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Skye, Armadale Castle

Country House (19th Century)

Site Name Skye, Armadale Castle

Classification Country House (19th Century)

Alternative Name(s) Clan Donald Centre

Canmore ID 70142

Site Number NG60SW 8

NGR NG 64023 04688

Datum OSGB36 - NGR

Permalink http://canmore.org.uk/site/70142

Ordnance Survey licence number 100057073. All rights reserved.
© Copyright and database right 2017.

Digital Images

Administrative Areas

  • Council Highland
  • Parish Sleat
  • Former Region Highland
  • Former District Skye And Lochalsh
  • Former County Inverness-shire

Recording Your Heritage Online

Armadale Castle 1800/1; aggrandised by James Gillespie Graham, 1815-19; wing by David Bryce, 1856 Castellated ruin of the former seat of the Macdonalds of Sleat, built in the fashionable Georgian castle style for Alexander, 2nd Lord Macdonald (for more on him, see p.255). Gillespie Graham¿s design was modified as built, but the result was nonetheless a far cry from the inaccessible, rock-perched strongholds associated with West Highland clan chiefs. Three distinct building phases are evident: to the north east, a plain laird¿s house of 1800, what survives of it now the Museum of the Isles; to the south west, Gillespie Graham's battlemented and turretted addition containing the grand public rooms, redolent of his work at Crawford Priory, reduced to a '`sculptured ruin', 1981; and David Bryce's 1856 remodelling of part of the original house following a fire, providing a somewhat dreary centrepiece in suitably martial style (a 'stablilised shell' since 1981). Though an early work, Armadale's lavish interiors were among Gillespie Graham's most accomplished in this style, with fan vaultings, gothic mouldings, statues in pinnacled niches and, through the arcaded hall, a great staircase of Strath marble adorned with a stained glass window of Somerled by W. R. Eginton. Gardens: Martin Martin refered to a 'walled orchard' at Armadale in the 1690s, and Dr Johnson commented on plantings here in 1773. The present policies date from the 1820s, with specimen plantings mostly of the 1870s. Woodland gardens, with gothic bridge of 1825, undergoing continuing restoration. Stables, 1821 -2, built under superintendence of James Ferguson, probably to Gillespie Graham's design, as a Gothick eyecatcher, with crenellated staircase tower flanked by stables, and coach houses at each end. Conversion to visitor centre, with octagonal restaurant extension, by the Boys Jarvis Partnership, 1984. Inside, the marble chimneypiece with grape carvings came from Ferguslie Park, Paisley (demolished 1980s), so presumably it is by Hippolyte Jean Blanc or Whytoch & Reid. Laundry, presumably of the same date and hand - another ornamental estate building in similar Gothick style, now a cement-capped ruin beside the windowless bulk of Charles Macdonell's Museum and Study Centre, 2002. Home Farm (High Square), James Ross, 1848 A larger version of Sabhal Mòr Ostaig with a corner pavilion-tower incorporating a doocot. Restored following a fire by John Mackenzie, 1891. Porter¿s Lodge, early 19th century Octagonal boatman¿s house near Ardvasar pier, altered and re-fenestrated.

[One of Skye's best known improving landlords, Alexander 2nd Lord Macdonald (1773-1824) established mills and limekilns, churches and manses, piers, stores and inns across his estate, some of these among the earliest slated buildings of stone and lime on the island, and many still in use today. He turned his hand to coal and marble mining and carried out valuable drainage and plantation schemes. He is said to have been horrified on learning of the extent of evictions that had taken place in his absence. Believing that 'when foundations shall be laid for the growth of three or four towns, and when the period arrives which will facilitate fisheries around this great island ... the value of Sky (sic) will be found to exceed belief ...', he expended 'the greater proportion of his income [almost £29,000 by 1818] - on the improvement and the decoration of his estate' (Skye and North Uist), and was left virtually bankrupt as his island economy (a failing kelp industry and poor rental returns) declined.]

