Bannockburn House was built around 1675 and likely incorporates fabric from a slightly earlier house on the site. Much of the surviving interior scheme is of a late 17th century date but some internal work may date to the early 18th century. Substantial alterations and extensions were carried out by Waller and Sons around 1884. The house is part of a small country estate landscape, about one kilometre south of the town of Bannockburn.
The 17th century core is a symmetrical H-plan building of three storeys and a basement. The central block runs east to west with five bays of symmetrically arranged windows. This central block is flanked by smaller wings with crowstepped gables. The advanced central porch, added in 1884, replacing an earlier pedimented and columned doorpiece. The second floor windows have pedimented dormers with carved strapwork detailing. There is a blank panel recess above the central first floor window. The building has a later cement render.
Adjoining the west elevation of the house is a gabled, two-storey office range running north to south, probably added during the 18th century. There are further additions around a small rectangular courtyard to the west, dating from around 1884. Also added around the same time is a garden door and canted window projecting from the ground floor of the east wing, and a substantial two-storey wing to the south (rear) elevation. This flat roof addition is of squared and snecked ashlar sandstone and has tripartite windows and a castellated parapet.
The windows are timber sash and case. Ground and first floor windows have plate glass glazing. The second floor windows have a 12-pane glazing pattern. The chimney stacks have moulded copes and clay cans and the rainwater goods are cast iron.
The interior, seen in 2017, retains much of its late 17th century decorative scheme. The large double-height, galleried entrance hall has an exceptionally ornate plasterwork ceiling with an oval compartment in the centre. On the second floor are bedrooms and a large central room with fireplaces at each end, all of which are entered from a corridor running along the north side. The wings of the H-plan have a mirrored arrangement of rooms, and each wing has a dog-leg staircase. A first floor room in the east wing has an elaborate plasterwork ceiling with a central quatrefoil and enriched borders and panels with fruit, vines and flower vases. Other rooms throughout the earlier core of the building retain late 17th century panelling, bolection-moulded fireplaces, low-relief plaster friezes with a repeating pattern of vases, foliage, fruit and figures, and moulded plaster cornicing.
Much of the interior fittings dating from the 1884 remodelling also survive including a timber stair and gallery with moulded bannisters, fire surrounds with mosaic tile and marble insets, fitted cupboards and a good selection of 19th century sanitary ware.
A significant proportion of the roof timbers are thought to be of late 17th or early 18th century date. Roman numerals are incised on the cross beams and there is also evidence of early wooden slate-pegging along the timber battens. Access to the roof space is via a turnpike stair. A range of cellars are entered from a stepped corridor to the west side of the building. There is a barrel-vaulted cellar in the west wing. Some cellar doorways have chamfered stone surrounds.
There are low rubble walls with rounded coping stones lining either side of the approach drive. To the east of the house are garden walls arranged in a rectangular-plan. These elements are part of the 18th century formal layout of the garden grounds.
Statement of Special Interest
Bannockburn House, completed in around 1675, is an outstanding example of late 17th century country house design in central Scotland. It is an early example in Scotland of a country house to show a balanced and symmetrical composition, while remaining recognisably Scottish. The conventional arrangement, with balanced apartments and staircases, was imported from Europe reflecting the emerging taste for classical architecture during the transitional, post-Restoration period in Scotland. In this respect, Bannockburn House has been described as 'the most remarkable country house to be built in Stirling and Central Scotland during the 17th century' (RCAHMS, 1963).
The house retains a significant proportion of its late 17th century fabric including two decorative plaster ceilings in the richly ornamental style that was fashionable during the reign of King Charles II (1660-1685). The rubble garden walls and approach drive walls are also important elements of the 18th century formal garden scheme and add to the integrity of the immediate setting of the house. In the wider estate landscape survive ancillary estate buildings, of which Bannockburn House is the principal building in this group.
Age and Rarity
Bannockburn House has a long and significant history. King Charles I granted the lands of Bannockburn to the Rollo's of Duncrub in 1636. Financial difficulties led to the sale of the Bannockburn estate to Sir Hugh Paterson in 1672. Bannockburn House may have been begun by the Rollo family around the mid-17th century but is thought to have been completed around 1675 after passing into the ownership of Paterson. James VII gave the title of Baronet of Bannockburn to Paterson in 1686, but his Jacobite sympathies led to the forfeit of the baronetcy after the 1715 Jacobite uprising.
Bannockburn House is shown on General Roy's Military Survey map of around 1750 surrounded by a compartmented formal garden. The country house shares similarities in form and detail to the additions made in 1632 and 1674 to the earlier Argyll Lodging (LB41255) on Castle Wynd, Stirling.
The house passed to William Ramsay of Barnton after 1787 and was later owned by Sir James Ramsay Gibson-Maitland. The 1st Edition Ordnance Survey map (surveyed 1860) shows the house with a north approach drive bearing northwest to an entrance lodge at Pirnhall Road.
In 1883 the house was purchased by Alexander Wilson who had made his name as a producer of tartan and whose family had previously transformed Bannockburn village into a centre of weaving. Wilson made a number of changes to the house including the replacement of an earlier pedimented doorpiece with a projecting porch, the removal of the drawing-room floor to create a large double-height entrance hall, and the addition of a castellated block to the rear. A detached coach house and stable range was built to the north of the house around the same time.
