Inventory Garden & Designed Landscape


Status: Designated


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Date Added
Local Authority
NS 35172 68153
235172, 668153

Duchal is a good example of a formal late 17th/early 18th century designed landscape into which later overlays have been well integrated.

Type of Site

A medium-sized, formal landscape, characteristic of the late 17th/early 18th century and incorporating later 18th and 19th century modifications.

Main Phases of Landscape Development

Late 17th/early 18th century and incorporating later 18th and 19th century modifications.

Artistic Interest

Level of interest

The formality of the house and landscape combined with its riverside setting give this site high value as a work of art.


Level of interest

The known family history and the development and survival of the designed landscape give this site outstanding historical value.


Level of interest

The lime avenues and the ancient trained fruit trees in the walled garden give this site high arboricultural and horticultural value.


Level of interest

The landscape provides the setting for a Category A listed building therefore the site has outstanding architectural value.


Level of interest

The remains of the motte to the northeast of Duchal House give this site some archaeological value.


Level of interest

Views from the surrounding roads of the policy planting and the lime avenues give this site high scenic value.

Nature Conservation

Level of interest

The mixed woodland and the pond west of the walled garden and the area around the Gryfe Water north of the house contain a rich variety of flora and fauna, giving this site high nature conservation value.

Location and Setting

Duchal House is situated southwest of Kilmacolm, west of the A761 and south of the B788. The house and immediate policies lie within a large loop near the confluence of the Green and Gryfe Waters. The landscape at Duchal is generally flat but rises slightly to the east. There are views out of the estate to the south-west to Duchal Moor, and the Duchal designed landscape is highly visible from the roads that surround it. There are good general views from the A761 which is raised above the level of the policies to the north-east, and fine views of the lime avenues and across the water courses from the Craigends Bridge road, off the A761, to the south-east of the estate.

The earliest estate plans show Duchal House estate was developed by the Porterfield family from 1544 onwards. General Roy's Military Survey of 1747-55 shows a formal late 17th/early 18th century designed landscape bounded to the north and east by the Gryfe Water and extending over the Green Water to the west where it is contained within a rectangular-shaped enclosure. Outlying fields and parks beyond the western enclosure stretch towards the Old Place or Castle of Duchal which lies approximately one kilometre to the west-north-west of the existing estate. Duchal Castle and Duchal Wood, probably the castle's nearby hunting park, do not appear to have belonged to the Porterfields but this remains to be confirmed.

Duchal House policy boundaries appear to change little until the later 19th century when the designed landscape was extended northwards to Kilmacolm. Between 1863 and 1898, the landscape was affected by the expansion of Kilmacolm and by the building of the now disused Greenock branch railway line.

The designed landscape today extends from the B786 in the west, the B788 and southern edge of Kilmacolm in the north, the Gryfe Water and Mill Burn on the east and south-east, and to Duchal Mains in the south.

Site History

From the 13th century, the lands of the present Duchal House belonged to the Lyles whose stronghold was Duchal Castle, one and a quarter miles to the west-north-west. The castle, of which little now remains, stood on a rocky outcrop between the Green Water and Blacketty Water. In 1544, the land passed to John Porterfield of Porterfield whose family were lairds at Duchal House for the next 300 years.

Johann Blaeu's Atlas, 1654, shows 'Ducchal' and 'Old Castle', each surrounded by a palisade. It is extremely likely that a formal designed landscape was created between 1654 and 1755. Alexander Porterfield built a house at Duchal in 1710 which is now the south wing of the existing mansion. The layout shown on General Roy's Military Survey, 1747-55, may be attributable to Alexander Porterfield, or may be earlier. Roy's plan shows formal gardens on the south side of the house with a series of parallel rides or avenues stretching out into the landscape. The doocot may belong to the 1710 period.

In 1768, Boyd Porterfield extended the house to the east with a new principal wing centred on the main east-west avenue. There does not appear to have been a radical reforming of the gardens and designed landscape at this time, but the offices were relocated on the east-west axis between Boyd Porterfield's new wing and the Green Water. The Green Water may have been canalised at this date or earlier.

The later 18th century saw the formation of an informal drive from the south-west, running alongside the Green Water. This is shown on John Ainslie's plan of 1796 but it is not known who was responsible for this development.

The walled garden was probably built when the house was extended towards the end of the 18th century, and is constructed out of stone. It first appears on the 1st edition OS map of 1863, as does the informal drive through the park to the south-east. These developments may precede the mid-19th century Shaw-Stewart era.

The Shaw-Stewarts acquired the estate in 1854 but apparently only used the house as a shooting lodge for Duchal Moor. They extended the policies north-east towards Kilmacolm after 1863, creating an entrance from the town with a long picturesque drive, northwards from the B788. This drive is now abandoned and is used as a footpath.

The estate was bought by Mr and Mrs Wallace in 1910, but sold in 1915 to the first Lord Maclay, grandfather of the existing Lord Maclay in whose ownership it remains.