Taken from "Western Seaboard: An Illustrated Architectural Guide", by Mary Miers, 2007. Published by the Rutland Press http://www.rias.org.uk

Archaeology Notes

Architecture Notes

NG60SW 8.00 64023 04688

NG60SW 8.01 63874 04371 Stables

NG60SW 8.02 63923 04557 Bridge

NG60SW 8.03 63805 04737 Laundry

NG60SW 8.04 63852 04793 Walled Garden and Gardens

NG60SW 8.05 63449 03571 Porters Lodge

NG60SW 8.06 c.6377 0472 Museum of the Isles

For (related) Armadale Pier (NG 6405 0381), see NG60SW 21.

ARCHITECTS:

James Gillespie Graham: Barn, byre & stable 1803.

1815 - additions,

1821 - 1822 - stables

Architect:

David Bryce: 1855 - 57 - additions

REFERENCE:

SCOTTISH RECORD OFFICE

Repairs to Armadale House.

Instalment paid to [Thomas] Thorburn for his work.

It amounts to ?63 2 0.

Abstract of Lord Macdonald's accounts.

1798 - 1799

GD 221/40/99

Proposed alterations and additions to Armadale House.

Estimates and copies of plans and specification have been sent.

James Gillespie asks that the bearer by given 200 pounds.

Letter from James Gillespie, Architect, to John Campbell W.S.

1814

GD 221/24

Additional work done at Armadale Castle.

Letter from James Ferguson (James Gillespie's foreman) to James Gillespie. He is critical of certain items in McPherson and McNaughton's account.

1822 GD 221/88

Measurement of additional work done at Armadale Castle in 1822. Specified, measure and signed by James Stevenson.

1822 GD 221/88

Landscaping and planting of the gardens of Armadale Castle. Expenses noted in the Abstract of Entailed Improvements include: Payments for the approach road and two bridges, 1330.7.7 1/2 and 1903.4.1 1/2 pounds. Levelling the hill to the East of the Castle and extending the front lawn 517.15.10. Levelling and dressing the ground 1734.0.5 pounds.

Superintendant of works: John Sinclair

1814-1822GD 221/43/42/p.18-30

Finishing a new room in the Tower of the Office Houses at Armadale

Proposed alterations and addition to Armadale House.

James Gillespie explains that he was directed to get the building done as quickly as possible therefore he did not advertise for estimates and consequently received only two. He accepted the first which was ?135 cheaper.

Letter from Jame Gillesipie, Architect to John Campbell W.S.

1814

GD 221/24

Alterations and additions to Armadale House.

Note of the various estimates and verbal agreements.

A final estimate of 7898.14.11 pounds quoted.

[Architect: James Gillespie]

[Builders: Shearer and Shennan, Edinburgh]

N.D.

Building of offices at Armadale.

Included in Buildings to be erected in Skye in 1803.

(Architect: James Gillespie)

1803

GD 221/73/8

Alterations and additions to Armadale House.

Building contract for work estimated at #786 9 1

Architect: James Gillespie.

Builders: Alexander Shearer and John Shennan, Edinburgh.

Signed 1814

1813

GD 221/74/28

Alterations and additions at Armadale Castle.

Estimate for hewn work in the servants' apartments.

Estimate for taking down the old house and rebuilding.

(Superseded by new estimate dated 1814)

N.D

GD 221/88

Alterations and additions to Armadale House.

Col. Murray has approved the arrangements and the contractors Messrs Shearer and Shannon go off to Skye the following Monday.

Letter from James Gillespie. Architect, to John Campbell W.S

1814

GD 221/24

Proposed alterations and additions to Armdale House.

Lord MacDonald wished some alterations made to James Gillespie's 1st elevation.

Letter from Col. Alexander Murray to John Cambell, W.S

1814

GD 221/24

Additions and alterations to Armadale House.

'Lord Macdonald, my brother and myself (Col. Murray)' had not thought the original plan extravagant but they did consider estimates for further alterations and additions, very high. However building must go on because Lord Macdonald was anxious to have it finished.

Letter Col. Alexander Murray to John Campbell, W.S.

1814

GD 221/24

Proposed alteratinos and additions to Armdale House.

Lord Macdonald had suggested raising the walls of the building to the East of the house by 2' and the small building to the West of the house to the same height. Col. Murray considers that James Gillespie's estimate of 2,436 pounds will finish the whole.

