Spedlins Tower, March 17, 2011. Photo credit: Chad Jardine

Jardine Castles and Baronets

“Jardine is the surname of a family in Dumfries shire, styled of Applegarth, who possess a baronetcy, and whose head was the chief of a border clan, once very numerous in that county.

“The first of the family on record was Winfredus de Jardine, who flourished before 1153. In the reign of David I, he was a witness to different charters, in the chartularies of Kelso and Aberbrothwick. The name also occurs in Prynne’s Collection of the barons of Scotland who attended King Edward I, at Berwick, in the competition for the crown of Scotland between the Bruce and Baliol.” (Anderson, 1867)

Jardines had been granted lands in Applegirth parish within a lifespan of the Norman conquest, sometime in the 1100s.

Spedlins Tower, Late 1400–1500

On the southwest banks of the River Annan, in the Parish of Lochmaben, Dumfriesshire, stands Spedlins Tower. Usually Jardine Castle or Jardine Tower refers to Spedlins Tower. But in addition to Spedlins Tower, there was a palatial home built across the River Annan called Jardine Hall. Why two separate Jardine strongholds so close together? The answer involves a chief, a tragic mistake, and a dramatic haunting.

In the 15th century, construction began on the first phase of Spedlins Tower, the seat of the Jardine clan chiefs. The tower site was “situated on the top of the rising ground on the right bank of the river Annan” and its design was a simple rectangular tower, an architectural descendent of an old Norman keep. (MacGibbon & Ross, 1887)

According to Jardine History, “Spedlins, the Jardines’ original keep or peel tower, was built around 1460 by Sir John (4th Jardine Knight), four miles north of Lochmaben on the west bank of the river Annan. Local sandstone was used from the nearby Corncockle quarry. The two lower sotries had barrel vaulted ceilings, the walls at the base were nine feet thick and the original entrance was on the first floor.” (Duffin, 2017) [Note: in British English the floor of a building at grade is called the ground floor. The floor above it is the first floor. In American English, however, the floor at grade is usually called both the ground floor and the first floor; the floor above is the second floor. So for American English speakers, this means the entry was on the second floor.] 

Plan and section views of Spedlins Tower. Image credit: MacGibbon and Ross, 1887.

Spedlins has alternatively been called Jardine Castle or Jardine Keep. 

According to architects David MacGibbon and Thomas Ross (who published a 5-volume series on Scottish castles and houses in 1887),

“[Spedlins Tower] is about 5 1/2 miles northwards from Lockerbie…. The castle is a parallelogram forty-six feet long by thirty-eight feet, six inches wide. The walls of the two lower storeys are massive and strong, being from nine to ten feet in thickness.

“The entrance door is on the ground floor near the southeast angle. This portion of the walls has been restored in modern times, but the straight stair leading to the first floor has always been in its present position. It is quite possible, however, that the original entrance-doorway was on the first floor, immediately above the present entrance, where there is now a window to a small wall-chamber. The door from the hall to the wall-chamber would in that case represent the inner doorway to the keep, and the existing straight staircase would be the mode of access down from the hall to the ground floor. The staircase is only two feet ten inches wide, while the steps of the newel stair to the upper floors are three feet four inches long. The former was thus too narrow for the principal entrance staircase.

Drawing of the fireplace in the great hall of Spedlins Tower. Image credit: MacGibbon and Ross, 1887.

“The ground floor is vaulted and is lighted with a narrow loophole at each end. It has a portion divided off with a stone wall pierced with two doors. This was probably the private wine-cellar. 

“The hall occupies the first floor and is also vaulted. It was originally lighted with a window in the east wall and another in the west wall near the upper or fireplace end, and there seems to have been also a similar window at the south end of the hall. The two former have stone seats in their deep bays, and that on the east side has a deep ambry. The window in the south end may have been originally similar to the above. It still has a stone seat on one side and the stair to the basement would then enter from the other side of the window recess.

