Kinneil House – The Piano Nobile

The most common form of stone dwelling for the 15th century lairds of Scotland was the tower house with its thick walls and vertical arrangement of rooms.  By the mid 16th century these were seen as cramped and constricted and so narrow wings or jambs of two or three storey were often added to one side with a new provision of rooms to suit the changing ceremony of the complex courtly life.  Chambers were no longer stacked in a vertical sequence but organised in a horizontal one.  For the upper strata of the aristocracy the principal change was the emergence of the ‘state apartment’ – a range of rooms of the piano nobile (Italian for “noble floor” or “noble level”, also sometimes referred to by the corresponding French term, bel étage).  This principal floor was usually on the first storey to keep it away from the cold and damp ground.  Elevation also had the advantage of providing better views over the surrounding countryside and for this reason it was occasionally located on the second floor. 

In 1538-40 the king and queen were both provided with parallel suites at Stirling Castle consisting of a Guard Hall, a Presence or Audience Chamber, and a Bedchamber.  Before long this sequence of three rooms on the principal floor could be found throughout the country, though the terminology might vary.  They are also known as antechamber, chamber and bedchamber; or hall, chamber of dais and bedchamber.  As at Stirling Castle, the larger houses had an identical apartment for the lady of the house on the floor above.

The great hall had been the ceremonial centre of the old mansions where strictly enforced etiquette governed where and when and what each individual ate and drank.  Its use for communal meals which bonded the participants together had waned.  By 1540 these halls had begun to change from their role as the social and communal focus of the great house to a gathering or waiting room.  Its place in events was reserved for ceremonial occasions such as weddings, rallies, entertainments and concerts.  In large houses the old hall was retained for these important occasions and a smaller one constructed for the new age and everyday usage.  For practical reasons the rooms were arranged, more often than not, with the new hall and presence chamber in line and the bedchamber set off to one side and architectural historians refer to this as the L-plan.

The 1550s Arrangement

At Kinneil House, built in 1553-56, this was the arrangement adopted.  Access to the upper floors was by a connecting tower located between the tower block and the residential wing to the north-east.  The latter is also variously referred to as the Palace Wing or Lodging.  Due to later alterations the exact form of this stair tower is uncertain and on the plans it is given a chamfered side for the entrance door rather than a square one (see the main account of the house).  On the east side of the first floor of the tower was the magnificent armorial stone of the Duke of Chatelherault.  Climbing the stairwell in a clockwise direction brought the visitor first to the entrance to the Duke’s apartments in the residential block on the first floor.  Continuing up they would soon have reached the great hall in the tower block which was slightly higher than its companion floor in the residential wing.  Further up still, in the residential block, was Lady Douglas’ suite of rooms.

Entering the residential wing at the Duke’s level the visitor was in the south-west corner of a large room measuring 35ft 3ins by 20ft 3ins.  This chamber was evidently the principal interior space of the wing. It was generously lighted by tall windows with low segmental arched-heads – two to the south and one to the west.  As elsewhere, the original thin coat of plaster stops at a broad margin around the fine dressed stones of the windows.  The plaster was almost certainly painted with decorative designs.  A large fireplace, probably with a broad bolection-moulded surround (similar to that found disposed of in the Gil Burn to the east), stood in the centre of the south wall (the moulding subsequently removed).  Like the chamber to the east, this room had a high timber ceiling that had likely been similarly detailed with geometrical coffering formed of moulded and painted mitred ribs.  This was the Duke’s outer chamber or waiting room and would have contained a number of wooden chairs.  From its windows the armorial plaque on the stair tower would have been clearly visible.

Illus 2: The Duke’s Presence Room looking south-east from the doorway.

