Newark castle occupies a promontory on the Firth of Forth, about half a mile west of St Monans.  Consequently it is also known as St Monans, as well as the alternatives of Inverie and St Monance castle.  The fortress may date back to the mid thirteenth century when King Alexander III (1241–1286) as a child is thought to have stayed here.  Its early history seems otherwise obscure.

In 1545 the prior of Pittenweem granted ‘certain acres belonging to our manor, commonly called the Newark of St. Monans' to James Sandilands of Cruivie.  The name suggests that new work (new-wark) had recently been undertaken at the castle.  Apparently Newark in Nottinghamshire has the same new work origin and was used before 1057.  In 1596 the fortress (fortalicio) of New-wark at St Monans was mentioned again when William Sandilands was confirmed in his lands which included the newly founded barony.  The castle then slips from the sight of history until in 1645 James Sandilands of St. Monans, afterwards Lord Abercrombie, as heir to his grandfather, received his lands ‘with the tower and fortalice of St. Monance called the New-wark'.  Yet in 1649 he sold ‘the tower of St Monans called Newark' to David Leslie of Civil War fame.  In 1661 David was created a lord by a grateful King Charles II (1660-85) and took the title of Newark after his new castle.  He died in 1682.  The castle survived an attempted restoration in the late nineteenth century when its owner refused to sell it to a shipping magnate who had already made a plan for its restoration.

Newark Castle occupies a small promontory running into the sea a mile south-west of St Monans harbour.  The castle would appear to have been rectangular, but the west side has been washed away by the sea.  The oldest part of the fortress would seem to be 3 vaulted cellars under the south side of the east range.  Probably in the early 1500s the main castle block along the northern part of the east front, was extended and the 25' diameter circular tower may have been added at the north-east corner at the same time.  This had an oddly shaped pentagonal interior which may suggest that the original structure had very thick walls and may just have dated back to the thirteenth century. 

The main entrance was west of the tower and was followed, after a short distance, by a probably seventeenth century round tower with thin walls.  Late in the 1500s the castle was made more homely by adding a new hall at ground floor level between the older cellars and the tower to the north.  Further alterations taking place well into the 1600s saw a top storey added to the round tower and the main block altered to have Dutch gable ends.  Around the same time a kitchen was inserted into one of the undercroft chambers of the east range.  This had a bedrock floor laid with paving and a drain in the east wall.

The plans drawn up in the nineteenth century, when the rebuilding of the fortress was contemplated and excavations undertaken, explains much of the structure's construction.  The 25' diameter round tower was 5 storeys high with a basement set below ground and circular gun loops to east and west that covered the now infilled ditch.  This was originally at least 15' deep.  The tower had walls over 7' thick, but tapering towards the summit, presumably before they were cut away for more living space.  Additionally gun loops and windows had been added to the upper floors.  In the centre of the tower basement was a rectangular cut in the bedrock.  This may have marked the site of an early well.  All the finds were seventeenth century and later.  The first floor hall with 2 fireplaces stood above the kitchen and appeared to be of seventeenth century construction.

After restoration in the early nineteenth century, which saw the main round tower walls hollowed out to provide more accommodation, the weakened structure collapsed leading to the abandonment of the house.  A circular sixteenth century dovecot stands some 300' east of the castle.

Why not join me at other Great Scottish Castles this Spring?  Information on tours at Scholarly Sojourns.


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