DALMOAK HOUSE, The Brandy Castle of West Dunbartonshire.

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Dalmoak window detailI have known this building for some time as it is not that far from where I live. But it was only when we had to get the nonagenarian of our family out of the Dog House and into more appropriate quarters that I got to know it better. (I had better explain that we live in what was the Smollett Estate’s ghillie’s cottage and I had renovated the adjoining c1890s cottage in which the dog handler and dogs were housed, into a very comfortable home). We found Dalmoak House, now a care home, more suitable for her and, in name anyway, a meteoric rise in social standing.

This category A listed had been built in 1866-69. The listing text says it was for James Aitken, but I understand it was by John his father, possibly as a wedding present for his son and his new wife. Monograms for them are found throughout the house. (My source also corrects the spelling to Aiken).

James was known as a local brewer, but the father also sold spirits and the knickname of Brandy Castle was applied by the local community.

The listing describes it as “2-storey, 5-bay, broad U-plan castellated Tudor gothic mansion. Battered base course with gunloop details; hoodmoulds; crenellated parapet on billetted corbelling; chamfered reveals; curved corners; corbelled bartizans; rope moulding, 2-storey, 5-bay, broad U-plan castellated Tudor gothic mansion. Battered base course with gunloop details; hoodmoulds; crenellated parapet on billetted corbelling; chamfered reveals; curved corners; corbelled bartizans; rope moulding”. Listing descriptions can be quite a mouthful, but it continues telling us that the interior has “scagliola Corinthian columns; coffered ceiling, modillioned cornice; heavy decorative cornice, paired brackets. Wooden Imperial stair “. The stables have stepped gables incorporating a doorcot as well as the gate lodge, walled garden and west gatepiers are listed separately.

The ceiling and hearths of the main rooms are grand, but it is the stained glass windows that really fascinate me. The three round arched panels depict mythical characters. The central one is of the Red Hand of Ulster (); indicating John Aiken’s origins. The fine work is attributed to WG and JJ Kier. Michael Donnelly in his book describes the firm of David Keir, their father, as perhaps the most important of Glasgow’ early stained glass producers and known for their work in Glasgow Cathedral. This Dalmoak House window is also thought to be the largest in a private house in Scotland. The pictorial and decorative detailing is extraordinary. And it seems as if all the family members have been represented in the entwining monograms.

It is surprising what one can find down the road.

Official Listing text : britishlistedbuildings.co.uk (I find this more user-friendly than the Historic Scotland website).

Michael Donnelly. Glasgow’s Stained Glass. (1981). Glasgow Museums and Galleries. Smith Brothers (Kilmarnock) Ltd.

And many thanks to “Lairich Rig ”for comments and references – http://www.geograph.org.uk” target=”_blank”>

For more on what I do, visit : watsononarchitecture.com

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