Watch: ‘Non-Royal Castle Architecture and the Centralisation of Power in the ‘Long’ 15th Century’ Talk by David Weinczok for Friends of Dundonald Castle SCIO (SC031541)


Contemporary photos of Ardrossan Castle and Crookston Castle

By Gwen Sinclair   

On 12th August, we were delighted to welcome David C. Weinczok as the invited speaker for our latest Online Talks Series. Hailing from Canada, David now lives and works in Edinburgh as a writer, presenter, and digital content creator – as well as having the enviable position of travelling around investigating castles from Scotland’s epic history! 

“I’ve always been interested in power structures – how they form, how they gain momentum and how they sustain themselves.” David reasoned as the opener to his fascinating study on how power structures, by the 15th century, had begun to move towards heightened political control by the monarchy – with these changes in society made notable by the architecture which remains to this day.  

“The true destroyer of castles was not gunpowder, but central government” David explained – since this period heralded a decline in castle-building, restoration and repair. Castles had begun life by and large as the product of a feudal society, and thus had once been the epicentres where land and people were governed by the lords who owned them meaning that by the very nature of their existence, had been military targets and required major defences. As 15th century political structures strengthened within the crown and parliament, David demonstrated why fortified residences became somewhat less necessary since the monarchs had their own army – and so there was a limited need for lords to have their own private armies. This meant it became a time of lessening war, and by looking at Ardrossan Castle in North Ayrshire and Crookston Castle in Renfrewshire, which like Dundonald Castle, were both built on top of much earlier heavily fortified dwellings dating back to the 1100s. Both castles also had earlier fortified towers, both were occupied by powerful families, but by the 15th century these great castles continued to be “physical embodiments of status” but were increasingly being used for marshal and domestic purposes.  

Albeit in the 16th century, as an interesting example – instead of restoring or repairing Royal Dundonald Castle, it seems that by the mid 1500s, the tenants wanted to build a whole new concept in high status, yet comfortable living – and did so by harvesting stone from the castle to build Old Auchans – a mock military mansion, a short walk from the Visitor Centre through the nearby woods – which you can find out more about on one of our guided walks taking place each Saturday from 16th October until 27th November:   

Old Auchans

Castles were an ever-changing concept-home, and a product of the design aspirations of many, many generations – some dating back several hundred years! Yet, David explained, by the 15th century, what they were building shows that they weren’t content to have their homes literally set in stone. The Montgomeries at Ardrossan, and by the 1440s, the Stewarts of Lennox at Crookston, wanted to show off their wealth and yet also provide a comfortable abode for entertaining – even the royal family – whilst maintaining a weather-eye on the need for, but as a much lessening requirement, for defence. Both providing ideal case studies to explore this subject further… 

Artist Representation of Ardrossan Castle and Crookston Castle by Andrew Spratt

You can do so by watching David’s engaging talk from our YouTube Channel here – since we are pleased to announce that our Online Talks Series, which ranges from subjects such as the History of Tower Houses or the archaeological findings at Dundonald, to what medieval masons’s marks can tell us about construction during this period – and many others, will be coming available on line over the coming months starting with David Weinczok’s talk:  

Many, many thanks to David for joining us to share his knowledge on this fascinating subject – which is something of the next instalment in how things panned out after the time that Robert II became king in 1371! Thank you so much to the audience as well for ‘coming along’ and it was really nice to welcome some members of the team from Ardrossan Castle Heritage Society (SC043515) – which is a community charity, much like our own, who seek to protect, improve, and promote the history of another important Ayrshire landmark. Find out more: 

For those who requested a reading list during the Q+A section of David’s talk, please find a shortened version of David’s reading list as promised (below). Meanwhile, check out David’s website to find out more about what he has been exploring in his latest adventures around the historic nooks and crannies of Scotland!  

