Bothwell House was situated about 200 yards to the east of Bothwell Castle, in Lanarkshire. The site is now lost under a modern up-market housing estate.
Bothwell House appears to have been built in three stages, or perhaps re-built three times. The originating house is believed to have been built by Archibald Douglas, who was created Earl of Forfar, by Charles II in 1661. However, the Edinburgh Architectural Association say he 'is referred to as the builder of the south wing of the neighbouring mansion of Bothwell House, using for that purpose stones from the castle'. The Earl of Forfar inherited the estates in 1669. A well known engraving by John Slezer in his 1693 publication Theatrum Scotiae, shows a building to the east of the castle, and if it represents Bothwell House in the late 1600s then it appears to be of traditional Scottish construction, gabled, possibly L-shaped, and is roofed conventionally (slates, skews etc).
The date of construction is further confused by Walter McFarlane’s Geographical Collections Relating to Scotland when, in 1725 he writes ‘The castle ... is now altogether ruinous much defaced by length of time and some considerable part of it thrown down by the late Earl of Forfar who from the ruines thereof built a very hansom new house but this house was never finished being stoped by the death of both Earles the father and son’. And Robina, the Countess of Forfar, the first Earl’s wife, bequeaths… ‘pictures now belonging to us in our house of Bothwell Castle’ in a document dated 3 June 1738 indicating that the castle was still in use as a residence.
Thomas Pennant (1726-1798) makes reference in his 1772 book, A Tour in Scotland, and Voyage to the Hebrides, to the construction date of the originating house, and records of the house ‘The present residence of the family, called Bothwell House, is modern, built between ninety and a hundred years ago by the young Earl of Forfar, who was killed at the battle of Dunblain. He was paternal uncle to the late duke of Douglas, who succeeded to the estate'. As Scott Bain, in his paper for Historic Scotland Conservation Group, May 2011, points out 'Pennant’s historical assertions are questionable – his construction date for the house (1672 –82) is at least ten years before the birth of the 2nd Earl (b.1692, d.1715) who died at Dunblain [or Sheriffmuir]'.
In 1758, Douglas Castle burnt down, forcing Archibald, the Duke of Douglas to find alternative accommodation. He divided his time between Holyrood Palace, where he had apartments, and Bothwell Castle. He began the reconstruction of Douglas Castle (unfinished in his lifetime) to plans from John Adam, with the intention, it was said, of building a house 10 feet wider and 10 feet higher than the duke of Argyll's new seat at Inveraray.
By 1759, construction was underway on a new Bothwell House -or perhaps a re-build of the existing one. Architect George Paterson, possibly the same George Paterson who worked on Mount Stuart, altered the house for the Duke.
Thomas Pennant described the house as he saw it in 1772: 'The centre is but small: being chiefly taken up with stair-case and lobby. The Duke of Douglas added the wings, in which are the principal apartments. It stands very near the ancient castle’. It is likely the house was then as shown in Robert Adam's (1782-1792) view of the castle, drawn in 1782.
The house was again re-built in 1787.
Archibald, 1st Baron
Douglas (cr. 1790), the former Archibald Stewart of Grandtully,
inherited following a 1761 lawsuit, known as the
Douglas Cause. He
appears to have demolished the Duke’s version of Bothwell House and
built a large, neo-classical mansion to a design by James Playfair,
though The Builder states that he just designed the centre and north
wings. The house now had 80 fireplaces and 30,000 square feet of
Many of the paintings in the house were sold off in 1919 following a
fire which left them blackened by smoke. Some are now in the
possession of the Earl of Home.
* Douglas married twice into ducal families: first, on 13 June 1771, Lady Lucie Graham (1751–1780), daughter of the second duke of Montrose, and second, on 13 May 1783, Lady Frances Scott (1750–1817), sister of the third duke of Buccleuch.
I am grateful to Scott Bain for his assistance with this article.
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