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CAERLAVEROCK CASTLE

Caerlaverock Castle was of strategic importance on the Anglo-Scottish border overlooking Solway Firth. King Alexander II of Scotland granted the lands of Caerlaverock to Sir John around 1220. The first castle (built c.1220) was prone to flooding and a newer one was built on higher ground (c.1270), which the Maxwell family occupied on and off until 1640, making constant improvements. It was involved in numerous sieges, changed hands on many occasions. The Maxwell family, too, changed their allegiance on several occasions, first siding with the Scots and then with the English. Even when siding with the Scots they backed the Balliol family in preference to the Bruce family.

The most important siege of this castle took place in July 1300 and was well documented. King Edward I's army included eighty-seven knights and 3,000 soldiers, whilst the defenders had just sixty men with John Maxwell himself absent at the time. The English army brought along siege engines from Lochmaben Castle, Jedburgh, Roxburgh and Skinburness. The Scottish garrison surrendered to the English after two days. The castle remained in English hands until 1312, and the keeper was Sir Eustace Maxwell, having earlier changed his allegiance. Shortly afterwards Sir Edward changed  allegiance over to King Robert I of Scotland, and was now besieged by the English but held out.

   
       
   
       
  (Photographs taken 25 August 2007)    

SIEGE ENGINES

There is a replica at Caerlaverock of a typical siege engine (in the case a Trebuchet), designed to catapult stone balls (weighing up to 300lb, at a range up up to 300 yards) at castle walls. King Edward brought siege engines with him, and also had them made in Scotland. Siege engines had nicknames, such as Brother Robert, Forster, Gloucester, Parson, Robynet, Segrave, Vernay, Vicar and Warwolf, though which of these (if any) were used at Caerlaverock are not known. Later castles (e.g. the one at Caerphilly) had artificial lakes to keep the siege engines away at a safe distance, whilst still perhaps within the range of defenders armed with longbows.

 

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Replica Siege Engine at Caerlaverock Castle