Letter from Col. Alexander Murray to John Campbell, W.S

1814

GD 221/24

Alterations and additions to Armadale House.

Lord MacDonald 'still proposes' some alterations should be made on the plan of the new buildings and he has written to James Gillespie, Architect, about them. Letter from John Macpherson to John Campbell W.S

1814

GD 211/45/30

Alterations and additions to Armadale House. Letters from James Gillespie, Architect, to John Campbell, W.S. They concern the original contract 'for the proposed Castle of Armadale', additional alterations and consequent changes in building estimates. Mr Gillespie considers that the work is unlikely to be completed before 1816.

1814-1815

GD 221/74/29, 32, 33

Alterations and additions to Armadale House.

Claims by the builders, Alexander Shearer and John Shennon.

James Gillespie, Architect, agrees to explain their claims to Lord Macdonald and his Commissioners. Letter from James Gillespie to John Campbell, W.S.

1815

GD 221/45/72

Alterations and additions to Armadale Castle.

Note of payments to (Alexander) Shearer for marble supplied.

The sums amount to 289.9.5 pounds.

1813-1819

GD 221

Painted glass for Armadale Castle.

James Gillespie and (William Raphael) Egerton have had a meeting with Lord Macdonald concerning the glass. Mr Egerton will shortly be drawing upon John Campbell for some money on account.

1815 (but postmarked 1817)

GD 221

Alterations and additions to Armadale House.

'Alexander Shearer, Builder in Edinburgh, and John Shennan, Wright, acknowlegde to have received at different times previous to Martinmas 1815, the sum of 4709.3.10 pounds to account of the sum of 7878.9.1 at which time they became bound to build a mansionhouse at Armadale...agreeable to a contract entered into between John Campbell W.S. on the part o fhis lordship and them'. Receipt.

1816

GD 221/43/42/p.14

'To building the Mansionhouse'. State of payments.

Rt. Hon. Alexander Wentworth, to Lord MacDonald, to Mesrs. Shearer and Shannon of Edinburgh.

1815-1816 2277.5.0 pounds

1816-1817 1477.3.7

1817-1818

GD 221/43/42/p.20 and 21

Egerton. William Raphael (d.1834). Painted glass.

Account for work done for Armadale Castle.

It amounts to 503.15.11

Receipts dated 1817.

GD 221/43/42 page 21

Model of (Armadale Castle)

Payment to John Steel, carver and gilder.

1818, GD 221/49/2

Alterations and additions to Armadale Castle.

Note of payment to Richard Foster for Gothic column capitals.

1818

GD 221/43/42/page 22

Alterations and additions to Armadale Castle. Note of payments made by Lord Macdonald or James Gillespie:

Plumber work 112.19.4

Painter work 245.6.3

Mason work 45.17.6

1818-1819

GD 221/43/42/p.22-24

Book of plans of Armadale Castle Offices.

Front of stables offices. Elevation.

Servant's rooms and granary. Plan. Stables. Plan. Washing house. Elevation and plan.

(c.1819)

GD 221/88

Building additions to the servant's quarter at Armadale Castle.

Contract between Lord Macdonald and Davidson ans Smith.

They agree to carry out the work according to plans and specifications by James Gillespie, Architect, for the sum of 556.6.0

1820

GD 221/88

Fitting up and furnishing Armadale Castle and Wing.

Annual account between Lord Macdonald and James Gillespie, Esq., includes payment to James Douglas, joiner, for making furniture.

1820-1821

GD 221/48/7 and 8

Building additions to Armadale Castle.

Letter from James Gillespie to John Archibald Campbell W.S

It accompanied plan and missive.

1821

GD 221/88

Building the stable offices and an addition to the wings of the castle.

Specification by James Gillespie, Architect.

Four estimates submitted in different ways by James MacNaughton and Williams MacPherson. They range from 2038.17.4 to 2555.6.9 pounds.

1820-1821

GD 221/88

Building stables and a washing house at Armadale Castle.

Estimate submitted by John Davidson and William Smith.

It amounts to 2386.8.0

In a letter to John Archibald Campbell W.S, John Macpherson, Chamberlain of Skye, comments upon this estimate.

1820 and 1821

GD 221/88

Building the stables, coachouses, granary and laundry at Armadale Castle.

