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Wemyss Castle

A Category A Listed Building in Buckhaven, Methil and Wemyss Villages, Fife

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Coordinates

Latitude: 56.1443 / 56°8'39"N

Longitude: -3.081 / 3°4'51"W

OS Eastings: 332930

OS Northings: 695150

OS Grid: NT329951

Mapcode National: GBR 2D.JXD6

Mapcode Global: WH6RP.NT2K

Entry Name: Wemyss Castle

Listing Date: 11 December 1972

Category: A

Source: Historic Scotland

Source ID: 350508

Historic Scotland Designation Reference: LB16709

Building Class: Cultural

Location: Wemyss

County: Fife

Electoral Ward: Buckhaven, Methil and Wemyss Villages

Traditional County: Fife

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Description

Irregular-plan house of several building campaigns. Late 15th century house, possibly incorporating earlier fabric. Rectangular tower to W and round (Gilbert) tower to N; 16th century additions within curtain wall. 1670 L-plan extension to S by David 2nd Earl with Robert Mylne, master mason. Mid 19th century saloon and baronial porch enclosing courtyard to NW by Lord Randolph Wemyss; 17th century parapets removed. 1874-6 Peddie & Kinnear additions (partly removed later). Sir Robert Lorimer, 1897, memorial chapel in 16th century barrel-vaulted basement to SE. 1930s restoration by A Stewart Tod, including entrance tower, 19th century additions removed; continuing restoration by Charles Tod. Rectangular tower squared ashlar; coursed and random rubble (formerly harled) elsewhere with ashlar margins (some raised). Part base and cill courses, ground floor balustrade and flat roof. Shaped dormerheads; corbel courses.

NW (ENTRANCE) ELEVATION: rambling 3-storey elevation with bays grouped 4-2-8-2. Recessed 8-bay block to right of centre with door to outer right, 6 regularly-fenestrated bays to left and 20th century stone balustraded parapet above ground floor; small, single bay entrance tower in re-entrant angle to left with door below window and carved panel on return to right, and windows to ground and 1st floor NW giving way to clock and finialled bellcast roof. Projecting tower-like bays to outer right with 2 windows to ground and carved panel to centre at 1st floor, blinded openings to 1st and 2nd floors; original tower projecting to left of centre with door to centre at ground, 2 small (stair?) windows above and 2 further windows at 2nd floor. Lower, pitch-roofed block (16th century) to left of centre with basement and attic; 4 irregularly disposed windows to 1st floor and 5 windows to 2nd floor; 3 small leaded? dormer windows with carved curvilinear pediments in steeply pitched roof. Low conical-roofed, round tower (Gilbert) to outer left angle with windows to ground and 1st floor, deeply corbelled parapet and dormer window as above.

SW ELEVATION: 6-bay, 3-storey and laigh floor, vertically emphasised elevation. Square tower projecting to outer right with stepped base (seat) below pedimented carved stone (see Notes), and narrow window to each floor above, door on return to left; 2 set-back bays to left with door to right and window to left at laigh floor, regular fenestration to each floor above; further set-back bays to outer left with 4 windows to laigh floor, 3 larger windows to ground and 4 further windows to 1st and 2nd floors.

SE (SEAWARD) ELEVATION: variety of elements to obtusely angled elevation with largely regular fenestration, square tower to outer left, vaulted laigh floor converted to chapel with door immediately to left of low, corbelled drum tower (16th century) giving way to angled, set-back, rectangular stage with blinded openings; further regular bays (16th century) beyond to right. Gazebo with 'Aberdour' arch and ball-finialled balustrade projecting to E from base of tower.

NE ELEVATION: unsighted elevation (16th century) built over steeply falling rock face with variety of elements including dungeon entrance (see below), Gilbert tower to outer right and further rounded angle to outer left.

12- and 15-pane glazing patterns in timber sash and case windows. Grey slates. Coped ashlar stacks and ashlar skews.

INTERIOR: GROUND FLOOR: towers and laigh floor vaulted. Vaulted chamber (bottle-dungeon/game larder?) with sloping floor accessed from angled passage to N of courtyard. Kitchen with panel of local sandstone 3'4" x 2'8" bearing relief carving of 'Carrying the Cross', obverse with Virgin Mary and St John each distinguished by nimbus. Present dining room converted from Victorian billiard room, new external stair with local ironwork. Second Drawing Room and White Sitting Room retain late 19th century ceilings (copies of 1st floor bedroom ceiling); marble fireplaces installed 20th century. Oak dog-leg staircase with oak-panelled walls to N end of 17th century wing.

1ST FLOOR: state apartment with late 17th century plaster ceilings and early 18th century pine panelling. Ceiling of King's Bedroom compartmentalised by foliaged strapwork with small pendants, relief casts of Kings David and Alexander in compartments. Dressing room in adjoining SE Tower also with compartmented ceiling, border of acanthus leaf pendants, and thistles, roses and fleur-de-lis to frieze. SW bedroom ceiling decorated with star, cherubs holding roses, and fleur de lis.

CHAPEL: 16th century barrel-vaulted cellar converted to kitchen 17th century and to memorial Chapel by Sir Robert Lorimer, 1897; blind arcading to walls; recumbent white marble figure of Mrs Millicent Erskine Wemyss carved by Princess Louise; 2 life-size effigies of knight in armour and lady in contemporary costume; glass and altarpiece by Louis David. See Notes.

18TH CENTURY WROUGHT-IRON GATE: decorative wrought-iron gates with Wemyss family crest added, from Hallanby Hall, Yorkshire; side supports by Charles Tod.

TERRACED GARDEN: gardens terraced and landscaped by Thomas White circa 1800.

Statement of Interest

Group with The Courtyard and Cottage Orne. Property of Wemyss Estate Trustees. West Wemyss has been associated with the Wemyss family since the 12th century, but the earlier castle was destroyed by Edward I. The building, known to its owners as a 'house' overlooks the sea on sandstone cliffs which harbour many caves from whence the name 'Wemyss' derives. Queen Mary met Darnley here in February 1565, and Sir John Wemyss was created Earl of Wemyss in 1633 after the coronation of Charles I. In the mid 18th century the lands of Wemyss became separated from the Earldom. 1874-6 additions by Peddie and Kinnear included infilling the W courtyard with a large saloon, Elizabethan revival windows and a turreted baronial porch, as well as an arcaded terrace to the E front. Lorimer's memorial chapel, dedicated by Bishop St Andrews in 1897, was to have included 'Stations of the Cross' by Phoebe Traquair, but this could not be confirmed 1998. During WWII the house was used as a hospital for wounded soldiers, and subsequently A Stewart Tod's restoration removed much of Peddie and Kinnear's work, and included the replacement of traditionally astragalled glazing and the introduction of a balustraded parapet to the principal elevation. The stair tower design is taken from West Wemyss Tolbooth.

The RCAHMS Inventory details carved stonework to the 'south gable of the 17th century extension', it mentions a finial dated 167(1) and the remains of a coat-of-arms with coronet and the initial 'E' over a monogrammed panel 'DMLW'. The only identifiable work remaining on this carved stone is of the type usually associated with sundials. A fine obelisk type sundial of uncertain date, which once adorned the gardens of Wemyss Castle, has been returned to its original home at Invermay in Perthshire. Whilst no definite attribution is possible, the 18th century wrought-iron gate from Hallanby Hall is believed to be by Sir Christopher Wren.

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