Merchiston Castle or
Merchiston Tower was probably built by Alexander
Napier, the second Laird of Merchiston around 1454.
It serves as the seat for
. It is perhaps most notable
for being the home of John Napier, the 8th
Laird of Merchiston
, inventor of logarithms
who was born there in 1550.
Merchiston Tower as it appeared in
1829, showing the addition to the front made by the Merchiston
Castle School, which occupied it at that time.
The lands surrounding the castle were acquired in 1438 by Alexander
Napier, the first Laird of Merchiston, and remained in the Napier family
for most of the following five
Merchiston Castle was probably built as a country house, but its
strategic position and the turbulent political situation required
it to be heavily fortified - with some walls as much as six feet
thick - and it was frequently under siege. During restoration in
the 1960s a twenty-six pound cannon-ball was found embedded in the
Tower, thought to date from the struggle in 1572 between Mary, Queen of Scots
, and supporters of
her son, James VI
In 1659, the castle was sold to Ninian Lowis, in whose family it
remained until 1729, when it was sold to the governor's of George Watson's
tower was reacquired by the Napier of Merchiston family when
Francis Napier, 6th Lord
bought it in 1752.
In 1772, a year before the sixth Lord's death, the Tower was sold
to a relative, Charles Hope-Weir
second son of John Hope,
2nd Earl of Hopetoun
. Weir sold it in 1775 to Robert Turner, a
lawyer, who sold it in 1785 to Robert Blair
, a professor of
at Edinburgh University
The Napier family again came into possession of Merchiston Castle
in 1818, when it was purchased by William Napier, 9th Lord
Lord Napier let the Tower to Charles Chalmers, who founded the
It was sold outright to the school in 1914
by The Honourable John Scott Napier, fourteenth Laird of Merchiston
(son of Francis Napier,
10th Lord Napier
). The school vacated the building in 1930,
moving to a site some three miles away.
The property passed first to The Merchant Company in 1930, and then
to the Edinburgh City Council in 1935, and remained unoccupied
(except for war service) until 1956 when it was suggested as the
centerpiece of a new technical college. Restoration work began in
1958, highlights of which were the discovery of the entrance
drawbridge and the preservation of an original seventeenth century
stands at the center of Napier
University’s Merchiston campus.
Images of Merchiston Tower as it
appeared in 1883, after renovations done by the Merchiston Castle
The Tower is an interesting and elaborate example of the medieval tower house
being built on the familiar "L" plan
with a wing projecting to the north. It was originally vaulted at
the second floor and the roof. Among several remarkable features is
the unusual elaboration of the main entrance, which is at second
floor level in the south front. The tall shallow recess in which
the doorway is set undoubtedly housed a drawbridge which must have
rested upon an outwork some 14 feet above ground level and 10 feet
from the Tower.
after being let to Merchiston Castle School it was considerably altered with the addition of a
castellated Gothic-style two-story extension (see picture) and a
basement, which has since been removed.
Napier University has taken out large sections of wall on the
northern extension to accommodate a corridor which runs through the
Castle to other campus buildings.