Origins of the Carmichael Estate
Carmichael Estate, the source of the name, has traditionally been the seat of the clan chiefs. It is located on the A73 highway in the Clyde Valley of Lanarkshire between Lanark and Biggar, bounded by the Clyde River to the north and the Tinto Hills to the south (shown in the map above). It was chartered to Sir John de Carmychel by the Earl of Douglas and Mar about 1374, making him the first Baron of Carmichael, although the family had lived in this area for over 150 years prior to that time as tenants and allies of the powerful Douglas clan. The first Carmichael castle was built here by Sir John’s brother (or father) William de Carmychel, the second Baron, whose charter to the land was confirmed in 1414. William’s son and successor, Sir John of Meadowflat (later third Baron of Carmichael), became the first Chief of Clan Carmichael in 1421. He was serving with a Scottish army sent to support the French against the English invasion during the Hundred Years War. The armies met at the Battle of Bauge and Sir John personally engaged the English Commander, the Duke of Clarence, brother of the English King Henry V, in a charge with lances drawn. Sir John broke his spear on the Duke and unhorsed him, routing the English army and turning the tide of the War. In recognition of this deed he was awarded the family arms depicting a broken spear grasped by an armored hand, thereby becoming the first Chief of Clan Carmichael.
Carmichael Lands Today
Unlike most clans in Scotland, the Carmichael lands are still owned by descendants of the original family (see picture above of Tinto Hill as viewed from Carmichael Estate). The land holdings have shrunk, however, from over 14,000 acres at their peak to some 2,800 acres today. Carmichael Estate still retains its historical working farm heritage, producing crops, livestock (primarily red deer), and tourist revenue. The current Chief, Richard Carmichael of Carmichael, has restored many of the estates’ 200 year old stone servant’s cottages for use as tourist lodgings, and he has built a visitor centre complete with a restaurant, gift shop, historical displays, children’s play area, and Scotland’s only wax museum depicting historical themes. Some twenty listed historic structures are located on the estate; a few of these are described in the following sections.
Carmichael House, the caput of the barony, was a stately three-story family mansion with beautiful grounds and gardens for over 200 years, but it fell into disrepair in recent generations and is now in ruins. It is pictured above with the inset depicting the Chief’s personal Arms (Ensigns Armorial) displaying the broken spear crest atop the original Carmichael shield featuring a red and blue fess, and sided by a knight in armor and a rearing horse. The last family member to reside in Carmichael House was Sir Windham Carmichael-Anstruther, the 25th Baron of Carmichael, until the Second World War when it was used as a billet for Polish army forces, the start of its demise. After the war, due to oppressive taxes, it was sold for a nursing home, but that enterprise went bankrupt in 1950 when the house was bought back by Sir Windham. In 1952 he removed the roof to reduce the property taxes, and he held a demolition sale when doors, windows, and furnishings were sold, leaving only the walls still standing.
The design of the house is elegant and quite distinctive, featuring three free-standing buildings with graceful curved gables. A central tower is flanked by two identical wings facing inwards. Originally, covered corridors wide enough to accommodate a carriage connected the two wings and the central tower so that guests could be transported between the buildings to meals and social gatherings. The architect may have been one of the Adam family who were related through marriage. It was built in 1734 by Sir John Carmichael (‘The Great Earl’), third Earl of Hyndford and fourth Lord Carmichael (1701-1767), to replace the former castle built by William, second Baron of Carmichael, about 1414, and ruined by Cromwell about 1650. The third Earl was a man of great accomplishments including extensive government service as the British Envoy to Prussia and Russia; Knight of the Thistle; member of the King’s Privy Council; Lord of the Bedchamber; and Ambassador to Russia. He was also noted as an agricultural innovator, making large expenditures to plant trees and gardens and to improve the soil at Carmichael Estate. A curling pond provided winter sport and spectator enjoyment, and one of the finest surviving dovecots in Great Britain provided meat during the harsh Scottish winters. Surrounding sites of historical note include the mausoleum at Kirkhill where generations of former clan chiefs are interred at the site of the original Caer Mychel church dedicated by Queen Margaret in 1068; the “new” Carmichael church which was re-located a mile away in 1750; and the family pet cemetery. Clan Carmichael USA started a Roof Restoration Capital Campaign in 2000 to solicit tax-exempt donations to repair and re-roof the mansion before it collapses. In the summer of 2002 a team of Clan Carmichael USA volunteers traveled to Scotland and built a new roof for the tower, naming it “Helton’s Tower” in honor of their beloved founding member and former President Helton Carmichael who had passed away the previous year. The Capital Campaign will continue until the project is completed. Currently the Chief and his family live in the old butler quarters at West Mains.
