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Balavil House

A Category B Listed Building in Alvie, Highland

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Latitude: 57.0991 / 57°5'56"N

Longitude: -3.9971 / 3°59'49"W

OS Eastings: 279106

OS Northings: 802674

OS Grid: NH791026

Mapcode National: GBR J9HY.XCN

Mapcode Global: WH4JB.KTTM

Entry Name: Balavil House

Listing Date: 5 October 1971

Category: B

Source: Historic Scotland

Source ID: 401116

Historic Scotland Designation Reference: LB1652

Building Class: Cultural

Location: Alvie

County: Highland

Electoral Ward: Badenoch and Strathspey

Parish: Alvie

Traditional County: Inverness-shire

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Robert Adam, 1790-96; 19th century alterations and additions; major interior remodelling by MacGibbon and Ross, 1904. Symmetrical 3-storey, 7-bay classical mansion. Harled, ashlar dressings.

N (ENTRANCE) ELEVATION: centre entrance in later 19th century porch; round-headed keystoned doorway; corniced and balustraded wallhead with corner pedestals supporting urns. Shallow advanced outer and centre pedimented bays; centre shield with swags and motto below pediment; pediments above some windows (post 1903).

S ELEVATION: wide outer bays delineated at 1st and 2nd floor levels by giant ashlar pilasters terminating with applied Ionic capitals and linked at 2nd floor cill height by applied band course with guilloche decoration. Large Burlington windows in outer and centre bays of 1st floor; pair later 19th century canted bay windows to ground floor with later French window to centre. Further attached decorative patera below wallhead, with 3 later 19th century dormers linked by balustrade. Band courses; mainly multi-pane glazing piended platform roof with paired corniced stacks.

Service wing extends to E: circa 1865 single storey range raised to 2 storeys and attic after 1903; stair tower at E gable rises above roofline terminating with pyramidal bellcast roof (post 1903 providing access from service range to upper floors of main house).

Predominantly multi-pane glazing to upper sashes; band courses; slate roofs.

INTERIOR: predominantly 1904 refit following fire, Edwardian decorative detailing throughout. Adamesque chimney pieces and plaster ceilings to ground floor public rooms; large centre stair hall rising through 1st floor.

Statement of Interest

Balavil House (formerly Belleville) is a good example of an 18th century neo-Classical house design by foremost 18th century architect, Robert Adam. This Adam design displays an unusual use of varying heights in the main elevation. The house includes a fine and complete Edwardian Adam-revival interior scheme by MacGibbon and Ross following a fire in 1903. The house design was specifically commissioned to reflect the owner, James Macpherson's interest in classical history and literature.

Located near the site of the former Ratites Castle; also on or near an earlier Belleville House. Belleville was purchased from the Mackintosh family by James Macpherson circa 1780 for 4000 pounds. James Macpherson was known as the translator of Ossianic poems and later a political commentator. Macpherson was a personal friend of Robert Adam who had already designed some additions for his Gothic villa in Putney, London in 1788. The Macpherson crest and motto "Catti ad Bellum" is on the N front of the mansion with a further worn coat of arms re-mounted in the W gable, from where a former billiard room wing projected.

Robert Adam's brother John supervised the project after his death in 1792. James Russell, mason, built a low service range to the E side in 1823. Charles G H Kinnear (of Peddie and Kinnear) carried out some minor works to the property in the early 1860s including the Italianate lodge of 1864. In 1899, the architect William Laidlaw Curruthers was commissioned to update the house to a late Victorian style, adding the balustraded porch to the front of the building and an attic level. About this time the principal rooms were moved to the ground floor and a living hall was created and the former billiard wing was demolished.

A fire broke out in 1903 resulting in the loss of all internal finishes and the building was subsequently remodelled internally by MacGibbon and Ross in Adam style in 1904 to the cost of 14,500 pounds. At this point the bay windows were added to the ground floor.

Robert Adam (1728-1792) and John Adam (1721-1992) were the sons of William Adam architect and when William died they took over his successful practice as architect and contractor respectively. Robert Adam was one of the most prominent Scottish architects renowned for his development of the Classical style throughout both Scotland and England in the latter half of the 18th Century.

The firm of MacGibbon and Ross began as speculative developers but by the turn of the 20th Century the firm had changed and were carrying out a number of renovations to larger country houses of which Balavil was one.

List description updated 2012.

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