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Wedderburn Castle, Duns: designs for additions to a tower house for Patrick Home of Billie, c.1767-71, executed to a variant design (3)


Patrick Home (1728-1808) was the son of a parish minister, Ninian Home, who had become the proprietor of Billie and Wedderburn after the estates were forfeited to the Crown after the Jacobite rebellion of 1715. In 1771, Patrick married Jane Graham, the daughter of a Grenadian plantation owner. The marriage was short-lived, they seperated in 1779, and Graham spent the rest of her time in a convent for Carmelite nuns in Belgium having never visited Wedderburn. Home also served as MP for Berwickshire in 1784, resigning in 1796 after voting against the abolition of slavery. He was largely indifferent to politics, but he did devote some time lobbying for his cousin, Ninian, to become Governor of Grenada in 1792.

Patrick inherited the Wedderburn estate from his father in 1766. It comprised a fifteenth-century tower house of irregular shape which, with the help of his cousin George Home, Patrick hoped to turn into a castle fit for the eighteenth century. There are letters sent from George to Patrick during this period that have survived and provide a rough chronological account of the building works carried out. The castle was built between 1770 and 1776. Patrick left for a second Grand Tour in 1771, leaving George in charge of the works at Wedderburn in his absence.

It is probable that Robert or James Adam was approached to make designs for Wedderburn between 1767 and 1770, when building work on the site was initiated. In 1770, Patrick had signed a contract with a mason which also appointed the architect James Nisbet, of Kelso, as supervisor. Nisbet had worked as supervisor on Patrick’s country home, Paxton House, to designs attributed to John and James Adam. It is thought that the construction of Wedderburn castle was a similar set-up, whereby Adam produced the plans and Nisbet carried them out.

There is only one known surviving Adam office plan and two elevations for Wedderburn Castle. These show the existing tower house along with the new east, west and south fronts to the new south range that Adam proposed. His plan was to add a new one-room deep range to the south of the existing house with a corridor and grand staircase in between. He added a new east front to connect the two buildings with octagonal towers at each end, and repeated this motif on the south elevation, with a grand central entrance reminiscent of the east gate of Diocletian’s Palace at Spalatro, illustrated in Robert Adam’s Ruins of the Palace of the Emperor Diocletian at Spalatro, published in 1764.

One elevation inscribed ‘west front’ does not match the proposed plan for the west side which comprised an irregular-shaped existing service wing and west end of the tower house. It is possible that this elevation might have been incorrectly inscribed and instead related to the east front or that it is indicative of a later plan to remove the existing service wing and rationalise the west elevation, which is what was executed.

The executed south range of the castle was built almost exactly the same as Adam’s design. The remainder of the castle was built to a variant design and has been attributed to Nisbet. The east front was extended in length to provide a wider footprint, with a central bow to the east front and a bowed library at the north end. The west end of the existing tower house and service wing were removed and a new front, matching that of the east, was added (as discussed above) so that there were four octagonal towers to each end of the castle. A screen wall was added to the north, enclosing an internal courtyard. It is thought that this was built with the hope that the castle would be extended in the future but this never happened. It is unclear when the remainder of the existing tower house that did not form part of Adam or Nisbet’s plans was demolished, but it is thought this occurred in the early nineteenth century at the same time as the present porte-cochere and two-storey hall were added.

The internal decoration of the castle appears to have been carried out on an ad-hoc basis and is largely attributed to Nisbet and a number of craftsmen, including a chimneypiece designed by Piranesi. Some elements can be attributed to Adam. Adam had already sent full-scale drawings for the mouldings on the exterior of the house, but he also had his craftsman, Henry Wishart (carpenter of Oxford’s Chapel Court, London), send two full-scale sash windows and a mahogany door to be used as models for the principal rooms which were carried out by Adam’s joiner, Alexander Cairns. The result was a castle considered to be one of the earliest successful renditions of the ‘Adam castle style’.

Literature: A. Rowan, ‘Wedderburn Castle Berwickshire, the property of Miss Georgina Home Robertson’, Country Life, vol. 156, 8 August 1974, pp. 354-357; A. Rowan, ‘The Adam Castle Style’, Journal of the Royal Society of Arts, September 1974, pp. 679-694; D. King, The Complete Works of Robert & James Adam and Unbuilt Adam, Volume 1, 2001, pp. 220-21; K. Cruft (et. al)., The Buildings of Scotland: Borders, 2006, pp. 744-747; R. Thorne (ed.), ‘HOME, Patrick (1728-1808), of Billie and Wedderburn, Berwickshire’, History of Parliament Online, [accessed 9 October 2023]; R. White, ‘Wedderburn Castle: The medieval castle that became Robert Adam’s forgotten masterpiece’, Country Life, 5 September 2021, online [accessed 5 October 2023]; UCL, ‘John Graham of Grenada’, Legacies of British Slavery database, online [accessed 9 October 2023]

Louisa Catt, 2023



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Contents of Wedderburn Castle, Duns: designs for additions to a tower house for Patrick Home of Billie, c.1767-71, executed to a variant design (3)