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Pittodrie House excluding 1980s three-storey addition to west and orangery infill to south, Well, Sawmill and Sawmill Cottage, Laundry Cottages, Gardener's Cottage, Kennels Cottage and Kennels, Chapel

A Category B Listed Building in Chapel Of Garioch, Aberdeenshire

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Coordinates

Latitude: 57.3054 / 57°18'19"N

Longitude: -2.5036 / 2°30'12"W

OS Eastings: 369757

OS Northings: 823976

OS Grid: NJ697239

Mapcode National: GBR X2.J97Z

Mapcode Global: WH8NM.JN10

Entry Name: Pittodrie House excluding 1980s three-storey addition to west and orangery infill to south, Well, Sawmill and Sawmill Cottage, Laundry Cottages, Gardener's Cottage, Kennels Cottage and Kennels, Chapel

Listing Date: 16 April 1971

Last Amended: 13 August 2018

Category: B

Source: Historic Scotland

Source ID: 333826

Historic Scotland Designation Reference: LB2853

Building Class: Cultural

Location: Chapel Of Garioch

County: Aberdeenshire

Electoral Ward: West Garioch

Traditional County: Aberdeenshire

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Description

Pittodrie is a complex house first built in the late 15th century with substantial extensions in the 17th, 19th and 20th centuries. The house is at the centre of a rural country estate, laid out predominantly in the 19th century.

The original house dates to the 15th century. It is a three-storey stepped L-plan (jambs not at right angles) with a wheel stair (dated to around 1490) in the southeast re-entrant angle and a circular tower in the adjoining northeast jamb. The earlier tower house was altered extensively in 1675 with the northwest re-entrant angle infilled and a three-storey wing with a square pyramid roofed tower added to the northwest.

In 1841 a large neo-Jacobean three-storey addition was added to the east of the house to designs by Archibald Simpson. The east (entrance) elevation has a three storey balustraded entrance tower. There is a single storey, square-plan porch with a 1605 armorial panel in the parapet which came from Balhalgardy. There are three windows at the first and second floors with stepped hoodmoulds. To the left of this entrance tower is two-storey section with a full height canted bay at the centre. The south elevation comprises a circular ogee-capped tower on the southwest corner, a two-bay section with tall round-arched windows at the ground floor and a gabled bay to the far right with a 1926 canted bay window addition.

There are two further additions to the early part of the house. A two-storey wing adjoining the west elevation, was built around 1860 and has gabled windows breaking the wallhead. A 1900-1903 crowstepped billiard room adjoins the north.

Most of the building is harled, with some walls in exposed rubble granite. The roofs are shallow pitched and have grey slates. The chimney stacks are predominantly at the gableheads and in stone with circular cans. There are a variety of glazing patterns predominantly in timber sash and case frames. The tall round arched windows in the south elevation and those in the adjacent round tower have lying pane glazing.

The interior was seen in 2017. In the earliest part of the house there is a high degree of surviving fabric dating to the 17th century and possibly the 15th century. The later additions have fixtures of fittings of a high quality which is to be expected for a house of this scale. Some of the ground floor walls of the early 17th century part are exposed and have waterchutes. The drawing room (ground floor, southwest corner) has a simple ceiling cornice and marble and decoratively carved timber fire surround. The adjacent old dining room has a moulded timber mantelpiece and iron grate with decorative panelled timber doors, panelled timber window shutters and a ceiling cornice with a foliage motif. The former billiard room has timber panelling to dado height with an integral timber overmantel on the west wall above a marble and granite fire surround. In the centre of the ceiling is a 36-pane light.

The straight stone main stair dates to the 1840s and has a metal balustrade with decorative foliage motif. This balustrade design is also on the curved stair between the first and second floor. Some of the first floor bedrooms of the 1841 addition have marble fireplaces, including one with a plaster surround with figurative reliefs and egg and dart cornicing.

In accordance with Section 1 (4A) of the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) (Scotland) Act 1997 the following are excluded from the listing: the 1980s three-storey addition to west and orangery infill to south, Well, Sawmill and Sawmill Cottage, Laundry Cottages, Gardener's Cottage, Kennels Cottage and Kennels.

Statement of Interest

Pittodrie House is a complex house built in several phases between the late 15th century and early 20th century. It is of particular interest for the extent of survival of its 15th- and 17th-century building phases but also for its 19th century Jacobean transformation that has in itself made deliberate historical reference to the earlier Renaissance design. Each building phase is clearly seen in its surviving plan form, external fabric and interior of the property, with distinctive architectural features for their date.