“The two vaulted storeys represent, in our opinion, the castle which must have stood here in the 15th century.” (MacGibbon & Ross, 1887)

To King James VI, I, 1500–1605

“The descendant of Winefredus, in the end of the 15th century [when the first phase of Spedlins was built], was John Jardine of Applegarth, who had a son, Sir Alexander Jardine, knight, who succeeded him. An old historian narrates that in 1506, “the laird of Drumweiche was this zeir killed at Edinburgh by the Jardans, quho escaped by taking sanctuary at the abby of Holyrudhousse.” Sir Alexander was actively engaged in defending the borders against the inroads of the English. The same historian says: “This zeire, 1524, the Lord Maxwell and Sir Alexander Jardine neir Carleill, in a grate conflicte with the Englishe, of quhom they kill nine hundred, and take three hundred prisoners.” Hi son, John Jardine, succeeded previously to 1544. About 1547, Lord Wharton, with 5,000 men, ravaged and overran Annandale, Nithsdale, and Galloway, and compelled the inhabitants to submit to England, the laird of Applegarth, with two hundred and forty-two of his followers, being among the number. On the arrival, however, of the French auxiliaries in Scotland, a dreadful retaliation on the English was made by the Scots borderers. When the unfortunate Mary returned to Scotland in 1561, the Jardines, Johnstones, and the clans of Annandale, entered into bonds of confederacy to support her, but in 1567, after the murder of Darnley, John Jardine seems to have subscribed the bond entered into by many of the nobles and barons of Scotland, for establishing the authority of the infant king, and in the ensuing protracted troubles, he adhered to the opponents of Mary. On the 10th August 1571, he was surrounded and taken prisoner, in one of the border-fights of the period.

“His son, Sir Alexander, is supposed to have succeeded about the end of 1571 or the beginning of 1572. By an entry in the register of deeds passing through the privy seal, we learn that a warrant was granted for a pension of 500 merks to him from the revenues of the archbishop of Glasgow, for his services in support of the royal authority. As he never received that pension, owing to a new archbishop being appointed to the see, the like sum was granted to John Jardine, his second son, to be drawn from the revenues of the church and monastery of Aberbrothwick, 24th January, 1577.” (Anderson, 1867)

King James VI of Scotland ascended to the throne of England in 1603 as King James I (the patron of the King James translation of the Bible). His reign was comparatively peaceful and Scottish architecture became less militant and adopted Renaissance features. (MacGibbon & Ross, 1887)

Spedlins Tower entire, shortly after its modern restoration. Image credit: unknown, in the possession of the author

Spedlins Completed 1605–1672

The upper portion of Spedlins Tower was completed in 1605 AD. “In a panel near the top of the east side is engraved the date of 1605, which is certainly the date of the upper part of the tower.” (MacGibbon & Ross, 1887)

Some interior features of the first phase were altered during the second phase of construction. “[The South] window has been altered, probably at the same time that the access to the keep was altered, so as to make the entrance directly into the hall. The other window in the west wall, with the sloping recess, was probably opened up at the same time. It will be observed that it is larger and higher than the older one in the same wall. There is a smaller window at a high level above that in the south wall. This would give light to the upper part of the hall, and may have lighted a minstrels’ gallery at the south end, which would be the natural position for such a gallery.” 

“From the hall, a newel staircase in the southwest angle of the walls leads to the upper floors. Above this level, the design and arrangements of the building are quite different. The exterior walls are thinned off to 3 ft. 6 in. in thickness. The windows are larger, and present a much more modern appearance in their internal arrangements.

“The whole building is divided into two compartments by a passage running across the centre of the second floor, from which rooms entered to the north and south. These compartments are indicated in the external view by the two gables of the double roof which covered in the tower.

“There is a rather incongruous relic of the more ancient plan on this floor, in the garde-robe, which has been preserved in the thickness of the west wall. Above the second floor there is a third which has been similarly arranged, and above this an attic flat with small loops in the gables, but probably with windows in the roof. 

Spedlins Tower Ivy
Woodcut of Spedlins Tower overgrown in ivy. Image credit: Grose, 1797 p.144

“The third floor has corbelled turrets at the four angles, which, from their shape and the cable mouldings they bear, are evidently late. The cornice over the central windows of this floor quite corresponds in style with the date of 1605 borne by that on the east side.

