History in Structure

Culzean Castle

A Category A Listed Building in Kirkoswald, South Ayrshire

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Latitude: 55.3547 / 55°21'16"N

Longitude: -4.7893 / 4°47'21"W

OS Eastings: 223265

OS Northings: 610285

OS Grid: NS232102

Mapcode National: GBR 43.4MJ5

Mapcode Global: WH2Q6.DNLW

Plus Code: 9C7Q9636+V7

Entry Name: Culzean Castle

Listing Name: Culzean Castle Estate, Culzean Castle

Listing Date: 14 April 1971

Category: A

Source: Historic Scotland

Source ID: 339539

Historic Scotland Designation Reference: LB7595

Building Class: Cultural

Also known as: Culzean Castle, Garden & Country Park

ID on this website: 200339539

Location: Kirkoswald

County: South Ayrshire

Electoral Ward: Girvan and South Carrick

Parish: Kirkoswald

Traditional County: Ayrshire

Tagged with: Castle Tower house Country house

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Robert Adam, 1777-1812; Wardrop & Reid (Charles Reid), 1875-9, incorporating earlier structures. 2-4 storey, irregular-plan castellated classical country house with prominent drum tower to N and articulated with engaged round towers to S. Polished ashlar construction. Clifftop setting, with estuary to N. Entrances to E and S and garden front to S. Battered base courses, machicolated string courses, crenellated and machicolated parapets.

S (GARDEN) ELEVATION: 3 storeys and central raised attic. 13-bay (excluding W wing and E portico) tripartite façade arranged 1-3-1-3-1-3-1, with single bays in round towers. Central doorway flanked by broad pilasters and rectangular windows. Arched windows to ground floor outer bays, slit windows to towers. 1st floor: rectangular windows within blind arcade, articulated by paired pilasters, to 3 central bays, Serliana arrangement to outer bays, and slit windows to towers. Intermediate level: cruciform windows to towers. 2nd floor: reduced rectangular windows. 3-bay machicolated fascia, with rhomboid relief panels at cill course. Attic: 3 bays of ocular windows flanked by pepperpot turrets. Central block flanked by concave quadrant walls, with crenellated machicolated parapet, and square gate piers to E and W entrances. Timber gates. Recessed W wing: 3 storeys and sunken basement. 6 irregular bays. Polygonal projecting bay to centre, pedimented doorway to right. Elevation terminated by round corner tower, with mounted bartizan in angle, to left.

E ELEVATION: advanced 3-bay, single storey portico to left and advanced 2-storey bow-fronted wing to right, with 3-storey elevation behind. Portico: round-headed central archway, with hood moulding, flanked by flat buttresses. Tripartite windows to each side, flanked by flat buttresses. Plain parapet above moulded cornice, with row of blind quatrefoils to centre flanked by rhomboid panels with machicolated guttae. Rhomboid relief panels at ends of parapet. Rear elevation: 3-storey, 5-bay, including single-bay engaged round towers at each end. Blind arch on paired pilsters to 1st floor. Rectangular windows, with slit windows to tower, in cruciform at intermediate floor level. Bow-fronted wing: pilaster strips between bays and fenestration within full-height blind arcade. Arched windows to upper floor. Crenellated machicolated parapet. Rear elevation: Diocletian window at upper level, and crenellated machicolated parapet flanked by pepperpot turrets.

N ELEVATION: 3-storey central block of 8 bays arranged 1-5-1-1; lowered 3-storey E wing of 4 bays; lowered stepped 4-storey W wing of 6 irregular bays. Central drum tower with battered base and conical roof. Lower storey having rectangular windows set within deep apertures of arcade. Upper part of tower set back behind balustrade. 1st floor with rectangular windows set within blind arcade. Alternating rectangular and arched windows to upper floor. Machicolated parapet. Fenestration to each side of tower set within full-height blind arch, with Serliana at 1st floor. Machicolated crenellated parapet with pepperpot corner towers above. West wing consisting of cluster of towers: 2-stage drum tower to left, angled square tower to centre and round tower to right. Irregular fenestration. Crenellated machicolated parapet with peperpot turrets.

