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Monument to John, 3rd Earl of Glasgow, Kelburn Castle Estate, Fairlie

A Category A Listed Building in Largs, North Ayrshire

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Latitude: 55.7709 / 55°46'15"N

Longitude: -4.8409 / 4°50'27"W

OS Eastings: 221892

OS Northings: 656716

OS Grid: NS218567

Mapcode National: GBR 31.9JJT

Mapcode Global: WH2N7.M60S

Entry Name: Monument to John, 3rd Earl of Glasgow, Kelburn Castle Estate, Fairlie

Listing Date: 14 April 1971

Last Amended: 17 November 2016

Category: A

Source: Historic Scotland

Source ID: 406536

Historic Scotland Designation Reference: LB7295

Building Class: Cultural

Location: Largs

County: North Ayrshire

Electoral Ward: North Coast and Cumbraes

Parish: Largs

Traditional County: Ayrshire

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Robert Adam, dated 1775; possibly carved by Giuseppe Ceracchi. Freestanding, trapezoid-shaped monument of polished sandstone ashlar with a pedimented, classical aedicule framing a round arch alcove with a sorrowing marble figurative statue (left arm missing [seen in 2016]) leaning on an urn. There is a carved circular crest with family arms and motto above the figure and below is a marble panel inset with inscribed epitaph. Surrounding the monument is a low ashlar coped wall. The monument is sited within a steep-sided, wooded ravine beside the Kel Burn which passes over a 6 metre high waterfall into a natural pool below the monument.

Statement of Interest

The memorial to John, 3rd Earl of Glasgow, is an outstanding example of a commemorative monument in the neoclassical style by one of Scotland s foremost architects of the later 18th century period, Robert Adam. Examples of commemorative or funerary work by him are rare and significant. The monument is finely conceived and executed in polished ashlar and marble. The dramatic wooded ravine setting for the monument is significant in that it accords with the interest in the sublime and the beautiful in nature that gathered momentum across Europe during the 18th century, a period known as the Age of Enlightenment.

Age and Rarity

The monument was erected in memory of the 3rd Earl, John Boyle by his widow in 1775 at a cost of £300 (BoS, p.397). It is depicted in its present location on the 1st Edition Ordnance Survey Map, surveyed in 1855.

The elongated trapezoid shape of the monument is reminiscent of both the pyramid and the obelisk, architectural forms from the ancient world that were increasingly used for funerary and memorial works during the 18th and 19th centuries and reflected the contemporary neoclassical movement in architecture based on Roman and Ancient Greek precedents.

The dramatic setting of the monument, on the edge of wooded ravine beside a 15 metre high waterfall, relates to 18th century interest in the sublime which was concerned with the awe-inspiring and sometimes terror-inducing elemental force of nature. The Statistical Account for Scotland entry for Largs Parish, written circa 1794, clearly refers to this preoccupation in its description of the memorial, describing the steepness of the shade, the murmuring of the stream below, the height of the ground on each side, the depth of the precipices, the solemn darkness, so favourable to seriousness and meditation, all together form a scene peculiarly awful. All which is still heightened by the appearance of a monument of white marble[…]: Virtue, holding a lock of her hair in one hand; and in the other, an urn; over which she pensively, and mournfully inclines, lamenting the loss of one of her favourite sons (SAS, p.361) The inscribed epitaph below the statue notes the 3rd Earl s liberal sentiments of religion, unfettered by systems and that the memorial was erected to animate his children to the imitation of his estimable qualities .

The Ayshire and Arran volume of The Buildings of Scotland notes that the figure and urn may have been carved for the Earl of Glasgow by Giuseppe Ceracchi, an accomplished Italian sculptor who may have carried out work for Robert Adam circa 1774-9.

Kelburn is among the oldest ancestral country seats in Scotland to have been continuously inhabited by successive generations of one family, having been in possession of the Boyle family (formerly de Boyville ) since the 12th century. Kelburn has a prominent coastal setting to the south of the town of Largs, with views from the castle across the Firth of Clyde to the Isles of Cumbrae and Bute and southwest to the Isle of Arran. The Kel Burn runs through the estate, passing through a wooded ravine and over a 15 metre high waterfall into a naturally carved pool to the southwest of the castle.

The castle is the focal point within the Kelburn estate policies. The principal phases of addition are distinctly identifiable and the successive additions dating from the early Scottish Renaissance to the present day represent changing political and cultural values as well demonstrating a significant transition in Scottish domestic architecture at this time. Associated ancillary estate buildings and structures, including sundials, monuments, stable offices, lodges, bridges and worker s cottages (some of which are listed separately) contribute to our understanding of this historically significant ancestral seat.

Architectural or Historic Interest



Plan form


Technological excellence or innovation, material or design quality

The monument is an outstanding commemorative monument by the foremost Scottish architect of the later 18th century, Robert Adam, finely conceived and executed in polished ashlar and marble. Writing in Architectural Heritage, Volume 4 Robert Adam David King described the monument as perhaps the finest addition to the extensive list of works by Adam omitted from the Howard Colvin s seminal A Biographical Dictionary of British Architects (1978).

Robert Adam (1728–92) was one of the most important British architects working in the neoclassical style. The son of the established Scottish architect William Adam, Robert established his own practice with his brother James and developed his own distinct style influenced by classical design inspired by the rules of Roman architecture.


The monument remains in its original position on the side of a ravine beside a waterfall, purposely chosen to evoke contemporary 18th century theories of the sublime and the beautiful in nature. The monument is surrounded by trees adding to the sheltered, Arcadian atmosphere. The monument is located within the boundary of the Kelburn Castle designed landscape (Kelburn - GDL 00233).

Regional variations

There are no known regional variations.

Close Historical Associations

None known at present. Kelburn is among the oldest country seats in Scotland to have been continuously inhabited by successive generations of one family, the Boyles.

Statutory address and listed building record revised in 2016. Previously listed as Kelburn Monument To John, 3rd Earl of Glasgow .

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