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Floors Castle, Kelso, Scottish Borders: unexecuted designs for the house and a gateway and cottage for the 3rd Duke of Roxburghe, 1772-77 (23)

Signed and dated

  • 1772-77


Kelso Abbey was founded in the twelfth century by an order of Tironensian monks. Following the Reformation, the estate was passed to Robert Ker of Cessford (c1570-1650, created 1st Earl of Roxburghe in 1600), by King James VI. Floors Castle was built on a nearby site in 1721-26 - possibly incorporating an older peel tower - by the 1st Duke of Roxburghe, and to designs by William Adam (1689-1748). Later, in 1772-75 Robert Adam made both Classical and castle-style designs to envelope the building in a new shell, as well as giving it wings, a rustic cottage, and a castellated entrance gate, all for John Ker, 3rd Duke of Roxburghe (1740-1804).

The 3rd Duke had succeeded his father in 1755. He was a bibliophile and collected a library of 10,000 books. These were sold in 1812, and the Roxburghe Club was founded in commemoration of the dispersal of this great collection. Roxburghe became a member of the Society of Dilettanti in 1765, and FSA in 1797. Moreover, he formed a close friendship with King George III, doubtless owing to their shared interest in books. As a result, Roxburghe became a prominent courtier, serving as Lord of the Bedchamber in 1767-96, Lord-Lieutenant of Roxburghshire in 1794-1804, and Groom of the Stole and First Lord of the Bedchamber in 1796-1804, and was created Knight of the Thistle in 1768, and Knight of the Garter in 1801.

Roxburghe's vast library was housed in London, but Adam provided enough space for the collection when he made designs to remodel Floors. Indeed, one of Adam's plans for the principal storey of the house (Adam volume 37/16) includes a large library. Adam's schemes, however, were not executed. Floors Castle was finally remodelled in 1837-45 by the 6th Duke in the Jacobean style, and to designs by William Henry Playfair (1790-1857). The house survives in the ownership of the 10th Duke of Roxburghe, and is open to the public.

A.T. Bolton, The architecture of Robert and James Adam, 1922, Volume II, Index pp. 13, 86; M. Binney, 'Floors Castle, Roxburghshire - I-II', Country Life, 11-18 May 1978, pp. 1298-1301, 1370-73; D. King, The complete works of Robert & James Adam and unbuilt Adam, 2001, Volume II, pp. 161, 228, 244, 247, 257; J. Ingamells, A dictionary of British and Irish travellers in Italy: 1701-1800, 1997, p. 826; K. Cruft, J. Dunbar, and R. Fawcett, The buildings of Scotland: Borders, 2006, pp. 284-85; 'Ker, John, 3rd Duke of Roxburghe (1740-1804)', Oxford dictionary of national biography; 'Floors Castle', British listed buildings online

Frances Sands, 2013



Digitisation of the Drawings Collection has been made possible through the generosity of the Leon Levy Foundation

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Sir John Soane's collection includes some 30,000 architectural, design and topographical drawings which is a very important resource for scholars worldwide. His was the first architect’s collection to attempt to preserve the best in design for the architectural profession in the future, and it did so by assembling as exemplars surviving drawings by great Renaissance masters and by the leading architects in Britain in the 17th and 18th centuries and his near contemporaries such as Sir William Chambers, Robert Adam and George Dance the Younger. These drawings sit side by side with 9,000 drawings in Soane’s own hand or those of the pupils in his office, covering his early work as a student, his time in Italy and the drawings produced in the course of his architectural practice from 1780 until the 1830s.

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Contents of Floors Castle, Kelso, Scottish Borders: unexecuted designs for the house and a gateway and cottage for the 3rd Duke of Roxburghe, 1772-77 (23)