On October 21st, we’ll be getting our audience into the mood for Halloween at 7pm when we’ll be joined by Ashlyn Cudney, doctoral candidate at the University of Edinburgh for the next of our online talk series: Ashlyn will be taking us on a trip back in time to have a closer look at witchcraft in Dundonald in the 17th century! Tickets – free or by donation are available here:

Some of David’s Reading list: 

Alexander, Derek and McCrae, Gordon. Renfrewshire: A Scottish County’s Hidden Past. Edinburgh: Birlinn, 2011. 

Barrow, G. W. S. Kingship and Unity: Scotland 1000-1306. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2015. 

Boardman, Stephen I. “Politics and the Feud in Late Medieval Scotland.” PhD thesis. University of St. Andrews, 1989. 

Boardman, Stephen I. “Stewart, John, tenth or first earl of Lennox.” Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online). 2005. Retrieved from https://doi-org.ezproxy- 

Bonner, Elizabeth. “Inheritance, war and antiquarianism: Sir Alan Stewart of Darnley, 2nd seigneur d’Aubigny et de Concressault 1429-37.” Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, 143 (2014): 339-362. Retrieved from 

Brown, Jennifer M. “Public Authority and Factional Conflict: Crown, Parliament and Polity, 1424-1455”. In Parliament and Politics in Scotland, 1235-1560. Edited by Brown, J. M. and Tanner, R. J., 123-144. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2004.  

Brown, Jennifer M., ed. Scottish Society in the Fifteenth Century. London: Edward Arnold, 1977. 

Brown, Jennifer M. “The Exercise of Power: The King.” In Scotland: The Making and Unmaking of the Nation c.1100-1707Volume 3: Readings c.1100-c.1500. Edited by Bob Harris and Alan MacDonald, 49-65. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2006.  

Brown, Michael. Introduction. In Scottish Kingship 1306-1542: Essays in Honour of Norman MacDougall. Edited by Michael Brown and Roland Tanner, 1-19. Edinburgh: John Donald, 2008.  

Brown, Michael. Scottish Baronial Castles 1250-1450. Oxford: Osprey Publishing, 2009.  

Brown, Michael. “Stewart Monarchy, (1371-1513)” In Scotland: The Making and Unmaking of the Nation c.1100-1707. Volume 1 The Scottish Nation: Origins to C. 1500. Edited by Bob Harris & Alan R. MacDonald, 48-64. Dundee: Dundee UP, 2006.  

Burns, J. H. The True Law of Kingship: Concepts of Monarchy in Early Modern Scotland. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1996. 

Caldwell, David H. “Ardrossan Castle, Ayrshire: a preliminary account.” Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, 104 (1971-2): 201-221. Accessed online via 

Caldwell, David H. “Galley-Castles by land and sea.” In Castles and Galleys: A Reassessment of the Historic Galley-Castles of the Norse-Gaelic Seaways. Edited by Paula Martin, 41-156. Laxsay:  Islands Book Trust, 2017. 

Coulson, Charles. ‘Fourteenth-Century Castles in Context: Apotheosis or Decline? In Late Medieval Castles’. Edited by Robert Liddiard. Woodbridge: The Boydell Press, 2016. 

Coulson, Charles. “Structural Symbolism in Medieval Castle Architecture.” In Late Medieval Castles. Edited by Robert Liddiard. Woodbridge: The Boydell Press, 2016. 

Creighton, Oliver and Liddiard, Robert. “Fighting yesterday’s battle: beyond war or status in castle studies.” In The Exercise of Power in Medieval Scotland c.1200-1500. Edited by Steve  Boardman and Alasdair Ross, 161-69. Dublin: Four Court Press, 2003. 

Cruden, Stewart. The Scottish Castle. London: Nelson, 1960. 

Dixon, Philip. “The Donjon Of Knaresborough: The Castle As Theatre.” In Late Medieval Castles. Edited by Robert Liddiard, 333-348. Woodbridge: The Boydell Press, 2016. 

Dixon, Philip. “The Pacification of the Castle.” In The Medieval Great House, 1st edition. Edited by Malcolm Airs and P. S. Barnwell, 31-42. Donington: Shaun Tyas, 2011. 

Dunbar, John G. The Historic Architecture of Scotland. London: B. T. Batsford Ltd, 1966. 