From here the visitor would be ushered into the Presence Chamber through a door in the opposite corner to the one by which they had entered.  This room was sumptuously decorated with murals which depicted the Parable of the Good Samaritan, St Jerome, Mary Magdalene and Lucretia.  The oak ceiling survives

The room is also well lighted with a large window in the south wall providing a view of the entrance into the inner courtyard and that on the east a view up the main drive and across to the orchard.  The room was smaller and more homely than the previous one, having a correspondingly smaller fireplace in the east wall.  To the right of the fire was an intramural chamber which probably served as a garderobe.  The presence chamber was a formal space where the Duke would have met the visitor.  Its alternative name of dais chamber hints that often there was a ‘throne’ or large seat for the resident laird in this room.  It was probably placed to one side of the fireplace, partially concealing the garderobe.  If so the visitor would glimpse St Jerome and the Cross on the wall above the Duke’s head.

Illus 3: The Duke’s Bedchamber looking north-east from the doorway.

The Duke’s bedchamber was also a public room.  Only his inner circle and trusted friends and family would have had access to this room – his inner sanctum.  As the name suggests, it would have contained a bed, and the most obvious place for that is the south-east corner of the room.  A private garderobe lay in the north-west corner.  A large recess was formed in the west wall.  These are common occurrences and here it would have contained a piece of furniture such as a buffet.  The word buffet originated in France and in the 12th century referred to a bench or stool.  This became a more elaborate piece of furniture more like the modern sideboard used for serving food, for displaying serving dishes, and for storage.  It is positioned close to the door which would have been convenient for delivering the food.  The walls were beautifully decorated with paintings displaying birds and animals in a bower representing an arbour – a shady sitting place in a garden surrounded by climbing foliage.  The immersive effect was completed by having the design spread over the vaulted ceiling.

Illus 4: The Buffet Recess in the Duke’s Bedroom looking south-west. The door on the right gives access to the gardrobe.

These three rooms were only accessible from the stair tower at the south-west corner of the wing and to get to the cosy vaulted room meant that the visitor had to pass through the other two – forming a sequence of spaces of increasing privacy and intimacy.

Each of the rooms in the state apartment has a fireplace which would have made use of the local coal being mined on the estate.  Coal burns with a more intense heat than peat and this is reflected in the small size of the fireplaces in the inner rooms.  As a fuel it was beginning to be more widely used at this time.

Illus 5: Kinneil House looking NW with the Palace Wing on the right.

The second floor layout echoed that of the first containing a suite of three rooms of similar floor plan for the Duchess.   The three windows on the south side of the outer chamber were not as tall, at least in the 17th century arrangement.  It is possible that they had originally had a dormer element.  In any case the height of the room was increased by placing the ceiling onto the bottom of the rafters.  The wooden ceilings would have been elaborately painted.  Part of the wall painting of the Duchess’ Presence Chamber was recorded in 1929 (see murals – elsewhere) and it is reasonable to assume that this type of decoration extended to most of the walls on this floor.

The biggest difference between the first and second floors was the presence on the lower of these of a room to the north of the outer chamber.  When built in the 1550s there was no room above this one and its steeply mono-pitched roof ran down to the north with crow-stepping at its west end.  The room was entered from the west end of the outer chamber and was the same length as it, but narrower.  Four medium-sized windows on the north side were symmetrically arranged and must have provided magnificent views up the Forth towards Stirling.  The west wall was originally pierced by a single tall window.  A mural closet at the north-west angle is of particular interest as it projects out from the corner, supported by two courses of indented corbelling.  This is one of the few examples of corbelling at Kinneil and hints that this feature was of special significance.    

Illus 6: Kinneil House looking SW with the large window of the Duke’s Bedchamber on the left and the corbelled Mural Chamber on the far corner of the building.

The chamber originally had a barrel vaulted timber boarded ceiling aligned W/E that had risen up into the lean-to roof space.  The timberwork of this vault would also have been resplendent with painted decoration.  Here too the windows to the north may well have originally been taller, rising up into the curvature of the vaulted ceiling and breaking above the wall head externally.

The form of this elongated chamber suggests it could have functioned as a gallery.   An alternative possibility, put forward by Addyman, is that it may have been a chapel with an altar at the east end – a suggestion perhaps also supported by the absence of evidence for a fireplace.  In this case the intra-mural chamber would have been a sacristy.  Chatelherault see-sawed in his support for the Protestant and Catholic forms of worship.  In 1543 he had ordered the translation of the Bible and arrested Cardinal Beaton.  However in September that year he was reconciled with the cardinal and became a Catholic.  Cardinal Beaton was murdered but Chatelherault remained a Catholic until 1559, by which time Kinneil House should have been completed.  It would have been a straight forward act to convert the chamber at Kinneil from a chapel into a gallery.

