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Accessing Scotland's Past Project

Event ID 561653

Category Descriptive Accounts

Type Accessing Scotland's Past Project


Floors Castle and its surrounding lands lie to the west of Kelso, overlooking the Tweed. Until the Reformation, the Abbey of Kelso held the estate; thereafter King James VI granted them to one of his favourites, Robert Ker of Cessford, who later became Earl of Roxburghe. The Kers remained a powerful force in politics and the 5th Earl was instrumental in assuring the Union of Parliaments in 1707. As a reward he became the 1st Duke of Roxburghe that year. To reflect his new status, work began on a new residence at Floors in 1721, transforming an old tower-house into a Georgian mansion.

William Adam was the architect responsible for designing and building the new mansion, though the Duke appears to have influenced the end result. According to contemporary accounts, the mansion was a fairly plain oblong building with towers projecting at each corner. On either side was a pavilion which housed stables and kitchens.

Around 1837, the Castle was significantly remodelled at the request of the 6th Duke, who asked William Henry Playfair to redesign Floors. It is to Playfair that Floors owes its immediately distinctive character and it seems that his aim was to create a mansion fit for the beautiful setting of the Tweed valley. It consists of a four-storeyed and basement, flat-roofed main range, with square towers at each corner, and a two-storeyed extension on the east side. There are flanking single-storeyed ranges on the garden front, behind which are two- and three-storeyed blocks of service accommodation, ranged around open courtyards.

Inspiration for the building can be seen in Playfair's work at George Heriot's and Donaldson's Hospitals in Edinburgh. The mansion incorporates features designed to give it the feel of a castle, with battlemented parapets, pepper-pot angle-turrets as well as ornate water-spouts at the head of every wall and cupolas crowning each turret and tower. Playfair added a 'port-cochere', or a porch designed to allow a carriage under it, to the main door entrance. Amongst other features incorporated into Floors by Playfair were facilities for smoking salmon and kippers, essential for any large Victorian country house.

Playfair also redesigned much of the interior and his drawings and plans survive. Successive Duchesses have also left their own impression on the interior, creating the effect seen today.

Text prepared by RCAHMS as part of the Accessing Scotland's Past project

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