The 2nd Edition Ordnance Survey map (revised 1896) shows the footprint of the house after the additions and alterations of around 1884. The footprint of the house today remains largely as that shown on the 2nd Edition map. The lodge at Pirnhall Road was demolished after the A91 road was built through the northwest corner of the estate grounds during the 20th century.
Throughout the 17th century the transition from defensive tower house towards the introduction of the more relaxed 'country seat' estate in Scotland was a gradual and prolonged process. During the Civil Wars and the English occupation of Scotland, significant building in Scotland was largely confined to military architecture. A new type of grand country house architecture began to establish itself in Scotland in the years following the Restoration of the Stuarts to the throne in 1660.
During the early post-Restoration period, landowners added suites of domestic apartments to their earlier defensive towers, incorporating more comprehensively classical revival ideals. These composite buildings met the demands of a new, more comfortable lifestyle which was less concerned with defense of an estate.
Bannockburn House, first completed in around 1675, is an early example in Scotland of a country house to show a balanced and symmetrical composition, while remaining recognisably Scottish. This revival of classical precedents, with mirrored apartments and staircases, was imported from Europe reflecting this emerging taste during the post-Restoration period. In this respect, Bannockburn House has been described as 'the most remarkable country house to be built in Stirling and Central Scotland during the 17th century' (RCAHMS, 1963). It is among only a small number of comparable houses locally.
Bannockburn House retains a substantial proportion of its symmetrical composition and early fabric. The interior has numerous notable details for its date including the rare survival of two richly ornamental plaster ceilings in a deep-relief style that was fashionable during the reign of King Charles II (1660-1685). The immediate landscape surrounding the house has architectural features from the 17th, 18th and 19th century that contribute to the setting of this outstanding example of an early classical house in Scotland.
Architectural or Historic Interest
The survival of 17th and 18th fabric including many decorative features add significantly to the special interest of the building. These decorative features include moulded timber wall panels, bolection-moulded fireplaces and elaborate plasterwork in many of the rooms.
Of particular interest are two rare and outstanding 17th century decorative plasterwork ceilings. J S Fleming noted that there are only a handful of richly decorative, French influenced 17th century ceilings of such quality in Scotland (Fleming, 1902). The deep-relief ceilings at Bannockburn are similar in design to the ceilings in the King s Bedroom and Ante-Room at the Palace of Holyrood in Edinburgh, sharing various details. The works at Holyrood were carried out between 1671 and 1674 by the English plasterers John Houlbert and George Dunsterfield, who may well have carried out the ceiling work at Bannockburn during the same period.
There is a substantial amount of good quality fixtures and fittings surviving from the 1884 remodelling, including a decorative timber stair and gallery, fire surrounds with mosaic tile and marble insets and a good selection of 19th century sanitary ware. These show the two main phases of the development of the house.
The symmetrical H-plan arrangement of the 17th century core, with its balanced apartments and staircases, differs from the typical Scottish house of the late 17th or early 18th century. It may derive from an earlier Elizabethan English model, although the elevations and detail in the case of Bannockburn are characteristically Scottish.
The internal plan form was designed to accommodate two principal apartments, one on the ground floor and the other on the first floor. There have been some internal modifications in the 19th century as well as later office added to the west of the building, however the 17th century house remains readable especially when viewed from the principal (north) elevation.
Technological excellence or innovation, material or design quality
Large purpose-built country houses of the later 17th century in Scotland were conceived to provide a suite of state apartments which were a self-conscious revival of royal traditions in Scotland. The transition from the composite tower house to the new use of classical forms of architecture is fully realised in the symmetrical layout and design of Bannockburn House. The ordered symmetry of the 17th century core of the building remains readable within the present form of the building in plan and elevation.
While the plan and elevations are distinctly classical, ancestral continuity is also evoked at Bannockburn through the use of distinctly Scottish elements such as crowstepped gables, pedimented dormers, decorative strapwork and harling. The fabric has been altered little since the late 19th century resulting in a high degree of architectural authenticity.
The 19th century modifications are of some quality in their own right and are in keeping with the earlier phase of building by their simple castellated design. They are an intrinsic part of the development of the building. The building in its present form (2017) corresponds closely with the 1956 descriptive account given in 'Stirlingshire - An Inventory of the Ancient Monuments'.
Bannockburn House is at the centre of a small country estate landscape. It is the principal building of its estate group with its surviving ancillary buildings. This group includes a 17th century doocot (LB15278) and 17th/early 18th century pair of gatepiers (LB15279) and a 19th century coach house and workshop. Together these buildings aid our understanding of how the estate functioned in the 18th and 19th century.
The rubble garden walls and walls lining the approach drive are also important elements of the 18th century formal garden scheme and add to the integrity of the immediate setting of the house.
The building of the A91 road to the northwest of the former Bannockburn estate, and the M9 motorway 100 metres to the south of the property in the 20th century, is largely screened by mature trees.
There are no known regional variations.
Close Historical Associations
Bannockburn House has changed hands on a number of occasions throughout its history and is not strongly associated with any single family.
In 1745 Prince Charles Edward Stewart (Bonnie Prince Charlie) spent time at Bannockburn House on route to England to gather support for a Jacobite rebellion. On his return to Scotland the following year, he lodged at the house while recuperating from an illness and was allegedly shot at through an open window. A mark on one of the bedroom walls is said to have been made by the bullet.