The L-plan sequence of rooms on the first floor was the core of the lodging of the Duke of Châtellerault.

The 1620s Arrangement

The continuing significance of the suite of three rooms on the piano nobile is emphasised by the redecoration of the inner chamber with a painted imitation of panelled walls and a plaster ceiling, which dates from the 1620s. At this time heavily moulded plaster ceilings were in vogue and true wooden panelling was becoming more commonly used.  After the passage of some seventy or so years the change was clearly more one of style and taste than usage.  

It was probably at this time that the fenestration was changed.  A window was inserted to the right of the fireplace which would have necessitated a change in the placing of the bed (there is a suggestion that the north window was partially blocked).  A second window was also broken through the back wall of the former garderobe in the Presence Chamber making these rooms light and airy.  There is a possibility that wooden panelling was introduced into the Presence Chamber at this time, but the removal of the right hand side of the first scene in the Parable of the Good Samaritan would not have been terminal to that panel as the main action occurred on its left hand side above the fireplace.  This window pattern was repeated on the floor above giving the east front of the house a more regular appearance than formerly.  The new windows were fitted with external wrought iron grills, which is consistent with this date.  It may have coincided with a greater emphasis upon the east drive to the house and the removal of the old approach from the south.

In November, 1644 the widowed Duchess of Hamilton made out her will.  She left her son the plenishing in her house in Kinneil, her new tapestry, and all other movables she either made or bought, except her silver saltfit and some little silver porringers which she left to her daughter.

The Late 17th Century Arrangement

Fifty or sixty years on from the 1620 redecoration saw far more radical alterations take place incorporating a major change to the piano nobile.  In the 1670s the main or tower block was restructured and a central doorway placed on the ground floor.  Large pavilions were added to either side of the tower, that on the north replacing the former link tower on a larger footprint.  The great hall was remodelled by paring back the face of the north wall to enlarge it.

Illus 8: The front door of Kinneil House in 1908 with the Duke and Duchess of Hamilton and their son, the Marquis of Douglas and Clydesdale, in the centre.

The appearance of the east façade of the tower was vastly improved by regularising the fenestration and placing a large cornice and balustrade on the wallhead. These structural changes will be more fully dealt with in the main article on the architecture of the house. The effect was to change the procedural passage through the house. The visitor now entered by the new doorway at the foot of the tower into the Laich Hall. An inventory of 1688 shows that this large room was sparsely and plainly furnished, with an oak drawing-table, three benches, coat-hangers and a gun rack (this inventory lists the contents of each room in the order in which they were inspected and is a useful document for providing the function of the rooms).

A fireplace in the south wall kept the chill off.  The visitor would have been escorted from the door, turning left to reach the south pavilion which contained the Grand Stair – a broad scale and platt construction.   This had a beautiful stone balustrade with ball finials on the panelled corner pillars similar in style to the contemporaneous Great Stair at Holyrood Palace, which was also built in the 1670s (and which survives).

The Grand Stair only went up to the first floor and high above it was a plaster cornice and frieze housing amorini emerging from foliage in which appear the heads of crocodiles.  The visitor had now reached the new layout of the piano nobile and was about to enter the first room of the state apartment.  A broad doorway at the top landing of the stair took them into the great dining room which occupied the entire first floor of the tower.  This must have been a sumptuous room with its three tall windows in the eastern wall providing a view over the colonnaded screen of the inner courtyard down the tree-lined avenue.  A large central fireplace was placed in the centre of the west wall. The 1688 inventory shows that it was furnished with fourteen red leather chairs and two square and one round tables – the tables were covered with “carpets” or woven coverings.  The walls were hung with five tapestries, and the full-length portraits of the 2nd Marquis of Hamilton (1590-1625) and his son the 3rd Marquis and 1st Duke of Hamilton (1606-1649) were placed between the windows.  Three smaller paintings, probably Dutch works portraying Biblical scenes, were on view above the doors and the fireplace.

