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Gavin Hamilton's House, including boundary walls, gatepiers and gates, 8 Loudoun Street, Mauchline

A Category A Listed Building in Mauchline, East Ayrshire

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Latitude: 55.5158 / 55°30'56"N

Longitude: -4.3807 / 4°22'50"W

OS Eastings: 249776

OS Northings: 627249

OS Grid: NS497272

Mapcode National: GBR 3M.TF7J

Mapcode Global: WH3QR.PM4C

Entry Name: Gavin Hamilton's House, including boundary walls, gatepiers and gates, 8 Loudoun Street, Mauchline

Listing Date: 14 April 1971

Last Amended: 3 April 2018

Category: A

Source: Historic Scotland

Source ID: 347818

Historic Scotland Designation Reference: LB14472

Building Class: Cultural

Location: Mauchline

County: East Ayrshire

Electoral Ward: Ballochmyle

Parish: Mauchline

Traditional County: Ayrshire

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A late-17th century three-bay, two storey town house, which was extended to the south around 1760 and further altered in the early 19th century. L-shaped in plan, it is constructed from harled masonry with crowstepped gables and exposed dressings of red ashlar sandstone. Adjoined to the late-medieval Mauchline Castle (Abbot Hunter's Tower, LB14471) by an early 19th century pend, the pair of buildings once formed a single residence. During the 18th century the house and castle were the residence of Gavin Hamilton, a close friend and early patron of the poet Robert Burns.

The front (west) elevation of the earliest phase of the house is three bays and roughly symmetrical with a later off-centre red brick chimneystack. There is a single-bay segmental-headed pend, with a small first floor window, leading to a moulded doorway in the north elevation of the house and a 17th century stone forestair serving the first floor of the castle and displaying carved stonework to the nosings. The rear (east) elevation of the 17th century house is blank.

The south elevation of the house is abutted by the 18th century wing, which was extended and raised around 1800. There is a piended roof to the east end. The front (north) elevation of the 18th century wing is four bays with a doorway to the re-entrant angle, which has engaged pilasters and a pro-style Tuscan Doric portico. The gabled east elevation is single-bay with crowsteps and misaligned windows. The rear (south) elevation faces Mauchline Old Church and churchyard. It is four bays and is abutted by a large grave marker. The west elevation is two bays and contains a timber door with flush panels and rendered rybats.

The roofs are slated and predominantly pitched with replacement rainwater goods. There are ashlar red sandstone crowsteps, skewputts and chimneystacks with tapered clay cowls. The window openings have rendered flush margins, some of which are exposed ashlar red sandstone. The windows are mostly twelve-pane timber sash in case and largely date from the early to mid-19th century but the glass is generally replacement. There is a six-light replacement timber casement and an eighteen-pane fixed light to the south elevation of the 18th century wing.

There are rubble boundary walls, in red sandstone to the south, and squared rubblestone to the north. The southern entrance has ashlar red sandstone gatepiers with ball finials, cast iron gates and curved flanking walls.

The interior was not seen (2017) but according to Davis (1991) it incorporates the vaulted remains of an earlier ancillary building, which may be contemporary with the adjoining late-medieval Mauchline Castle (Abbot Hunter's Tower, LB14471).

Statement of Interest

Gavin Hamilton's House was built during the late-17th century as an addition to the late-medieval Mauchline Castle (LB14471) and is a relatively rare surviving intact example of its building type and date. The early character and setting of the house is largely intact and is enhanced by the later additions and alterations. The potential remains of late-medieval fabric on the ground floor is also of historical significance. It is one of a small number of buildings to survive in Mauchline, which have close association with Scotland's national poet Robert Burns. The property was the residence of his friend and early patron, Gavin Hamilton, about whom Burns wrote 'Holy Willie's Prayer', and it is understood that he composed 'The Calf' while in the building. Burns' wedding to his first wife Jean Armour, may also have taken place within the house. With tangible and well-documented links to Scotland's most celebrated poet, the house is considered to be of national importance.