“We have seen that such towers … are not uncommon in the 17th century, but such a large and massive keep as this would be somewhat exceptional at this date. We have no hesitation, for the reasons above given, in ascribing its two lower stories to an earlier period.” (MacGibbon & Ross, 1887)

The Ghost of Porteous 1672-1699

“The fourth in descent from Sir Alexander [the first knight], also named Alexander, married Lady Margaret Douglas sister of the first duke of Queensberry, and had two sons and a daughter. 

“His elder son, Sir Alexander was raised to the baronetage of Nova Scotia, by patent, to him and his heirs male, dated 25th May 1672.” (Anderson, 1867)

As told in Scottish Ghosts, (Seafield, 1999) in the late 1600s, Spedlins became the scene of one of the most remarkable hauntings ever recorded in Scotland. The ghost of Spedlins Tower was frequently mentioned by Grose, the antiquary in his works published in 1797, and the truth of events to be related being vouched for by many people of respectability and credit.

Woodcut of a distant Spedlins Tower. Image credit: Grose, 1797 p. 142

Spedlins Tower is a tall massive fortress built in the old Scottish baronial style, and for hundreds of years was in the possession of the old border family of Jardine. When the events took place which led to the appearance of the ghost, the owner was Sir Alexander Jardine, first baronet and brother-in-law to the first Duke of Queensberry, William Douglas, and the period was in the reign of Charles the Second (at the end of the seventeenth century).

It appears that Sir Alexander Jardine was not a very pleasant or popular man. He had a hot temper, and the true intolerance and contempt for his neighbors which marked the Border Lairds of his day. These last traits in his character were the cause of the tragedy which was to oppress the Jardine family for many years.

In the neighborhood of the tower stood a mill, tenanted by one James “Dunty” Porteous. (The nickname Dunty implies that James was quarrelsome or disagreeable. The word in Old English meant argument, but since came to mean simply “one who knocks.”) 

Sir Alexander and the miller appeared to be on the worst of terms. In 1668 the mill burned to the ground (whether by accident or design it is impossible to say). The fiery baronet promptly accused Porteous of incendiarism, and without delay exercised his right of pit and gallows and seized and imprisoned him in the Little Ease of the Tower–a dark and dismal prison cellar secured by a massive trap door which rendered it practically soundproof and almost airtight.

For some days the miller languished in his prison. His captor personally acted the part of jailer coming at infrequent intervals to feed his prisoner and no doubt gloat over his plight at the same time.

Who knows what Sir Alexander had in store for the miller. It is impossible to say, but the Border Lairds of that period were a fierce and powerful lot. He may have intended to take the law into his own hands and hang his prisoner on a convenient tree when the mood suited him.

An urgent message came from Edinburgh calling Sir Alexander away post haste. Without a thought for his prisoner, the baronet mounted his horse and galloped off… with the keys of the dungeons in his pocket.

Some days later as he rode through the West Port of the city, the sight of the warder’s keys reminded Sir Alexander of his own dungeons. He was troubled to remember that his prisoner the miller had not had any food for many days, and here he was in Edinburgh with the keys of the cell in his pocket. His conscience pricked—even he did not like the idea of his victim starving to death—Sir Alexander quickly procured a courier and sent him with the keys to liberate the unfortunate miller with all speed. 

When the messenger arrived at Spedlins Tower, however, he was too late. Porteous had died of starvation—it is said that in the agonies of his dreadful hunger, the poor prisoner had chewed away at his own arms and hands.

It was then that the ghost began to have its revenge on the household, and from that day no rest was to be had within Spedlins Tower, either by day or by night.

Dunty’s ghost was persistent and troublesome, running through Spedlins Tower screaming out in pain and hunger, crying for mercy and food. Shouts and groans filled the building continually, the favorite cry being, “Let me oot, let me oot, for I’m deein’ o’ hunger.”  Occasionally the turbulent spirit would sally out of the dungeon at night and haul the Baronet and his wife from their beds.

Spedlins Tower drawing from John McCormick’s The Antiquities of Dumfries and its Neighbourhood, 1842. By this time the structure is falling into disrepair. The roof of at least one turret is shown missing and weeds are growing along the roofline.