W ELEVATION: 3 storeys and basement to foreground, with 3 storeys to rear. Foreground elevation: 3-bay irregular fenestration with round tower to right. Crenellated machicolated parapet with dummy cannon waterspouts. Rear elevation: 7 bays, including engaged round towers with slit windows. Rectangular windows, and French window 2nd from left. Crenellated machicolated parapet.

Multi-paned windows in timber sash and case. Grey slate roofs (mainly concealed behind parapets). Stacks with multiple polygonal shafts, and some single shafts, to W wing. Corniced stacks with cans to main block.

INTERIOR (seen 2011): Robert Adam 18th century neoclasssical decorative scheme, with tinted plaster ceilings and friezes, and carved classical chimney-pieces. Excecuted in phases between the late 1770s and about 1820. Wardrop & Reid 1870s reconfiguration and renovation in matching 'Adam Revival' style, including re-use of fixtures and fittings (see Notes). 1870s 'Nursery Wing', with plain fittings and simple mouldings, much altered in 20th century conversion into flats.

MAIN BLOCK: suites of adjoining rooms arranged around a central oval staircase, lit by cupola, with circular room in drum tower to N on each floor and turnpike service stairs in corner towers. 19th century open-well stone service stair connecting to W wing at ground and 2nd floors. GROUND FLOOR: PORTICO (19TH CENTURY): offices to right and distyle Ionic screen to lobby on left. White marble, Adam style, chimney-piece. Hardwood panelled doors. 2 painted and glazed, timber bookcases (18th century) in niches to left. Flagstone floor. Glazed panelled double doors, with fanlight, leading to 'Armoury'. ARMOURY: 19th century reconfiguration of the hall and buffet of Adam's original scheme. Distyle Doric screen to left. Tripartite arched window embrasures. Grey stone chimneypiece in style of classical entablature, with fluted pilasters. OLD EATING ROOM: Robert Adam 18th century renovation of earlier rooms. Apsidal to E and W. Neoclassical ceiling of circular patterns with chimera in relief panels and 3 painted roundels (Antonio Zucchi). Plain cornice with urn and garland motif, repeated on doorcases. Grey marble chimneypiece of corniced entablature with urn and garland frieze. Panelled hardwood doors. French windows to garden on S. DINING ROOM: 18th century former library and dressing room altered in 1877. Distyle Corinthian screen to N. Neoclassical plaster ceiling with bucranium frieze. White marble carved chimneypiece with urn and garland frieze. Panelled hardwood doors. STAIRWELL: (1787) oval plan with ambulatory around arcade carried on square piers with Doric capitals. Centre arches blocked on N closing off N approach flight. Iron balustrade of urn and lyre pattern. Flagstone floor. EXHIBITION ROOM (to N): quadripartite vaulted ceiling. 2 stone chimney-pieces with plain moulded surrounds. Painted panelled timber doors and window shutters. KITCHEN (to NW): double height with clerestorey. Apsidal to E with stone warming range in apse. Iron cooking range to W. Arched stone hearth to NW. Scullery with quadrapartite vault and iron cooking range to W. FIRST FLOOR: oval stair landing with Corinthian columns supporting staircase. Distyle Corinthian screen to N. ROUND DRAWING ROOM (SALOON) to N: 18th century, completed 1820. Tinted plaster ceiling (Robert Adam), in wheel pattern with gryphons and pedestals. Full length windows to N. 2 arched niches to S. Carved marble classical chimney-piece with paired winged seahorses and boys on dolphins to frieze. EARL'S BEDROOM AND DRESSING ROOM (TO E): green and cream chimney-piece with entablature supported on caryatids, laurel wreath pattern frieze and studded iron inset. BLUE DRAWING ROOM (TO SE): Tinted plaster ceiling with painted roundel of mythological scene (Antonio Zucchi) in centre. Carved marble chimney-piece with relief frieze of mythological creatures and Mannerist pilasters. PICTURE ROOM (TO CENTRE S): originally the great hall of the castle, now mainly 18th century decoration. Tinted plaster ceiling with geometric pattern. Carved marble chimney-piece with relief panel of chimera to frieze and Mannerist pilasters. Panelled hardwood doors. BEST BEDROOM and CRADLE ROOM: 18th/19th century. Plain ceilings with palmette frieze. Carved marble fireplace with bucranium frieze and panel with classical scene. Later 19th century bathtub with mahogany fittings. Panelled hardwood doors. EXHIBITION ROOMS: 18th/19th century. Serlian window, with panelled embrasures, to N. Tinted garlanded friezes. Plain wainscotting. Carved chimney-pieces with urns, garlands and gryphons. SECOND FLOOR (Eisenhower Apartments): 18th and 19th century with mid-20th century alterations as conversion to flat, including new kitchen and laundry etc. Oval stair landing with Ionic columns. DRAWING ROOM: circular room with plain cornice, 2 carved chiney-pieces in form of classical entablatures. Painted panelled timber doors and window shutters. PRIVATE BEDROOMS: not seen. PARTIAL ATTIC (to S): Cairncross Suite and Adam Suite (private bedrooms): not seen.

