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Dunninald House, Craig, Angus: unexecuted designs for David Scott, 1795 (43)


David Scott (1746-1805), the tenth of thirteen children of Robert Scott (1705-1786), Laird of Dunninald in the parish of Craig, Forfarshire was educated at St Andrew's University and sent to Bombay at the age of 17. He was a merchant there for 23 years, amassing a fortune and returning home in 1786. He was then Director of the East India Company (1788-1802) and Member of Parliament for Forfarshire (1790-96) and then Perth Burghs (1796-1805). He told a constituent in November1795 that his routine of 'early in the morning in the India House until late, two o'clock almost every evening in the House of Commons [was] very severe indeed'. (information from www.historyofparliament). His health was thus badly affected and he must soon have lost interest in Soane's designs for a new house. In fact, the project had begun earlier when Scott commissioned James Playfair (1755-1794) a Scottish architect who by 1783 was established in London. In 1787-9 Playfair made designs for Dunninald House and estate and also for a model village, none of which were carried out. The drawings with others were bought by Soane after Playfair's early death (SM 78/10/1-9, volume 29/1-16).

Soane provide eight alternative designs for Dunninald in a Classical style labelling them: 'A No,1'. 'A No.2', 'B No.1', 'B No. 2', 'C', 'D', 'E' and one unlabelled, possibly F. The plans for the Classical designs are for the ground floor only and are compact with three reception rooms plus library and dressing room. Common to all of them (though not always shown on the elevations) are the low wings on each side for the domestic offices though 'B No.1' and 'D' have the library and drawing room in the right-hand wing. All of the designs save for 'E' (which has Doric) have an Ionic order and all have banded rustication. The designs for the elevation (all of them front elevations) are mostly formal but especially 'A No.1' and F which have a giant order of six columns, bosses or roundels and (F) eight statues, four on the skyline and four in niches. Design 'E' is the most modest design with a Doric portico and little embellishment.

Soane next turned to making designs for Dunninald in a Castle style. He had some direct knowedge of castle building through his work on the square Norman keep of Norwich Castle, a prison from the thirteenth century onwards to which Soane made alterations and additions, 1788-92. However his work was heavily criticized by William Wilkins (of Norwich) who described the Castle as being 'grossly mutilated ... [and] now bereaved of its ancient beauty' (see Soane Museum online drawings catalogue: Norwich, Norfolk: Norwich Castle Gaol).

'Sham castles' had been built from the fifteenth century onwards, for example Herstmonceux in 1441 and the early seventeenth century saw some examples such as Bolsover,1612. Vanbrugh's 'toy castles' of the early eighteenth century continued the theme on a decorative scale. It is said that more than ten per cent of Robert Adam's projects were in the 'castle style', most of them designed in the 1770s and 1780s and located in Scotland. Soane bought the surviving drawings of the Adam practice in 1833.

Soane's designs for Dunninald in a Castle style are labelled 'K' and 'L' and are more fully detailed than his Classical designs with floor plans for basement, ground floor, first floor and attic, and elevations for the front, back and side. Except for the addition of turrets ,the ground floor plans do not greatly vary from the Classical plans so that, for example, the plan 'K/L' is, except for the entrance hall, almost the same as plan 'D'. It seems that while Soane when required could respond to Gothic architecture, he was not much stirred by the Castle style. The meagre list of his works in that manner includes: the embattled domestic offices at Skelton Castle, 1790-1 (q.v.) and the embattled stables at Port Eliot, 1804.

A comparison of Soane's several designs with Playfair's single design for Dunninald house shows that the Scottish architect chose something simpler. On a generous site with provision for paddocks, kitchen garden, rick yard, stables and farm offices, poultry yard and post road, well furnished with trees, Playfair designed a house with offices on a courtyard plan. On each side a large arch gave entrance to the courtyard. The two-storey house with basement was nine bays wide and plain except for the end bays with paired pilasters on two sides. A small drawing with a bird's eye view of Dinnald shows it in an idyllic countryside setting. Interestingly, Playfair also made a design for a model village at nearby Buddon for David Scott.

Most of the Soane drawings were made by one or other of his pupils: Frederick Meyer (1775-?), pupil April 1791-1796; Thomas Jeans (c.1775-1866), pupil August 1792-25 August 1797; Henry Hake Seward (1778- 1848), pupil and assistant May 1794- September 1808; Henry Joseph Good (1775- 1857), pupil January 1795-January 1799.

Literature. P.du Prey, Sir John Soane, 1985, in series of 'Catalogues of architectural drawings in the Victoria and Albert Museum', catalogue 69, pp.44-45

Jill Lever, October 2014



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Contents of Dunninald House, Craig, Angus: unexecuted designs for David Scott, 1795 (43)