The core of Pittodrie House retains its early 17th century tower house, particularly in its surviving turnpike stair, water chutes, thick walls and irregularly arranged small rooms. The later additions are more regular in plan and have surviving fixtures and fittings appropriate for a house of this scale and are of high quality. The 1841 Jacobean style addition by Archibald Simpson, a leading architect at the time, makes architectural and historical references to the earlier tower house.

Pittodrie House is at the centre of a small country estate landscape and it is the principal building of its estate group. The 19th century estate group is largely intact and retains some earlier estate ancillaries.

In accordance with Section 1 (4A) of the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) (Scotland) Act 1997 the following are excluded from the listing: the 1980s three-storey addition to west and orangery infill to south, Well, Sawmill and Sawmill Cottage, Laundry Cottages, Gardener's Cottage, Kennels Cottage and Kennels.

Age and Rarity

The house and lands of Pittodrie (previously Balhaggardy) were owned by the Erskine family for centuries. Pittodrie House was built by the Erskines as an L-plan tower house after Maiden Castle had been destroyed by fire. The date of the first part of Pittodrie House is unclear. Sales particulars dated 1885, dates the oldest portion of the house to 1650.The current listed building record, written in 1971, dates the earliest part of the house to the early or mid-17th century, because it is not vaulted.

Nigel Tranter in his book The Fortified House in Scotland (published 1966) refers to the heraldic panel over the front door which has a date of 1605 and he states that this may indicate the date for the earliest part of the house. However, in later published sources it is known that this panel was reused from elsewhere (the Buildings of Scotland indicate it was reused from Balhargardy).

A date as early as 1490 has been suggested by Dr Douglas Simpson for the wheel stair in the southeast re-entrant angle (Buildings of Scotland, p.702) but this may have been reconstituted from earlier fabric. A detached gunroom (LB2854) to the north of the house is believed to date to the 18th century. Its lower part, with vaulting and shotholes, indicates it might have 16th century fabric and may have belonged to an earlier house.

It is apparent however that the 17th century core of the house does incorporate earlier building fabric. While Pittodrie House dates to several centuries of continuous alteration, the overall character of the building is of a 17th century laird's house with a 19th century addition in keeping stylistically with the earlier building. The 17th century part of the house is still clearly visible, particularly with its surviving turnpike stair, water chutes, thick walls and irregularly arranged small rooms.

Following the Reformation of 1560 church land was broken up and sold to minor lairds. Between 1560 and 1650 was a period of the building of castellated country houses modelled on the Scottish tower house for both design features and vertical planning.

Large additions to these tower houses are not unusual and were incorporated to meet the changing requirements of the owners and their changing lifestyle which increasingly favoured the separation of public and private spaces. Pittodrie is no exception and over the following four centuries a series of additions and interior alterations were made to the house. The largest of these additions was in 1841 by Aberdeen architect, Archibald Simpson. Simpson was commissioned by the then owner, Lieutenant-Colonel Henry Knight, who had married Miss Mary Erskine at the end of the 18th century.

The previous listed building record states that the two-storey addition adjoining the west of the 17th century section was built around 1860. It is shown in the footprint of the house on the 1st Edition Ordnance Survey map, surveyed 1867.

On 16 November 1870 Colonel Knight died and his widow, Mary Erskine, and their son Henry William Erskine Knight became proprietors of the estate. Although the house was put up for sale in 1885 and 1900, Henry William Erskine Knight remained the proprietor until it was eventually sold in June 1903 to Captain George Smith. He was a Glasgow shipping magnate and later a councillor on Aberdeen County Council, as well as twice standing for Parliament for the Unionists in West Aberdeenshire. He was killed at Neuve Chapelle in the First World War.

The previous listed building record states that the billiard room addition was added around 1902-03.

Large houses at the centre of country estates are not a rare building type. Aberdeenshire is particularly noteworthy for its group of 16th and 17th century tower houses, all of which have had some degree of later alteration or extension. Fine examples include the 16th century Crathes Castle (LB3262), Midmar Castle (LB16262) and Castle Fraser (LB2924) as well as the early 17th century Craigievar Castle (LB9229). All of these are listed at category A.

Substantial 19th century additions to earlier tower houses were chiefly carried out by two leading Aberdeen architects: Archibald Simpson and John Smith. Smith's 1836-40 castellated Neo-Tudor Cluny Castle (listed at category A, LB2949) incorporates an early 17th century Z-plan castle of 1604. Skene House (listed at category A, LB16530) is a large Scottish baronial mansion by Archibald Simpson and William Ramage (who oversaw the work after Simpson's death) that incorporates earlier fabric, including a 14th century tower house that was remodelled in 1680 and extended around 1745.

