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ABERDOUR HOUSE, FIFESHIRE; AIRTH CASTLE, STIRLINGSHIRE;
AUCHANS HOUSE, AYRSHIRE.
The buildings we have here brought together do not possess either elaborate design or great historical interest; but they are at least sufficiently attractive to warrant our notice, because their peculiarities form so many links in the chain which essentially constitutes the picturesque in Scottish architecture, - that architecture whose merits are the results of natural adaptation, taking internal requirements as the groundwork of external feature. We do not here state that Scotland alone possesses this merit in her ancient structures, because it is palpable generally in the architecture of past ages, and it forms one great element of almost universal success—just in the same degree that the modern system of sticking up external features and gaudy ornamentation, without internal meaning, is the evidence of universal failure.
AIRTH CASTLE —or rather its modern northern front-completely justifies our conclusion. This feature, about a dozen years ago, was described as “elegant.” But, in a short time, advancing knowledge has changed that notion; and now, instead of admiring, we see the palpable falsification of great features by little imitations, added to the meagre ornamentation which marked the revival of native architecture in the beginning of the present century.
Airth owes much to its situation for effect. It stands on the summit of a hill rising about ninety feet above the low ground in the immediate neighbourhood of the Firth of Forth. To the north and west of the castle the hill-sides are richly wooded—so, indeed, is the eastern slope; but its side is varied by having placed upon it the secluded, and now deserted, ancient church of the castle and parish. This building does not date three centuries back, nor does it possess peculiar architectural expression, but it is interesting as one of the few existing churches in Scotland which remain under the shadow of the baronial residence.
To the south of the castle, a somewhat abrupt descent is distinctly marked by the master hand of the designer,—and the well-considered terrace garden ornamenting the hill-side, as well as its base, adds most undoubtedly to the general effect. Our representation, however, is confined to the building itself, and delineates its south and eastern fronts. Its prominent feature (the tower placed in the angle) is remarkable, for here it appears as an external feature, instead of being placed, as it almost universally is, upon the inner angle of the building. The tower, and the adjoining building to the left, ornamented by four gabled dormer windows, are the oldest external portions of the castle, and date between 1550 and 1600. The parts attached to this block may have been built soon after the year last named; and one of the window-heads of the eastern front, with its starry-fielded tympanum, (represented in the corner of our plate,) belongs to the more recent parts.
Two peculiarities mark the design of the tower. First, On the east side is a bold corbelling, carrying the battlements and their cannon gurgoyles, while the south side has the two last named features without the first, and the wall face remains unbroken. But this infraction of the law of mere uniformity originates in utility; and we are satisfied with it, because the external feature is caused by internal requirement. Briefly, then, the termination of the turret staircase is the cause
ABERDOUR HOUSE, &c., 1--2.
ABERDOUR HOUSE, AIRTH CASTLE, AND AUCHANS HOUSE.
of the corbelling, for the doorway to the summit of the tower is immediately behind the overhanging battlement.
Second, There appears in immediate contiguity the conically-covered turret (said to be of French or Flemish origin) and the open corbelled bartizan, the invariable foundation of the covered turret. We may here state that the battlemented bartizan was a decided feature both of English * and Scotch architecture, before any connection existed between Scotland and the Continent; and this peculiarity of Airth forms matter for the consideration of those who contend that Scotch “pepper-box” turrets were entirely borrowed from the foreigner,-for, whatever their head
may be, it is certain that their body is of native origin,—and there are several instances where the old open battlemented bartizan has had a more recent covering, transforming it into a turret.
ABERDOUR HOUSE—“ Castle” would be a more appropriate name for the main building, to which those we have represented are mere adjuncts of a late date—is a huge keep-tower of very considerable antiquity. Modern indifference is fast working the destruction of this once interesting pile,-for not only is it deserted, but it forms a ready-made quarry for the whole neighbourhood. Its more ancient and principal portion is, like the generality of Scottish castles, chiefly constructed of rough rubble-work, with dressed quoins and windows; but at a later period highly finished masonry came into general fashion, and the subject of our representation is an example of that class of work, for the perfection of which Scotland is still justly celebrated.
The design of Aberdour marks the change which took place during the seventeenth century, from Gothic forms to the unbroken lines of Italian composition. Thus the dormer window no longer appears as breaking the line of the roof, but the pedimented window appears as a panel in the wall face below. Another point of interest here, is the continuation of the eaves-string course round the upper windows, giving to them the effect of being projected from the wall front.
AUCHANS HOUSE has considerable variety of outline, and is undoubtedly a very picturesque
Thus the square balustraded tower is in direct opposition to the cone-covered staircase, which breaks the monotony of the main wall face of the mansion in its centre.† But the picturesque is more particularly evinced in the arrangement of the crow-stepped gables, and especially of that one surmounting the round tower to the right in our representation. The flank wall of this gable continues the line of the house, instead of being corbelled upon the tower, which is finished by being simply sloped off to the wall, leaving as a questionable feature what has evidently been a change from the original design. Auchans is about four miles from Troon, and stands in the parish of Dundonald. It has upon its walls the date of erection, 1644; but its materials were in use long before that period, having been removed from the old castle of Dundonald, whose shapeless ruins, in the immediate vicinity, still attest a once extensive and interesting fortress,—the more interesting as belonging to a class of which Coxton, near Elgin, is now the somewhat diminutive type; for the fire-proof castle we now speak of as in ruins must have been six times the extent of the more northerly and complete fortification.
R. W. B.
* The city gateway of York, and the castles of Hytton and Lumley, in the county of Durham, are well known examples. + A similar arrangement exists in the inner courtyard of Glasgow University.
Even when the old architects made actual mistakes they were not ashamed, but left them distinctly visible. They knew the power of general effect too well to care much about minor faults.