Kilnside House
Stanely Castle

Stanely Castle engraved by wh lizars - click for larger version

The exact date of the construction of Stanely Castle to the south-west of Paisley is unknown, but it may have been built in the early fifteenth century when the land passed by marriage from the Dennistouns to the Maxwells of Calderwood. In 1629 the Maxwells sold their Stanely property to Lady Ross of Hawhead. It passed by marriage to the Boyle family in the middle of the 18th century. David Boyle had been made the first Earl of Glasgow in 1703 and the family's main estate was centred around Kelburn Castle at Largs. In the 18th century, part of it was being used as a schoolroom where local children were taught reading, writing and arithmetic.By the 19th century the family found themselves in serious debt and Stanely Castle was abandoned and fell into ruin. In 1838 the Earl of Glasgow sold the castle and surrounding land to the Paisley Water Company for the construction of the reservoir in which it now sits which supplied the people of Paisley and its surrounding areas with fresh water. Over the years, the reservoir level was raised. It now submerges the lower portion of the castle.


The castle is constructed in local freestone, which shows very little sign of weathering. It has been constructed of large, roughly squared and hammer dressed blocks, which have been laid in rough courses. Corbels and window margins are dressed. A high proportion of masonry is cut and dressed stone, especially in the interior.

Stanely Castle  - click for larger version


The castle is an L-shaped tower house of four stories, which originally would have included a garret, but it is clear that the castle was constructed in two phases. The original castle being a rectangular tower aligned NNE-SSW. To this block was added a square extension or jamb. When the jamb was added it was necessary to add new openings into the new rooms. The castle was entered by its only door which is on the east side.

The first floor, and all upper floors were reached by a spiral staircase in the northeast corner. The ground floor was occupied by 2 compartments or cellars. There was a private staircase in the south gable which gave private access to the Hall above. The first floor was occupied by the Kitchen in the Jamb, and the great hall and a private cabinet in the main block. The second and third floors each contained two bedrooms in the main block and an additional room in the Jamb. Each of these rooms contained a privy and fireplaces.

Stanely has two storeys over the hall, with no indication of rooms in the roof space. However it is possible that one attic room or a pair of small rooms could have been created. The Hearth Tax return for 1691 lists eleven hearths. Since the floors up to parapet level only account for nine hearths, this strengthens the case for attic rooms in the main block.

Stanely Castle  - click for larger version

from Ramsay Philip (1839) Views in Renfrewshire, with historical and descriptive notice

THE barony of Staneley anciently belonged to the family of Denzelstoun, or Dennistoun, of that Ilk, as appears from a charter granted by King Robert II. to Sir Robert Dennistoun in the year 13-12. On his death, it fell to one of his two daughters and co-heiresses, Elizabeth, wife of Sir Robert Maxwell of Calderwood. Subsequently, it became the patrimony of a younger branch of the family of Calderwood. In 1629, John Maxwell of Staneley sold these lands to Dame Jean Hamilton, widow of Robert, fourth Lord Ross of Hawkhead ; and now they belong to the Earl of Glasgow, as lineal descendant and representative of that noble house.

The Castle of Staneley stands about one mile and three quarters south-west in a straight line from the Cross of Paisley, and near the base of the range of hills called the Staneley or Paisley Braes, known also, at least in one part, as the Braes of Gleniffer. The time when this structure was built is hid in obscurity. It consists of a quadrangular body, with a projecting rectangular tower to protect the entrance ; has contained four stories ; and is about forty feet in height. A cornice at the top, the corbels of which project considerably, gives an agreeable finish to the pile. Though the external appearance produces the impression

of considerable accommodation, yet the area within the body of the Castle, owing to the walls being five feet thick, is only thirty-six feet by scarcely sixteen. The whole of the lowest story has been vaulted, and in its walls are narrow slits for the admission of light and air, and for the purpose of defence. The apertures in the upper stories are mostly of such a size as to come under the designation of windows, and their appearance indicates that they have been grated even to the top of the building. Besides the main stair, there is a secret one in the thickness of the wall, leading to the second story from the vault beneath. The principal entrance is on the east side.

