Loch Lomond And Trossachs National Park Planning Authority
Dunselma was built in 1884-6 as a sailing lodge for James Coats Junior to the designs of architects Rennison and Scott. The house and associated buildings are the ultimate expression of the conspicuous wealth of late 19th century industrialists.
Dunselma, a roughly L-plan 3 to 4-storey house with a prominent 4-stage tower, is a catalogue of Baronial features. It is an excellent example of a late 19th century villa, deliberately prominent and remarkably extravagant, with a collection of good interior, exterior and ancillary features. Dunselma stands out above Strone point and is prominent from all sides, particularly when seen from Dunoon, dwarfing the rest of the buildings at Strone.
Dunselma is roughly L-plan, with two principal elevations. The entrance elevation to the W has a square-plan 4-stage tower at its centre, machicolated and crenellated, with a circular ogee-domed stair turret and a rectangular aediculed window. In the base of this is the main door between splayed balustrades: round-arched with a rope hood-mould. To the left of the tower, the house is 2-storey, with a corbelled corner turret. To the right is a crowstepped gable over a projecting corner bay. The S elevation faces over Loch Long and the Holy Loch. A massive crowstepped ashlar bay takes full advantage of the views, with a five-light canted mullioned and transomed window on the main floor and a tripartite window above. In the apex of the gable is a further aediculed window. The E elevation continues to take advantage of the views with a large mullioned and transomed window over a canted bay in the central crowstepped bay. Over the remainder of the exterior is a irregular collection of fenestration, interspersed with corbels, stepped corbel-tables, rope-mouldings and decorative rain-spouts.
Interior: there are many features of interest in the interior of Dunselma. The entrance hall has a mosaic floor, figurative stained glass depicting Terpsichore and the Spirits of Hospitality by J.J. Kier, shell alcoves and a scrumbled ceiling with a green man central boss. The main stair is of hardwood with amphora balusters and urn finials to the newels. The main stair window is of particular quality, probably also the work of Kier: Jacobean strapwork patterns, the names 3 of Coats' yachts and 3 explorers: Vasco Da Gama, Columbus and Sir Francis Drake. The main reception rooms have decorative plaster ceilings, timber and marble chimneypieces and panelled walls. The large billiard room is fully timber-boarded. In the tower is a groin-vaulted observation room with windows depicting Galileo, Copernicus and Urania (the muse of Astronomy).
Materials: painted harled rubble with sandstone dressings. Hardwood sash and case windows, glazed hardwood main door. Pitched slate roofs with stone ridges. Lead ogee dome, stone stacks and clay cans. Cast iron rainwater goods and decorative stone spouts.
Outbuilding: immediately to the NE of Dunselma against the boundary wall is a single-storey masonry outbuilding with an unusual cast iron canopy of exceptional quality. The verandah is composed of components from the foundry of W.MacFarlane and Co., including a foliate pediment and a frieze of 5-pointed stars.
Boundary Walls, Gates And Gatepiers: there are two entrances to Dunselma. At the shore road to the N of the Lodge there are square-plan ashlar gatepiers with later replacement gates. Along this entrance road, which wound up the hill to the house by a series of terraces there are stretches of wrought iron railings on a low ashlar-coped wall. The second entrance is immediately to the W of the house, through square ashlar gatepiers. Immediately to the N of the house on to the High Road is a high harled and ashlar-coped boundary wall. To the S of the house a series of stone steps descend to the former tennis court.
Statement of Special Interest
Work began on Dunselma in May 1884, but progress was relatively slow and the exterior stonework was eventually complete by February 1886 (info. courtesy of a local resident).
James Coats Junior (1841-1912) was the grandson of Sir James Coats, the Paisley cotton millionaire. He was the president of the Royal Clyde Yacht Club and is known to have owned 16 yachts. Coats' main house was Ferguslie in Paisley (demolished).
Dunselma later belonged to Walter Bergius (another keen sailor) of the Bergius Engine company, later the Kelvin company. The house was sold to the Scottish Youth Hostel Association in 1941 and remained a hostel until 1965. Since then it has had a succession of owners. The present owner (2004) is at present undertaking the conservation and restoration of the house. This has involved the replacement of some windows and restoration of interior features.
Little work by architects Rennison and Scott is known. It appears they worked mostly for the Coats family. J.A Rennison designed Carskiey House (1904-9) in a Scottish Vernacular idiom on the Mull of Kintyre for Kate Coats (Walker, 2000, 62). The only only other known house by the practice is Cartside House, Renfrew, of 1880.
The complex at Dunselma included the main house with lawns to the front incorporating a tennis court, the stables and staff accommodation on the High Road and the Lodge, Boathouse and a large palm house (since demolished) on the shore.
Formerly category B. B-Group with Dunselma Lodge, Dunselma stables and The Boathouse.