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Claypotts Castle

Claypotts Castle Dundee Scotland

A perfect Z plan tower house, the 'tower fortalice and manor place of Claypotts' was built between 1569 and 1588 by John Strachan of Angus on land a mile west of Broughty Ferry near Dundee. John was a typical representative of the rising lower gentry, many of whom had prospered from the growth in trade and prosperity during the reign of James VI. His family had come far in a short space of time for a predecessor and namesake had been found guilty of stealing horses from the Bishop of Dunkeld in 1511. The Strachans may have built the tower to display their growing wealth but also as an insurance against their jealous neighbours, the Grahams of Ballunie. After expensive squabbling over the family inheritance in 1600, the Strachans lost the castle the very next year, having to sell it to meet their debts.

In 1620, the ownership of Claypotts and its estates was transferred to the powerful Grahams of Claverhouse. In due course it was inherited by John Graham, Viscount or 'Bonnie' Dundee. Although a staunch Protestant and dismayed by the Catholicism of James VII & II, Graham was one of many Scottish lords who could not resile their oath of loyalty to the rightful Stewart monarch. When he realized that the Convention of Estates in Edinburgh was preparing to offer the Scottish Crown to William of Orange, Graham left the capital city with his men and returned to Claypotts to plan his next move, only to learn that he had been declared a rebel. He responded by planting the standard of King James at the gates of Dundee and calling upon the Highland clans to join him. Graham died in his hour of victory at the Battle of Killiecrankie, allegedly shot by a bullet formed from the button of a Hanoverian officer. His reputation as a necromancer and a friend of the Devil had led some to believe that he could not be killed with a standard bullet. His lands were forfeit to the Crown. Claypotts passed in turn to the Douglases, the Homes and the State. It is now besieged by suburban housing.

The Z plan at Claypotts was adopted at a number of sixteenth and early seventeenth century tower houses throughout Scotland. Positioning the projecting towers at diagonally opposite corners allowed defenders to fire along the faces of the main castle block. Claypotts was never built to withstand a major siege by professional armed forces. Its function was the lesser one of providing refuge and security against passing bandits or the depredations of a neighbouring laird.

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