Age and Rarity

The style of the main house suggests that it was built around the late-17th century, as an extension to the mid-15th century Mauchline Castle (LB14471). It replaced an earlier ancillary building which abutted the south elevation of the castle. Davis (1991) notes that fabric from this earlier building is incorporated into the present house, as there is a vaulted room on the ground floor which may be of a similar construction date to the castle. The external forestair between the house and the castle also pre-dates the house, having been constructed during the 17th century (Davis).The present house is first shown on the 1st Edition Ordnance Survey map (surveyed 1860), and the footprint has remained unchanged since this time.

During the late-medieval period the site functioned as a Cistercian grange (a monastic farm) of Melrose Abbey and the adjoining tower house of Mauchline Castle was built as the administrative centre in the mid-15th century. The tower became a temporal residence after the Reformation and by 1608 the Ayrshire lands had passed from ecclesiastic control to Hugh, Lord of Loudoun (Dennison, p.22: Reid, p.171). During the 17th century the estate had a number of owners, including the Campbells of Loudoun. About 1620 the nearby Nether Place House was constructed (demolished around1980), and this replaced Mauchline Castle as the principal seat. Mauchline became a burgh in 1510 and as an important market centre, it further expanded in the 18th century. During the 19th century a number of industries developed, including the manufacture of curling stones and the production of decorative wooden boxes known as Mauchline Ware. In the latter half of the 19th century the town attracted many visitors, owing to the growing interest in Robert Burns from the late 18th century.

Around 1730 Mauchline Castle and the present house were purchased by John Hamilton of Kype, who was a writer and clerk to the legality of Mauchline. Hamilton later sold the property back to the Earl of Loudoun, from whom he then leased it (Burns Encyclopaedia). During the latter half of the 18th century, the house was the residence of his son Gavin Hamilton, who was a solicitor and a close friend of Robert Burns (see Close Historical Associations). Following his death in 1805, the house passed to Hamilton's son, Alexander (known as the Bailie). After the death of his widow in the early 1880s, the property was vacant for a number or years (Gibb, p.49).

The southern wing of the house was added around 1760 (Close and Riches). The late-18th century appearance is illustrated in Grose (1791), which shows the southern wing as being single-storey and thatched, with a smaller footprint. This wing was raised, extended and slated around the early 19th century (Gibb, p.49; Davis, p.324). Further changes which took place around this time include the addition of the northern pend, the enlargement of the window openings and the insertion of the portico. These additions and alterations are illustrated by Hill's engraving of 1846 (in Wilson and Chambers). Historic photographs dating from the 19th and early 20th centuries show that the exterior of the house has been largely unchanged since this period (Ayrshire History; Gibb, p.20, 46).

All buildings erected before 1840 which are of notable quality and survive predominantly in their original form have a strong case for listing. Gavin Hamilton's House dates from the late 17th century, and although it has undergone a series of additions and minor alterations, the early character of the house is largely intact. It has early fabric and the external appearance has not changed significantly from the early 19th century. The remains of an earlier ancillary building, which was associated with the late-medieval tower house, are also understood to survive within the house. It has features typical of its early construction date, including the steeply pitched roof, the crowstepped gables, skewputts and chimneystacks. Gavin Hamilton's House is a rare surviving example of a relatively unaltered late-17th century burgh house and, set next to Mauchline Castle, is among the oldest surviving buildings in the town..

Architectural or Historic Interest


The interior was not seen (2017). Davis (1991) notes that there is evidence in both wings of fabric dating from around 1820. There was restorative work done to the interior in the late-20th century, which included the insertion of replacement panelling, doors, plaster cornices, all executed in a similar style to the existing fabric. It is understood that the vaulted remains of an earlier building are incorporated into the ground floor of the main house. These may date from a similar period as the tower. With the information currently available, no analysis can be made under this heading (2017).

Plan form

The interior plan form was not seen (2017). The footprint has been altered from rectangular to L-plan by the additions of the mid-18th and early 19th centuries. This reflects how the building has developed over the centuries.

The internal plan form likely changed as part of these additions however, as the extent of these cannot be determined, no analysis is currently possible under this heading (2017).