WEST WING: originally Nursery Wing now self-contained flats. Later 19th century with mid and late 20th century alterations. Painted panelled timber doors, staircase with timber balustrade. Basement (Brewhouse Flat) retaining 18th century features including plain stone chimney-pieces, lounge, with quadripartite vault, and cellar with wine racks.

Statement of Interest

Part of an A-group at Culzean Castle Estate comprising: Culzean Castle; Castle Walls etc; Fountain Court etc; Ruined Arch and Viaduct; Stable Block etc; Camellia House; Cat Gates; Home Farm; Powder House; Ardlochan Lodge; Dolphin House; Hoolity Ha'; Swan Pond Complex; Swan Pond Ice House; Walled Garden; Bathing Complex; Water Works; Shore Boat House; Battery and Mast House; Main Drive Walls and Piers; Gas Works.

Together with the outstanding ornamental landscape of its estate, Culzean Castle is acknowledged as the epitome of the Picturesque movement in Scotland, in its own right and is a work of international importance. While many theorists of the Picturesque stressed informality in architectural composition and landscaping, as opposed to the dominant trend of Neo-classicism, Culzean manages to combine formal regularly ordered features with fanciful and implausible elements, as well as genuine ancient fragments. The dramatic clifftop site lent itself particulary well to this approach, evoking notions of the sublime power of nature that underpinned the Romantic sensibility.

Although a number of architects contributed to the clifftop ensemble, including later 19th century additions, the Castle, together with the Stable Court and Home Farm form an essential part of Robert Adam's oeuvre (see separate listings). Adam built, or rebuilt 12 country houses in the castellated style, 10 of which were in Scotland, perhaps indicating a national preoccupation. And each castellated house had slightly different combinations of features. Caldwell House (1771), in Renfrewshire, had crenellation and pepperpot turrets, while Oxenfoord (1780) had round towers and crenellation. Mellerstain was regular in elevation, with a crenelated parapet. At Culzean, Adam used the full vocabulary. The S façade of Culzean, sees the architect transforming a well-ordered classical composition into a whimsical mannerist castle. The round towers are like giant order columns, their cyclopean arrow slits serving as windows. The dentilled cornices and string courses reveal themselves as dummy machicolation on closer observation. This permits the effortless application of pilasters and Serliana, although the latter is actually a deceit as it relies upon dummy windows. As at Drumlanrig, the pepperpot turrets denote the ancient building at its core. The N side, which looks over the Clyde Estuary, by comparison, is asymmetrical and less regular, seemingly inspired by Claude Lorraine and Salvator Rosa, allowing the architect to create in stone the Romantic fantasy of his landscape drawings.

Commissioned by the 10th Earl of Cassillis, in 1776, Adam was presented with an L-plan tower house with various extensions and detached offices, including a kitchen block on the NE built for the 9th Earl in 1766. The tower was regularised, the kitchen wing absorbed and there were extensions to the N and NW. Adam's transformation of the building was achieved in a number of stages, and it appears to have only been finally completed by the 12th Earl in the second decade of the 19th century, when both the original patron and the architect were dead.

