Explore Collections Explore The Collections
You are here: CollectionsOnline  /  Queen Street, number unknown, Edinburgh: unexecuted designs for a house for Dr Adam Ferguson, c1765-85, (5)


Queen Street, number unknown, Edinburgh: unexecuted designs for a house for Dr Adam Ferguson, c1765-85, (5)

Signed and dated

  • c1765-85


Dr Adam Ferguson (1723-1816), was born in Logierait, Perthshire, the son of a minister of the Church of Scotland. Following undergraduate studies at the University of St Andrews he went to Edinburgh University to study Divinity. Ferguson began his career as chaplain to the 42nd Regiment in 1744, but left the Presbyterian ministry in 1755 to become a scholar. With the exception of a two-year period working as tutor to the family of the Earl of Bute (1757-59), Ferguson worked at Edinburgh University, becoming acquainted with many of the leading figures of the Scottish Enlightenment, including Robert Adam. In 1759 he was made Professor of natural philosophy, and Professor of moral philosophy in 1764. His best known publications include Essay on Civil Society (1767) and A History of the Progress and Termination of the Roman Republic (1783). Ferguson retired from the university in 1785, and went to live in St Andrews.

It was presumably during his time working at Edinburgh University that the Adam brothers were commissioned to make designs for Ferguson's castle-style town house on Queen Street. The date of this design is not known, but the inclusion of relieving arches and tripartite windows suggest that it is not from the earliest years of their practice. This results in a probable date range of 1765-85. It was extremely rare for the Adam brothers to have designed a castle-style townhouse, and it was not executed.

Why Ferguson would have wanted or needed this house on Queen Street is not known. Queen Street is a terrace in the New Town, and according to the Buildings of Scotland, it comprises the longest sequence of eighteenth-century buildings in Edinburgh. Ferguson, however, lived at Sciennes Hill House, where his home, famously, became an important forum for the literati of the city.

A.T. Bolton, The architecture of Robert and James Adam, 1922, Volume II, p. 207, and Index pp. 12, 70; J. Gifford, C. McWilliam, and D. Walker, The buildings of Scotland: Edinburgh, 1984, p. 317; D. King, The complete works of Robert & James Adam and unbuilt Adam, 2001, Volume II, pp. 158, 162

Frances Sands, 2013



Digitisation of the Drawings Collection has been made possible through the generosity of the Leon Levy Foundation

If you have any further information about this object, please contact us: drawings@soane.org.uk

Sir John Soane's collection includes some 30,000 architectural, design and topographical drawings which is a very important resource for scholars worldwide. His was the first architect’s collection to attempt to preserve the best in design for the architectural profession in the future, and it did so by assembling as exemplars surviving drawings by great Renaissance masters and by the leading architects in Britain in the 17th and 18th centuries and his near contemporaries such as Sir William Chambers, Robert Adam and George Dance the Younger. These drawings sit side by side with 9,000 drawings in Soane’s own hand or those of the pupils in his office, covering his early work as a student, his time in Italy and the drawings produced in the course of his architectural practice from 1780 until the 1830s.

Browse (via the vertical menu to the left) and search results for Drawings include a mixture of Concise catalogue records – drawn from an outline list of the collection – and fuller records where drawings have been catalogued in more detail (an ongoing process).  

Contents of Queen Street, number unknown, Edinburgh: unexecuted designs for a house for Dr Adam Ferguson, c1765-85, (5)