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Blackadder House, Allanton, Berwickshire for Alexander Boswell c1784 (10)


Blackadder House, near Allanton, formed part of the medieval Blackadder estate positioned on the Scottish border. A grant of the surrounding lands was made in 1452 to Cuthbert Blackadder by James II of Scotland, with Cuthbert acting as ‘Chieftain of the South’. As a result the clan were responsible for maintaining and defending the surrounding area and borderlands. In 1513, the owner of the estate, Robert Blackadder, was killed at the battle of Flodden. This had resounding consequences for his family and lands. The Hume family, seeing an opportunity to claim the estate, imposed marriages on his widow and surviving daughters, killing a number of male Blackadder claimants in the process. The estate subsequently remained with the Humes and their descendants until 1836 when it was sold to the Houston family.

Adam’s designs, dating to c1784, were made for one Alexander Boswell (alternatively spelt Boswall), a descendant of the Hume family. Little is known of Boswell, although Adam notes him to be a very rich man of independent means, as well as a bachelor. Studying the tax rolls from 1787-1791 we can see the household was of a fair size, with four male servants (a Butler, Footman, Groom and Gardener) and four female servants (a Housekeeper, Chambermaid, Cook and Dairymaid). The house to which Adam’s scheme relates was thought to have been originally built around 1764, possibly incorporating part of an earlier medieval structure in the process. Adam’s designs propose a number of alterations with the aim of regularizing the overall plan with additions to the front and side elevations. They propose the construction of additional square corner turrets to the north, matching the existing turrets to the south, along with a new principal south-facing façade, formed from a raised, Ionic pediment with rustication on the ground storey. The scheme also proposed a number of service rooms and offices to be included in an additional wing to the east. As the house was demolished in 1925, it is difficult to ascertain whether Adam’s scheme was ever executed, although according to the local Dunse historical society the designs were indeed carried out, along with extensive alterations by John Lessels in the 1850’s.

The RIBA holds a number of drawings for Blackadder House and estate, including finished drawings from the Adam office which directly relate to this scheme. There are also a number of earlier drawings including survey drawings and plans by the architect John Paterson dating to 1777, alongside a scheme for extensive alterations to exteriors and interiors by James Playfair (1782). These earlier designs appear not to have been executed when compared to Adam’s survey drawing dating to c1784 (SM Adam volume 32/86).

Following the demolition of the house remains of the Blackadder estate are still evident in a number of late eighteenth-century buildings which survive, including a two-storey summer house of a hexagonal plan, a stable range with a central clock tower, a walled garden, and the Blackadder cottage.

A.T. Bolton, The architecture of Robert and James Adam , 1922, Volume II, Index pp. 3, 63; D. King, The complete works of Robert and James Adam & unbuilt Adam , 2001, Volume II, pp. 11, 122; K. Cruft, J. Dunbar, R. Fawcett, The Buildings of Scotland: Borders, 2006, pp. 101-102, 122-123; www.architecture.com; www.dunsehistorysociety.co.uk/blackadderhouse; www.flodden.net; www.flodden1513ecomuseum.org; www.scotlandsplaces.gov.uk (accessed July 2018)

Anna McAlaney, 2018



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Contents of Blackadder House, Allanton, Berwickshire for Alexander Boswell c1784 (10)