Traversing this vast room brought the visitor to a room in the north pavilion known as the Lobby, and then into the more intimate rooms in the north wing.  It thus bridged the gap between the public and private.  The Lobby was a square room furnished in 1688 with a square table, six red leather chairs and a small oval side table – one can almost picture a modern waiting room with appropriate magazines!  Three tapestries and two paintings decorated the walls.

The first room of the north wing that had been the Duke’s outer chamber was now designated as the Drawing Room.  The 16th century murals were hidden behind four tapestries and two paintings.  The furniture included two tables – one a square wooden table covered with a “carpet” tablecloth, the other a walnut table with a marble top.  There were also twelve cane chairs – a newly fashionable type often with ornate carving on their wooden parts.

Illus 10: Plan of the First Floor at Kinneil House in 1700. North to the right.

Rather unusually, the next room was Duchess Anne’s Bedchamber and not that of her husband.  This was because she was the heiress of Kinneil and the dynastic chief of the Hamilton family.  The 1688 inventory informs us that three matching tapestries now hung here “the same arras hangings that are in the Drawing Room.”  Two paintings were placed alongside these on the shorter stretches of the walls.  The mantelpiece for the fireplace was of wood imitating stone and bore in monogram the initials of Duke William and Duchess Anne.  The windows had curtains with rods – a relatively new innovation.  The furniture, including two armchairs and six other chairs, was upholstered in a printed fabric in the latest taste.  The main feature of the room was, of course, the bed, which is called a “tour de lit.”  This is French for valence and in this context it was a tent-like canopy with the same printed pattern as the chairs.  It had a blue quilt and a horsehair mattress finished in blue taffeta.  Other furnishings included “a table with a drawer and 2 stands, a large looking glass” – presumably a dressing table.  There was also red leather trunk and a folding table with a footstool and a lame chamber pot. 

There was now no direct link between this room and the vaulted room to the north which appears on the inventory as “My Lady Duchess’s Dressing Room.”  By this time it would seem that the imitation panelling on the walls had been replaced by wainscoting, and the vault had been re-plastered and painted in white.  Here the person making the inventory made a mistake by noting “A new piece of fine arras hangings” (ie tapestry), which someone quickly crossed out adding “a mistake, for there never was any hangings there.”  This is interesting as it suggests that much of the interior had been refurbished shortly before and that was probably the reason for making the inventory.  The room was very sparsely furnished with four carpet chairs and a table.  This together with the blocking of the door to the bedchamber and the next item on the 1688 inventory suggests that the vaulted room had in fact been divided into two, taking advantage of the recently inserted window in the east wall.  The northern section was now Duchess Anne’s Closet.  This was formally the innermost room of the state suite, designed for daytime relaxation and private meetings.  As before, it contained a bed – this one being a resting-bed with a red coverlet.  There were besides two carpet chairs and a red stool.  The room had a “little closet” within which was a chamber pot and a “frame with a green velvet cushion”, apparently a privy with an upholstered seat.  The little closet was evidently the intramural chamber in the north-west corner of the vaulted room.

Duchess Anne’s closet concluded the state apartment of the piano nobile.  The earlier chapel/gallery was now also divided.  The eastern section appears on the inventory as “the Backstairs Room” and contained a bed with green coverings, a square table with a drawer and matching tablecloth.  Three stools were “covered with the said stuff.”  There was also a carpet chair, a folding bed, a buffet stool and a chamber pot.  Clearly this room was a bedroom and the lack of attribution in the name suggests that it was for the use of honoured guests.  The name also tells us that an internal stairwell had been constructed by 1688 to link up the levels within the north wing.  It provided access to the two floors of new rooms which had been constructed above the gallery and which were for the accommodation of the Duchess’s children. 

Illus 11: The Fireplace in the Duke’s Bedchamber on the Second Floor.

As before, the next floor up echoed that of the first floor – only this time it was for the Duke.  It housed “His Grace’s Dressing Room”, Closet and Bedchamber, as well as Lord Murray’s Room.  Lord John Murray was the Duchess’s son-in-law and presumably a frequent visitor; he later became the 1st Duke of Atholl.

