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Caldwell House, Beith, East Renfrewshire: executed and unexecuted designs for rebuilding the house for Baron William Bute, 1771-73 (18)

1771-73
William Mure (1718-76) was the eldest son of William Mure of Caldwell, whom he succeeded in 1722. He was a lawyer, and served as MP for Renfrewshire in 1742, when he retired from Parliament to become Baron Exchequer of Scotland, an office he acquired through the influence of his friend, Lord Bute, and which he held until his death in 1776. Baron Mure’s estate at Caldwell had come into his family's possession through marriage in the thirteenth century. One sixteenth-century tower is all that survives of an older castle. William Mure (senior) had built a new house in c1712 to the design of an unknown architect, but this was replaced by Baron Mure sixty years later, and on a site only 200 yards away.

The architect of Baron Mure's new house at Caldwell was Robert Adam, whom he had doubtless met through their mutual friendship with Lord Bute. Moreover, Baron Mure had two nephews who were also patrons of Robert Adam: William Rouett at Belretiro in 1770, and Hutchinson Mure at Great Saxham House in 1775-79. Adam made three designs for Caldwell, starting in 1771 with two alternative schemes for a neo-classical house. This was followed with the executed scheme in 1773, which was a reworked version of the larger of Adam's two neo-classical schemes, albeit comprising a late example of Adam's early castle style (Ugbrooke Castle, Devon, and Whitehaven Castle, Cumbria, are other examples of this style). Through this work Adam became friends with Baron Mure, and relied heavily on his legal and business expertise during preparations for the Adelphi lottery.

Caldwell was constructed in 1773-74, but it is not known if Adam provided interior decorative designs for the house. The estate was sold by Baron Mure’s son, Colonel William Mure, shortly after his death in 1776. Alterations were made in the nineteenth century, including the addition of a large entrance porch on the north front in c1840. It remained a family home until 1927, when the house was converted into a mental health hospital for children. At this time various extensions were made, and the surviving eighteenth- and nineteenth-century interiors were lost. The hospital closed in 1983, and was purchased by a developer with a view to turning it into a residential care home for older people. This was never realised, and the house suffered a serious fire in 1995. It is now a ruinous shell, and was added to the buildings at risk register for Scotland in 2003. Since 2010, however, there have been plans to renovate the building, and convert it into flats.

Literature:
A.T. Bolton, The architecture of Robert and James Adam, 1922, Volume I, p. 69, Volume II, Index pp. 5, 81; A. Rowan, Deigns for castles and country villas by Robert & James Adam, 1985, p. 94; D. King, The complete works of Robert & James Adam and unbuilt Adam, 2001, Volume I, pp. 156, 162-64, Volume II, p 123; W. Adams, 'Classical Paisley', The Georgian, Summer 2003, p. 7; 'Mure, William (1718-76), of Caldwell, Renfrew', History of Parliament online; 'Caldwell House, Gleniffer Road', British listed buildings online

Frances Sands, 2013
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