Scottish Baronial

Ballindalloch CastleIn Scotland the violence and insecurity of the later Middle Ages, especially along the border with England, meant that tower houses proliferated from the late 14th century well into the 17th century. What had sprung from necessity developed into a style.

Claypotts (photo Valerie Reilly)After the Scottish Parliament abolished papal authority in 1560, there was a surge of national confidence which expressed itself in a burst of baronial house-building. Within the next decade, the national style had emerged. Whilst the earlier tower houses were starkly functional, these baronial mansions were reminiscent of French chateaux of the Loire, with their turrets and steep roofs. But the Scottish form clung closer to its castle roots. The stern stem of the house flowers into decorative features along the roofline. At Claypotts Castle, Dundee, we see the oddest feature of the style - the gabled round-tower. In the Loire district octagonal towers could be topped in a similar way.

James V of Scotland (1513-42) had two French brides, the second of whom long survived him and acted as Regent in the youth of her daughter Mary, Queen of Scots. Little wonder then that several French masons were given Court appointments in the 1530s-60s. Their work for the Crown may have inspired courtiers. French details blended with the Scottish vernacular and hints of Romanesque and Gothic to produce some of the most striking of Scottish buildings.

Peddie and Kinnear, Garden Elevation, Threave House, 1871The style was much imitated in the 19th century. The popular novelist Sir Walter Scott, so fascinated by Scotland's past, was the first to revive the baronial style in Abbotsford, the house he built in 1816. Thereafter the style was taken up c.1830 by William Burn (1789-1870), whose pupil David Bryce (1803-76) became its most celebrated exponent, creating Craigends House. He trained Charles G. H. Kinnear (1830-1894) who carried on the tradition in houses such as Threave (1871).

The style spread across the border into England in the 1850s. It even crossed the Atlantic. But most examples of Scottish Baronial can be found in the country of its birth. Perhaps the most famous is Balmoral Castle, Aberdeenshire, built in 1853-6 as a holiday home for Queen Victoria, who loved the Highlands.