Coming back to the first floor, the final room may have been “Mrs Mary Dunbar’s Room.”  Mary was the orphaned heiress of Baldoon in Midlothian and had been made the ward of the Duke and Duchess. She had been born in 1677 and acted as a companion to the Duchess and so it was appropriate for her to have a bedroom nearby.  Mary eventually married one of the Duchess’s sons, Basil.

The Early 18th Century Arrangement

The final major scheme of redecoration known to have taken place at Kinneil House occurred around 1704 and consequently another inventory was drawn up listing the oil paintings which were a large part of the new layout.  The walls were probably smartened up with lath and plaster where required, though the tapestries were mostly retained as can be seen in this 1722 entry for the drawing room:

In the Drawing roum  Itt:: 3 large pieces of tapestrie hangings 36£  Itt:: 12 Cane Chairs at 10B Scots p piece 6£  Itt:: a Scalte table in a broken frame 1£ 16B  Itt:: 2 wooden standards 1£ 4B  Itt:: a Clock in a walnut tree Case which goes a moneth 60£  Itt:: 2 gilt Glass Sconces 4£ 16B  Itt:: one large fire Grait

It will be seen that from 1555 to 1722 there had been little change to the arrangement of the piano nobile, except that latterly it more closely included the Great Hall.  The alterations of the 1670s had lowered the floor level here to ensure a closer relationship.

1555 (Attributed)1680168817041722
Great Hall & fore hallDining RoomDining RoomGreat Dining RoomGreat Dining Room
Entrance StairLobby next to dining roomLobby next to dining roomLobbyDining Room
Duke’s Outer ChamberDrawing roomDrawing roomGreat Drawing roomDrawing room
My Lady’s dressing roomMy Lady Duchess’s Dressing RoomVault roomLady Duchess’ dressing room
Duke’s BedchamberClosetClosetHer Grace’s ClosetLady Duchess’ Closet
Chapel or galleryBack stairs chamberBackstairs RoomLady Duchess’ woman’s room
Mrs Mary Dunbar’s Room

Many paintings were acquired throughout the eighteenth century by the British aristocracy as a result of undertaking a Grand Tour of Europe that had become the thing to do. Numerous masterpieces found their way into the country’s stately homes. Some were by homegrown artists and some were quite large; that depicting the Battle of Bothwell Bridge by De Wyck was on the Great Staircase and measured 6½ft long! A list of these important paintings is of interest – spelling and punctuation is as in the original document:

