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Archaeology Notes

Event ID 861293

Category Descriptive Accounts

Type Archaeology Notes


NS37NE 1 35167 78665

(NS 3517 7866) Kilmahew Castle (NR) (In Ruins)

OS 6" map (1923)

The ruins of Kilmahew Castle are believed to have been built partly by George Napier (about 1694 to 1744).

J Irving 1879.

Kilmahew Castle is a simple keep of the period 1542 - 1700. The original outline measured 46 feet by 25 feet. It still stands to parapet height. During the 19th century the south and west walls were rebuilt, with a view to turn the castle into a modern mansion, but this work was never completed.

D MacGibbon and T Ross 1899.

Kilmahew Castle is mainly as described by MacGibbon and Ross. The walls are about 11.0 metres high and where original, 1.2 metres thick. The south and west walls have been rebuilt.

Visited by OS (RDL) 18 January 1963

NS 351 786 Kilmahew is a five-storey tower probably built in the 15th century.

RCAHMS 1978, visited August 1977

D MacGibbon and T Ross 1899; N Tranter 1962-70

NS 3516 7866 Part of the wider assessment (in conjunction with Charlotte Maclean, for Avanti Architects) of the designed landscape associated with John Burnet's Kilmahew House of 1865-8, now demolished - also the site of the modernist St Peter's Seminary, Cardross, a building by Gillespie Coia and Kidd, whose derelict remains still stand. Analytical assessment and outline building recording was undertaken during July 2007 and August 2007.

The ruined Kilmahew Castle consists in large part of the remains of a 16th-century towerhouse of more or less conventional form. This structure was radically remodelled in the gothic taste. While presently appearing as part-folly and part-genuine it seems that the remodelling actually represents an unfinished scheme to fashion a new country house or large villa. Though this work has been attributed to the early 19th century, stylistically it appears to be more probably of mid-18th-century date and, if so, of particular architectural interest.

In the absence of historical documentation the precise dating of the structure remains unclear; it is tempting to relate this structure to the ownership of the extravagant George Maxwell Napier, who died in near-bankruptcy in 1744. If the structure can be thus associated it may pre-date the designs for the first major architectural essay in the gothick, Inveraray Castle (by Roger Morris, from 1744). It is possible that the design of the building is attributable to the architect John Douglas, who is known to have remodelled a number of other early houses and towers in a very comparable manner, and otherwise worked in the general vicinity (an unexecuted design for Rosneath Castle, 1744; Finlaystone House, 1746). In RCAHMS there is a copy by Douglas of a drawing of the original Morris design for Inveraray; this shares many details with Kilmahew, as does a further design for an unknown building in the same collection. The advice of

Simon Green, RCAHMS, is gratefully acknowledged.

Funder: Avanti Architects

T Addyman 2007.

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