In the angle of the wall, immediately above it, are vestiges of a projecting portion of the parapet, through openings in the floor of which, stones and other missiles might be thrown upon the heads of those attempting to break open the door. Appearances show that. the Castle has had a court-yard, inclosed by a wall, and that it has been surrounded by a moat, which was provided with water by an artificial cut from Staneley-Moor Burn, about a quarter of a mile distant. A piece of adjoining ground, which long bore the name of " the Orchard," formed the garden.The Castle was unroofed in the year 1714, and it has ever since remained in a ruinous condition.

In the memory of some aged persons, a school was kept for many years in the low vaulted apartment, at the north-east corner, where reading, writing, and arithmetic were taught to the children of the neighbourhood. The accommodation and the remuneration were alike miserable. It is said that the poor pedagogue was qualified for a better situation, for that he was accustomed to " amaze the gazing rustics rang'd around" by a display of' his knowledge of Greek and Latin. Be that as it may, we cannot but sympathize with one who was doomed to pursue his irksome vocation in a chamber so gloomy and comfortless.

There is a tradition, that, towards the end of the sixteenth century, an affray took place at Paisley, in which Maxwell, the Laird of Staneley, lost his life. The individual who dealt the fatal blow was known, and Maxwell's two sons vowed revenge. Long afterwards, when walking over Staneley Braes, he was espied and pursued by the sons. The man fled with his utmost speed, and reached the narrow chasm of Gleniffer, where, impelled by fear of the certain destruction which awaited him. if overtaken, he sprang from the edge of the rocks to the opposite brink. His pursuers were unwilling to hazard their lives by attempting the same feat ; and the time they lost in descending to the bottom of the glen, and climbing up again, enabled him to escape.

This person's Christian name was Robert, and, in memory of his desperate leap, the spot has ever since been called " Rab's Loup." In support, so far, of this tradition, we find, from an authentic record, that on the 3d of July 1584, Robert Sempill, burgess of Paisley, and eight other persons, were accused before the High Court of Justiciary of having been guilty, " art and part," of the slaughter of Patrick Maxwell of Staneley, committed in the month of January preceding. Very probably this Robert Sempill was the " Rab" who took the leap. Some of the panel's were " repledged" to the regality of Paisley, and the case with regard to the rest was continued to the Justice-air of Renfrew. Ultimately, only one of the accused persons, John Whiteford of that Ilk, was brought to trial, and he was acquitted.*

In the field on the south side of the Castle are the shaft and pedestal of an ancient stone cross, which originally stood at the north-west corner of Staneley Wood, about half-way between the Castle and the houses of Darrochstock, and was only of late years removed to its present site. This remnant of antiquity is between four and five feet high, the cross piece at the top being awanting. Semple says, that when he examined it in 1782, there were, on the west side, " the figures of two lions near the base, and two boars a little above." This was when it stood in its original situation. At the present day, it is so much weather- wasted, that the rude outlines of some figures, on what now forms the south side, are the most that the scrutinising antiquary is able dimly to discern. On the edges, some remains of wreathed work are still visible. Semple calls this " a Danish stone," but he has not assigned any reason for ascribing it to that people. It would rather appear to have been one of the many devotional crosses for travellers which were set up in ancient times.

The sculptured figures, perhaps, represented the armorial bearings of the person by whom it was erected. From this cross the neighbouring farm-stead of Crossbar, corruptly called Corsebar, may have derived its name. Staneley Castle and Staneley Shaw, the Braes and the Dell of Gleniffer, are names which have been rendered familiar to every lover of Scottish song by the poet Tannahill, of whom these were favourite haunts. The traveller who visits these scenes ought to extend his walk about a mile along the brow of the hills to their highest eastern summit, Duchal-law, so as to look down upon the track of the Levern.

Though there are more celebrated landscapes in Scotland, there are none which rival this in towns, villages, mansions, and hamlets thickly scattered ; and very few which excel it in richness, natural beauty, and extent. The accompanying View represents Staneley Castle as it now appears at the south-western extremity of the Reservoir which was lately formed for supplying Paisley with water. The Reservoir has given an entirely new character to the appearance of the venerable ruin. They are mutually improved : the fine sheet of water supplies the place of bare uninteresting fields, and the Castle-,, yon hoary veteran, grey in arms"imparts grace and dignity to the scene.