The parish of Fowlis lies on the Braes of the Carse of Gowrie, part of the southern slopes of the Sidlaw Hills, several miles north-west of Dundee. Fowlis joined to the neighbouring parish of Lundie to the north in 1618 and is notable for its castle, kirk and the beauty spot called the Den o' Fowlis.
There has been confusion as to whether the parish was part of Angus or Perthshire. It has been in Angus since late 19th century boundary changes, but was historically a part of Perthshire. (However, the barony of Fowlis included part of neighbouring Liff which has always been in Angus and the parish was also represented in the Synod of Angus and the Mearns.)
Like many places the name of Fowlis is unclear and there are two in central Scotland, our example (sometimes called Fowlis Easter) and Fowlis Wester in Perthshire. One older theory states that the place-name derives from a Norman knight - the Knight of Feuilles - who migrated from Kent who was granted the land by King Malcolm Canmore in the 11th century. Another suggestion says it gets its name from a Gaelic word signifying 'deep valley', referring to the narrow Den in the vicinity. David Dorward derives the name from fo ghlais, meaning 'sub stream' or 'tributary'.
There are no very early dates regarding the ownership of the lands before the dubious Norman association but we know that King David I granted Fowlis along with other lands to William Maule following the Battle of the Standard in 1138. The Maules of course loom large as prominent gentry throughout the county through the centuries. One of Maule's daughters married Roger Mortimer, Sheriff of Perthshire, and Fowlis passed through this family for several centuries until the end of the 14th century when the heiress named Janet married Sir Andrew Gray, seventh baron of Broxmouth, who founded the line of the Grays of Fowlis.
Item, it is statute and ordained that the paintrie quhilk is upon the pulpitt and ruid-laft, being monumentes of idolatrie, sal be obliterate be laying it over with grein colour. The minister with diligens to see the same exped.
Fowlis Castle and the Gray Family
Fowlis Castle stands at the south of the village, near the head of the Den of Fowlis.It was the principal residence of the Grays until 1452 when they moved to Castle Huntly several miles away in the Case of Gowrie. After several centuries of dereliction it was allegedly used as a tavern and then utilised to house farm labourers in the 19th century and more recently has been fully restored as a private residence. There is a date stone of 1862 in the building, commemorating rebuilding by Sir Patrick Keith Murray in the Victorian period. It was largely constructed in its present form in the 17th century and was abandoned when the owners constructed the nearby House of Gray. There is a tradition that the castle was used by the English invader General Monck in the 17th century as stables for a cavalry force. The Grays sold the estate in 1669 to Sir William Murray of Ochtertyre and the Murrays removed to Ochtertyre House, Perthshire, in 1780. The castle was occupied by Jacobite forces in both 1715 and 1745. The Grahams of Fintry are supposed to have tenanted the building for some time also.
The existing structure is called the Lady's Tower and is four storeys in height. The surviving building may represent most of the ancient south-west portion of the castle. The more modern wing is on the north side. It was evidently a forerunner of this stronghold which hosted King James IV in 1497N(when he paid 14 shillings to a harpar there) and his ancestor James I in 1448. The brother of Queen Anna, the Duke of Holstein, dined here with Lord Gray in May 1598.
Although the Gray family had a sometimes tumultuous history, there are no recorded violent events associated with the castle except for one local tradition attached to the winding staircase of the stronghold. This staircase in the tower was supposedly the site of a murder in the 13th century when the Mortimer owner dispatched his own mother there. The tale seems to have been founded on a corruption of the surname, or a play on it: Morte du Mere.
The House of Gray
|The House of Gray|