In the Great Staircase
  • One piece of the Battle of Bothwell Bridge by De Wyck – 6 1/2 ft long
  • One Dutch piece with 6 figures in it playing at cards – 6 1/2 ft long
  • A sea piece of percelluss [?Perseus] with a windmill in it – 3 ft long
  • Another sea piece of percelluse [?Perseus] with boats and nets in it – 3 1/2 ft long
  • A head out of the cartoons of Raphael by Mr Cooke
  • 8 prints, 6 draughts
In the Great Dining Room
  • A Dutch piece over the door of a scripture story of David and Abigail – 6 ft long
  • An oval head of King James VI three quarters long after Vanzoma [Van Somer]
  • A square picture of King Henry VIII a half length by Holbein
  • A copy of William, Duke of Hamilton, three quarters long
  • A large piece of Venice being a perspective of the piazza of St Marco, done in the life – 11 ft long
  • An original piece of Queen Elizabeth below the knees with a globe standing by her with a round circle in her hand with a Spanish inscription upon it
  • A winter piece by Edeinah three quarter size
  • A piece of James Duke of Hamilton a full length holding his hat between his fingers leaning upon his stick by Mysens [Mytens]
  • A piece down to the knees done by Tintoretto for Pietro Aretino his glove in his hand
  • A landscape of the autumn three quarter size by Eademon [?Everdingen].
  • A large Dutch piece over the chimney the story of Jeptha – 9 ft long
  • A good copy of three quarters long of Thomas Killigrew laying his hand upon a mastiff after van Dyck
  • A landscape of the spring by Eadomon [?Everdingen]
  • A full length of James Marquis of Hamilton leaning upon a table with his right hand by his side with a glove in it
  • A piece of Louis XIV on horseback in a Roman dress with a baton in his hand and an angel covering him with a laurel.
  • A landscape of summer season three quarter size by Eadomon [?Everdingen].
  • A piece of King Charles I a head by Dobson
  • An oval piece of King Charles II three quarters long by Sir Godfrey Kneller
  • An oval piece of King James VII three quarter long by Sir Godfrey Kneller
  • A piece with Cain and Abel by Zottoclave – 6 1/2 ft long
  • A Dutch piece over the door of the woman that answered Our Saviour concerning the crumbs of bread that fell from the table
  • A piece down to the knees of one of the old Earls of Pembroke upon board in armour with his coat of arms by him
  • A picture of the Duchess of Norfolk in Queen Elizabeth’s time down to the knees
  • 4 quarter prints of the four seasons – black frames; one print of the kings of England – black frame; one print relating to accounts
In the Lobby
  • Two Dutch flower pieces over the doors with 2 boys in the midst of them
  • A square head of the Cardinal of Norfolk done at Rome by Wright
  • A square head of a lady by Sir Peter Lilly
  • An admirable landscape by Monpher and Bruegel
  • A Madonna with marriage of St Catherine and St Peter and St John done by Old Palma [Palma Vecchio]
  • A young man with a violin and a paper in his hand by Francesco Mola
  • A large Dutch piece -over the chimney relating to Moses and Pharaoh’s daughter
  • Two young womens’ heads in a piece, one looking in a glass and another with flowers in her head by Cavaliere Aurpine
  • A square head of Ellen Gwime [?Gwinn] done by Vaso elst [?van der Helst]
  • An oval head of a lady three quarters done by –
  • A man’s head with a black cap done by Anthony Moore
  • The salutation of the Virgin Mary by Rubens
  • A small piece with boys after Poussin
  • The massacre of St John by Giulio Romano many figures in it
In the Great Drawing Room
  • A full length of King James VII done by Sir Godfrey Kneller
  • An oval three quarters of James Marquis a copy by Jarvis [Jervas]
  • James Duke of Hamilton in an oval 3 quarters by Mitings [Mytens]
  • an oval of William Duke of Hamilton brother to James Duke of Hamilton.
  • William Duke of Hamilton father to the present Duke in an oval by Sir Godfrey Kneller.
  • James Duke of Hamilton eldest son to William Duke of Hamilton by Fardinan
  • Charles Hamilton Earl of Selkirk 2nd son in an oval by Fardinan
  • John Hamilton Earl of Ruglen 3rd son in an oval by Kneller
  • George Hamilton Earl of Orkney 4th son in an oval by Kneller
  • Lord Basil Hamilton 5th son in an oval by Kneller
  • Lord Archibald Hamilton 6th son in an oval by Kneller
  • Catherin Hamilton Duchess of Athol eldest daughter in an oval by Kneller
  • Susan Hamilton Countess of Dundonald 2nd daughter in an oval by Kneller.
  • Margaret Hamilton Countess of Panmure 3rd daughter in an oval by Kneller
  • Lady Ann Spencer Countess of Arran in an oval by Kneller
  • A Dutch piece of Jacob and the Angel in a large frame
In the Great Bedchamber
  • A Dutch piece, Abraham sacrificing Isaac
  • A head of Sir Hugh Holland in a square ebony frame by Tintoretto
  • A small original head in a square frame of James Marquis of Hamilton
  • A whole length in small of James Duke of Hamilton in armour by Romey
  • A small head upon copper of the present Duke of Hamilton
  • A half length of the Earl of Pembroke by van Dyck
  • A large half length of William Duke of Hamilton with a black cloak and a star in the order by Honyman.
  • The old Countess of Sunderland in a straw hat touching a bunch of roses in a flower pot – a large piece after van Dyck.
  • A small picture of Blunt [Blount] Earl of Newport at length done by Mitings [Mytens]
  • Boes [Baucis] and Philemon turned onto trees a small square by Raphalino [?Raphael] [?Raffaellino del Garbo]
  • A Madonna with Our Saviour in her arms and St Margaret with a – book in her right hand and a palm in her left by Paulo Veronese.
  • St Peter and St John adoring our Saviour in the Virgin’s arms after Titian
  • A Dutch piece of Lot and his two daughters
In the Vault Room
  • A sea piece over the chimney
In Her Grace’s Closet
  • The Virgin Mary’s picture upon marble as it is described in the 12th chapter of Revelations by –
  • A woman’s head in a little wall frame by an Italian hand
  • A little square picture – gilt frame
  • A Dutch woman’s head in a ruff in an oval frame by Merryvelt [Miereveld]
  • Six little pictures in little gilt frames with two heads a piece after Haniball Carrafts [Annibale Carracci]
  • A little piece in a black ebony frame with two women naked lying sleeping with a fine landscape, by Pullingburgh [Poelenburgh].
  • A St John preaching in the wilderness in a round gilt frame by Paris Bordone
  • Several nymphs bathing in a very fine landscape by David Teniers
  • A little landscape upon copper in which is St Jerome by Francis Woulers [?Franchoys Wouters]
  • Queen Mary of Deslie in a black square ebony frame by Van Elst. [?Bartholomeus van der Helst]
  • The Duke of Buckingham when a child by Sir Peter Lely after van Dyck
  • The Duchess Richmond by Sir Peter Lely after van Dyck.
  • The Countess of Southesk in a Turkish dress by Greenhill
  • A St George by Paul Veronese about 11 ins long
  • A sybl holding a flambeau in her hand –
  • Another drawing by Greenhill
  • A little landscape in an ebony frame by Paul Bril
  • Another little landscape by Paul Bril
  • drawings and little pictures done by modern hands

