Monday, 30 April 2012

Z-Plan Castles

 A-Z Challenge 2012 - Z
Z-Plan Castles

I had all sorts of grandiose ideas when I started on a castle theme for A-Z this year. I always knew certain letters would give problems but there turned out to be more than I expected – it wasn’t just Q, X and Z. I won’t tell what the others were. Trying to deal with only castles that were haunted turned out to be impossible. I even had to desert Britain and Ireland in favour of Germany for X.

Thanks to Old Glenbucket, when I did Glenbuchat for G, for giving me an idea to finish with on Z. Glenbuchat is what is known as a Z-Plan castle.

I found that there is even a Facebook page for Z-Plan castles – not that it tells you much:

Z Plan is a form of castle design common in England and Scotland. The Z-plan castle has a strong central rectangular tower with smaller towers attached at diagonally opposite corners.

A variant on the Z plan is the C plan, in which the two smaller towers are attached at adjacent corners of the main tower.”

It also gave three examples, one of which was Glenbuchat. However I just had to check out Castle Fraser which is reputed to be the most elaborate example of a Z-Plan castle in Scotland.

Castle Fraser, near Kemnay, Aberdeenshire
The five-storey Z-Plan castle was begun in 1575 by the 6th Laird of Fraser and completed in 1636. The castle was modernised in a classical style in the late 18th century under the supervision of the lady laird, Elyza Fraser with the interiors reconstructed again between 1820 and 1850 by Charles Fraser. New owners carried out a partial restoration of the castle in about 1950 with much of the 19th century work removed to reveal earlier fabric.

Built as the home of the Frasers the castle passed down through the Lords Fraser and then into the Mackenzie family who took the name Mackenzie Fraser. The last male heir died childless in 1897. In 1921 the castle was sold to the 1st Viscount Cowdray whose family restored the castle as a shooting lodge and gifted it to the National Trust for Scotland in 1976.

I’m please to say that there is a legendary ghost associated with the castle.

A young princess staying at the castle was brutally murdered while asleep in the 'Green Room'. Her body dragged down the stone stairs, left a trail of blood stains. The occupants of the castle could not scrub out the stains no matter how they tried and were forced to cover the steps with wood panelling, which can be seen today. It’s said the princess still stalks the halls of the castle during the night.

There is a much more mundane explanation for the panelling - the stone stairs were covered to make them easier to climb when they were used as the stairs for the servants in the 19th century.

As this is the last post this year I thought I present another Z-Plan Castle, again with a ghost or two.

Ballindalloch Castle
Ballindalloch Castle lies between Dufftown and Granton-on-Spey in the Moray region of Scotland. The first tower was built in 1546, The castle was restored  in 1645 after it had ben plundered and burned by the first Marquess of Montrose. General James Grant extended the castle in 1770; Thomas MacKenzie added more in 1850. 1878 extensions were mostly demolished during modernisations in 1965.

Ballindalloch Castle has been continuously occupied by the Russell and Macpherson-Grant families throughout its existence.

The ghosts?
  • General James Grant, Laird of Ballindalloch 1720-1806 – a British General in the American War of Independence.
  • ‘The Green Lady’ whose ghost haunts the Ballindalloch dining hall

Muness Castle
The ruins of Muness Castle are located on the island of Unst, Shetland. Unst is the most northerly inhabited island in Britain.

The remains of the castle consist of just over two storeys of the three-storey Z-Plan arrangement. The corner towers are circular rather than square, as is more usual with such castles

Muness Castle was built by Laurence Bruce in1598; it was burned by French raiders in 1627 and although repaired it was no longer in use by the end of the 17th century, The Bruce family sold 
Muness Castle in 1718 only for it to be abandoned by 1750. It has been roofless since 1774

One may read over the door of the ruins: "List ye to knaw yis building quha began, Laurence the Bruce he was that worthy man, Quha ernestly his airis and ofspring prayis To help and not to hurt this vork alwayis. The zeir of God 1598."

The building is in the care of Historic Scotland.

My special thanks go to Hilary Melton-Butcher whose castle theme has kept me on my toes throughout this year’s A-Z Challenge – we only had the same castle twice! 

Last Saturday Hilary told us Y (why) Castles are like they are

  • Castle Fraser on of the finest Castles of Mar 2006; author JThomas; Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 license
  • Ballindalloch Castle 2008; author Mike Searle; Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 license
  • Muness Castle ruins 2006: author ThoWi; public domain


David Robinson said...

Great and fittingly gruesome finale to the series. I've really enjoyed these posts.

Little Nell said...

Bob, I’ve just said to another favourite blogger that I’ve found it difficult to keep up with the output of all these A-Z posts. Several blogs that I follow are doing it and I have had to admit defeat and make a decision to skip a few, so apologies for that. I’ve tried to read nearly all of them, even if I haven’t left a comment. Well done for completing the task, and I have to say that you maintained your high standard - but deep down I’m glad that April is over :)

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Bob .. great Z post - I loved learning about the three new castles .. and the Z plan.

I'd quite like to see the blood stains! Poor woman ... hard and bloody times those ..

I'd intended to do plans - but never got there! Glad I didn't think about haunted castles - just castles .. and amazing that we only duplicated Nottingham and Warkworth ..

Cheers for now - better off and do some rounds of commenting .. have a great day - it's sunny down here! Hilary

Jessica L. Celaya said...

Awesome idea for the A-Z challenge. It was cool to read about z-plan castles and their histories. Thanks for sharing.

Jo said...

New one, never heard of Z plan castles. I couldn't make head nor tail of the last comments written over the door. Thanks for an enjoyable series of castles Bob.

Robyn Campbell said...

A Z plan! Wow! Bob, I have enjoyed your posts so much. You and Hilary have given me a new vacation idea. I always read your castle posts, even when I couldn't comment. (My kid was married on Saturday, so it has been a busy month in more ways than one.) I took notes too. I will do a castle trip one day soon! *waving*

Unknown said...

Wonderful series, as I write historical fiction I've enjoyed them all.

Julie Flanders said...

Yikes, the blood stained stairs are creepy, that poor girl. I've so enjoyed all of your castle ghosts, and it's been fun to learn so much about UK castles and history. Wonderful theme for the challenge!

Annalisa Crawford said...

I've really enjoyed reading your posts, thank you for finding me and leading me to this blog. You can't beat a good ghost story!

Congratulations on finishing the challenge!

Unknown said...

Dear Bob,

It's nice to meet you. I'm late making my rounds.

Clever of you to use the form of the letter z to choose your castles!

I love castles! What a fun theme for the challenge!

Congratulations on getting through to z!

Best wishes,
Anna's A to Z the letter Z

Marcie said...

I can't believe I did not realize that you were part of the A-Z Blog Challenge, too... Here I am, visiting your A-Z contribution just in time for the Refelction post...