Robert Mylne, 1783; later alterations. 2-storey, attic and basement, 5-bay, rectangular-plan, restrained classical villa with pedimented entrance front with oculi, set prominently on raised ground, designed to overlook the village of Strathmiglo and Lomond Hills. Coursed and tooled red, sandstone ashlar with yellow sandstone ashlar dressings. Rectangular dormers to north and S elevations. Base course, banded cill courses at ground and 1st floors, corniced eaves course and blocking course.
E (ENTRANCE) ELEVATION: 5 bays arranged 1-3-1. Break-fronted pedimented central 3 bays, oculus window to tympanum. Central tripartite arched entrance door-piece with fanlight. Fly-over stone stair with cast-iron railings.
S ELEVATION: 5 bays. Basement level flanked by single storey wing walls, with arched entrances and blind oculi, linked to coursed rubble retaining walls (built to Mylne's design, 2012).
W ELEVATION: 4 bays. Four 2-leaf timber and glazed doors with fanlights.
N ELEVATION: 3 bays. Centre bay with round arched windows. External cellars at basement level.
Predominantly 12-pane sash and case windows, with aprons under ground floor windows to all elevations; leaded roof with grey slate eaves; rendered stacks with moulded cope and yellow clay cans.
INTERIOR: (seen 2013). Principal rooms arranged around central hall and lobby and in connected sequence. Simple Neo-classical scheme throughout with original plaster work (some painted) to principal rooms and original chimneypieces. Groin vaulted hall with pilasters and deep and shallow niches leading to central lobby. Bowed principal stairwell with curved niches flanking round arched window; drawing room bowed to north with pair of niches, painted early 19th century ceiling. Barrel-vaulted kitchen to basement kitchen offices with original stone shelving.
Statement of Special Interest
Pitlour House is a very fine example of classically proportioned domestic architecture by Robert Mylne (1733-1811), one of the foremost architects and engineers of the late 18th and early 19th century in Britain. Although the functions of some rooms have changed, the house has had little other external alteration. It is therefore an important and rare survival as an externally largely unaltered building of its date and type. 21st century alterations have removed later alterations of the 19th century reinstating late 18th century work and adding a previous unexecuted front steps, designed by Mylne.
Mylne's clear form of classicism which is purposefully austere is typified by this design. It has been suggested that in this he was looking back to the early exponents of Palladianism, such as Colen Campbell, rather than being a precursor of the severe Neo-classicism of Sir John Soane. The arrangement of the rooms is also highly practical.
Mylne was a prolific architect and engineer and he undertook a large number of country house commissions. Only a few were in Scotland and of these, some have been subsequently altered significantly (e.g. Cally House Kirkcudbrightshire) or the work involved additions to existing houses (e.g.Amisfield, East Lothian). At Pitlour we see a design by Mylne principally as it was built.
Mylne had a very busy office and undertook a range of work - bridges, public buildings (one of the best known being St Cecilia's Hall, Edinburgh), mausolea and monuments, as well as domestic commissions but never quite achieved the celebrity status of Robert Adam and James Wyatt. He trained as a carpenter. After a period of study in Paris and Rome he returned to London and in 1760 was the winner of a competition to design a new bridge at Blackfriars. This proved his ability as both architect and engineer. He was able to build up a client base through a group of interrelated county families in Shropshire, the Duke of Argyll and a number of other English clients and held a number of surveyorships.
During the process of designing the house Mylne made a number of changes to both plan and elevations. However although the original scheme was altogether a bolder and more contemporary design without the traditional pedimented central feature, this and the scheme that was finally built are both very restrained. As well as producing several different schemes for the house, during the design process and after construction of the basement level had begun, changes were made to the plans. This included turning the house at 90 degrees to what had been intended, so that the main entrance faced east instead of north. The reasons for this are not entirely clear but may have been so the house faced the new entrance to the south and as part of the plan to create a more picturesque setting.
The change to a more traditional design was probably to suit the taste of the clients, Colonel Philip Skene and his brother, Lieutenant General Sir Robert Skene which is likely to have been quite conservative. Mylne had first met Philip Skene in Inveraray when Mylne was working for the 5th Duke of Argyll on his estate improvements. Philip Skene had been involved with General Wade's Highland road and bridge building programme and had been introduced to Robert Mylne in 1772. The following year Mylne drew up his first scheme for the house. The house was intended to be a place of retirement for the brothers, following their military careers. It was not until 1783 that the contract for the building was signed with Robert Skene, fully ten years after the first design was drawn.
The parkland and setting were laid out in late 18th century style. The approaches to the house itself were laid out by Mylne in 1783 though further work on these, including bridges, was undertaken by Alexander Martin, surveyor, Cupar in the 1820s.
Listed building record updated, 2014.
R Mylne, ([n.d.]) Bound volume of copies of Scottish drawings by Robert Mylne: majority of the drawings are designs for Pitlour House, Fife, RCAHMS. J M Leighton, History of the County of Fife from the earliest period to the present time (1840) vol 2, p189. Sir A E Richardson, Robert Mylne Architect and Engineer 1733- to 1811 (1955), p98 etc. quoting diaries and plates 47-9. C McWilliam, 'Pitlour', Scotland's Magazine, October 1960, pp37-40. J Gifford, The Buildings of Scotland: Fife (1992), pp344-45. H Colvin, A Biographical Dictionary of British Architects 1600-1840, (2008). D Maudlin, 'Robert Mylne at Pitlour House', Architectural Heritage, November 2001, Vol. 12, No. 1, pp27-37. Further information courtesy of owner (2013). R D A Evetts, 'Pitlour House and Landscape: An Account of Its Development' (unpublished research report, March 2014).
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Printed: 21/01/2019 22:52