Leslie Grahame Thomson, 1934-5 (for himself); ironwork by Thomas Hadden. 2-storey, roughly 9-bay, roughly rectangular-plan, piend-roofed, Arts and Crafts house with American influences. Near-symmetrical entrance (NE) elevation facing square courtyard with curved edges and circular paving enclosed by exceptionally fine ornamental wrought-iron railings and gates; 2 curved garages flanking courtyard entrance. Rough-cast harl to all buildings; reconstituted stone dressings. 1st floor cill course; horizontally-set windows to entrance elevation and 1st floor; round-arched French doors to principal rooms facing garden (SW) elevation divided by plain pilastered piers; all round-arched windows have ornamental wrought-iron flowers to central window pane of arch.
FURTHER DESCRIPTION: near-symmetrical front (NE) elevation with advanced central 2-bay piended entrance block and slightly advanced chimney stack to left with scrolled shoulder. Timber-panelled front door with small window and ornamental wrought-iron grill depicting buttercups; roll-moulded architrave surmounted by Thomson's crest; 2 windows above divided by central panel bearing inscription (see Notes). American Mediterranean Revival style garden elevation to SW with off-centre advanced 2-bay piend-roofed section; 5-bays to right with outer bay at ground extending out to form flat- roofed sun room; 3-bays to left with slightly advanced conservatory at ground (originally an open pergola, now glazed in). Walled service courtyard extending to outer left with flat-coped wallhead; half-glazed timber-boarded side door with lean-to coal house to right.
INTERIOR: high quality Hollywood Art Deco interior; original room plan largely intact but with some alteration in former service area. Entrance hall with oak floor boards and Art Deco mantelpiece with tiled inset around original 2-bar electric heater; downstairs cloakroom with original fixtures including mahogany lavatory cistern; swept oak staircase with ornamental wrought-iron banisters incorporating animals, reptiles and insects and curved handrail apparently comprising a single piece of wrought bronze; corner stair windows at 1st floor with short column supports. Drawing room with coved ceiling, stepped entrance from hall, marble chimneypiece, and fitted bookcases, one of which swings open to reveal window recess. Dining room with stone chimneypiece and walnut veneer doors. Principal bedroom with French door to balcony over sun room and Art Deco timber mantelpiece with tiled inset around 2-bar electric heater. 2 Art Deco Bathrooms with the usual fixtures and Vitrolite tiles. Butler's pantry with cupboard; butler's sitting room with small Art Deco tiled corner chimneypiece. Unpanelled polished timber doors throughout with Art Deco handles.
Small-pane glazing in timber casements; curved glazing pattern to French doors at ground. Coped stacks with short red clay cans. Stone slates with stone ridge tiles. Cast-iron rainwater goods. 2 iron Scottie-Dog boot scrapers flanking front door by Thomas Hadden.
COURTYARD BOUNDARY WALLS, RAILINGS AND GATES: stone-paved courtyard enclosed by low ashlar-coped rendered boundary walls surmounted by wrought iron railings set between raised piers. Wrought iron railings of exceptional quality containing panels of naturalistic flowers and plants inhabited by birds, animals and other wildlife. 2-leaf gates in same style to entrance and SE side of courtyard; entrance gate has SRON GARBH wrought into top border.
GARAGES: twin garages, located at front of courtyard, with curved walls forming convex sweep at entrance. Later panelled garage doors; horizontal windows; store room / workshop to rear of each one with panelled door.
GARDEN TERRACES, STEPS, SWIMMING POOL AND WALLS: terrace with broad steps to SW of house; long, rectangular, bow-ended swimming pool with ashlar cope and fountain; paved rose garden to SE of courtyard; further garden walls and terraced sections elsewhere. All walls and terraces, random rubble with ashlar dressings.
GARDEN PAVILION: small, bow-fronted pavilion to S of swimming pool with columns to front supporting bowed, piended roof.
