Amisfield
The Dumfriesshire Companion
Haig Gordon

THEMES & PERSONALITIES

Introduction

Some Historical Background

The Border

From Westerkirk to Westminster Abbey -
Thomas Telford


Robert Burns - Doonhamer

The Sage of Ecclefechan - Thomas Carlyle

Hugh MacDiarmid and the Muckle Toon

Other Literary Figures

The Artists

Fame and Fortune

Other Pairs of Eyes

Amisfield

A small village with, to its north-west, a big architectural story. Experts gush with superlatives over Amisfield Tower, a stunningly picturesque example of Scots Baronial castellated domestic architecture of the early seventeenth century, the period of transition from rugged utilitarianism to flamboyant decorativeness. Here are just some of their judgements:
'the pinnacle of 16th/17th-century castellated architecture in south Scotland';
'unquestionably the finest late tower-house in southern Scotland';
'constructional acrobatics';
'one is filled with wonder that so much could have been erected upon so small a place without looking cheap or overdressed, which it does not, for the scale is faultless.'

The tower was completed in 1600 for John Charteris and his wife Agnes Maxwell (their initials are in the stonework). The Charteris family owned land here from the early 1200s. They were originally Norman immigrants who achieved high office in the Scottish royal household. Thomas Charteris was chancellor to King Alexander III in the 1280s.


The family reached its nadir in the person of Francis Charteris (died 1732), a notorious rake, convicted rapist and gambler. In London he employed a man known as 'Trusty Jack' to supply him with young women. The two of them are believed to feature in the background of William Hogarth's depiction of urban degeneracy, The Harlot's Progress (1731). The writers Jonathan Swift and Alexander Pope used Charteris as a byword for depravity. But his name was to live on respectably. His daughter Janet married the 5th Earl of Wemyss and a son inherited the old reprobate's estate on condition that he adopted the Charteris name, which the Wemyss dynasty has used ever since.


There is a connection too with the writer Leslie Charteris (1907-1993), creator of the fictional detective Simon Templar, otherwise known as 'The Saint'. The author's original surname was Yin (he was half-Chinese) but he changed it to Charteris out of admiration for the Amisfield rogue.


Amisfield Tower now sits next to a later mansion house, built at various stages between the 1630s and the 1830s.


A short distance to the north of Amisfield Tower is another mansion house, Glenae. This was built in the 1780s for the Dalzell family. An earlier Dalzell - Robert, 5th Earl of Carnwath - fought for the Jacobites in the 1715 rising. He was imprisoned in the Tower of London and impeached in the House of Lords for high treason, though he was spared the death sentence.

PLACES

Ae
Amisfield
Annan
Auldgirth
Bankend
Beattock
Bentpath
Brydekirk
Canonbie
Carronbridge
Carrurtherstown
Chapelknowe
Clarencefield
Closeburn
Collin
Cummertrees
Dalswinton
Dalton
Dornock
Dumfries
Duncow
Dunscore
Durisdeer
Eaglesfield
Eastriggs
Ecclefechan
Eskdalemuir
Glencaple
Gretna
Hightae
Holywood
Johnstonebridge
Kettleholm
Kirkconnel
Kirkpatrick Fleming
Kirkton
Kirtlebridge
Langholm
Lochmaben
Lockerbie
Middlebie
Moffat
Moniaive
Mouswald
Newton Wamphray
Parkgate
Penpont
Powfoot
Ruthwell
Sanquhar
Templand
Thornhill
Tinwald
Torthorwald
Tynron
Wanlockhead
Waterbeck

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