Fairclough, Graham. “Meaningful constructions – spatial and functional analysis of medieval buildings.” In Antiquity 66 (1992): 348-366. 

Fawcett, Richard. The Architectural History of Scotland: Scottish Architecture from the Accession of the Stewarts to the Reformation 1371-1560. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1995. 

Fraser, Sir William. Memorials of the Montgomeries, Earls of Eglinton. Volume 1. 1859. Digitising sponsor National Library of Scotland. Retrieved from 

Fraser, Sir William. The Lennox. Volume 1: Memoirs. Edinburgh: 1874. Retrieved from lennoxvol1  memov100fras.pdf  

Fraser, Sir William. The Lennox. Volume 2. Muniments. Edinburgh: 1874. Accessed via 

Gies, Joseph and Gies, Frances. Life in a Medieval Castle. New York: Harper Perennial, 2015. 

Glendinning, Miles and MacKechnie, Aonghus. “Introduction.” In Scotland’s Castle Culture. Edited by Audrey Dakin and Miles Glendinning, xiii-xxvi. Edinburgh: John Donald, 2011. 

Grant, Alexander. “Franchises North of the Border: Baronies and Regalities in Medieval Scotland.” In Liberties and Identities in Medieval Britain and Ireland. Edited by Michael Prestwich, 1-43. Woodbridge: The Boydell Press, 2008. Retrieved from 

Grant, Alexander. “The Development of the Scottish Peerage.” The Scottish Historical Review 57, no. 163 (1978): 1-27. 

Grant, Alexander. “The Nobility.” In Scotland: The Making and Unmaking of the Nation c.1100-1707Volume 3. Edited by Bob Harris and Alan R. MacDonald, 191-208. Dundee: Dundee University Press, 2006. 

Higham, Robert and Barker, Philip. Timber Castles. Exeter: University of Exeter Press, 2004. 

Historic Environment Scotland. Statement of Significance: Crookston Castle. Edinburgh: Historic Environment Scotland, 2018. Retrieved from  ?publicationId=9df85dad-b65d-4657-b558-a75300cdc9d6 

Hogg, S. and Stewart, D.“Crookston Castle, Glasgow City (Paisley parish), watching brief.” Discovery and Excavation in Scotland, vol. 6 (2005): 76. The Council for Scottish Archaeology. Retrieved from 

Johnson, Matthew H. Behind the Castle Gate: From Medieval to Renaissance. London: Routledge,  2002. 

Liddiard, Robert. Castles in Context: Power, Symbolism and Landscape, 1066 to 1500. Macclesfield: Windgather Press Ltd., 2005. 

MacGibbon, David and Ross, Thomas. The Castellated and Domestic Architecture of Scotland from the Twelfth to the Eighteenth Century. Volumes 1.and 3 Edinburgh: David Douglas, 1887. 

MacKechnie, Aonghus. “Court and Courtier Architecture, 1424-1660.” In Lordship and Architecture in Medieval and Renaissance Scotland. Edited by Oram, Richard and Stell, Geoffrey, 293-326.  Edinburgh: John Donald, 2005. 

MacKechnie, Aonghus. ”For friendship and conversation’: Martial Scotland’s Domestic Castles.” Architectural Heritage XXVI (2015): 5-24. 

Mackenzie, W. M. The Medieval Castle in Scotland. London: Benjamin Blom, 1927. 

Maquire, D. M.“Crookston Castle, Glasgow City (Paisley parish), medieval castle” Discovery and Excavation in Scotland, vol. 1 (2000): 43. Retrieved from 

Maxwell, Sir J. Stirling. (bart.), Moray, C. S. H. Drummond (esq.), Underwood, C. F. Weston (esq.), and Digby, G. Wingfield (esq.). Reports on the manuscripts of the Earl of Eglinton. London: Eyre and Spottiswoode. 1885. Digitising sponsor Getty Research Institute. Retrieved from

McKean, Charles. The Scottish Chateau: The Country Houses of Renaissance Scotland. Thrupp: Sutton Publishing, 2001. 