Note Reads: “Speddling Castle, no date but very old The Antient Den of the Jardines of Applegarth Now Dismantled the Defences of the Stuartry of Annandale were 1 Bonshaw, 2 Blackwood Tower, 3 Hoddam Castle, 4 Woodcookair, 5 Castle Milk, 6 Tooret, 7 Speddling, 8 Lockwood, 9 Bruce Tower—all Dependen on Lochmaben as a Centure.” [sic.]

At last things reached such a pass that Sir Alexander had to seek the usual remedy for such cases as these, and call in a whole legion of parish ministers to deal with the matter. These confidently asserted that they would confine the ghost in the Red Sea; but this seems to have been too much for them, as the best they could do was to compel the spirit to remain in the place of it’s mortal sufferings.

Even this was only accomplished by the aid of a huge black-letter Bible which the exorcists placed in a recess in the wall just outside the door of the dungeon. Still the ghost continued to make his voice heard in complaint.

After some years the Baronet and his family seemed to tire of the tower and it’s tragic memories, and a new mansion, Jardine Hall, was built on the other side of the river. When the family forsook their old home, great care was taken to leave the Bible in position to guard the restless spirit in the dungeon. 

The new home was built across the river with the idea that running water would block the spirit should it ever attempt to cross over and continue tormenting the family. This seems to have failed. The binding on the bible had become worn over the years. On one occasion when the Bible was sent to Edinburgh to be repaired and rebound, the ghost broke out, crossed over to the new house and made such a disturbance that the Bible had to be brought back with utmost speed. 

The haunting took place over four centuries ago and the gulf of years seems to have swallowed up the vengeful spirit of “Dunty” Porteous, the miller. When the current owners of Speldins Tower were asked if they had seen anything suspicious, they responded that they “did not believe in ghosts.” 

The black-letter Bible which did such yeoman service has long since been removed from its niche outside the dungeon, and is now in the possession of the Jardine Clan Chief at Denbie. It is well-preserved and kept in a heavy carved wooden box made from a thorn tree which grew on the lawn at Jardine Hall. 

A Dr. Johnston recorded in his journal after visiting Jardine Hall that he was “shown the ghost-laying bible, and a very beautiful volume it is, kept in a box formed from a rafter of [Spedlins] Tower. It is in its original binding repaired; and is printed in a beautiful old English letter.” (DGNHAS, 1874) The new box must have come from the hawthorn tree he also described during his visit.

Spedlins in ruins
Figure of Spedlins in ruins. image from MacGibbon & Ross, 1887.

Under the entry for Jardine Hall in The Ordnance Gazetteer of Scotland (Groome, 1885), it reads, “Spedlins Tower, the seat of Sir Alexander’s ancestors, stands on the opposite bank of the river, within Lochmaben parish; and is a strong, turreted, ivy-clad structure, bearing date 1605. Within its dungeon one Porteous, a miller, was imprisoned by the first Baronet, who, being called away to Edinburgh, rode off with the key in his pocket, and never once thought of his prisoner until he had reached the city. Then he sent back, but all too late; for the miller had died of hunger, after gnawing his hands and his feet. So the household was vexed by his ghost, until it was laid in the dungeon by means of a black-letter Bible.”

Gibbons and Ross reported, in 1887 “We were informed that formerly the prison entered by a hatch from the landing where this staircase begins, but owing to the noisy ghost of a man named Porteous, who had accidentally been starved to death in the ‘pit’, the latter was filled up with earth, and is now, together with the staircase, almost entirely choked with branches and other rubbish brought there by the jackdaws.” (MacGibbon & Ross, 1887)

Jardine Hall 1699–1888

After the incident with James Porteous, Spedlins was abandoned by the Jardine family in favor of the new Jardine Hall. According to Ronnie Cunningham Jardine, “Although no written evidence can be found, the local opinion is that this was in the second part of the 1600s.” Sir Alexander died thirty-one years after James Porteous in 1699. “He died without issue, and was succeeded by his brother, Sir John, third baronet, who died in 1737.”

“Sir John’s eldest son, Sir Alexander Jardine, [4th] baronet, embraced the Roman Catholic faith, and, going abroad, entered on a military life. He was elected one of the knights of Malta, and as the vows of that order enjoin perpetual celibacy, he died without issue, at Brussels, in December 1790. His brother, Sir William, [5th] baronet, married Barbara de la Motte, a French lady, and died 17th March 1807.