Pittodrie House is the product of several significant building phases over five centuries. The survival of the building's earliest fabric dating to the 15th and 17th centuries is still clearly visible in the existing plan form. It remains an important example of its building type, especially in the context of the proliferation of castles and lairds houses in Aberdeenshire during this period. It is also of interest as each subsequent building phase is readable, externally and internally, with distinctive architectural features which are typical of their date.

Architectural or Historic Interest

Interior

In the earliest part of the house there is a high degree of surviving fabric dating to the 17th century and possibly the 15th century. This includes features such as water chutes and a wheel stair. These details are important in showing the early date of this part of the building.

The later additions have fixtures of fittings of a high quality which is to be expected for a house of this scale. This includes marble fireplaces, timber and plasterwork and a decorative stair.

Plan form

The irregular plan form of Pittodrie House shows the development of the building over five centuries. The early 17th century house is still visible by the thickness of the walls and the irregular arrangement of small rooms in this part of the building. The later additions in contrast are more regular in their arrangement of rooms, particularly the 1841 addition with its larger public rooms.

In planning terms each phase is not innovative for its date but are able to demonstrate how the building functioned over the course of its development. The 19th century additions in particular show the increased specialisation of rooms both for domestic service and leisure which was typical for larger houses of this date.

The 1989 hotel additions almost double the plan form of the house in size and is the most significant change to the building during the 20th century. This part of the house is not of special architectural or historic interest and is excluded from the listing.

Technological excellence or innovation, material or design quality

As noted in the Age and Rarity section, where earlier tower houses survive their fabric would often have been incorporated in later country houses. This is the case at Crathes Castle, Castle Fraser and Midmar Castle, where the earlier tower house remains a large and well-defined component of the house.

At Pittodrie the fabric of each significant building phase shows the date of its construction and has distinctive architectural details. In the early 17th century core this includes the water chutes and thick walls as well as a 15th century wheel stair. The addition of the Jacobean style extensions to the house by Archibald Simpson in the 19th century are in keeping with the earlier phases of the house and demonstrates a historical continuity of the house's architectural design making reference to its previous Renaissance period building.

Archibald Simpson (1790–1847) was one of two leading architects in Aberdeen during the early 19th century and one of Scotland's leading exponents of neo-classical architecture. Nearly every important architectural commission in the city was won by him or the City Architect, John Smith.

Simpson's work was wide-ranging from neo-classical public buildings to Gothic churches. He also produced many designs for country houses which were generally neo-classical in style with occasional essays in Jacobethan and Scottish vernacular and toward the end of his life he experimented with a simplified classical style.

Simpson's neo-Jacobean design for the additions at Pittodrie demonstrate his skill at adapting different styles, and provides a formal entrance piece to the building. His design also makes direct references to the castellated style of the earlier tower, particularly in the round stair tower on the south elevation. Shepherd in Gordon: an illustrated architectural guide notes the similarity of the ogee-capped tower to Simpson's Castle Newe, a castellated mansion house built in 1831 but based on an existing Z-plan castle from 1604 (castle demolished in 1927).

The late 20th century additions are large in scale, by doubling the size of the house, however the earlier parts continue to be readable.

Setting

Pittodrie House is at the centre of a small country estate landscape and it is the principal building of its estate group. The 19th century estate group is largely intact and retains some earlier estate ancillaries. In the immediate surroundings of the house is an 18th century gunroom (LB2854) and a sundial (LB2855).

The most significant change to the setting of the house are the alterations to the various ancillary buildings on the estate as well as the the large 1989 addition to substantially increase the hotel accommodation.

In a variety of 19th century accounts the house is described as secluded by woodland and this remains the case today. The house is located at the northern foot of the hill of Bennachie, which remains a focal point for views from the house. The principal approach to the property is unchanged from the 19th century and is laid out as a straight drive from the east flanked by trees before curving around the informal garden immediately in front of the property, which is shown on the 1st Edition Ordnance Survey map.

The surviving ancillary buildings largely date to the 19th century, and as noted above all of them have substantial later additions and alterations. The most significant new buildings include the staff accommodation to the north (not visible from the house) and a small squash court, adjacent to home farm.

Regional variations

Aberdeenshire is particularly noteworthy for its group of 16th and 17th century tower houses, all of which have had some degree of later alteration or extension. Pittodrie House can be included in this regionally significant group of buildings.

Close Historical Associations

There are no known associations with a person or event of national importance (2017).

Pittodrie was in the ownership of the Erskine-Knight family for many centuries.

Statutory address and listed building record revised in 2018. Previously listed as 'Pittodrie House'.

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