History in Structure

Powder House, Culzean Castle

A Category B Listed Building in Kirkoswald, South Ayrshire

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Latitude: 55.3519 / 55°21'6"N

Longitude: -4.7965 / 4°47'47"W

OS Eastings: 222797

OS Northings: 609995

OS Grid: NS227099

Mapcode National: GBR 42.4ZVJ

Mapcode Global: WH2Q6.9R60

Plus Code: 9C7Q9623+Q9

Entry Name: Powder House, Culzean Castle

Listing Name: Culzean Castle Estate, Powder House

Listing Date: 14 April 1971

Category: B

Source: Historic Scotland

Source ID: 339553

Historic Scotland Designation Reference: LB7607

Building Class: Cultural

ID on this website: 200339553

Location: Kirkoswald

County: South Ayrshire

Electoral Ward: Girvan and South Carrick

Parish: Kirkoswald

Traditional County: Ayrshire

Tagged with: Architectural structure

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Early 19th century. Single storey, windowless, rectangular-plan, with 2 stage octagonal tower engaged to N, castellated style gunpowder magazine (now disused). Clifftop site. Droved ashlar construction. Polished ashlar base course. Moulded cornice and raised parapet of polished ashlar. Buttresses in the form of pilasters clasping corners. Arrow slits on W and S elevations. Iron flush door to E. Flat flagstone roof.

INTERIOR (seen 2010): rectangular chamber with aperture to base of hollow tower on N. Flagstone floor, plastered and limewashed walls, ceiling formed from single iron plate.

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.

The Powder House is an important work of the Picturesque movement in Scotland. While there are a number of extant gunpowder magazines, dating from the 17th to 20th centuries, in Scotland, few are in good condition and this is one of the most decorative examples. It was built for the 12th Earl of Cassillis, who purchased a large quantity of obsolete weapons to furnish an armoury at Culzean Castle in 1812. Gunpowder may have been used for signal guns for the yachts and to supply the practice of shooting on the estate. The Powder House was probably built during this period when the estate was being landscaped and embellished with ornamental structures, on the advice of the landscape designer and pupil of 'Capability' Brown, Thomas White (1736-1811). Although the building is adequately constructed for safely storing gunpowder, its exposed location and picturesque styling, as well as its inconvenient distance from the Battery, suggest that the motivation was primarily ornamental and symbolic. Now obscured by trees, the building would have originally been a prominent feature of the scenic landscape of Culzean. The composition, with its decorative polygonal tower, and its siting on a rocky knoll, is typical of picturesque architecture, recalling Archibald Elliot's Calton Gaol Governor's House, Edinburgh, amongst others. The building is likely to have been erected by James Thomson (c.1784-1832), of Dumfries, who was resident architect to the estate in the early 19th century, and the designer may have been Robert Lugar, who produced several designs for Culzean around this time. However, James Gillespie Graham, John Thin and Richard Crichton were also engaged to produce designs for the estate during this period and any of these architects could have been responsible for this design.

Together with the remarkable 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. 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 (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.

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

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