William Adam, 1735-40; George Jamieson, mason; John Burn, specialised carving. Substantial Baroque mansion; square plan (9 x 8-bay), 3-storey on raised basement (mezzanine to side elevations) with advanced corner towers, breaking eaves, and with domed roofs and cupolas. Finest ashlar, rusticated basement, dividing cornice above, band course at 1st floor, substantial mutuled cornice above frieze, below attic floor; wallhead balustrade with panelled and urn-finialled dies on cornice and blocking course. Fluted Corinthian pilasters rising through principal and 1st floors and to towerheads. Architraved windows, pedimented to principal floor, corniced to 1st floor, keystoned to 2nd, attic floor, round-arched and keystoned below swags and tablet panels in towerheads, keystoned and blinded to tower basements, aprons to principal and 1st floor windows; basket-arched, windows to tower basements. Carved ornament to blocking course of towerheads with urn finials to angles; corniced, octagonal, panelled, ashlar, lantern stacks to centres of domed roofs.
S (PRINCIPAL) ELEVATION: 9-bay (1-2-3-2-1). Ashlar ram's horn stair up to principal floor of advanced 3-bay centrepiece with panelled ashlar piers and dies, coped stone balustrade (right section reinstated circa 1988), with 3-bay round-arched arcade with impost course to exposed basement (luggage door under). Triumphal, pedimented centrepiece with round-arched windows at principal and 1st floor (French doors to centre of former) and blind balustraded apron to 1st floor windows; exuberant armorial carving in tympanum of pediment (Duff Arms and motto) masking attic floor with blind windows part visible to outer bays; classical lead statuettes at apex (Diana) and outer angles of pediment (Mars and Orpheus). Regular fenestration elsewhere, as detailed above.
N ELEVATION: detailed as S elevation minus ram's horn stair and French windows, and with different details to pediment.
E ELEVATION: mezzanine windows to principal and 1st floors in penultimate bays, 3 centre slightly advanced bays with pedimented windows to principal floor and corniced to 1st. No pediment. Evidence of David Bryce Junior, 1870, corridor block and service pavilion (bombed 1941), previously adjoined to left corner tower.
W ELEVATION: 2 centre bays slightly advanced with stair windows pedimented at 1st floor, mezzanine windows in flaning bays and corner towers. Rubble masonry evidencing intended pink and pavilion (never executed) visible at ground and basement of right corner tower.
Multi-pane, timber sash and case windows. Tall, panelled and corniced ashlar stacks. Grey slate roofs with lead flashings.
INTERIOR: fine classical interior. Decorative work continued by 2nd Earl of Fife after 1763, with William Lyon, plasterer. Stair hall with wide cantilevered staircase and plaster ceiling (Lyon, 1769). Secondary stair winds around top-lit square arcaded well with turned balusters to balustrade. Suite of 1st floor rooms including centre Saloon with fine plasterwork ceiling. Decorative plasterwork elsewhere. Raised and fielded panelling to joinery work, including dadoes, moulded doorcases and carved overdoors, including consoled and/or dentilled cornices, pediments, or fluted Ionic pilastered jambs. Some early 19th century beaded panelling to window shutters. Depressed archways at 2nd floor Carved and gilded classical chimneypieces. Attic storey decoration completed by 1776, including library. Coombed ceilings, some with modillioned cornices. Basement with segmental barrel-vaulted room, keystoned round-headed archways, basket-arched chimneypieces.
Statement of Special Interest
Property in Care of Scottish Ministers.
A-Group with Duff House, Fife Gates, Walled Garden, Collie Lodge, Mausoleum, Ice House, Bridge Gates House and the Eagles Gate Lodge.
Duff House is an outstanding example of an 18th century Classical House, designed by a major architect of the period and with excellent interior decoration.
Duff House was commissioned by William Duff, later Lord Braco (1735) and 1st Earl of Fife (1754), a rich, self-made Banffshire man. The mansion was intended to have flanking pavilions linked by colonnaded quadrants but these were never completed owing to disagreements between Lord Braco and Adam, which caused work to stop in 1741. David Bryce Junior was later commissioned to provide a 3-storey pavilion and corridor block
interpreting William Adam's design; this was damaged by a stray bomb in 1941 and later demolished. The 2nd Earl Fife had earlier commissioned John Woolfe to rework Adam's designs for the pavilions and to make several interior changes, but these were never realised. The masonry work which broke Lord Braco financially had been ordered from John Burn who worked at Adam's yard at Queensferry: the bill came to £2500.
The Earls of Fife left Duff House in 1903, gifting the property to Banff Burgh in 1906. From 1911-28, Duff House served as a hotel and sanatorium; it was requisition in 1939 by the War Office to function as a prison and later a billet for foreign and Scottish troops. It was acquired by the Ministry of Works in 1956, and opened as a country house gallery in 1995. The house sits in a designed landscape, now altered by the addition of a golf course. See also the listings for the Bridge Gates House and Collie Lodge, Fife Gates, the Ice House, the Mausoleum, the Walled Garden, and in the parish, the Eagle Gate Lodge.
William Adam (1689-1748) was an outstanding architect of the early 18th century, designing in a Classical style and founding a exceptional architectural dynasty. Known chiefly for his country houses, his contribution to the architectural landscape of Scotland is without parallel. His buildings include the reworking of Hopetoun House, the House of Dun, Arniston, Haddo House and Mavisbank (see separate listings).
Previously a Scheduled Monument. The scheduling was removed in 2012.