Explore Collections Explore The Collections
You are here: CollectionsOnline  /  Drawings


Tully Soul: designs for a rustic-style cottage for James Macpherson, ND, unexecuted (3)

James Macpherson (1736-96) was a celebrated author and political writer. He was the son of Andrew Macpherson, a farmer in Ruthven, Invernesshire and his wife Ellen, who were both relatives of the Chief of Clan Macpherson. In 1752 he attended King’s College, Aberdeen, followed by Marischal College and from 1755 to 1756 he was a divinity student at Edinburgh University. On leaving university Macpherson briefly ran a charity school in Ruthven, before becoming a family tutor.

It was through his role as a tutor that he met Adam Ferguson and the Edinburgh literary circle, and began his literary career, supported from 1761 by the patronage of the Earl of Bute. His works were largely inspired by the Gaelic songs and ballads of his childhood and included translations of the poems of ‘Ossian’, which received considerable public attention. The authenticity of these poems, however, was questioned within literary circles, and following Macpherson’s death it was discovered that the original texts had been considerably altered and included passages of Macpherson’s own work.

In 1761 Macpherson moved to London and in 1764 he took up the role of Secretary to the Governor of West Florida. He later became the London-based agent for John Macpherson, Governor General of Bengal. He continued his literary work, writing several publications on the history of Great Britain, his most notable being Papers containing the Secret History of Great Britain, published in 1775. In 1780 he was elected MP for Camelford in Cornwall, a seat he held until his death in 1796. Politically, he supported his relative John Macpherson, who sided with the opposition during the Regency Crisis of 1788-89 and from 1790 Macpherson made several attempts to join the Prince of Wales’s circle.

Macpherson had acquired considerablewealth through his government work and in later life, he returned to Invernesshire and acquired land near Kingussie where he intended to build a substantial house called Balaville, or sometimes Belleville. Macpherson died in February 1796 before Balaville was completed.

Macpherson died unmarried but left behind five illegitimate children for whom he made considerable provision. Macpherson left £500 in his will for a monument to be erected, alongside a request to be buried in London, ‘the City where I lived and passed the greatest and best part of my life’. He was interred in the south transept of Westminster Abbey next to Robert Adam, who had died four years earlier.

Robert Adam’s designs for Tully Soul are one of three schemes produced by the office for the client. Designs were also made for Macpherson’s villa on Putney Heath (SM Adam volume 37/93-98) in c.1785, and for Balaville House, Badenoch, Invernesshire (SM Adam volume 31/63-76) in 1790.

It is not clear where Tully Soul is located. Bolton suggests that it could be in Perthshire, a county with several placenames with the prefix ‘Tully’, whilst Rowan suggests it is probably a name invented by Macpherson himself. The designs are undated and comprise a thatched cottage in the characteristic ‘rustic’ style. This style is thought to have originated from Abbé Laugier’s published essay Essai sur l’architecture where he argued that the ‘rustic cabin of primitive man’ was the ‘model upon which all the magnificences in architecture have been imagined’. Adam often used thatched cottages in his romantic landscapes, although these differed from those he designed for his clients which were more regular in terms of symmetry and order.

The design for Tully Soul was a simple two-storey building with a central bow to the rear. Rowan points out that Adam’s design for Tully Soul can be compared to other similar unexecuted schemes for the Duke of Bolton at Hackwood Park in 1777, the Rev. William Rose at Beckenham and a lodge designed for the Earl of Wemyss at Gosford in 1790.

Literature: A.T. Bolton, The Architecture of Robert and James Adam, Volume II, Index, 1922, pp. 30, 79; A. Rowan, Designs for Castles and Country Villas by Robert & James Adam, 1985, pp. 24-25; J. Cannon, ‘MACPHERSON, James (1736-96), of Putney Heath, Surr. and Belville, Inverness.’, The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1754-1790, 1964, online [accessed December 2023]; D. King, The Complete Works of Robert & James Adam and Unbuilt Adam, Volume 2, 2001, pp. 247, 252, 259; D. Thomson, ‘Macpherson, James (1736–1796)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, 2006, online [accessed 1 December 2023]; A. Macalaney, ‘Putney Common’, Sir John Soane’s Museum Collection Online, 2021 [accessed 1 December 2023]

Louisa Catt, 2023
Architectural & Other Drawings results view
Select list view result
Select thumbnail view result
Architectural & Other Drawings results view
Select list view result
Select thumbnail view result