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Johnstone Castle

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Johnstone Castle, 2010, Fox
Johnstone Castle

Johnstone Castle lies to the southwest of Johnstone town centre. Only the central tower of the original structure remains on the site.

The castle, or mansion, was originally known as the House of Easter Cochrane, but was renamed Johnstone Castle when George Houston took over the estate in 1733. Building on the site first began c. 1645 when Sir Loudovic Houstoun moved from the estate of Houston to the Lands of Johnstone. In both 1771 and 1812 the castle was considerably extended, with the latter development being attributed to the architect James Gillespie Graham. This later work effectively left the original building largely hidden by a new castellated façade.

In 1848, the castle is said to have accommodated its most famous visitor, the composer Chopin, reputed to have stayed there for a month, during which he performed at the Merchants Hall in Glasgow on September 27, during a tour of Scotland.

As the surrounding town gradually expanded, the estate lands were slowly sold off, and the last laird of Johnstone died in 1931. [1]

World War II

Concrete base for hut, 2009, Fox
Concrete base for hut

During World War II, the castle and grounds were requisitioned and used for training Allied troops. Part of the land was used to host a PoW (Prisoner of War) camp where captured Germans were held. Some reports suggest these PoWs were guarded by Polish soldiers, while others suggest that Polish troops were were billeted there.

The OS map of 1956 shows lines of huts marked as 'Johnstone Castle Camp East', suggesting the existence of additional camps. However, the map does not appear to show any huts to the extreme east of the site, where is understood to have been the location of the guards' compound, and where a number of hut bases have identified and photographed during a visit in 2009.

Reports have also been read which indicate additional huts were built on the site following the Clydebank Blitz, to provide accommodation for families which had lost their homes in the bombing. A local report notes: The army huts were partitioned into two halves and used to house two families. The castle lodge was also rented out. My parent lived in one of the huts and the lodge house, which was situated approximately where Tower Road is located. Polish troops were also at the camp and I can remember, as a child, seeing a stone marker with a Polish eagle on it, supposedly put there where a soldier had committed suicide. (Rev Robert Holburn)

Postwar

Johnstone Castle, 2010, Fox
Johnstone Castle

The castle and its grounds were purchased by Johnstone Burgh Council in 1956, after the building was declared unsafe. The land was used for housing, and became the Johnstone Castle Housing Scheme. This had been needed to house those who had lost their homes during the war, and to rehouse residents of Glasgow who had been displaced as overspill following the adoption of the Bruce Plan after the war. The plan had originally called for the replacement of every building in Glasgow, an aim that eventually decayed and was forgotten by the 1960s, but not before considerable changes had been made to the city.

Development plans for Johnstone had included demolition of the castle, but work was halted before this was completed, leaving only the central tower which is all that now remains on the site. The tower is also the oldest part of the castle, and was once used as an information centre, but has since returned to private ownership. When visited in 2010, it was noted to be undergoing conversion into a dwelling.

External links

Related Canmore/RCAHMS and ScotlandsPlaces (SP) entries:-

 

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Aerial views


Map

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