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Ardencaple, Helensburgh, Argyll: executed and unexecuted designs for additions to the house, and the interior, and for unexecuted castle gates for Lord Frederick Campbell, 1762-74 (14)

1762-74
Lord Frederick Campbell (1729-1816) was the 4th son of John Campbell, 4th Duke of Argyll, and in 1769 he married Mary (d1807), the widow of the 4th Earl of Ferrers, executed in 1760 for the murder of his steward. Campbell was a lawyer and politician, serving as MP for Glasgow Burghs in 1761-80, and for Argyllshire in 1781-99; Keeper of the Privy Seal of Scotland during 1765; Lord Register of Scotland from 1766 until his death; Chief Secretary of Ireland in 1767-68; Rector of Glasgow University in 1772-73; a member of the Board of Trade in 1786-1801; Vice Treasurer of Ireland in 1787-93; a member of the Board of Control for India in 1790-93; and Treasurer of the Middle Temple in 1803. As a political supporter of Lord Bute during the early years of his career, it may have been through this connection that Campbell was initially acquainted with Adam. But Campbell became one of Adam's major patrons, employing him privately on three different houses: Ardencaple, Combe Bank, and Petersham, and in his role as Lord Register of Scotland at the Edinburgh Register House. It would appear from Adam's obituary in the Gentleman's Magazine of March 1792 that Adam and Campbell became friends during their long acquaintance, as Campbell was a pall-bearer at Adam's funeral.

Ardencaple was a small twelfth-century castle, and parts of this original structure survived until the nineteenth century. The sole remaining tower is now a lighthouse for ships on the Firth of Clyde, and is called Ardencaple Castle Light. It originally belonged to the Lairds of Ardencaple, the Clan MacAulay. The MacAulay fortunes were diminished by the eighteenth century, and the roof of Ardencaple fell in. The estate was purchased in c1752 by the 3rd Duke of Argyll for Lord Frederick Campbell, and remained in the possession of the Campbell family until 1852. Under Campbell the castle was redeveloped to designs by Adam. The first, unexecuted scheme to renovate and regularise the house, with a castle-style addition to the west front was made in 1764. Unexecuted designs were made in 1769 by Robert Mylne (1733-1811), but then in 1774 Adam designed and built a D-shaped addition, flanked by turrets, for the southern half of the west front. Early photographs show that the design was slightly altered in execution, for example the crow-stepped gable was omitted, and an additional storey appears to have been added later. Adam also made designs for castle gates, which are not dated, and were not executed.

After the castle was sold it passed through various hands, until it was requisitioned by the Navy during the Second World War. The Navy demolished the majority of the fabric in 1957, creating space for a housing estate for a nearby naval base, but one tower was retained for use as a lighthouse.

See also: Combe Bank, Sevenoaks, Kent; Petersham Lodge, Richmond.

Literature:
Gentleman's Magazine, March 1792; A.T. Bolton, The architecture of Robert and James Adam, 1922, Volume II, Index pp. 2, 27, 65; F.A. Walker, The buildings of Scotland: Argyll and Bute, 2000, p. 273; D. King, The complete works of Robert & James Adam and unbuilt Adam, 2001, Volume I, pp. 221-22, Volume II, p. 215; 'Campbell, Lord Frederick (1729-1816), of Ardencaple, Dunbarton, and Combe Bank, Kent', The history of Parliament online; 'Campbell, Frederick (1729-1816), of Combe Bank, Sevenoaks, Ken', The history of Parliament online

Frances Sands, 2012
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