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Inveraray, Front Street West, Town House

Town House (18th Century)

Site Name Inveraray, Front Street West, Town House

Classification Town House (18th Century)

Alternative Name(s) West Front Street, Town House; Old Town House; Estate Offices

Canmore ID 23356

Site Number NN00NE 20

NGR NN 09627 08563

Datum OSGB36 - NGR

Permalink http://canmore.org.uk/site/23356

Ordnance Survey licence number 100057073. All rights reserved.
Canmore Disclaimer. © Copyright and database right 2019.

Digital Images

Administrative Areas

  • Council Argyll And Bute
  • Parish Inveraray
  • Former Region Strathclyde
  • Former District Argyll And Bute
  • Former County Argyll

Architecture Notes

Begun 1755 and completed 1757.

Activities

Publication Account (1996)

The former town-house stands facing Loch Fyne on the S side

of Front Street, the main show-front of the Georgian town.

Like the two symmetrical private houses that flank it, and the

Great Inn (intended for the use of visiting judges) which is

separated from it by the entrance to the Avenue, it was

designed by John Adam in 1750, and was built in 1754-7.

The original design incorporated a ground-floor prison with

vaulted cells at the rear and an arcaded piazza with iron

gratings at the front; a first-floor court-room, used for the

twice-yearly crown courts and also as a council-chamber; and

an upper flat which was adapted for use as a grammar-school

even before the building was completed.

The town-house, which measures 18.4m by 6.5m, is threestoreyed

and has a five-bay N front with a slightly advanced

three-bay pedimented centrepiece. The ground floor of the

centrepiece is faced with channelled ashlar of grey-green

schist, which was also used for the polished dressings. These

include a broad band at first-floor level, linked to

corresponding features of the flanking houses. The remaining

masonry is harled and whitewashed rubble, and the roof is of

Easdale slate.

The ground floor of the centrepiece forms a triple arcade

with impost-bands and advanced keystones. The damaged

sockets of the original iron gratings are visible in the

openings, which contain a central door and windows set in

rubble infill in the early 19th century. A door in the W sidebay

and a window in the E bay have round-arched frames with

plain impost-blocks. The tall first-floor windows of the

centrepiece, and the lower ones of the second floor, have

moulded architraves, the central first-floor one having an

entablature and cornice, while those in the flanking bays have

plain surrounds. The moulded surround of the pediment

encloses a circular recess.

The interior has been much altered, except for the stone

scale-and-platt stair in the W bay which conforms closely to

Adam's plan of 1750. His original proposal was for the rear

half of the central area of the ground storey to be groinvaulted

and divided into three cells and a lobby. The only

surviving cell is a barrel-vaulted chamber measuring 3.1m by

1.8m, and 2.7m high, in the SW angle. The main room in this

area has plasterwork of mid-19th-century type, and there is a

stair of the same period at the Send of the E cross-wall.

At the first-floor landing of the main stair an irregular patch

in the W wall marks a blocked doorway, probably that which

Archibald Campbell of Danna, sheriff-clerk, was given

permission in 1773 to 'strike out ... between his house and the

County House'. The original court-room was subdivided in

the 19th century, while the E bay is occupied by the open-well

19th-century stair and landing, but retains an early simplymoulded

cornice. The top floor preserves no early features,

but alterations in 1988 showed that a fireplace in its S wall

occupies an original embrasure. This was presumably one of

the three windows that the town council ordered to be made in

that wall in 1759 to light the grammar-school.

HISTORY

The town-house replaced a tolbooth of about 1650 which

occupied a two-storeyed S wing attached to the parish church

in the old burgh adjoining Inveraray Castle. John Adam's

first design of 1750 was built in modified form between 1754

and 1757, the contractor being George Hunter. The contract

price of £631, which was increased by extra works, was paid

by the county authorities, most of it being provided by the

sheriff-depute, Archibald Campbell of Stonefield, as

compensation for excess county taxes collected many years

earlier.

Despite the building's elegance, judges and other visitors to Inveraray criticised the cramped accommodation, as well as the easy communication afforded to prisoners by the iron gratings, and the consequent easy of escape. Plans for a new court-house and jail, obtained from Robert Reid in 1807, were considered by te country to be too expensive, and Richard Crichton was consulted before designs were commissioned from James Gillespie Graham in 1813. The buildings were erected on the E side of Church Square, adjoining the shore of Loch Fyne, in 1816-1820, and rooms were made available there or the use of the town council. Thereafter the town house was used as an estate-office by the Argyll Estate until the 1950s, when the town council resumed occupation.

Information from ‘Tolbooths and Town-Houses: Civic Architecture in Scotland to 1833’ (1996).

References

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