Robert Brown Gillespie of Blackhall, O.B.E.,
Baron of Blackhall 

The Royal Barony of Blackhall.


Around 1140, a Norman Knight, Walter Fitzalan, designated First High Steward of the royal household and Baron Renfrew by King David I, received the lands of Kerkert and Strathgryffe, later to be called Renfrewshire, from the hands of his king. These lands held the Forest of Paisley, a large, wild reserve to the south-west of the city, which included an estate called "Nigra Aula," or Blackhall, where Walter built his House of Blackhall. The House and Barony of Blackhall are mentioned in a 1272 charter, witnessed by the chaplain of Blackhall Chapel, and again, in a 1283 charter granted by James, Fifth High Steward, which describes certain lands belonging to the Park of Blackhall. The Barony of Renfrewshire is held today by Prince Charles.  

Walter Fitzalan went on to found Paisley Abbey in 1163.

Seven generations on, in 1390, Robert III, son of the first Stewart king, Robert II, and grandson of Walter, Sixth High Steward, succeeded to the throne of Scotland and, on 12th December 1395 at Dundonald, conferred on his “natural” son, Sir John, all the lands of Blackhall in the Barony of Renfrew in the Vicecounty of Lanark. The Lands and Barony of Blackhall are mentioned in numerous charters issued by the Stewart kings confirming them to Sir John’s heirs and successors, among them are:-

§       King James IV in 1508 to John, 5th of Blackhall;

§       King James V in 1539, granting a charter of confirmation to James, 6th of Blackhall, erecting in ‘liberam baroniam’ the lands of Blackhall, as well as those of Ardgowan, Auchengowan, and Finnock;

§       King James VI/I in a 1579 charter of confirmation to James, 8th of Blackhall, including the lands and “place” of Blackhall;

§       King Charles II in 1667 to Archibald, 14th of Blackhall,  who became the first Baronet (Nova Scotia.)            

The House of Blackhall is the oldest remaining dwelling in Paisley; it is situated in the suburb of Blackhall, one mile south east of Paisley Abbey. The house was inherited by Walter Fitzalan's direct descendent Walter Stewart, the 6th Baron Renfrew, who married Marjory, the daughter of Robert the Bruce: their son became the first of the Stewart kings, King Robert II, and the Barony of Blackhall continued to be passed down through the Royal Stewart family.

Blackhall was inhabited and used until around 1840, at which time the family had already moved to Inverkip. The house was given to Paisley Town Council by the 23rd Baron, Sir Michael Hugh, in 1936, desiring that the ancient place be held in trust for the people of Paisley. In 1978 the local authority considered demolition, causing public outcry; the house returned into private ownership in 1982 after restoration using funds from the Paisley Common Good Fund and from the Dalrymple Fund. It comprises today a great hall, dining room, four bedrooms and a stone spiral staircase, with elements of the current building going back probably to the 14th century.

It stands no longer in the Forest of Paisley, nor in rich meadowlands, but is situated behind its walled gardens off the Lonend road, south of the Paisley Hammills, in an area uniting the city's past and present. 

The ruins in 1978 and Blackhall Manor as it has been restored today

When Sir Michael, 18th of Blackhall, inherited from his brother, Sir Archibald in 1724, he enclosed and subdivided the lands in the baronies of Blackhall and Mearns at Mearns Castle. At that time, the Barony comprised 24 families; the House and estate; chapels at Craigton and Thrusheraig, and a lime works. Sir Michael moved his family sometime after 1738 from the House of Blackhall to Inverkip, where the family built the fine Ardgowan House on the estate.  

The keep on the estate at Inverkip and Ardgowan House

Until the passage of the Scots feudal land reform act in 2004, 70 acres of land close to Ardgowan House in Inverkip in Renfrewshire's Spango valley remained within the ancient feudal superiority of Blackhall as property of the Most Hon. Robert Brown Gillespie of Blackhall, O.B.E., Baron of Blackhall. Today, the Baron resides with Lady Blackhall in Paris: he is the 27th to hold the title first established by the Royal Stewarts in 1395. 

The coat of arms above left gives the baron’s full achievement, and his standard is shown below. The three masted galley on his shield, which originates with the Lord of the Isles; the fist holding three lightning bolts; and the pomeis; all show differencing from the Macpherson of Cluny arms. The crest is a wildcat rampant, guardant, holding a pomeis: the wildcat signifies descent from the ancient Clan Chattan.


Standard of Robert Brown Gillespie of Blackhall, Baron of Blackhall

Left above : The Baron at home with Lady Blackhall.Blackhall. Right above: At Glentruim with the Hon. Sir William Alan Macpherson of Cluny and Blairgowrie, Chief of Macpherson. (Creag Dhub, the hill hiding Cluny's cave (mentioned in R.L. Stevenson's book, Kidnapped,)  and marking the geographic roots and the war cry of the clan MacPherson appears in the distance.)

Above: First Minister of Scotland, Rt. Hon. Alex Salmond MSP and Moira Salmond with Blackhall and Lady Blackhall; Paris 2010


Left above: Blackhall cementing the Auld Alliance with French President Jacques Chirac; Right above: Lady Blackhall, the Baron and former French Prime Minister, Edouard Balladur.

Above: The late, much loved, Sheila, Lady Macpherson of Cluny and Blairgowrie, first lady of Clan Macpherson, and Lady Blackhall


Left above: Blackhall on the grand staircase of Glenbogle House (The Monarch of the Glen's Ardverikie) before Molly's  portrait of Hector (with permission from the BBC). Right above: Blackhall entertaining friends under a Templar cross on full-ivory-mounted RG Lawrie pipes.



Above: Marina, the Baron's sister, accompanying Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth and Gabriele Albertini, the Mayor of Milan, on Her Majesty's 2002 trip to Milan.



The Barons of Blackhall since 1395


References:  -


"Burke's Peerage and Baronetage, 107th Edition";

"Burke's Peerage and Gentry Today: Atavus - Volume 3, Issue 4 - July 2004";

"The Place of Blackhall - the Story of eight centuries," Janet S. Bolton, Stewart Society Journal-Vol. XVIII N° 3;

"The Stewarts of Blackhall and Ardgowan," J.L. Olar BA,   Journal of Ancient and Medieval Studies:  The Octavian Society, 1997-2000 ;   

"From Royal Stewart to Shaw Stewart," Janet S. Bolton, Nenufra  Publications 1989.