Sir William Jardine, 7th baronet
Sir William Jardine of Applegirth, 7th Baronet by T. H. Maguire, 1849

“His only son, Sir Alexander, [6th] baronet, married Jane, daughter of Lieut. Thomas Maule, heir male and representative of the earls of Panmure. He had 4 sons and a daughter.” (Anderson, 1867)

“Local gossip has it that there was a fire in the original” 17th century Jardine Hall and it was rebuilt in 1814 by Sir Alexander Jardine, 6th baronet of Applegirth. (Cunningham-Jardine, 2001)

“The eldest son, Sir William Jardine, [7th] baronet, born Feb 23, 1800, married in 1820, Jane Horne, daughter of D. Lizars, Esq., Edinburgh, issue, 3 sons, viz. Alexander, born in 1829; William, R. N., born in 1834; Charles-John, born in 1839. And 4 drs. Sir William has distinguished himself as the author and editor of several works in natural history.” (Anderson, 1867)

Sir William Jardine, 7th Baronet, 1874

“Several works” doesn’t really do the career of Sir William the naturalist justice. He was prolific. He wrote or edited forty-one volumes of The Naturalist’s Library among other notable works.

A friend of Sir William, Dr. William Johnston, visited Jardine Hall and Spedlins Tower in 1844. The following is an excerpt from the description he recorded in his journal.

“The house [referring here to Jardine Hall], built of a dark red sandstone, reminded me of Twizel House, which it resembles in outward appearance, but the interior arrangements are entirely different. The grounds contain many fine trees, especially beech and ash, and a very large hawthorn stands near the house. Sir William Jardine pointed out to me some beautiful and thriving specimens of firs that have been introduced of late years into this country.”

(DGNHAS, 1874)

He continues to describe the many rare and interesting types of flora and fauna around Jardine Hall and Lochmaben. After which he records, 

Spedlins Tower in ruins, about 1964. Image credit: RCAHMS

“[we] hastened onwards to inspect the Spedlings, the ancient fasthold of the Jardines of Applegirth. This is a very interesting Tower, and entire so far as the outward walls are concerned; for the roof has fallen in, and many of the interior walls are now decayed. The dining room has been a fine room, with a noble fireplace, ornamented with a large marble chimney piece; the room is arched like an oven, and in the recesses through which the light comes are stone seats for guests. There has been no lack of accommodation for small and retired parties to consult together, even in the common hall. We were shown the entrance to the dungeon and had again the story of the ghost and the bible. Deeply did I sympathize with the owner of it, that it should have been left thus vacant, and exposed to destruction; when it might have been repaired and restored and made habitable for the sum that was expended in building the modern house that stands on an inferior side of the Annan. There must have been some great defect of heart—some sad lack of love of ancestral deeds, a no-love of fatherland; that he who first left this place of family pride, should have seen no virtue in its restoration and preservation. I deem him to have wronged the present talented baronet and his descendants forever.

“We left Jardine Hall at 5 o’clock in the afternoon; not without a feeling of regret; and very grateful for the kind attentions we had received from Sir William and Lady Jardine and their dear family.”

(DGNHAS, 1874)

Sir William died at Sandowne on the Isle of Wight, 21 November, 1874 and his son, Alexander Jardine became the eighth baronet. “In social life, Sir William Jardine was the most genial; all his weight of learning sat lightly upon him, and the smile which lighted up his face was as sweet as it was frequent.” (DGNHAS, 1874)

The 1885 Gazetteer of Scotland describes Jardine Hall as “ an elegant mansion, with pleasant grounds, in Applegarth parish, Dumfriesshire, on the left bank of the river Annan, 2-1/2 miles NW of Netherclench station and 5-1/2 NNW of Lockerbie. Built in 1814, it is the seat of Sir Alexander Jardine, eighth Bart. since 1672 (b. 1829; suc. 1874), who holds 5538 acres in the shire, valued at £5813 per annum. His father, Sir William (1800–74), was a well-known ornithologist.” (Groome, 1885)

