Statement of Special Interest
This red sandstone tower is likely to have been built at the beginning of the 19th century to provide a link between the lower and upper parts of the garden at Ardmore House. Its height and narrow slit windows give the tower a defensive appearance and this adds to its interest as both a decorative and functional garden building. The tower repeats a circular form found elsewhere at Ardmore. As part of a collection of ancillary buildings associated with Ardmore House, it is an important feature in understanding the wider estate landscape.
Age and Rarity
The exact date and function of Ardmore Tower is unknown. It has previously been interpreted as a defensive structure dating to the 16th-17th century (Canmore, Walker 2000). However, it is more likely to be a building associated with the designed estate grounds developed on the Ardmore peninsula from 1798 onwards.
Ardmore Tower lies within the grounds of Ardmore House, located on a peninsula that juts out into the Clyde Estuary. Ardmore House dates to 1806 and is listed at category B, (LB1159). The tower sits immediately below a circular building on the cliff edge, whose original function is also unknown and which is listed with the house.
The Canmore record suggests the tower may have been a watch-tower or a defensive structure. Neither of these functions seem probable, however, as it would be unusual to place a defensive or watch-tower structure at the base of a cliff, rather than on the top. The suggestion of a 16th-17th century date is based on the masonry which is similar to other structures of the same date (Walker 2000). This date, however, is not confirmed. The tower is first depicted on the 2nd Edition Ordnance Survey map, published in 1898. The map evidence is not conclusive, as smaller buildings were not always recorded. Rubble construction was used for garden buildings in the 18th and 19th centuries.
Historic maps show an earlier estate landscape at Ardmore (Blaeu 1654; Roy 1747-52). The estate was sold to the Geils family in 1798 and the current Ardmore House, built in 1806, dates to their ownership. The Thomson map of 1823 marks the house as owned by a Major E. Geils and the house is described as 'modern and comfortable' by the New Statistical Account of 1845. The Geils family were responsible for laying out a designed landscape from 1798 into the early 1800s. It is possible that the tower was built at that point.
The 1st Edition Ordnance Survey map of 1865 shows a designed landscape around Ardmore House, with an observatory at the central high point of the peninsula, and a number of paths, woodland walks and different garden areas. The base of the cliff where the tower is located formed the northern boundary of an orchard. A round building at the top of the cliff is shown on this map, although the tower is not.
The purpose of the tower was probably both decorative and practical. Embellishing a landscape with interesting architectural features which could be viewed from a distance, or visited on a tour around an estate was fashionable in the 18th and earlier 19th centuries. The tower would fit in with this trend. A seemingly defensive tower would also give the added impression of an estate with a long and interesting history, and its partly circular form echoes other structures at Ardmore, including the upper round building and the observatory. The tower may also have connected with the circular building above to serve a practical purpose. The upper round building could have been a store, in which case the tower may have been constructed to provide access to it from the lower garden, in use as an orchard in the mid 19th century. Internal timber ladders could have been used in the tower with an external stair leading up from the top opening.
Whilst no date has been confirmed for the tower at Ardmore, it may date to the early part of the 19th century when it was built as part of the designed landscape around the house. Garden buildings of this date are not rare, but its position and design make it an important part of the landscape around Ardmore House.
Architectural or Historic Interest
There are no features of special architectural interest.
The D-plan of the tower with the flat elevation against the cliff may have been used to provide stability to the structure. The partly circular form also echoes other structures at Ardmore, including the observatory and the round building at the top of the cliff, suggesting a deliberate design choice for the designed landscape as a whole.
Technological excellence or innovation, material or design quality
Red sandstone is found in the local area and was a standard building material.
The tower is plain except for the narrow slit windows which give the appearance of a defensive structure. The construction of a garden building in the style of an earlier defensive outpost is of interest as it tells us about the aspirations of the owners, and the cultural and design trends of the period.
The tower is set at the bottom of a cliff face within a private garden. The building is only visible at close range due to the growth of vegetation in the immediate area around the tower (2016). In the 19th century, the setting of the building was that of an orchard and other productive gardens associated with the estate.
There are no known regional variations.
Close Historical Associations
There are no known associations with a person or event of national importance at present (2017).
Statutory address, category of listing and listed building record revised in 2017. Previously listed at category B as Cardross, Ardmore House, Tower.