The Eagle Gate
The main (east) entrance to Carmichael estate on the A73 highway has a stately entranceway flanked by two column-mounted pairs of eagle and pineapple stone sculptures over 250 years old. Originally these columns also supported large ornamental iron gates which were removed and recycled into armaments to support the UK defense effort during World War I. The sculptures were installed in 1750 by Sir John Carmichael (“The Great Earl”), 3rd Earl of Hyndford and 4th Lord Carmichael. They depict the Silesian eagle addition to his arms awarded by order of the King of Prussia in 1741 following the peace he helped achieve by the Treaty of Breslaw. The significance of the pineapples is that this exotic fruit was grown on a few innovative agricultural estates in the 18th century in heated, south-facing, walled gardens, and they came to symbolize a progressive land owner. On 10 August 1997 the eagles and pineapples were stolen from Carmichael estate. Because they are a well known local landmark in Southern Scotland, their theft generated a great deal of interest by the media and police. The eagles, weighing 440 pounds each, were recovered in 1999, found abandoned along a roadside some miles to the north as their notoriety probably prevented them being sold. The eagles were repaired and re-installed, and were dedicated at Chief Richard’s 2000 Carmichael Gathering (see picture above). New pineapple sculptures modeled on similar sculptures at Carmichael estate were made and installed shortly afterwards. The Clan Carmichael USA newsletter is named The Eagle Gate in recognition of this distinctive landmark.
Eastend House, a striking castle at the southern boundary of Carmichael estate, was originally on a separate estate occupied by a branch of the Carmichael family who separated from the senior line around 1500. It had been in the possession of the Carmichael family and their heirs since records began when it was put up for sale in 1988 and acquired by Chief Richard Carmichael in 1989. Eastend comprises a 37 room mansion house of four floors with the oldest visible part of the building, which is claimed to have a much more ancient nucleus, being an early 16th century keep (a fortified tower). To this were added tall crowstepped wings to the east and west in 1673, and these in turn were joined up on the south by a typical 18th century bow-fronted addition which completely obscured the keep on that side. In the mid 19th century large “Scottish baronial” extensions were added to the west. The building is listed on the “Castles of Scotland” map and is a listed historic building, Category B. In addition to terraced lawns, extensive walled gardens, and views of Tinto Hill through majestic ancient redwoods and beech trees, there are three cottages and an ancient stone farm-steading square with servant’s accommodations, stables, harness rooms, dovecot, and clock tower. Because the wood interior supporting structure suffers from dry rot, it is not currently habitable.
The original Church of Kirkmychel, founded by Queen Margaret in 1068, was located on Kirkhill, the site of the Carmichael family mausoleum. The church was destroyed by Cromwell in the mid-17th century. The Earls of Hyndford at Carmichael obtained the patronage of the Church of Scotland at the beginning of the 18th century and gave them the grounds for the existing church a mile to the west while incorporating the old equivalent grounds in the Estate policies around East Mains. In 1750 Sir John Carmichael, third Earl of Hyndford and fourth Lord Carmichael, built the present 450 seat church. The handsome stone building incorporates the original belfry, bell, and outside stone steps leading to the Laird’s loft from the original structure, as well as many gravestones from the original church yard. The bell is inscribed: “Daniel Carmichael cast this bell at Carmichael mill in 1666”. Originally there were three lofts: one for Carmichael House, one for Eastend House, and one for the Douglas farm of Drumalbin. The building was remodeled in 1905 to a design by Sir Robert Lorimer and only the Carmichael loft was retained. A number of fine stained glass windows were installed (the picture shows one window depicting the Arms of the third Earl of Hyndford). Soon after this time the church was nearly destroyed by fire when set alight in the midst of a spirited campaign to give women the vote; only the thick beams of hard local oak saved it from total destruction. Recently the Church reorganized and combined the three neighboring parishes of Carmichael, Pettinain, and Covington into a single parish named Cairngryffe after a hill located between the three former parishes.
Hyndford is the name of both a hamlet and a former Carmichael family estate in Lanarkshire, adjoining Carmichael Estate. The hamlet, on the north bank of the Clyde, 2½ miles SE of Lanark town, bears the name of Hyndford Bridge from a graceful five-arch bridge across the river. The bridge was designed by Alexander Stevens and was completed in 1773. Prior to that time the Carmichael family operated a ford at the site for which the bridge was named, as evidenced by the toll house which is still there. The estate, extending along the Clyde both above and below the hamlet, belonged to the Carmichael family from early in the 16th century, and gave them the title of Earl of Hyndford in the peerage of Scotland from 1701 until 1817.
Carmichael Country Cottages
There are sixteen 18th-century stone cottages on the estate which were originally used as residences for the estate staff, each one unique. They include the Butler’s Cottage, the Coachman’s House, the Smithey’s Cottage, the Pond Cottage, and the Maid’s Cottage (pictured). These historic cottages have been extensively re-modeled and furnished to incorporate modern bathroom, kitchen, and bedroom facilities, some with fireplaces, and are available as unique tourist rentals. They are rated at 3 to 5 crowns by the Scottish Tourist Board and they offer the ideal means to leisurely explore the peaceful rural surroundings of Carmichael Estate. Carmichael is well situated as a touring base for all of southern Scotland, being only a 45 minute drive from Glasgow and Edinburgh, and within easy reach of other historic attractions including Lanark, Biggar, the Borders, Peebles, Stirling, Perth, Ayr, and Carlisle. Refer to the Chief’s web site in the Links section on the left side of this page for details.