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  • Jacqueline Heron Wray

Sundrum and Barclaugh, Ayrshire.

Updated: Oct 1




Sundrum Castle is one of the oldest inhabited castles in Scotland. The barony of Sundrum was granted to Sir Duncan Wallace and his wife Eleonora Bruce, Countess of Carrick in 1373. Sir Duncan Wallace, Sherriff of Ayr, commissioned construction of the castle the same year.

Sundrum was the home of the Cathcart family for four centuries until 1753 when it was sold by 9th Lord Cathcart to John Murray of Broughton for £18,000.


John Hamilton, son of John and Margaret Hamilton, bought Sundrum estate in 1762, he was a merchant, committed to improving farming in the area. He married Lillias Montgomerie, sister of Hugh Montgomerie, 12th Earl of Eglinton. Lillias was an heiress, and in 1759 she obtained an act of parliament to enable her to sell her estates in Renfrew and purchase lands in Ayrshire. Their intertwined family crests are carved into the fireplace in the Great Hall of the castle. Interestingly, the 11th Earl of Eglinton was guarantor for the printing of the 1786 Kilmarnock edition of Robert Burns book of poems.

John, the son of Lillias and John succeeded his father as Laird of Sundrum Their other son, Alexander West Hamilton, inherited Belleisle estate from his uncle Hugh Hamilton of Pinmore.

The Hamilton family altered and improved the castle over the next 150 years. They added the rear west section, the northern section, the Mews, and the Wallace (clock) tower.

The original walls are 10 feet thick in places and beneath the guard room which exists to this day, is a pit prison which has been sealed up!

The Hamiltons of Sundrum, as well as another branch of the family, The Hamiltons of Pinmore, owned Pemberton Valley sugar plantation in Jamaica. The Hamiltons of Pinmore also owned the Bellisle estate and the Rozelle estate in Ayr.

Four generations of the Hamilton family lived in Sundrum Castle until it was sold in 1917 to Earnest Coats whose family had made their fortune manufacturing thread in Paisley, which was sold all over the world.

The Coats family added ‘The Coats House’ between the mews and the original castle.

In 1936, Sundrum was sold to an hotel consortium, however, by 1984, and after several proprietorships, it was almost derelict, making some people suspect that an old curse might actually be true!

Sundrum shall sink,

Auchincruive shall fa',

And the name of Cathcart

Shall in time wear awa'


Sundrum estate was bought by Salopian Estates Ltd in 1991, and, with the assistance of Historic Scotland, the castle and surrounding buildings were renovated, and new houses were constructed.





There is an interesting story about Pemberton Valley sugar plantation and the Hamiltons.

Colonel Alexander West Hamilton lived in Jamaica and looked after the property on behalf of John Hamilton and the rest of the family. There were 255 slaves at Pemberton Valley when slavery was abolished by the Act of 1833.

Alexander Waters was born on the plantation around 1830.

Colonel Hamilton, in agreement with his parents, arranged for Alexander to be sent to Scotland where he would receive an education and be taught a trade. The plan was that Alexander would return to Pemberton Valley to work. The reason for this arrangement has not been acknowledged or disclosed. Alexander boarded at Newton Academy and afterwards became an apprentice to a local stonemason, Thomas Gibson, who lived at Gateside Cottage near to Joppa and Sundrum.

Alexander married a dairymaid from a local farm, her name was Elizabeth Monteith. Inevitably, this meant that he did not return to Jamaica, but he continued to work for the Hamiltons and lived in the cottage of Woodhead on the Sundrum estate where it was reported that he grew tobacco grown from seeds sent to him by his family in Jamaica.

Alexander and Elizabeth had four sons, one died at the age of two and is buried in Coylton graveyard, and four daughters.

Alexander died in 1894. His obituary described him as being a man of colour, which at that time meant having both African and European ancestry and described him as ‘being tall and erect with a somewhat military bearing, a genial kindly man of singularly gentlemanly manners and address’.