Architects David MacGibbon and Thomas Ross give the following description from their book on Scottish architecture published in 1887. “[Spedlins] belongs to Sir Alexander Jardine of Jardine Hall, a fine mansion of the early part of the present century on the opposite side of the river. Spedlins Tower is the ancient home of the Jardine family, and, as such, is kept in good repair by the present representative. Surrounded with ancient trees, this massive keep has a fine and impressive appearance. The two upper floors are now inaccessible.” (MacGibbon & Ross, 1887)

Modern History 1889–2011

Ronnie Cunningham-Jardine wrote, “In 1889, … David Jardine bought the Applegirth Estate from Sir Alexander Jardine’s family for £146,000, the estate extending to 6,000 acres. In 1892 he started the massive alterations and enlargements of the very nice and manageable original country house. The [construction] took five years.

“At the commencement of the Second World War, the house was acquired by the services as a military hospital and remained so until the end of the War. Ronnie Cunningham-Jardine’s parents then sold the estate, but retained the mansion house and policies. (Policies refers to grounds and outbuildings.) The former was rented out as a boy’s Public School (in 1947), but in 1962 the school gave up tenancy and moved elsewhere. 

“The only option left to me was to let (rent) the building as a hotel, a hospital, mental institution, or conference house, none of which I wanted as I live in the grounds. So finally, in 1964, I made the painful decision to demolish the building which had been my home.

“A Glasgow firm of demolition experts took six attempts to fell it before it eventually collapsed. Before this happened, I had a dispersal sale of all the moveable contents such as doors, flooring, ornate painted ceilings and tapestry wall paintings.” (Cunningham-Jardine, 2001)

Alexander Stewart wrote, “The building was stripped of all the Hungarian oak paneling, marble, lead roof, etc. and then leveled by explosion. According to the locals, the explosion could be heard for miles around.

“The beautiful red sandstone stables remain along with two gate houses, the walled garden, and several other cottages. The old laundry building, I understand is being renovated by the family as a residence. The stables are now considered a listed building and cannot be destroyed. 

Had the current laws been in effect at the time, Jardine Hall would still remain. It was, as you probably know, built in 1877 at a cost then of £1 million. It is said that the family asked the architects to create a building that looked as though a million had been spent on it.” (Stewart, 2000)

By the late Nineteen Nineties, Spedlins Tower had been restored and the RCAHMS description was updated to include: 

“Spedlin’s Tower is of outstanding architectural interest and is in a fair state of preservation.

“This substantial late fifteenth-century tower-house, which was remodelled in the seventeenth century, has recently been restored. It consists of a main block of three principal storeys, corbelled rounds and a double garret furnished with crow-stepped gables and slated roofs. Work has now been extended to the layout of garden terraces and policies, including the building of two new single-storey pavilions flanking the garden terrace to the south of the tower.” (RCAHMS, 1935–1993)

Image credit: Google Maps. Design by: Chad Jardine

Ownership of both Spedlins Tower and Jardine Hall passed into the hands of the Cunningham-Jardine Family. Spedlins Tower was purchased from Captain Ronnie Cunningham-Jardine (the successor in ownership) who stipulated a condition of any future sale that the Jardine Clan Society should have access to the Tower by arrangement. It is currently owned by an architect and his wife, Nick and Amanda Gray from London. They have completely restored it and now live there part-time. They continue to allow Jardine visitors during the bi-annual Gathering of the Jardine Clan Society.  

In August 1998, a reconciliation of sorts happened when some of Porteous’ direct descendants visited the Jardine Clan Society tent at the highland games in Pleasanton, California (presided over by Jerry Jardine of Glasgow until his death). They were well received by the Jardine Clan members and together contributed to the effort to soothe and bring to rest the miller’s spirit by passing a very enjoyable day together. A book Healing Your Family Patterns, even suggested a blood relationship between Jardine and Porteous ancestors.

In March of 2011, Chad Jardine (author) visited Spedlins Tower. Several of the photos in this section are from that visit. The owners were away and no inspection of the interior was possible. The groundskeeper allowed me freedom to walk the property and the entire property was in beautiful condition.

The families have continued their connection…