Wyliecleuch is marked as a tower on Joan Blaeu’s map of 1654 but whether or not it was actually a tower is unclear.
The site has defensive qualities, occupying rising ground above the steep-sided valley, or cleuch, of Wylie Cleuch through which flows the Leet Water.
Little seems to be known about Wyliecleuch and it appears to enter historical record in a charter of 1514 when Robert Ramsay was styled of Wyliecleuch. Robert was the eldest son of Alexander Ramsay who was the brother of Robert Ramsay of Cockpen and a cousin of Sir Alexander Ramsay of Dalhousie. Wyliecleuch passed to his son, Alexander, who had a sasine of it in 1532. Alexander was in turn succeeded by Thomas Ramsay who had sasine of Wyliecleuch in 1543.
On the 12th of March 1544 Wyliecleuch was burnt by the English, documents from the reign of Henry VIII recording that “Dawnchestre and Williklughs burnt by John Carr and Gil. Swinhoo”. This may suggest that, like Darnchester, Wyliecleuch was a defensible building at this time although it isn’t conclusive. It also isn’t clear if the building was rebuilt however the Ramsays continued to use it as a designation.
Thomas was married to Alison Home, who died in 1564 or 1565, and appears in various documents, for example when he guaranteed a loan for Triamor Redpath of Crumrig in 1563 and when he served as a juror in a trial at Langtoun (Langton) in 1574.
Around 1578 Elizabeth Hoppringill or Hoppringle, prioress of the abbey of Coldstream, granted to Alexander Home of Hutoun-hall, his wife Isobel Home and their third son, Samuel Home, various possessions including “the town and lands of Wyliecleuch” in return for “certain sums of money paid to her”. Thomas Ramsay’s second daughter, Margaret, married Alexander Hoppringle in 1578 or 1579 which might explain the Hoppringle connection.
Thomas died some time after 1594 and was succeeded by his son, Robert. Robert’s eldest son, also Robert, married Isobel, daughter of Robert Dickson of Bughtrig, but died in 1598 before his father. He had three daughters, Margaret, Isobel who married Robert Dickson of The Peel, and Jonet. When Isobel Dickson died in 1654 she was described as Lady Wylecleuch.
In 1606 Sir John Ramsay, second son of the elder Robert and a favourite of James VI, was created Viscount of Haddington and Lord Ramsay of Barns, and in 1609 he was created Lord Ramsay of Melrose. Sir John was a page at the royal court during the Gowrie Conspiracy and is thought to have been responsible for stabbing John Ruthven, 3rd Earl of Gowrie, to death.
In 1617 various properties, including 12 husband lands and the mill of Wyliecleuch, were erected into a free barony of Wyliecleuch for Sir George Ramsay of Newtounleyis (Newtonlees), the third son of the elder Robert when he acquired Wyliecleuch from his three nieces. Sir George served as a witness in 1628 when John Swynton of Swynton was served heir to his father, Robert Swynton, in the lordship of Swytoun, and died in 1634 or 1635.
At some point in the 17th century following Sir George’s death the estates seem to have passed out of the family as in 1672 a George Clappertone, Clappertoun or Clapertoune of Wyliecleuch is mentioned, and again in 1680. Later Sir George’s great granddaughter, Elizabeth, attempted unsuccessfully to recover Wyliecleuch from “Richard Clapperton of Wylie-Cleugh” in 1694 and from the creditors of “Clapperton of Wylliecleugh” in 1745.
There is little direct evidence for Wyliecleuch having been a tower beyond Blaeu’s map and it being burnt by the English during the Rough Wooing, but the relative prominence of the Ramsay family perhaps lends weight to the theory that this was a defensible building and as such I have listed it as a possible tower pending further research. It should be noted that Blaeu’s positioning of Wyliecleuch to the south of Darnchester and to the north-east of Hatchednize may indicate that he confused it with Castlelaw.
The site is now occupied by the ruins of a 19th century farmhouse with Gothic arched windows however it’s possible that this may incorporate parts of an earlier building. Nearby is a shallow well, now covered by a spoil heap, which provided water to the house prior to the installation of mains water in the 20th century.
Alternative names for Wyliecleuch
Williecleugh; Williklughe; Williklughs; Wilycleuch; Wylecleuch; Wyleclewch; Wylie Cleugh; Wylie-Cleuch; Wylie-cleugh; Wyliecleuche; Wyliecleugh; Wylleclewche; Wylliecleugh