Another look at Sandra Mair's " the Gates of Kerelaw " ,from 1963, as a further comparison of how utterly that scene has changed:
I also quoted earlier in this topic from an article about the history of Kerelaw estate , particularly the castle. While we're here again I thought I might add the complete article; once again with full acknowledgements to the Ardrossan and Saltcoats Herald, who produced it somewhen in the early 1970s.
You'll see mention in it of proposals at the time that it might be demolished, because of the risk to youngsters who insisted on playing there. ( Though nobody as far as I know ever suggested that of Ardrossan Castle, where there were similar goings-on ! )
I'm aware that the house is long gone, but I'm not entirely clear whether Kerelaw Castle IS in fact still there; the Stevenston Town Trail suggests it is, but recent dark mutterings from Morag suggest it might not be. Was part of it cleared away perhaps ?
HISTORY OF KERELAW CASTLE
Due to its ruinous and dangerous condition it is possible that Kerelaw Castle, Stevenston, may have to be demolished. Parents in the adjacent housing scheme are concerned that accidents could occur to children playing in the ruins, and it is naturally felt that it is preferable to sacrifice a castle than a child.
Somewhat surprisingly perhaps Kerelaw Castle is not officially listed as an ancient monument worthy of preservation, but its history is naturally bound up with that of the town and it contains some unusual features worth comment before it disappears.
Probably the castle was built around the end of the 12th century – about the same time as Ardrossan Castle – when grants of lands were given by Sir Richard de Morville, lord of Cuninghame, to the Barclays in Ardrossan and the Loccards in Stevenston. From a member of the latter family, Stephen Loccard , the town is supposed to have derived its name, and it is believed that he built the castle originally.
No local records or accounts of the castle attempt to explain the name Kerelaw, which was spelled "Kerila" at one period, but it is probably straightforward enough and derived from the Pictish "caer" meaning a fort – the fort on the hill.
From Stephen Loccard the lands passed to the family of one Duncan Campbell who was granted a charter of the lands of Loudon and "Stivenstoune" by King Robert 1, and from the Campbells to the Cunninghams, of the family of the Earl of Glencairn.
It is known that previous to 1488, by which time the castle was in possession of the Cunninghams, Kerelaw was partially destroyed by fire by minions of the Montgomeries. The two families were carrying on a feud – which is another story – but the Cunninghams had their revenge half a century later when they set fire to and destroyed the enemy's castle of Eglinton.
Whoever originally had Kerelaw built, successive owners enlarged it, altered it and rebuilt parts of it, and an unusual feature of the architecture was the inclusion of pointed Gothic windows in a wall of the great hall. So far as is known no other Scottish castle of the period had such windows – which after all were not in keeping with a fortress – and they are of similar style to those in the Abbey of Kilwinning.
It is known that Alexander Cunningham, one of the Earls of Glencairn, was appointed commendator of Kilwinning Abbey after the Reformation, and as he probably lived at Kerila for much of the time it is conjectured that the great hall of the castle was built by him with windows to emulate the abbey. It seems undisputed that the walls of the great hall were at one time ornamented with the coats of arms of the Scottish nobility taken from Kilwinning Abbey after it was destroyed at the Reformation.
It was also one of the Earls of Glencairn who in 1545 granted leases of plots of ground known as the Nine Yards, to nine Saltcoats fishermen on condition that every spring they would carry the Earl's furniture from the creek of Saltcoats to his summer residence further up the firth, and bring it back again in the autumn when the family returned to Kerelaw.
The Montgomerie - Cunningham feud continued for several centuries and resulted in the death of at least one Earl of Eglinton who was murdered in 1586, and of Alexander Cunningham, Abbot of Kilwinning, who was shot dead in 1591.
In the 17th century the whole barony of Stevenston passed into the possession of Sir Robert Cunningham, physician in Scotland to King Charles II, and on his death his nephew Robert succeeded him. He was a man of enterprise and vision and was responsible for expanding mining in the locality and for the construction of Saltcoats harbour. However the expense of subsidising these schemes proved too much and he was forced to sell part of his estate,including Kerelaw Castle, to John Hamilton, of Grange estate, near Kilmarnock.
Mr Hamilton preferred his castle and lands to be known by the name of his former estate, and he and his family dropped the name Kerelaw and adopted that of Grange by which the Stevenston castle and policies continued to be known for the next couple of hundred years.
The most famous member of the Hamilton family, although his connection with Stevenston is tenuous, was General Alexander Hamilton whose father was the fourth son of John Hamilton of Grange and who emigrated to the West Indies. The General was the man who framed the American constitution, and was author of Washington's farewell address , which was regarded as one of the best written State papers in the English language. His town house in New York was called Grange, and his portrait appears on American ten-dollar bills.
As the old castle began to deteriorate, the Hamiltons built a modern mansion house on adjoining land about the end of the 18th century, and from then the castle ceased to be used and gradually fell into ruins.
References to Grange remain in street names and locations in Stevenston, but when the property again changed hands in the 19th century the new owners reintroduced the name Kerelaw for mansion and castle. The house remained occupied until a few years ago, and on its purchase by the Corporation of Glasgow the mansion was demolished to make room for the approved school for boys which now stands on the site and which perpetuates the name of Kerelaw.