DiCamillo Companion
DiCamillo Griffin Logo

Thirlestane Castle

  • House & Family History: Before the 13th century a large fort was built on Castle Hill near the Leader Water on the site of the ancient church of Lauder. It was here in 1482 that King James III's favorites were dragged by envious nobles, led by Archibald Douglas, 5th Earl of Angus, and hanged from the (earlier) Lauder Bridge. During the Rough Wooing war with England (1543-51, the last major conflict between Scotland and England before the union of the crowns in 1603) the site was occupied by a large English artillery fort and garrison. It was the remains of this fort that the Maitland family purchased and ultimately turned into Thirlestane Castle. The Maitlands came to Britain from Normandy with William the Conqueror in 1066, originally settling in Northumberland, close to the Scottish border. William Maitland of Lethington was secretary to Mary, Queen of Scots; his younger brother was Sir John Maitland, secretary of Scotland. It was Sir John who acquired Thirlestane in 1587 and built a large tower house on the foundations and walls of the fort. In 1590 Sir John was appointed lord chancellor of Scotland and ennobled as Lord Maitland of Thirlestane. Lord Maitland's son was created 1st Earl of Lauderdale in 1624; his son John became the 1st (and only) Duke of Lauderdale in 1672. The Duke of Lauderdale was one of the most important and powerful Scots of the 17th century. As a favorite of King Charles II, the duke ruled Scotland with an iron hand as a virtual emperor. It was the duke who hired the architect Sir William Bruce to transform the castle into a residence worthy of a grandee, creating the Thirlestane of today. Bruce fulfilled his client's every desire, creating lavish interiors, grand staterooms, and magnificent plasterwork ceilings. The duke's London home, Ham House, is considered one of England's most important Stuart houses and one of the most perfectly preserved 17th century houses in Britain. In 1984 Gerald Maitland-Carew gifted the castle and most of the contents to a charitable trust that was established to ensure its preservation. Major repairs were then carried out, assisted by financial grants from the Historic Buildings Council and the National Heritage Memorial Fund.

    Collections: Thirlestane is noted for its fine collection of paintings, furniture, porcelain, and an important toy collection.

    Comments: The state apartments at Thirlestane contain what many experts consider to be the finest Scottish Restoration ceilings in existence, believed to be based on the Renaissance artist Andrea Mantegna's work at the ducal palace at Mantua.

  • Architect: William Bruce

    Date: 1670-79
    Designed: Enlarged House

    View all houses

    Architect: William Burn

    Date: 1840-44
    Designed: Enlarged House

    View all houses
  • Country Life: XXVIII, 194, 1910. CVII, 230, 1950.

  • Title: Buildings of Scotland: Borders, The
    Author: Cruft, Kitty; Dunbar, John; Fawcett, Richard; et al
    Year Published: 2006
    Publisher: New Haven: Yale University Press
    ISBN: 0300107021
    Book Type: Hardback

    Title: Disintegration of a Heritage: Country Houses and their Collections, 1979-1992, The
    Author: Sayer, Michael
    Year Published: 1993
    Publisher: Norfolk: Michael Russell (Publishing)
    ISBN: 0859551970
    Book Type: Hardback

  • House Listed: Category A

    Park Listed: Listed

  • Current Seat / Home of: Maitland-Carew family; here since 1587.

    Past Seat / Home of: John Maitland, 1st Earl of Lauderdale, Viscount of Lauderdale, Viscount Maitland, and Lord Thirlestane and Boltoun, 17th century; John Maitland, 1st Duke of Lauderdale, 17th century.

    Current Ownership Type: Preservation Organization

    Primary Current Ownership Use: Private Home

    Ownership Details: House, contents, and park are owned by Thirlestane Castle Trust; one wing remains the family home of the Maitland-Carew family.

  • House Open to Public: Yes

    Phone: 01578-722-430

    Fax: 01578-722-761

    Email: admin@thirlestanecastle.co.uk

    Website: http://www.thirlestanecastle.co.uk

    Historic Houses Member: Yes