GUARD Archaeology Limited were commissioned by Renfrewshire Council to undertake a watching brief and programme of building recording during the proposed consolidation of a series of structures forming part of the designed landscape of the Castle Semple Estate, Lochwinnoch. These remains, which include an ice house, cave and three water cascade features located along the Blackditch Burn within Courtshaw Wood, are designated B-Listed monuments
During the course of the work programme at Semple Estate several new features were uncovered. These include a possible water feature in the pond adjacent to the Upper Cascade and an underground culvert drain at the Cave entrance, presumably to aid water drainage within the cave interior.
The work has also revealed the mode of construction used in most of the features and in particular the re-use of stone from earlier structures, such as the Upper Cascade where stonework reminiscent of door/window jambs was observed built into its face.
Unfortunately it is unknown where the re-used stone originated from, but could have derived from demolished buildings on the Estate policies which would seem highly likely. It is known that MacDowall, the owner of the estate in the mid eighteenth century, contracted Robert Hunter of Ayr to design and build a modern mansion house and the original tower-house was demolished to provide building materials, for the redesigned estate centre, some of this stone may therefore have been incorporated into the cascades.
The recovery of decorative iron work from the Middle Cascade is also significant as it provides evidence of not only the presence of a decorative railing but also its form and the ornamentation used. The coping stones and railing are not likely to be original, being a later modification to this cascade. Evidence for this is the earlier arch design uncovered behind the facade during the conservation works. Fragments of iron work embedded in stone boulders from the Cave entrance also hints at further embellishments to the Cave which were unknown prior to these works commencing.
Unfortunately no finds of contemporary date were recovered during the present work programme, despite the earliest known cascade feature in Scotland dating from the late seventeenth century. Unfortunately the material recovered from the Ice House Pit comprised mainly of modern detritus and there was no evidence to suggest how its roof was covered when first in use as it now has a concrete screed.