A great location with a Royal history.
Ardgowan House stands on a high promontory with sweeping views of the River Clyde. A bronze axe-head recovered from the site of Ardgowan House confirms that the lands around the site have been inhabited for over 4,000 years.
ARDGOWAN CASTLE Ardgowan Castle, constructed in the late 15th century, is located in the grounds of the Ardgowan Estate. Prior to the construction of the castle in stone, an older wooden fort stood on the site. That fort was conceived as a coastal watch tower, built to ward off Viking marauders.
WARWOLF After the defeat of William Wallace’s Scots army at the Battle of Falkirk in 1298, it took Edward I (also known as the Hammer of the Scots) six years to gain full control of Scotland. The last stronghold of resistance to English rule was Stirling Castle. Impatient with the lack of progress in securing Stirling Castle, Edward ordered his chief engineer to begin work on a new, massive siege engine called the Warwolf. The engine was constructed in the grounds of Ardgowan Estate with oak beams hewn from local trees. When completed and tested, Edward ordered the massive siege engine to be transported to Stirling Castle. It took 40 horse-drawn wagons to bring the engine to Stirling where it was assembled, whereupon the Scottish garrison immediately surrendered…however, Edward I refused to accept surrender until the Warwolf had been thoroughly tested.
ROBERT THE BRUCE Robert the Bruce has a strong connection to Ardgowan having fought there twice, firstly on the side of the English in taking the castle and then, prior to his victory at Bannockburn, on the side of the Scots to defend it. Robert III granted to his son Sir John Stewart the lands of Ardgowan, Inverkip, in the Barony of Renfrew, on 5th May 1404. In 1736, Helenor Houston, heiress and granddaughter of Sir John Shaw, the 3rd baronet of Greenock, married Sir Michael Stewart, greatly enriching the family through the inheritance of the western half of Greenock and so the name ‘Shaw Stewart’ was born.
THE WITCHES OF INVERKIP From 1640 to 1690 witch mania was rife in Inverkip. The Ministers of the Parish at the time, the Rev John Hamilton (1626 to 1664) and Rev Alexander Leslie (1665 to 1684) were described as ‘zealous persecutors of witches’. In fact, the perceived problem was so bad that in 1662 an application was made by Sir Archibald Stewart (fondly known “Gouty Toe”) of Blackhall, Laird of Ardgowan, to the Privy Council that a Royal Commission would enquire into the matter. It was during this enquiry that 18-year-old Marie Lamont was tried as a witch before the Commission. Marie confessed that Jean King, Kattie Scott, Janet Holm, herself and sundry others: “met together in the mirk, at the bucht-gait of Ardgowan whar, the devil was with them in the shape of a black man with cloven feet, and directit them to fetch whyte sand fre the shore, and cast it about yetts* of Ardgowan and about the ministers hous”.
*A yett is a gate or grille of latticed iron bars used for defensive purposes in castles. The gate has a unique construction where the vertical bars are inserted through openings in the horizontal bars providing a strong defensive construction.
POCAHONTAS AND FLORENCE NIGHTINGALE In 1819 Michael Shaw Stewart (the 5th Baronet) married Eliza Farquhar, a direct descendent of Princess Pocahontas from whom the family can claim a bloodline. In 1854 Jane Shaw Stewart, Sir Michael’s granddaughter, sailed to the Crimea where she became a pioneering nurse, working closely with, and befriending, Florence Nightingale, who would later recommend her for her services.
BARONET SIR LUDOVIC SHAW STEWART The 12th Baronet of Ardgowan, Sir Ludovic Shaw Stewart and the Trustees of the estate are fully supportive of the project. Educated in Scotland and having previously worked in London, Sir Ludovic’s commitment to reviving the estate has been demonstrated by his decision to change the focus of his life by moving north to manage the estate full time. Motivated by his desire to pass the estate on to the next generation in good order, Sir Ludovic has set about diversifying the business to generate revenue which will be invested in the sensitive restoration and regeneration of its core assets, so that those who use, live and work on the estate can share in the experience of its increasing prosperity.