Most of these paintings were still there in 1722 when another inventory was taken. This one contains a list of the large collection of books of James Duke of Hamilton “in ye sd Castle of Kinneill”. Unfortunately it does not provide a location, though the fact that they are attributed to the Duke suggests that they were kept on the second storey. Perhaps they occupied the “long walnut tree press” in his bedchamber.

In the 1760s Kinneil House was leased to Dr John Roebuck, one of the founders of the Carron Company, as a family home. He was a leading light in science and its application to industry and was visited by many like-minded people such as the professors from the universities at Glasgow and Edinburgh. One of the more important was James Watt who stayed in the house whilst conducting his experiments on steam engines. The two men had many a fireside discussion whilst Mrs Roebuck looked on. Needless to say, the formality of former years had gone and with it the concept of the piano nobile. Dr Roebuck died at Kinneil House in 1794. A note of 1802 stated that the house was then empty save for a few curtains and fire grates. In 1809 Dugald Stewart, the Professor of Moral Philosophy at the University of Edinburgh, retired and took up residence, presumably supplying his own furniture. He spent the remaining twenty years of his life at Kinneil House, writing several important books there. The house, though a little run down, was still comfortable and amongst those who visited and stayed were Sir David Wilkie, Lord Palmerston and Earl Russell. The Duke of Hamilton’s son, the Marquis of Douglas and Clydesdale, and his tutor stayed overnight on 19 August 1824 during a visit to Bo’ness. By then such visits by the owning family were rare. It was probably at this period that the south-east room of the residential wing (formerly Duchess Anne’s bedroom) was made into a library. Latterly a china and glass cupboard occupied the recess in the west wall of the vaulted room (the buffet nook). Dugald Stewart died in 1828 and thereafter the house was unoccupied.


Addyman, T.2004Kinneil House Bo’ness, Falkirk Preliminary Analytical Assessment.
Hodge, A.2016Kinneil House Statement of Significance: Appendix 3 – Detailed Architectural Outline
McKean, C.2001The Scottish Chateau: the Country House of Renaissance Scotland.
Marshall, R.K.2000The Days of Duchess Anne; life in the household of the Duchess of Hamilton 1756-1716.
RCAHMS1929Inventory of Monuments and Constructions in the Counties of Midlothian and West Lothian.

G.B. Bailey (2021)