Statement of Special Interest
A fine, little-altered house built by one of the leading architects working in Scotland during the inter-war period. The house is an excellent example of Thomson's domestic work, its style reflecting his taste for traditional forms and craftsmanship, and ability to combine these with a modern aesthetic. The survival of the high quality interior finishes, garden terraces, swimming pool, garages and other ancillary structures all combine to add interest to the building as a whole. The highly-detailed wrought iron railings by Thomas Hadden are of equal merit to the house.
Srongarbh is interesting in the context of inter-war country house design, as it is designed in a successful fusion of the styles that were fashionable at the time and evidences the transition between Arts and Crafts and Modernism, simultaneously taking influence from America. Although in places the handling of the symmetry is somewhat contrived, it is nevertheless one of the best private houses of its period, comparable in quality to the best work of Thomson's contemporaries including Basil Spence and William Kininmonth.
Leslie Grahame Thomson trained under Sir Robert Lorimer, whose influence is evident at Srongarbh, particularly in the use of stone slates, traditional profiles, high quality crafted finishes (both inside and out), and the carefully integrated design of house, garden and ancillary buildings. Combined with this evident respect for traditional craftsmanship and forms is an enthusiasm for modern influences most notably demonstrated in the window treatment and simple, yet highly-finished interior detailing, which in places (most notably the flat, unpanelled doors and sweeping staircase) is akin to Hollywood Art Deco. Thomson evidently embraced modern technology, as can be seen from the paired garages located proudly in front of the house and the remarkable built-in electric heaters in the hall and main bedroom. The house was built with under-floor heating (which still works, 2008). Soraidh, near the foor of The Loan, is a mass-produced log house from Norway, originally built for Thomson's chauffeur, which also evidencing this contemporary approach.
Thomson travelled widely in Europe, but (like most other British architects at the time) does not seem to have been influenced by the work of Le Corbusier or Mies van der Rohe. Instead he seems to have been attracted by Mediterranean architecture, and in particular the Mediterranean Revival style that was in vogue in America (particularly California and Florida) at the time. This is particularly evident in the interior and garden elevation. An aerial photograph in the possession of the current owners (2008) shows the garden planted with avenues of cypress trees, which greatly enhanced the Mediterranean effect.
Srongarbh was originally commissioned by a client, B MacKendrick, but for reasons now unknown was completed by the architect for himself. The panel over the door bears Thomson's own crest and the plaque between the windows is inscribed: 'IN THE YEAR 1935 WAS THIS HOUSE BUILT ~ NISI DOMINUS AEDES STRVXERIT FRVSTRA STRVIS. L.G.T B.M.H. The Latin is a quotation from Psalm 127 and translates: Unless the Lord built the house, you who build it labour in vain. The second set of initials are for Thomson's first wife, Barbara Mary Henderson, whom he married in 1933. This marriage subsequently broke down, and in 1949 Thomson remarried to Coline MacDougall. In 1953 she became clan chief of the MacDougalls and Leslie Grahame Thomson changed his name to Leslie Grahame MacDougall.
The wrought iron railings to the front courtyard and staircase, and ornamental detailing over the French Doors and elsewhere comprise a particularly fine and extensive example of the work of Thomas Hadden and are of outstanding calibre and design. The rendering of the flowers and plants is highly naturalistic, while the variety of birds, animals and insects interspersed amongst the foliage add an additional level of charm, humour and interest.
Thomas Hadden (1871-1940) was the leading manufacturer of wrought-iron work in Scotland in the early part of the twentieth century. He set up his firm in 1901 and produced numerous pieces of wrought iron work, including gates, screens, fire irons, door furniture, shop signs, and weather vanes. Buildings of Scotland ascribes the railings to Charles Henshaw, who worked with Hadden at the time. The railings are, nevertheless entirely typical of Hadden's style and some of the details, for example the monkeys, were featured in his catalogue. The Scottie Dog boot scrapers were one of his best-sellers.
The garden terraces and wrought-iron railings have been carefully restored / repaired by the current owners (2008). Linton Parish Resurveyed (2010).