In 1877 the 3rd Marquess of Ailsa initiated an ambitious scheme of internal alterations, refurbishment and extension engaging the Edinburgh architects Wardrop and Reid and decorators Jackson & Sons, of London, and Bonar & Carfrae, of Edinburgh. A new 3-storey nursery wing was built on the W, replacing the former brew house wing, with only the lower storeys retained, and a new porch was built on the east side of the Castle, thus enlarging the entrance hall and providing new offices. The former buffet room and dining room were slapped through to make a new sitting room, while the Adam library and a former dressing room were joined together to create a new larger dining room, with French windows to the garden terrace added. Great care was taken to ensure the new rooms were in style with the Adam interiors, and various fixtures and fittings were re-used in new locations. Adam's later N range, with the circular rooms appears to have neen left largely intact, however, as was the spectacular elliptical staircase (1788-1812), the culmination of Adam's work at the castle. The Wardrop and Reid exteriors borrowed features from Adam's design, such as the crenellated machicolated parapet, and replicating the glazing, however, it is clearly a work of Victorian taste incorporating elements of the Baronial, such as corbelled bartizans and canted bays, that Adam had eschewed.

After the Castle and policies passed from the 5th Marquess to the National Trust for Scotland in 1945, a visitor apartment was created for General Eisenhower on the upper floor. This was followed by various schemes of internal redecoration and, in the 1960s, the W wing was converted into flats for letting. No external alterations have been made since the 19th century, however and the building has benefitted from extensive stone restoration.

Culzean, at one time the largest estate in Ayrshire, has been associated with the Kennedy family since the Middle Ages. It was gifted by Gilbert the 4th Earl of Cassillis to his brother Thomas Kennedy, in 1569. In the 1660s, the barmekin around the tower house was breached to create the terraced gardens, orchards, and walled garden for which Culzean was notable, while the caves beneath the castle (now a scheduled monument) were fortified to serve as secure stores. Culzean Castle became the principal family seat when Sir Thomas Kennedy (1726-75) became the 9th Earl of Cassillis, in 1759. A continuing programme of improvements was undertaken by Sir Thomas and his successors during the 18th and 19th centuries. The 10th Earl began rebuilding the Castle to designs by Robert Adam. This work was continued by Archibald (1770-1846), the 12th Earl, later the 1st Marquess of Ailsa. From about 1810 onwards he commissioned numerous structures, both practical and ornamental, and several important architects and landscape designers were engaged to embellish the gardens and grounds with ponds, gates, lodges and pavilions, resulting in several key works of the Picturesque era. The 3rd Marquess undertook the modernisation and enlargement of the Castle in the 1870s. In 1945, the 5th Marquess of Ailsa divided the property, making over the Castle, and the policies immediately surrounding it, to the National Trust for Scotland.

Robert Adam (1728-1792) was one of the most prominent architects of his generation and, for a time the most fashionable architect in Britain. He helped to usher in the neoclassical taste that superseded Palladianism and created a refined style of interior design that came to bear his name. His castellated mansions set in Romantic landscapes, such as Culzean and Seton, helped define the picturesque movement and strongly influenced the design of Scottish country houses in the first half of the 19th century. With his family firm he undertook most types of architectural work, although large public commissions, such as Register House and Edinburgh University, only came towards the end of his career.

Wardrop & Reid was a continuation of the Brown & Wardrop partnership that came into existence when Thomas Brown died and chief draughtsman Charles Reid was assumed into partnership, in 1873. When Reid died in 1883 the practice merged with that of Rowand Anderson. James Maitland Wardrop (1824-82) had extensive contacts with the landed gentry that brought much work building, remodelling and extending country houses in a number of styles including French and Scots, as well as pioneering a Georgian revival. The firm also had a contract with the British Linen Bank and designed numerous county court buildings. Wardrop's sons Harry and Hew were involved with the practice during the 1870s and 1880s. Charles Reid was responsible for the new wing, porch and alterations to Culzean Castle.

List description revised as part of the Culzean Castle Estate Review 2010-11.

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