Caerlaverock Castle is a 13th-century triangular moated castle in the Caerlaverock National Nature Reserve area at the Solway Firth, south of Dumfries in the south west of Scotland. In the Middle Ages it was owned by the Maxwell family. Today, the castle is in the care of Historic Scotland and is a tourist attraction and wedding venue. It is protected as a scheduled monument, and as a category A listed building.
The history of its builders can be traced to Undwin and his son Maccus in the eleventh century; Maccus gave his name to the barony of Maccuswell, or Maxwell. His grandson, John de Maccuswell (d.1241), was first Lord Maxwell of Caerlaverock. The Baronies of Maxwell and Caerlaverock then passed down through the male line, sometimes collaterally. Robert de Maxwell of Maxwell, Caerlaverock and Mearns (d.1409) rebuilt Caerlaverock castle and was succeeded by Herbert Maxwell of Caerlaverock (d.1420) who married Katherine Stewart.
The present castle was preceded by several fortifications in the area: a Roman fort on Ward Law Hill and a British hill fort that was in use around 950. Around 1220 Alexander II of Scotland granted the lands in the area to Sir John Maxwell, making him Warden of the West March. John Maxwell then proceeded to build the "old" castle, 200 metres (660 ft) to the south of the current one. This castle was square in shape and was one of the earliest stone castles to be built in Scotland. It had a moat with a bridge facing north. Only the foundations and remains of a wooden enclosure around it remain. In the 1270s the "new" castle was built, and Herbert Maxwell, nephew of John Maxwell, occupied it.
Being very close to the border with England, Caerlaverock castle had to be defended several times against English forces. One such occasion was the Siege of Caerlaverock of 1300 by Edward I of England who had eighty seven of the Barons of England in his host, as well as knights of Brittany and Lorraine. The Maxwells, under their chief, Sir Eustace Maxwell, made a vigorous defence that repelled the English several times. In the end the garrison were compelled to surrender, after which it was found that only sixty men had defied the whole English army for a considerable period. In recent years, Historic Scotland has organised re-enactments of the Siege. During the siege the English heralds composed a roll of arms in the form of verses of poetry, each describing the feats of valour of each noble and knight present, with a blason of his armorials. The Roll of Caerlaverock is thus a very important primary source for students of heraldry.
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