Landscape Components

Architectural Features

Duchal House, c.1768, is a relatively modest country house, consisting of two storeys and basement. The early 18th century laird's house survives as the south wing. A third storey was added later. The Offices and Stables, dated 1764, are symmetrically arranged around the east-west axis of the c. 1768 house. The north offices comprise two single-storey, semi-detached cottages; the south office and U-plan stables are also single-storey. An Octagonal Game Larder, harled, with slate roof and timber vent, lies adjacent to the north offices. The Doocot stands in a small park south-west of the house. It is a circular stone-built building with conical, slated roof. The original roof burnt down accidentally in the 1950s and was restored by the current Lord Maclay. The stone Ha-ha follows the line of the south-west drive separating the garden from the park. The Timber Bridge over the Green Water replaces an earlier arched stone bridge. The original Stone bridge, carrying the north drive across the Green Water, was a plain arched structure, replaced in the 19th century by a Victorian wrought iron humpbacked bridge. This second bridge was washed away in a flood in the 1950s. One set of the original gates, pillars and stone vases which stood at either end, has been retained by as an entrance beside the round house. There is now a wooden bridge, raised by an additional 75cm to give extra clearance. No wrought iron parapet railings have been retained on the estate. The Ice-house, shown on the 2nd edition OS map of 1913 remains in the undergrowth near the north-west corner of the walled garden. The Walled Garden is bounded on three sides by a high stone wall. There are double cast-iron gates in the north and south walls. A circular brick-lined pond, similar to one at Caprington lies to the north of the garden. The North and South Lodges are single-storey, stone-built with slate roofs. Mid Lodge is a later Victorian asymmetrical two-storey lodge. The present Lord Maclay believes that all three lodges were built in 1871 as compensation for the railway, the construction of which causing the redundancy of the original drive from the front of the house to the B761. Two Stone Columnar Gateposts with pyramidal caps stand in an isolated location to the south of the 1710 house. They may relate to the old north-south avenue on the west side of the house.

Drives & Approaches

There are two main drives to Duchal House from the south-west off the B786 and the north-east off the B788. The lodges are both 19th-century. Roy's plan suggests that the north-east approach, originally from Milltown on the north side of the Green Water, is a long-standing approach which continued past the west side of the 1710 house. By the time of John Ainslie's plan, 1796, a new, informal south-west drive followed a picturesque route alongside the Green Water. This remains the south-west drive today and is planted with oak and beech, many of which are young specimens and part of the ongoing regeneration programme.

In the early 19th century, before the 1st edition OS map of 1863, there was a south-east approach from the A761. This was truncated and subsequently abandoned when the Greenock branch railway to Kilmacolm was built in 1869.

The later 19th-century extension to the north-west drive is still used for foot traffic and vehicles travelling from Duchal House to Kilmacolm.


The main ornamental parkland at Duchal is located to the southeast of the house. The planting is dominated by twin double tree avenues. In the 18th century these two parallel avenues were probably all lime, but today the northern one is beech, probably planted in the 19th century. Gaps in the southern avenue continue to be replanted with lime. Towards the house is a lone sweet chestnut (Castanea sativa) which could date from around the time of the 1710 house, or even earlier.

A plantation of conifers on the site of a deciduous tree clump shown on the 1st edition 1863 OS map provides an edge to the parkland on this side of the house.


To the northwest of the Walled Garden is a large area of mixed deciduous/coniferous woodland which superseded and expanded upon the 18th century wilderness shown on Roy's plan. Within the woodland is a fishpond which may be early 19th century. Walks were made around it which were edged with Rhododendron planting. The Rhododendrons no longer survive. Other woodland further west includes shelter belts and perimeter planting inside the boundary wall, such as ash, sycamore, and Wych elm (Ulmus glabra). The wooded areas on the banks of the Gryfe Water are dominated by native alder. Within the policies to the north of the house are clumps of mixed deciduous trees.

The Gardens

Sweeps of mown grass and shrub groupings are maintained close to the house on three sides, to act as an immediate foreground to the wider parkland landscape. The main garden area is located to the northwest of the house. A small stone ha-ha between the house and garden isolates a lawn area beside the house which acts as the prelude to the Walled Garden.

Walled Gardens

The Walled Garden is the main garden area at Duchal. It was probably built in the late 18th century (after the house was extended), and lies on the northwest side of the Green Water, overlaying part of the former mid 18th century landscape layout. The garden is reached by a timber bridge which replaces an earlier Victorian stone and wrought-iron one.

This garden is a traditional mixed flower and vegetable garden which still contains much of the original box hedging and fruit trees. Some of the features in the walled garden may relate to the 18th century formal landscape, for example the mound, which may be a mount, planted with holly and rhododendron. There was an eagle's cage which was constructed in the 19th century and is no longer extant. To the north of the walled garden is a circular brick-lined lily pond. An axial double border bisects the garden from north to south.



Maps, Plans and Archives

Johann Blaeu's Atlas, 1654

General Roy's Military Survey, 1747-55

John Ainslie's 'Map of the County of Renfrew', 1796

1st edition OS 1:10560 (6”), 1863

2nd edition OS 1:2500 (25”), 1913


Printed Sources

Groome, Francis H (ed) – Ordnance Gazetteer, 1882-5

Historic Scotland – Listed Buildings Survey

National Monuments Record - Photographic collection

Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland - Aerial photographs, dated 1947 and 1988

The New Statistical Account of Scotland, Edinburgh, 1845

Walker, Frank Arneil – The South Clyde Estuary, Architectural Guide, RIAS, 1986

About the Inventory of Gardens and Designed Landscapes

Historic Environment Scotland is responsible for designating sites and places at the national level. These designations are Scheduled monuments, Listed buildings, Inventory of gardens and designed landscapes and Inventory of historic battlefields.

We make recommendations to the Scottish Government about historic marine protected areas, and the Scottish Ministers decide whether to designate.

The inventory is a list of Scotland's most important gardens and designed landscapes. We maintain the inventory under the terms of the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979.

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Printed: 29/02/2020 13:51