House History

Ardkinglas House History

The present house at Ardkinglas was completed in the autumn of 1907 after a miraculously short construction period of eighteen months. However, the speed of construction did not result in any loss of quality and Ardkinglas is generally considered to be the architect Sir Robert Lorimer’s masterpiece.

The quality of the materials is matched by the skill and creativity of the craftsmen. Alongside these traditional strengths the design incorporated a wealth of new technology – cavity walls, concrete floors, electrical lighting and power, a goods lift, central heating and the latest sanitary fittings, an extensive telephone system, three safes, top quality ironmongery, a fully equipped vast kitchen and a scullery with numerous larders. The original achievement is still evident as the house remains largely unaltered.

"What I am longing for, is a man to come along to me and say look ‘ere young fellah, I’m a new man and I want a new house, constructed in the most up to date manner and I want it to be characteristic of all the best that can be done now, I want new furniture, new fixtures, new everything, the only condition I make is that there is nothing old about it anywhere." At that point Cameron Corbett introduced Robert Lorimer to Sir Andrew Noble who was about to build a mansion.

Sir Andrew Noble was Lorimer’s ideal client, a wealthy man with a historic estate in the highlands who was happy to give him a free rein. This house was built to be enjoyed as a summer holiday house and utilised the most up to date technology; there was fire fighting equipment, a phone system, safes, central heating, a lift, a dumb waiter and it was the first house in Argyll to have electricity powered by its own hydro scheme. Lorimer dammed the Kinglas and built a powerhouse. All this technology not only made the family comfortable but made the servants lives a lot less arduous. The servants quarters are spacious and airy, the women’s on the first floor and the men on the ground floor.

The house is approached from the south east by a curving drive and the deer larder and the outlying parts of the servants quarters make with the entrance front two sides of an open quadrangle. Ardkinglas follows Kellie Castle in Fife in having a comparatively low ground floor with the chief living rooms on a loftier first floor with big windows. The chief disadvantage is that usually the ground floor is dark but at Ardkinglas the corridors absorb light from the central courtyard and rooms are all lit by big windows. The floors are of reinforced concrete and the heavy beams of this material have been covered with moulded plaster work. Lily, Sir Andrew’s daughter, was determined there was not to be "an inch of painted paper from one end of the great house to the other". Walls were to be panelled or plastered.

Entry is through a low porch into the hall. The lower rooms were Sir Andrew’s domain, the gun room, his oval study and the library and billiard room. The public rooms are on the first floor and there are two external staircases giving access to the garden. The second floor is taken up with bedrooms and then the tower leads up through another two storeys to an open platform.

Lorimer designed and commissioned every detail of the interior: plaster work, wood panelling, carved newels, door handles and electroliers but because he tended to work with the same craftsmen he only had to produce the roughest of designs. Scott Morton & Co provided the internal woodwork and Thomas Beattie and Sam Wilson created the plasterwork. Thomas Hadden did the art ironwork and Henshaw the lighting.

There are a few pieces of Lorimer furniture in the house including the extending oak table in the front hall, the snooker table made in oak by Burroughs and Watts and a settle in the first floor corridor by Whytock & Reid of Edinburgh for R.W.R. McKenzie of Earlshall in 1893. In the front hall behind the table is a sandstone carving by Hew Lorimer (Sir Robert’s son) circa 1930 of a kneeling kilted boy blowing a horn.