Montgomery of Rosemount, William. The Montgomery Manuscripts: 1603 – 1706. Edited by Rev. George Hill. Belfast: James Clelland & Thomas Dargan, 1869. Retrieved online from National Library of Scotland, 

Oram, Richard. “Castles, Concepts and Contexts: Castle Studies in Scotland in Retrospect and Prospect.” Château Gaillard 23 (2008): 349-359. 

Oram, Richard. “Dundonald, Doune and the Development of the Tower and Hall in Late Medieval Scottish Lordly Residences.” Château Gaillard 25 (2012), 269-279. 

Oram, Richard. “The Greater House in Late Medieval Scotland: Courtyards and Towers c.1300- c.1400.” In The Medieval Great House. Edited by Malcolm Airs and Paul Barnwell, 43-60. Donington: Shaun Tyas, 2011. 

Oram, Richard. “Towers and Household in Later Medieval Scotland. In A House That Thieves Might Knock At”. Tower Studies Edited by Richard Oram, 221-257. Donington: Shaun Tyas,  2015. 

Oram, Richard and Stell, Geoffrey, eds. Lordship and Architecture in Medieval and Renaissance  Scotland. Edinburgh: John Donald, 2005.  

Phillips, Gervase. “Scotland in the Age of Military Revolution, 1488-1560.” In A Military History of Scotland. Edited by Edward M. Spiers, Jeremy A. Crang and Matthew J. Strickland, 182-208. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2012.  

Simpson, W. D. “Crookston Castle.” Transactions of the Glasgow Archaeological Society Vol. 12 (1953): 1-14. Retrieved from JSTOR at 

Simpson, W. D. Exploring Castles. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1957. 

Speight, Sarah. “British Castle Studies in the Late 20th and 21st Centuries”. History Compass 2:1 (2004): 1-32. 

Stell, Geoffrey. “Architecture: the changing needs of society.” In Scottish Society in the Fifteenth Century. Edited by J. M. Brown, 153-83. London: Edward Arnold, 1977. 

Stell, Geoffrey. “Late Medieval Defences in Scotland.” In Scottish weapons & Fortifications 1100-1800.  Edited by David Caldwell, 21-54. Edinburgh: John Donald, 1981. 

Stell, Geoffrey. “Medieval Buildings and Secular Lordship.” In Galloway: Land and Lordship. Edited by  Richard D. Oram and Geoffrey Stell, 145-160. Edinburgh: Scottish Society for Northern  Studies, 1998. 

Stell, Geoffrey. “The Scottish Medieval Castle: Form, Function and ‘Evolution’.” In Essays  on the Nobility of Medieval Scotland. Edited by Keith Stringer, 195-209. Edinburgh: John Donald, 2004. 

Tabraham, Chris. “Castles and Fortifications in Scotland.” In A Military History of Scotland. Edited by Edward M. Spiers, Jeremy A. Crang, and Mathew J. Strickland, 706-727. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2014.  

Tabraham, Chris, and Grove, Doreen. Fortress Scotland and the Jacobites. B.T. Batsford & Historic Scotland, London. 2001. 

Tabraham, Chris. “The Scottish medieval towerhouse as lordly residence in the light of recent excavation.” Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, 118 (1989): 267-276.  Retrieved from 

Taylor, Alice. The Shape of the State in Medieval Scotland 1124-1290. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2016. 

Turner, Louise. “Ardrossan Castle Kitchen Vault Consolidation: Archaeological Mitigation: Data  Structure Report.” Archaeology Data Service on behalf of North Ayrshire Council. 30 June 2015. DOI  



Old Auchans by Lauren Welsh  

Images from David Weinczok’s talk slides: 

Artist representations of Crookston Castle and Ardrossan Castle by Andrew Spratt 

Crookston Castle and Ardrossan Castle today. 

Crookston Castle plans and position of the tower house 

Ardrossan Castle image 

Old illustration of Ardrossan Castle  

Ardrossan Castle Plan  

Old map showing ardrossan castle  

Research books