Listed Building

The only legal part of the listing is the address/name of site. Addresses and building names may have changed since the date of listing – see ‘About Listed Buildings’ below for more information.


Status: Designated


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Date Added
Local Authority
Dumfries And Galloway
Planning Authority
Dumfries And Galloway
NX 75884 72186
275884, 572186


Walter Newall, 1830; substantial extension to West by James Barbour, 1868; alterations and extensions to East and North (rear), Peddie and Kinnear, 1884; partially restored 1992-3. Significant as the home of James Clerk Maxwell (see Notes). Substantial 19th century, irregular-plan, multi-gabled, country house, now largely ruinous comprising roofless 2-storey, 2-bay, double-pile, central block by Walter Newall; derelict, partially-roofed, Baronial style, 2-storey wing to W (left) by James Barbour with stone-mullioned windows, 2-storey canted window to front gable and gabled porch to side; single- and 2-storey, T-plan, former service wing, largely by Peddie and Kinnear to E (right) with corbelled chimney stacks, renovated to habitable condition 1992-3. Squared, snecked whinstone rubble with polished red sandstone ashlar dressings. Eaves course and raised window margins to 1830 section; long and short quoins to later sections.

Small-pane glazing in timber sash and case windows to inhabited section. Ashlar-coped skews with stone finials; scrolled skewputts to 2-storey section of former service wing. Coped and corniced gablehead stacks. Graded grey slate to surviving roofs; some Welsh slate to former service wing.

Statement of Special Interest

Glenlair is of particular interest as being the home of the pioneering 19th century physicist, James Clerk Maxwell, for whom the wing by James Barbour was built. Some of Maxwell's most important work is believed to have been carried out here and it is also believed that he designed of the tiled floor in the lobby; the tiles themselves are made by Minton.

Glenlair is occasionally also known as Nether Corsock. It is a substantial country house (now largely ruinous), combining the work of well-regarded local architects, Walter Newall and James Barbour and the renowned Edinburgh-based firm, Peddie and Kinnear.

James Clerk Maxwell (1831-79) was one of the leading mathematicians and theoretical physicists of the 19th century. Albert Einstein is quoted as saying 'one scientific epoch ended and another began with James Clerk Maxwell'. His work covered a wide range of subjects, but most importantly he introduced the idea of light as an electromagnetic phenomenon and devised a set of equations that expressed the fundamental laws of light, electricity and magnetism; he defined the kinetic nature of gases, introduced the concept of statistical mechanics and discovered the correct nature of the rings of Saturn. He was particularly interested in colour, investigated the causes of colour blindness, and produced the first colour photograph in 1861. He held academic posts at Marischal College Aberdeen, and Kings College London. In 1871 became the first Professor of Experimental Physics at Cambridge University and first director of the Cavendish Laboratory. Full details of his life and achievements are to be found in the Dictionary of National Biography (Vol XIII) and numerous websites dedicated to him.

Glenlair House was built for Maxwell's father in 1830 by Walter Newall, the principal architect working in Dumfriesshire in the first half of the 19th century. Newall's house was a plain double-pile, M-gabled building with gabled dormers at first floor level. This part of the building now stands ruinous and the gable heads have been removed. In 1865 Maxwell retired to the Glenlair estate and it is here that he is believed to have carried out his ground-breaking work on electricity and magnetism. His study seems to have been located in the SE ground floor room of Newall's wing, though there is nothing left in the surviving fabric to evidence this. He commissioned James Barbour, who had effectively taken over Newall's practice, to build the large wing to the W of the original house. This part of the building is in a derelict condition, though still partially roofed. In the 1880s Peddie and Kinnear added the service wing, extended the W wing to the N and made alterations to the 1830 building. In 1929 the house was largely gutted by fire and abandoned. The service wing was renovated and brought back into domestic use in the early 1990s and it is believed that the owner wishes to stabilise the rest of the structure (2007).



Walter Newall's drawings for the house (proposed and as executed), shown at [accessed 20 Nov 2007, originals believed to be held at Dumfries Archives]. Drawings by James Barbour and Peddie & Kinnear at RCAHMS, refs SC1021501-5 and DPM 1880/71/1-2. Shown on 1st edition OS map (circa 1854); extensions shown on 2nd edition (circa 1910). Historic Photos and other historical information at . H Colvin, Biographical Dictionary of British Architects (1995), p698. Biographical Dictionary of Scottish Architects, (for info on James Barbour) [accessed 20 Nov 2007].

About Listed Buildings

Listing is the way that a building or structure of special architectural or historic interest is recognised by law through the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) (Scotland) Act 1997.

We list buildings of special architectural or historic interest using the criteria published in the Historic Environment Scotland Policy Statement.

The information in the listed building record gives an indication of the special architectural or historic interest of the listed building(s). It is not a definitive historical account or a complete description of the building(s). The format of the listed building record has changed over time. Earlier records may be brief and some information will not have been recorded.

The only legal part of the listing is the address/name of site. Addresses and building names may have changed since the date of listing and if a number or name is missing from a listing address it may still be listed. Listing covers both the exterior and the interior and any object or structure fixed to the building. Listing can also cover structures not physically attached but which are part of the curtilage of the building, such as boundary walls, gates, gatepiers, ancillary buildings etc. The planning authority is responsible for advising on what is covered by the listing including the curtilage of a listed building. Since 1 October 2015 we have been able to exclude items from a listing. If part of a building is not listed, it will say that it is excluded in the statutory address and in the statement of special interest in the listed building record. The statement will use the word 'excluding' and quote the relevant section of the Historic Environment Scotland Act 2014. Some earlier listed building records may use the word 'excluding', but if the Act is not quoted, the record has not been revised to reflect current legislation.

If you want to alter, extend or demolish a listed building you need to contact your planning authority to see if you need listed building consent. The planning authority advises on the need for listed building consent and they also decide what a listing covers. The planning authority is the main point of contact for all applications for listed building consent.

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