State of payments.

1821 1,500 pounds Receipted by William Macpherson and James MacNaughton

1822 776.2.0 Receipted by Lamed Ferguson.

1821-1822

GD 221/43/42/p.26 and 28

Completing the greats and building the Kitchen wing at Armadale Castle.

State of payments:

1821 653.7.3 Receipt by William Smith

1822 199.16.0 Receipt by James Ferguson.

1821-1822

GS 221/43/42/p.26 and p.29

Building work at Armadale Castle.

Account from James MacNaughton and William McPherson.

It includes work at the Castle, payments to masons, building supplies and plumber work for kitchen and the new Wings.

1822 GD 221/88

Landscaping and planting of the gardens of Armadale Castle.

Expenses noted in the Abstract of Entailed Improvements include:

Payments for the approach road and two bridges, 1330.7.7 1/2 and 1903.4.1 1/2

Levelling the hill to the East of the Castle and extending the front lawn 5117.15.10

Levelling and dressing the ground 1,734.0.5

Superintendant of works: John Sinclair

1814-1822 GD 221/43/42/p.18-30

Finishing a new room in the Tower of the Office Houses at Armadale Castle and for putting additional windows in the granaries and servants' rooms. State of payments:

1823 72.2.5 Receipted by Jamaes Ferguson.

1822-1823 GD 221/43/42/p 32

Payment for building the offices at Armadale Castle.

Letter from James Gillespie, Architect, to John Archibald Campbell, W.S.

He has sent by McNaughton, the bearer, papers concerning the contract, and an account showing the balance due to the contractors.

1823 GD 221/88

Plans of crofts and a design for farm offices at Armadale.

These are forwarded. Letter from John Blackadder (Surveyor) to John Campbell W.S

1814 GD 221/24

Letters, accounts, receipts, memos and notes of payment.

Builder: Robert Johnston

Architect: David Bryce

1858-1862 GD 221/15/2 (some details to follow).

Additions and alterations to Armadale Castle. Plumber's receipt for 300 pounds.

'1st installment of my contract price for plumber and slater work at Armadale Castle'.

Attached certificate from David Bryce, Architect.

1858 GD 221/15/2

Additions and alterations to Armadale Castle.

Memorandum concerning (Robert) Johnston's contract.

It notes payments made to him for work done under Mr David Bryce's superintendence.

They amount to 4617.12.7

Sums already paid include 50 pounds to Mr Hogg, Clerk of Works, and to glazier, smith and marble cutter.

1859 GD221/15/2

Additions and alterations to Armadale Castle.

Note of money advanced to (Robert) Johnstone, Builder, during progress of the work up to 1860. The sums amount to 4913.9.1 pounds.

Recorded by David Bryce, architect.

1860 GD 221/15/2

Additions and alterations to Armadale Castle.

Account of Day Work done by (Robert) Johnston, (Builder) not included in the Schedule of extras. Initialled by David Bryce, Architect.

1860 GD 221/15/2

Letter from Lady Macdonald. She complians of negligence. The spare bedroom over the kitchen is liable to catch fire and already the woodwork is blackened outside and charred inside. The wall has become hot and the smell from the kitchen unbearable. She finds that there is not a room in the new building that does not smoke and the new paint work is blackened.

1861 GD 221/15/2

Abstract of Correspondence between (John C.) Brodie of Messrs Gibson Craig, Dalziel and Brodie, W.S. and Lord and Lady Macdonald.

1861 GD 221/15/2

Note of payment still to be made:-

(David) Bryce, Architect. Hischarge of 217.16.0 pounds

1861 GD 221/15/2

State of Balance of contract price of mason, wright and plaster work. The original contract was for 4564.4.3 but additional work certified by David Bryce amounts to 349.4.10

1861 GD 221/15/2

Additions and alterations to Armadale Castle.

List of payments made to (James) Hogg, Clerk of works.

They amount to 256.6.6

1861 GD 221/15/2

Notes of payment to:-

Robert Johnston, builder.

Lawrence and Black, surveyor.

John McIlwraith, plumber.

James Kay who inspected and reported on flue and vents.

1861 GD 221/15/2

Draft letter from David Bryce, Architect to Peter, Lord Macdonald.

