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Newark Castle

A historical perspective, drawn from the Ordnance Gazetteer of Scotland: A Survey of Scottish Topography, Statistical, Biographical and Historical, edited by Francis H. Groome and originally published in parts by Thomas C. Jack, Grange Publishing Works, Edinburgh between 1882 and 1885.

This edition is copyright © The Editors of the Gazetteer for Scotland, 2002-2016.

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Newark Castle, a ruinous Border stronghold in the parish and county of Selkirk, on the right bank of Yarrow Water, 4¼ miles WNW of Selkirk town. It stands, 520 feet above sea-level, on a gentle eminence, half encircled by the stream, and backed by Newark Hill (1450 feet) and Fastheugh Hill (1645), whose lower slopes are richly clothed with wood. A massive square tower, four stories high, with windows high up and small, it was built some time before 1423, when a charter of Archibald, Earl of Douglas, styles it the New Werk,' in contradistinction to the neighbouring Auldwark, no trace of which now remains. It was a royal hunting seat in Ettrick Forest; and the royal arms are carved on a stone in the W gable. It was taken by the English under Lord Grey (1548); a hundred prisoners from the battle of Philiphaugh were shot in its courtyard (1645); and after the battle of Dunbar it was occupied- by Cromwell's invading army (1650). The barons of Buccleuch were captains of Newark Castle at an early- date; and it now belongs to the Duke of Buccleuch, whose seat of 'sweet Bowhill' stands a little lower down the river. In the years of her widowhood, it was the residence of Anna, Duchess of Buccleuch and Monmouth, whose husband, James, Duke of Mon. mouth, was beheaded for insurrection in the reign of James VII., but it was not her birthplace, as often falsely asserted. At Newark the 'Last Minstrel' is made to sing his 'lay' to the sorrowing Duchess:

'He passed where Newark's stately tower
Looks out from Yarrow's birchen bower:
The Minstrel gazed with wishful eye-
No humbler resting-place was nigh.
With hesitating step, at last,
The embattled portal-arch he passed,
Whose ponderous grate and massy bar
Had oft rolled back the tide of war,
But never closed the iron door,
Against the desolate and poor.
The Duchess marked his weary pace,
His timid mien, and reverend face.
And bade her page the menials tell
That they should tend the old man well
For she had known adversity,
Though born in such a high degree;
In pride of power, in beauty's bloom,
Had wept over Monmouth's bloody tomb!'

The appearance of Newark and of the landscape round is finely noticed by Wordsworth, who twice was here, in 1814 and 1831, on the last occasion with Sir Walter Scott:-

'That region left. the vale unfolds
Rich groves of lofty stature,
With Yarrow winding through the pomp
Of cultivated nature;
And, rising from these lofty groves.
Behold a Ruin hoary!
The shattered front of Newark's Towers,
Renowned in Border story'

Mary Scott, the flower of Yarrow, is supposed by many to have been born in Newark Castle; but she was really a native of the neighbouring parish, a daughter of the Scotts of Dryhope. The scene of the fine old ballad, The Sang of the Outlaw Murray, though also belonging to Yarrow parish, is almost universally identified by the country folk with Newark Castle.—Ord. Sur., sh. 25, l865. See James F. Hunnewell's Lands of Scott (Edinb. 1871), and Dr William Fraser's Scotts of Buccleuch (2 vols., Edinb. 1878).

An accompanying 19th C. Ordnance Survey map is available, or use the map tab to the right of this page.

Note: This text has been made available using a process of scanning and optical character recognition. Despite manual checking, some typographical errors may remain. Please remember this description dates from the 1880s; names may have changed, administrative divisions will certainly be different and there are known to be occasional errors of fact in the original text, which we have not corrected because we wish to maintain its integrity. This information is provided subject to our standard disclaimer

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