Technological excellence or innovation, material or design quality

Built as an extension of the existing tower house of Mauchline Castle, the house would have been a residence of high status within Mauchline. In its architectural composition and detailing, Gavin Hamilton's House is an early example of domestic burgh architecture that maintains features which are characteristic of its date, such as the harled walling, the steeply pitched roof, the end gables, crowsteps and skewputts. These features which were derived from the earlier defensive tower house architecture, continued to find favour in domestic buildings in Scotland's burghs until the end of 17th century and early 18th century. The southern wing is largely early 19th century in character with a partially piended roof, classical-style porch and large window openings.

Whilst it is not unusual in terms of its design, houses from this period that survive relatively unaltered are rare. In conjunction with the adjoining castle, the buildings display the transition from the medieval tower house tradition towards domestic, non-fortified buildings. This has resulted in a group which has a development sequence spanning over 350 years, combining two distinct architectural forms. The various additions and alterations to the house are also representative of how domestic architecture developed in the 18th and 19th centuries.


Located within the centre of Mauchline, Gavin Hamilton's House is sited within a 19th century walled garden setting and forms part of the conservation area. The north elevation adjoins to the mid-15th century Mauchline Castle and the pair form a group of buildings, courtyard and garden area, which was once at the heart of the early settlement. Originally, the tower house would have been part of a larger grange complex. None of these other structures survive but remnants of an ancillary building are incorporated into the fabric of the house.

The present setting and courtyard arrangement of buildings has not changed significantly from at least the early 19th century, as is shown on the 1st Edition Ordnance Survey map (surveyed 1857). Along with the castle and the adjacent church and churchyard to the southeast (LB14470), the house is part of a significant historic grouping, which has its origins in the mid-15th century and has survived largely unaltered since around the early 19th century. This adds to the interest and authenticity of the house.

In conjunction with other nearby listed buildings that include 2-4 Castle Street (now the Burns House Museum, LB14473), Poosie Nansie's (LB14476) and Nance Tinnock's (LB14474) the house contributes to a group of surviving buildings in Mauchline, which have close, tangible links with Robert Burns (See Close Historical Associations for further information).

Regional variations

Red sandstone is a locally occurring material, abundant in this area of Mauchline. It is therefore a common characteristic of the historic buildings within the town.

Close Historical Associations

The house has a close historical association with a nationally significant person.

It was the residence of Gavin Hamilton during the latter-half of the 18th century. A factor to the Campbells of Loudoun, Hamilton was a solicitor who became a close friend and patron of the celebrated poet, Robert Burns. During the 1780s Burns's family rented a farm nearby in Mossgiel, and paid their rent to Hamilton. It was here that he wrote many of his most notable poems (Wilson and Chambers, p.19). The pair developed a close friendship and Burns was a frequent visitor to Hamilton's house, which was commonly referred to as 'the Castle' (Gibb, 1911, p.49, 72). Burns wrote the satirical poem 'The Calf' while in Hamilton's writing room (Wilson and Chambers p.22-23; Gibb, 1896 p.72, 75) and it is reputed that when he married Jean Armour in 1788, the private ceremony took place in Hamilton's house (Bold; Wilson and Chambers, p.23). However, the exact location of Burns' marriage is disputed and it cannot be determined, as the marriage certificate was destroyed by Jean's father (Gibb, 1896, p.74-76).

Hamilton also played a key role in the publication of Burns' first works, the 'Kilmarnock Edition', which he dedicated to Hamilton along with a number of his other poems (Bold). One of Burns' most notable poems is the satire 'Holy Willie's Prayer', which was written about Hamilton's quarrels with an elder 'Holy Willie', and the minister of the adjacent parish church, Rev. William 'Daddy' Auld (Carswell, p.138; Wilson and Chambers, p.22). Hamilton, 'Holy Willie', Rev. William 'Daddy' Auld and several of Burns' children are all buried in the neighbouring church yard (LB14470), which is bounded to the north by the southern wing of Hamilton's former house.

Statutory address, category of listing changed from B to A and listed building record revised in 2018. Previously listed as 'Gavin Hamilton s House'.

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