diverse influences in the first phase of works which spread out until the start of the 14th century.
At the same time as this facade was built (to which were added the north and south gates) the building of the nave started in the east and would finish by 1460. The nave is made up of six bays with one at the level of the facade towers and flanked by double aisles – one wide and one narrow (split into side chapels) – in an extension of the choir arrangements.
The choir presents four right-hand bays with ambulatory and side chapels. It is extended towards the east of 3-sided chevet which opens onto a semi-circle composed of five chapels and an apsidal chapel of two bays and a flat chevet consecrated to Our Lady.
The three-level elevation with arches, triforium and galleries seems more uniform and expresses anglo-Norman influence in the thickness of the walls (Norman passageway at the gallery level) or the decorative style (heavy mouldings, decorative frieze under the triforium). This building site would have to have been overseen in one shot. Undoubtedly interrupted by the war of Succession (1341-1364) it draws to a close with the building of the lierne vaults (1410) and the fitting of stained-glass windows. Bishop Bertrand de Rosmadec and Duke Jean V, whose coat of arms would decorate these vaults, finished the chancel before starting on the building of the facade and the nave.
Isolated from its environment in the 19th century, the cathedral was – on the contrary – originally very linked to its surroundings. Its site and the orientation of the facade determined traffic flow in the town. Its positioning close to the south walls resulted in particuliarities such as the transfer of the side gates on to the north and south facades of the towers: the southern portal of Saint Catherine served the bishop’s gate and the hospital located on the left bank (the current Préfecture) and the north gate was the baptismal porch – a true parish porch with its benches and alcoves for the Apostles’ statues turned towards the town, completed by an ossuary (1514).
The west porch finds its natural place between the two towers. The entire aesthetic of these three gates springs from the Flamboyant era: trefoil, curly kale, finials, large gables which cut into the mouldings and balustrades. Pinnacles and recesses embellish the buttresses whilst an entire bestiary appears: monsters, dogs, mysterious figures, gargoyles, and with them a whole imaginary world promoting a religious and political programme. Even though most of the saints statues have disappeared an armorial survives which makes the doors of the cathedral one of the most beautiful heraldic pages imaginable: ducal ermine, the Montfort lion, Duchess Jeanne of France’s coat of arms side by side with the arms of the Cornouaille barons with their helmets and crests. One can imagine the impact of this sculpted decor with the colour and gilding which originally completed it.
At the start of the 16th century the construction of the spires was being prepared when building was interrupted, undoubtedly for financial reasons. Small conical roofs were therefore placed on top of the towers. The following centuries were essentially devoted to putting furnishings in place (funeral monuments, altars, statues, organs, pulpit). Note the fire which destroyed the spire of the transept cross in 1620 as well as the ransacking of the cathedral in 1793 when nearly all the furnishings disappeared in a « bonfire of the saints ».
The 19th century would therefore inherit an almost finished but mutilated building and would devote itself to its renovation according to the tastes and theories of the day.