Alexander’s son John died at Ypres in 1915 where is buried. His brothers George and Robert volunteered to join the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders at Ayr recruiting office as did their nephew Alexander.

George was killed in the Battle of the Somme in 1916. Robert was killed in the Battle of Cambrai in 1917, and Alexander, who survived the war, was awarded the Military Medal for his heroism during the Battle of Passchendaele in October 1917. He was the first Coylton man to be honoured in the war.




According to the valuation rolls The Hamiltons Of Sundrum owned Barclaugh Farm in 1855. They also owned.

The Mansion of Sundrum, The dairy, stables, gardens, servants’ homes, and tenant policies. Plus, the East and west lodges and Sundrum Mains, as well as the woodland and shooting rights, the smithy and smithy house. (87 Ares)

Additionally, they owned the houses for Gallowhill, Lochend and Park, Milncraig, East Burnside and Barwheys. The land at Laighpark, Carbieston Byres, North Maxwelltown; Moat and Mid Gardenfield, Gardens Acre, Hillhead Garden Park, Mosside Park, the house, and land at Burnbrae.




Taken from Census returns. Barclaugh farmhouse.


1841 Tenant Thomas Donald, 65. Farmer

Wife, Jennet 55

Son 15, daughter Margaret 15, Daughter Agnes ?15 or could be13 and son John 11.

Landowner John Hamilton.


1855. Tenant Peter Connor, 44 Farmed 86 acres. Employed 5 labourers.

Wife Margaret 45

Son, Frederick 19

House servant Sarah Murray, 15

Landowner John Hamilton.


1874. John Wilson 36 years

Wife, Marion, 33 years

Children? Martha, 15, Agnes 13, Jeanie 11? Marion 5, John 3, Mary 2

John Paton, servant, 16 and Elizabeth Aitken servant, 16

Owner John Hamilton.


1865 Robert Hutton, Occupier

Peter Connor, farmer


1895 George Wallace

Wife Janet, 59

Children, Christina 32, John 22, George 19, Elizabeth 16 and? Philomena 12

Owner John Hamilton


1905 George Wallace

Owner John Claude Campbell Hamilton


1915 Thomas Hutchison Jnr.

Owner Mrs Chrystabel Mary Hamilton Ames.

His father, also Thomas Hutchison, 70 was tenant farmer at Barquhey/ Barwhey in 1911 with his wife Jane 61, and children Jeane 31, James 29, Maggie 26, Thomas 24, William 22.


1920 Thomas Hutchison Jnr. Owner Ernest Coats


1935, John McLintock Tenant farmer. (John McLintock’s great nephew, Stephen McCormick is the pharmacist in Coylton 2021.)

Owner Ernest Symington Coats


Jacqueline Heron Wray March 2021


I have been using Scotland's People as a resource. Census returns begin in 1841, and Valuation Rolls begin in 1855. I hope that when the Carnegie Library re-opens I will have access to earlier records.

I would love to hear from anyone who has further information. Thank you.










#ayrshire, #ayrshirehistory, #coylton, #sundrum, #barclaugh, #hamiltonsofsundrum, #rozelle, #belleisle, #lovelivinghistory


References and further reading: -

https://southayrshirehistory.wordpress.com/tag/pemberton-valley-sugar-plantation/

https://www.heraldscotland.com/news/12314977.estate-that-beat-an-ancient-curse/

http://www.sundrumcastle.com/history.html#:~:text=Sundrum%20Castle%20%3A%20History,declared%20forfeit%20to%20the%20crown.&text=in%201359%20who%20commissioned%20the,present%20castle%20in%20the%201360's.

http://www.sundrumcastle.com/history.html#:~:text=Sundrum%20Castle%20%3A%20History,declared%20forfeit%20to%20the%20crown.&text=in%201359%20who%20commissioned%20the,present%20castle%20in%20the%201360's.


Scotland’s People






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