Loch Lomond And Trossachs National Park Planning Authority
Benmore is the principal estate house of north Cowal. The estate is important for a number of factors, such as the succession of well-known architects responsible for the buildings, and their position at the centre of an important designed landscape. The steading, of c1862 is a central part of the composition and a formal addition to the designed landscape, with a fine, unspoilt roofscape. The steading is important within the estate, as an example of the work of Charles Wilson and/or his successor David Thomson and as a good example of a later 19th century steading in the Baronial style with some exceptional features such as the combined doocot and clock tower.
The steading is situated at the NW corner of the present walled garden and consists of 3 older ranges, characterised by a number of crowstepped gables, gablets and towers. The main (W) elevation has an off-centre entrance through a round arch in a crowstepped gable, with a stepped string course. To the side of the entrance is a circular ashlar tower. On the left of the entrance is a series of 3 segmental cart arches and 2 crowstepped gablets breaking eaves level, on the right are 2 further windows. The internal elevation of this range has a slate-roofed open verandah along its length. The N range has a 3-storey square-plan gabled tower, with a combined doocot and a clock in 3 faces. To the inside corner of this tower is a round-stair tower. The short S range has regular fenestration, ventilation slits to the S elevation and a hay loft above what was originally the stables. The courtyard is paved with setts.
In 1862 the Benmore estate was purchased by a Mr Patrick, an American. Patrick employed Charles Wilson to extend the house. The steading appears to belong to the same period. On the 1st edition map the steading appears as buildings around a slightly skewed central courtyard, with a further wing extending E from the N range. This includes the entrance (E) front as it has survived, including the crowstep-gabled 3-storey tower with combined clock and doocot and the circular stair tower to the E front.
In 1870 the estate was acquired by James Duncan, a Greenock Sugar Refiner. Duncan carried out further work to the house in c1874, employing David Thomson, the former partner of Charles Wilson. Also at this time the present steading was extended, although the work was relatively minor. A low crowstepped single storey block was added to the E of the N range, the S range extended and a new E range built to form a second courtyard. Between the two courtyards was a large stone midden, apparently built on to the former E range, which had become the central dividing range. An open verandah was built on the courtyard side of the W (entrance) range.
The steading fell into disrepair through the 20th century, during which the central dividing range was removed to form a large open courtyard. This steading was eventually restored in 1990-1. This work involved re-roofing, some re-building and the removal of the central midden. The buildings now accommodate office and storage for the Botanic Garden. The present E range and the E part of the S range are recent low lean-to buildings.
Materials: squared rubble with pink/buff sandstone dressings. Grey slate roof. Timber boarded doors and predominantly timber sash and case windows.
Statement of Special Interest
Benmore estate is perhaps best known as the setting for Benmore Botanic Garden, run by the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh. The garden and designed landscape is notable for the collection of coniferous trees, planted by successive owners since c1820. Charles Wilson (1810-1863) was one of the major Glasgow architects of the 19th century and was responsible for buildings such as Lews Castle (from 1848) and the former Free Church College (1856-61). David Thomson (d1911) was a partner in Wilson's firm towards the end of his life.
Part of B-Group including Benmore House, North Lodge and Gates, the Golden Gates, 'Puck's Hut', Fernery, Walled garden and the cottages to the E of it (see separate listings).
Within Benmore-Younger Botanic Garden Designed Landscape.
Ordnance Survey 1st edition (c.1863) and 2nd edition (c.1898); Forsyth, R, Memories of Dunoon and Cowal (1997); McLean, A, Chronicles of Cowal, Argyll, (2001); Land Use Consultants, An Inventory of Gardens and Designed Landscapes, Vol 2, 1987; Walker, F A and Sinclair, F, North Clyde Estuary: An Illustrated Architectural Guide (1992), 132; Walker, F A, Buildings of Scotland: Argyll and Bute (2000), 144-6;. Walker, F A, Argyll and The Islands: An Illustrated Architectural Guide (2003), 23-4; Information courtesy of David Younger (2004).
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