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Summary Record

Event ID 995189

Category Descriptive Accounts

Type Summary Record

Permalink http://canmore.org.uk/event/995189

Ardkinglas was recorded by RCAHMS Threatened Buildings Survey in June 2012 to assist the conservation of the house which is suffering from erosion particularly of the external stonework and carvings.

The Ardkinglas estate came into Campbell hands in the 14th Century and their castle with three circular corner towers and a gatehouse stood about 150 metres south of the present house. It was largely ruinous by 1769 indeed throughout the 18th century there were a series of proposals to build a new residence. The Campbell’s sought designs from the leading Scottish architects of the day. Colen Campbell produced a design based on Palladio’s Villa Emo just before his death in 1729. Robert Adam provided designs for a restrained three-storey mansion with flanking wings in 1773. C.1780 another design proposed a symmetrical castellated house not unlike Strachur further down Loch Fyne. James Playfair provided a series of beautiful designs including a classical ‘marine pavilion’. None of these were realised. Sir Alexander Campbell eventually built a rather dull classical house,120 metres southeast of the present house, described as being ‘convenient’ in c.1795. It was destroyed by fire in 1831. Designs for a new house were sought from leading architects once again including William Burn and A M Binning. Showing how tastes had changed these designs were in Jacobean and Baronial styles. Neither of these were realised and the c.1795 stables were adapted as the principal residence. Is this the earliest example of the conversion of a stable block into the main residence which we see most wonderfully at Penicuik.

Sir Andrew Noble was born in Scotland on 13 September 1832 and was educated at Edinburgh Academy. He went on to join the navy following in his fathers footsteps but by 1860 had entered the firm of Sir W G Armstrong and Co in Newcastle. He eventually became chairman of Sir W G Armstrong, Whitworth and Company Limited. In 1859 he married a Miss Campbell of Quebec. Their principal home was at Jesmond Dene House in Newcastle. The Armstrongs employed Richard Norman Shaw, one of the greatest late Victorian architects, to create their fantastical country retreat of Cragside at Rothbury. It comes as no surprise that the Nobles used the same architect for extensions to their home.

In 1905 Sir Andrew bought the Ardkinglas Estate attracted by its fabulous setting and connections to his wife’s family the Campbells. In 1906 Cameron Corbett, for whom Lorimer had designed Rowallan in Ayrshire, introduced Sir Andrew to Robert Lorimer.

Sir Andrew was in a hurry he was in his seventies. The first sod was cut in May 1906 and he wanted to dine in his new house on 1st August 1907. This over ambitious target was not met hampered particularly by the inaccessibility of the site. However the whole house was completed and furnished within 21 months surely a record for a house on such a scale covering as it does over 115,000 square feet of ground!

The stone was quarried con the estate but all the other materials including the sandstone dressings from Dullatur, Dumbartonshire and the Caithness roof slabs had to be brought in by puffer and so a pier had to be constructed. The floors were constructed of reinforced concrete and the partition walls of brick both chosen for speed and durability. It was originally intended to harl the external walls but this was omitted on stylistic grounds which has unfortunately lead to a continual battle with the ever present west coast damp.

The plans illustrated show the relatively complex courtyard plan chosen by Lorimer, however it works extremely well both stylistically and practically. The large porch leads to the entrance hall and from this low relatively dark space the ladies reach the light of the first floor whilst the boys enjoy their own domain below. The spacious gunroom also leads directly from the porch then to the ‘gents’. Next is Sir Andrew’s study which has direct access to the smoking room which overlooks the billiard room which in turn has access to the garden. There is also a dark room for that most fashionable of hobbies, photography. The remaining ground floor is devoted to service accommodation including the all important kitchens. The scullery with its amazing plate racks was designed to act as the kitchen when the family was not in residence hence the second range. The first floor houses the magnificent suite of reception rooms. The saloon with its ceiling by Roger Fry and the gargantuan granite fireplace with its five ton lintol is the principal and grandest reception room. Adjacent to it the oval morning room which shares a staircase to the garden with the saloon. A columned screen divides the corridor from the inner hall with its own fireplace which leads onto the loggia and thence again to the garden. The dining room with its spacious breakfast bay afford views of both Loch Fyne and the Caspian, a smaller loch. Behind is the well equipped servery and pantry now the kitchen. This floor also contains the master bedroom suite with its spectacular shower and family bedrooms. The women servants bedrooms are also on this floor. The second floor provides guest bedrooms and also includes Miss Lily Noble’s oval bedroom for whom Lorimer restored and extended Dunderave Castle on the opposite shore of Loch Fyne.

Scott Morton and Co provided the splendid internal woodwork at a cost of £7,000 whilst Thomas Beattie and Sam Wilson created the magnificent plasterwork with its hosts of references to Holyrood, Kellie and elsewhere. Thomas Hadden provided the art ironwork and Henshaws the magnificent light fittings. As at Cragside electricity was installed from the start provided by a hydro-electric power scheme on the estate. The lighting of Ardkinglas is fascinating in itself with the celebration of the electric light bulb! The two hundred strong workforce was housed in a temporary encampment surrounding the site.

Christopher Hussey described; “Ardkinglas as a remarkable instance of expressionist design. It does possess the plastic, undulating, weather-worn character of a group of hills, where ranges and peaks overtop one another. As seen from the loch side it definitely does echo the outline and form of the hills behind it. Thus we have here, clearly displayed, all the factors that Lorimer relied on to shape his concepts: beautiful materials, an intricate but well organised plan and a romantic setting.”

STG RCAHMS 2014

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