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The Warwick (later Rickarton) House or Castle

Picton harbour, 1863. Site of house (green)
and early shipyard (blue). Click image to enlarge..


The Warwick House was built on one hundred acres of waterfront on the South shore at the entrance to Picton Harbour in 1860, by Colonel George R. Ryder and his wife Mary. The design was inspired by Warwick Castle in England; the battlements extended over the whole sructure, not just the three story 'fortress', and the owners, despite several mortgages, were soon in financial difficulty. In 1866, they sold the property to Ontario College, a Church of England affiliated boarding school. But a somewhat remote location and harsh winters made it difficult to attract sufficient students, so the property was sold again in 1877.

Rickarton house

The Warwick House (Tremaine Map, 1863).

The Hepburn years

A.W. Hepburn

A.W. Hepburn
(Belden Atlas, 1878.)

Arthur William Hepburn (1857-4 October 1922) was married to Katherine Maria McCuaig (1855-1936) on December 15, 1875. The bride's father was James Simeon McCuaig (1819-1888) – a Prince Edward County steamboat operator who owned and controlled the wharfs and freight sheds in Picton Harbour in the third quarter of the century. He also owned a one hundred acre lot about a quarter of a mile east of Colonel and Mrs Ryder's Warwick House, which he probably donated to his daughter and son-in law at the time of their marriage. By 1877, A.W. Hepburn's shipping and associated interests were expanding rapidly, so it was no surprise to the local community that he bought the Warwick House.

He changed the name of the property from 'Warwick' to 'Rickarton' in respect for his Scottish ancestry. A.W. Hepburn was the great-grandson of James Hepburn of Keith who married Katherine Rickart in the late eighteenth century, used 'Rickart Hepburn' as his family name, and built a "Rickarton House" (now a protected heritage house) a few miles from Stonehaven on the east coast of Sctland between Aberdeen and Dundee.

Rickarton house

The Rickarton House (Belden Atlas, 1878).

A.W. Hepburn also named one of his ships as the Rickarton in 1890.

Over the next few years he established a small ship repair facility on the Rickarton House grounds, before establishing a larger ship building facility, the "Hepburn Ways" on the ex-McCuaig property.

The Hepburn family kept the property after A.W. Hepburn's death in 1922; it was used as officers' quarters for the Hastings Prince Edward Regiment early in the Seocond World War, but was empty by 1944 and was sold by the family. It became a hotel, but was very popular with local County people as a mervelous place for an evening out, and very quickly became known as the Rickarton Castle.

In 1991, the Municipal Council decided, in a most unpopular manner, to allow the demolition of the Rickarton Castle. A.G.W. "Archie" Lamont, at the time Chair of the Local Architectural Conservation Committee noted that "one of the refections (in the waters of Picton habour) has maintained itself for close to one hundred and fifty years, but even as I write, it will soon cease forever. That place of history, that place identified with Picton so clearly, that place of memories, that place of the old Benson's Atlas, that place of colour and imagination, that place of dreams, and worries, and hopes, and children and life and death – that place is today being destroyed, demolished, removed, and its refelection will never more grace the waters of Picton Habour. . . We have the attitudes of many of our local public authorities. . . We should ask them, seriously and deeply, what they do in fact, care about..."

Rickarton Castle was replaced with unimaginitive low-income housing.


NMA's local archival holdings
The County Magazine, Fall 1991, no. 61, A.G.W. Lamont, Picton Harbour Reflects the Loss of Rickarton
The County Magazine, Fall 2008, no. 129, Lisa Van Meer, Castles on the Bay
Hepburn shipping in Prince Edward County


Hepburn and Rickarton

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Revised: 19 September 2021