Shieldhill Castle is a Category B listed building in Biggar, Scotland, an historic market town on the northern edge of the Southern Uplands. It is set within six acres of gardens and wooded park land.
The castle was originally the ‘Big House’ of a private estate owned by the Chancellor family and the original building dates back to the 12th century.
In 1434 Thomas Somerville, the 1st Lord Somerville, granted George Chancellor the lands of “Sheildhill” (Shieldhill) and “half the lands of Quadquan” (Quothquan).
A William Chancellor fought for Mary Queen of Scots at the Battle of Langside, and as a result the Chancellors’ main house at Quothquan was destroyed by the victors, and the Chancellors moved to Shieldhill, it becoming their main seat. The oldest remaining part of Shieldhill today is a square keep which is of a style dated to the 16th century. This was the main entrance into the castle until 1820.
A doocot standing to the west of the castle was built in the 17th century, although it was remodelled in the 19th century to resemble a castellated tower.
In 1820 extensive additions were made to Shieldhill, with new wings extending the footprint of the castle considerably, and a new entrance created. Further work was carried out at the end of the 19th century. In 1898 a Frederick Hume Chancellor sold Shieldhill and its lands at a public auction. A single storey extension was built on the east of the castle in 1913. Shieldhill was occupied by the Chancellor family until the 20th century, and since 1959 has been a hotel with visits from some famous people; Nelson Mandela resided at the Castle when he attended the Commonwealth Summit in Edinburgh in 1997. He planted an oak tree in memory of his visit which sits proudly in front of the castle, along with a plaque celebrating his visit. Shieldhill Castle reopened in August 2020 after an extensive and thorough refurbishment and included the commissioning of a special new tartan from Mill Calzeat.
The minister at Quothquan accused John Chancellor of Shieldhill’s wife and daughter of resorting to charms to restore the health of a sick child. His daughter attended the presbytery, and kneeling before them had to confess her guilt. In 1639 John was charged with breaking down the door of Quothquan Kirk, in order to bury his wife within, and he was censured by the kirk session.
James Chancellor of Shieldhill was imprisoned for helping fugitives from the Battle of Bothwell Bridge in 1679. He later took ‘violent possession’ of the lands of Parkholm, which had belonged to Carmichael of Bonnyton until a deluge had altered the course of the River Clyde. Carmichael crossed the river and cultivated the land for several years, but when Carmichael died in 1688 Chancellor and his neighbours claimed that, since the river had been the boundary between the lands, this portion was rightfully theirs. During harvesting, they imprisoned local folk in their homes. Chancellor was charged with riot, but the case was not proven. In 1695 the Lords of Session decided that Parkholm should remain Carmichael property, and James was made to pay 300 merks in recompense.
A grey lady ghost has been sighted by hotel guests in the corridors of the building. One belief is she was a former occupant of the house who fell for someone of a lower social class. The story goes that she killed herself as a result of her father forbidding their relationship. Additionally a male ghost clothed in what appears to be butler’s uniform has been reported in the hotel’s former staff quarters. There are several versions of what happened to her, let us know if you see or feel her when you stay.
You never know it might end up in our history book.