Black Castle House on the High Street, South Queensferry, Scotland is a three storey building, harled and painted black with the date 1623 on the facade. The upper floor has three windows with carved and scrolled detail. It is the oldest remaining bulding in the town.
The dormer pediments are all inscribed: the east one with the date, a love knot and hearts; the centre one with WLMS; the west one with WL and a love knot. The initial WL and MS refer to William Lowrie and his wife Marion Speddie. William's sister-in-law, Janet Lowrie, was condemned to death as a witch and was probably burnt at Ferry Muir, which was where many witches were executed in the 17th century. The house has been much altered: in the 1950s it was used as a Mission Hall; in the 1970s it was owned by a design consultancy; and in the early 1980s it was converted into 3 residential units. It is probable that the front of the house was once arcaded and it is rumoured that there is a secret stairway and tunnel leading to the shore which would have been used by smugglers. However, no sign of this stairway exists today.
Formerly in the county of West Lothian, South Queensferry lies on the south shore of the Firth of Forth, 10 miles (16 km) west of Edinburgh. It has been an important crossing at least since 1071 when Malcolm III granted free passage at the ‘Queens Ferry’ for pilgrims on their way to St Andrews. A ferry service operated until 1964, the year the Forth Road Bridge was opened.
South Queensferry was created a burgh of regality in the 13th century and made a Royal Burgh in 1636. It traded actively with Europe in the 17th century. Buildings dating from this period include Laburnum House, the Hawes Inn, the Tolbooth Tower, the Black Castle, the Old Parish Church and Plewlands House. St Mary’s Episcopal Church (from 1441) was a monastery and hospice before the Reformation. The Hawes Inn features in Robert Louis Stevenson’s novel ‘Kidnapped’.