Hallbar is a fine example of the fortified tower houses which came into existence towards the end of the thirteenth century. Built throughout the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries and, more sparsely, in the sixteenth, they were austere edifices in which the owner's household and the surrounding population could take refuge when under attack. Usually of three or four storeys, they were crowned by a parapet projecting on corbels, continued into a turret. Although largely obsolescent with the coming of artillery in the sixteenth century; the tower house had the merits of security and a traditional prestige not to be lightly discarded.
The walls, on average 1.6o metres thick, are built of sandstone rubble with squared quoins (corners) and dressings. It rises four storeys to a nineteenth-century battlemented parapet. At second-floor level, a garderobe (lavatory), also added in Victorian times, projects out on corbels near the east corner. A barmkin or yard enclosed by a wall or earthwork is thought to have extended south-west of the Tower.
The interior, before conversion, consisted of five rooms of more-or-less equal size, one above another. The cellar was probably used for storage or as a cattle refuge in time of attack - it has now been converted into the kitchen; the vault here springs from barely a metre above the floor. The dog-leg stair contained within the walls is unusual compared with similar towers in the Borders which have spiral stairs. The Tower could also be entered through the doorway at first-floor level, reached either by a timber stair (now reinstated) or ladder.
The first-floor hall had the only fireplace in the Tower; fitted out in Victorian times with a cast-iron range, it has now been returned to its original form. In the opposite wall, stone benches line a window recess. The ceiling has been decorated by June McEwan using an authentic combination of earth pigments and ox gaul, bound by rabbit skin glue; it includes the armorial device of the Lockhart family. The route of the stairs at second-floor level is interrupted by the flue from the hall fireplace and the ascent continues in the opposite wall. This floor is now subdivided into a bedroom and bathroom. On the floor above, a carved head can be seen in the wall at the top of the stairs. Beyond is a vaulted garret, now a bedroom.
The stairs continue up to a turret with a pyramidal roof, giving access to the east battlement beneath which water chutes throw rainwater clear of the walls. The gables are crow-stepped, a typical Scottish feature of the late sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. The south gable has an oriel window, a sort of watch-tower, taken out on three massive stone supports. The attic may have been both a guardroom and store, not only for life supplies, but also for weapons.
The dovecote, located in one of the gables, is in the form of square pigeon holes set into the wall. It is in line with the chimney flue which ensured the feathered inhabitants benefited from any heat, indicating their importance to the household, particularly as valuable food in time of blockade. Access to the dovecote was by way of a brattice or timber platform extending out from the wall.
The Tower of Hallbar (alternatively, the Tower or Fortalice or Castle of Braidwood) is on the lands of the Barony of Braidwood, which had first been conferred on one John de Monfod by King Robert the Bruce in 1326-7 for 'homage and service'. The Tower itself may have been built in response to an Act of Parliament of 1535 directing those with land to the value of £1oo in the area to construct a tower, thirty-feet square, to protect himself and the local population from Border raiders.
The first mention of Hallbar ('bar' - Gaelic for height, therefore 'high hall'), occurs in an Act of Parliament of 1581 ratifying the transfer of the Barony of Braidwood to Harie Stewart of Gogar, brother of the Earl of Arran. Harie became briefly James VI's Chancellor, but on his downfall the Tower seems to have passed to his enemy and successor, Lord Maitland of Thirlestane Castle, Berwickshire.
Hallbar was in the hands of the Marquis of Douglas by 1681 but in that year it passed, together with the barony, to the neighbouring landowner, Sir George Lockhart of Lee Castle, and it remains the property of his descendant to this day.
Young Sir Norman
Drawings by A. Archer in 1837 indicate the building had become semi-ruinous. In 1861 it was restored under the superintendence of Dr D. R. Rankin of Carluke for the then owner, the seventeen-year-old laird, Sir Norman Macdonald Lockhart. The whole of the top, with its wall-walks, garret and crow-stepped gables had to be reconstructed, and stone slabs for the roof substituted for slates.
Once again habitable, the tower was re-tenanted: from 1947 to 1969 Hallbar was occupied by the Rev. Neville Davidson, a prominent and distinguished minister of Glasgow Cathedral who used it as a weekend retreat. Davidson wished to purchase Hallbar but the laird, Simon Macdonald Lockhart, declined the offer. The last tenant, a Mr Edmund, left in 1984, terminating a stay of fifteen years, thereafter, repeated vandalism, the ravages of frost damage and weathering in general led to the tower once again becoming semi-ruinous.
A New Beginning
Following an approach by the Lee and Carnwath Estate, the Vivat Trust agreed in 1998 to a full repairing lease for Hallbar - a Scheduled Ancient Monument and also listed Grade A - since when they have carried out a programme of repairs, and converted the property for use as holiday accommodation for up to seven people. The Trust believes that this purpose has allowed a sympathetic conversion to take place, keeping alterations to a minimum. The vertical distribution of the rooms, the tortuous stairs and low doorways make the tower unsuitable for full-time occupation.
The structure had to be strengthened by the insertion of stainless steel restraints internally and externally, to anchor the north-east wall face to the core. Steel dowls were stretched across cracks at all levels. Local aggregates were used to match the historical composition of the original mortar. The roof was laid with Burlington slates to reduce the weight on the timbers. The window frames were renewed with four-pane treated timber casements. The doors were repaired by a combination of renewal and patching. Internally, the stair nosings had to be built-up where decayed. The new interior lime plastering incorporates horsehair for added strength and Oakbank flagstones were laid for the kitchen, hall and garret floors.
Lockhart of Lee and Carnwath
The earliest record of the name Locard, in origin a Flemish name, is in 1153 when Stephanus Loccard witnessed a London land deed. A great grandson of Stephanus acquired land at Lee in 1272 and became 'William, First of Lee. It was Sir George Lockhart (1630-89) who, in 1681, acquired Hallbar as part of the Barony of Braidwood. His descendant Alexander Macdonald Lockhart was created baronet in 18o6 but the baronetcy became extinct with the death of Sir Simon Macdonald Lockhart in 1919. The family seat, Lee Castle, dates back to C. 1321, but in the early nineteenth century it was reconstructed and enlarged to become a castellated country house.
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