Black Castle, a category 'A' listed building, is the oldest dwelling house in South Queensferry, situated at East Terrace on Queensferry High Street. Not actually a castle, it may have been given this name in the early 1640's during the 'Witch Hunts', which had a profound effect on the family there, or in the mid 19th century when it was the home of a Coal Merchant.
It was built by William Lowrie, a Mariner and Explorer, in 1626, a three story building, now harled (in the 1960's) and painted black with the date 1626 on the facade, it would originally have been sandstone in colour. The upper floor has 3 windows with carved and scrolled detail. The carved stone pediments above the dormer windows bear the date 1626 and the initials W.L and M.S, those of William Lowrie and his wife Marion Speddie.
The ground floor of Black Castle may once have had an arcaded facade, similar to that of other contemporary buildings in Scotland. It is rumoured that one wall has a concealed stairway within its thickness, but no sign of this exists today.
Unlike most of the buildings on Queensferry High Street, it opens directly on to street level.
One History Group Member remembers – "Marshall, Morison & Associates, Architects, moved into Black Castle in the late sixties until around 1972/74. They improved the inside of the building and had the Reception area on the bottom floor using the side door as it is now. They put in a spiral staircase in the far left hand corner of the bottom floor going up through the middle flat (with no access ) to the top floor. This is where the architect’s had their drawing boards and there was a small kitchen, where I made the coffee, one of my duties being the office junior,
from about 1970 – 1972".
In the 18th century, boats brought in kegs of contraband brandy, which smugglers rolled along secret tunnels from the shore to Black Castle.
In the 1950's the bottom level was used as a Railway or Miners Mission Hall. In the 1970's the building was used by a Design Consultancy, and in the early 1980's it was converted into 3 residential units.
In the OS Name Book, 1856, the proprietor of the brewery and buildings in Brewery Close which were no longer in operation, is given as Mr R Wyld, Provost and the owner of the Glenforth Distillery (1843 – 1863). In the 1861 Census, Robert S Wyld, Provost in South Queensferry, (May 1839-Oct 1842), is Distiller employing 2 Clerks, Manager and 18 men. Robert, aged 52, was born in Leith and lived in south Side of South Queensferry with his wife and 4 children.
'The Brewers and Breweries of Linlithgowshire' by Forbes Gibb, 2009, states that a John Bell was brewer in 1766, but he was deceased at the time of his daughters marriage in 1766.
A Mr Gray, was brewer in 1815 but his brewery was offered for sale by public roup (auction) in 1817 along with a store house, malt barn, lofts and dwelling house (brewery and other subjects at Queensferry for sale, Caledonian Mercury, 1st December 1817).
"That old and established malting in the town of Queensferry, the lands adjoining and the vaults underneath, the only brewery in a district of several miles extent, brewery, malt barns, kiln, loft, close, wells, and 2 story dwelling house and garden, bounded by the south street with a front of great length, the supply of water is good and of excellent quality." (extract)
Forbes Gibb has suggests that "the thing that hit the country brewers most (I would count the Queensferry brewery as a country one) was the opening up of the railways. Up until then a brewery in Queensferry, Linlithgow, etc., could service a market within a cart journey, which would take in the nearby villages. They probably bumped into each other on the limits but competition would not have been severe. The railways allowed the large urban breweries to move beer cheaply, and because they had economies of scale, the prices were competitive. Breweries in Scotland peaked in the 1820s with 241, and then there was a steady decline, with only 124 by 1900".
This would certainly tie in with what evidence we have of the Queensferry brewery.
The brewery was demolished in the early 19th century and a cinema was built on the site. The malt barns may still have been in use for storage.
This was demolished in turn and the site is now occupied by a number of private flats.
There now (1916) exists a small brewery in Bankhead Farm Steadings, Dalmeny, owned and operated by a local man. He has called it The Ferry Brewery and his selection of beers and ales is named for persons and events in Historical Queensferry. Such as Ferry Fair, a golden dry pale ale,
The Ferry Witches Brew, a reddish copper ale.
Burryman, a dark amber ale
and many more.
He is a growing concern and successfully supplies several pubs near and far.
Link to his website below.