He is sending additional documents which will give information about extra work.

They include an estimate for the West Gable (1859) and Mr McIlwraith's estimate for plumber work.

(1862) GD 221/15/2

Additions and alterations to Armadale Castle. Payment for painter work. Letters from Hugh and Co., Glasgow. They seek payment of 631.19.11

1862 GD 221/15/2

Armadale Castle improvements.

Letter from James Matthews (1820-1898), Architect in Aberdeen, to Messes Gibson, Craig, Dalziel and Brodie, W.S.

He reports on the petition to the heirs of Entail for 7227.16.11. He comments on the difference between sum stated on robert Johnston's contract and the amount actually paid and he considers that the Clerk of Works has been allowed to earn too much.

1862 GD 221/15/2

Draft letter from David Bryce, Architect to Peter, Lord Macdonald.

He defends the time taken and consequent payments made to Mr Hogg, the Clerk of Works. The contract was a cheap one as a result there was some difficulty getting it completed. Both the builder, and his curator became bankrupt and if Mr Hogg had not remained on the ground to push the work on as a best he could, the cost would have been much greater.

(1862) GD 221/15/2

Letter from John McKenzie W.S to James Matthews, Architect, Aberdeen. It concerns the charge of improvements to the heirs of Entail. Those items that are charges for repairs to the Old House and offices and for a temporaty kitchen will be refused.

1862 GD 221/15/2

Armadale Castle Improvements.

Payments to tradesmen.

Factor's Accounts.

1860-1862 GD 221/26

Armadale Castle Improvements.

Payments to joiner, carpenter and painter.

1860 GD 221/134/3/p.42-62

Repairs and plumber work at Armadale Castle.

Factor's Accounts.

1864 and 1865 GD 221/26

Repairs and improvemnets to Armadale Castle and the building of a servant's bungalow. Note of sums paid to tradesmen and balance of fees paid to John Wittel, Architect. Macdonald Estates Cash Book.

1928 GD 221/33/6

Alterations and repairs to Armadale Castle. They include a new bedroom for Lady Macdonald (1920-1923). Note of sums paid to tradesmen and fees paid to John Wittel, Architect. Macdonald Estate Cash Book.

1920-1928 GD 221/133/5

Activities

Publication Account (1985)

The MacDonalds of SIeat had a house at Armadale for some time before building a new one here as their principal residence in 1815 when they moved from Monkstadt (see no. 26). The 18th century mansion house was used first as a dower house and then was inhabited by the factor of the estate; it was here that Flora MacDonald married Allan MacDonald, son of the factor, in 1750. In 1815 an impressive building designed by James Gillespie Graham was begun at the southern end of the original mansion house, and, although a defensive structure was no longer required, the house was known as Armadale Castle. Forty years later much of the mansion house was burnt down and replaced by a building designed by David Bryce. In 1925 the MacDonalds moved again, to a more modest residence at Ostaig, a little to the north, and eventually Armadale Castle was purchased by the Clan Donald Lands Trust. The remaining part of the old mansion house was renovated and opened to the public as the Clan Donald Centre. The Gillespie Graham building became unsafe and was dismantled in 1980, leaving only the doorway and the lower part of the main stair. The Bryce addition remains, empty and roofless. The photograph shows the Castle before demolition took place.

The stable block by the entrance to the grounds now contains an exhibition about Clan Donald, which includes a 19th century stained-glass window originally in the Castle, depicting Somerled, ruler of the Hebrides in the middle of the 12th century and ancestor of the MacDonalds. The stable range is in a fine gothic style dating to the early 1820s with a central tower flanked by the stables themselves.

The gardens at Armadale were famous in the 18th century, when supplies of fruit were sent to Monkstadt Dr Johnson, who visited Armadale in 1773,was struck by the walled garden shaded by tall ash trees, the plantation of which 'proves that the present nakedness of the Hebrides is not wholly the fault of Nature'. Further gardens were created in the 19th century; work is progressing on the reclamation of the landscaped garden, and the grounds are open to the public.

Information from ‘Exploring Scotland’s Heritage: Argyll and the Western Isles’, (1985).

Aerial Photography (3 May 2007)

References

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