James Donaldson, circa 1815. Single storey with submerged basement, double-height, polygonal-plan core with rectangular-plan 14-bay wings arranged 5-4-5, Gothick orangery, in use as conservatory. Polished ashlar. Standing alone in garden setting with principal elevation to S. Stepped plinth to centre and ends. Crenellated parapet with pinnacles. Ogee arched apertures to centre, rectangular apertures to wings.
S (PRINCIPAL) ELEVATION: double-height projecting centrepiece. Paired doors in centre bays.
N (REAR) ELEVATION: 2 central bays with ogee-arched apertures. Blind wings. Steps down to basement on E.
E AND W ELEVATIONS: 5 bays with door in centre. Metal-framed doors and windows in timber sub-frames, with glazing bars forming interlocking pointed arches. Pyramidal timber and slate roof to centre. Metal-framed glazed roofs to wings.
INTERIOR (seen 2010): double-height centrepiece with clerestorey containing groined ogival arch with columns of clustered colonnettes. N wall of ashlar. Flagstone floor with cast iron decorative vent covers. Timber rafters with steel cable ties.
Statement of Special Interest
Part of an A-group at Culzean Castle Estate comprising: Culzean Castle; Castle Walls etc; Fountain Court etc; Ruined Arch and Viaduct; Stable Block etc; Camellia House; Cat Gates; Home Farm; Powder House; Ardlochan Lodge; Dolphin House; Hoolity Ha'; Swan Pond Complex; Swan Pond Ice House; Walled Garden; Bathing Complex; Water Works; Shore Boat House; Battery and Mast House; Main Drive Walls and Piers; Gas Works.
The Camellia House, as it is now called, would have been the height of fashion when it was built. The Regency period saw an increasing interest in conservatories and a neo-Gothic approach was considered appropriate for buildings designed to maximise interior lighting. The Prince of Wales had led the way with his Gothic conservatory at Carlton House in 1807 (now demolished) and the craze reached its height in the 1830s. However these buildings were extremely fragile and vulnerable making this an extremely rare early surviving example. Designed as an orangery for the 12th Earl of Cassillis, it originally employed a Roman type hypocaust system of heating. Citrus trees, however, failed to bear fruit and it was used as a general conservatory, taking its name from the Camellia flowers that were successfully grown there. In the late 19th, or early 20th century, a steam heating system using cast iron pipes was installed. The building later fell into disuse and dereliction, necessitating consolidation repairs in 1964. It was restored and reglazed in 1995 and the heating equipment cleared from the basement.
Together with the remarkable ornamental landscape of its estate, Culzean Castle is acknowledged as the epitome of the Picturesque movement in Scotland, in its own right and is a work of international importance. Culzean, at one time the largest estate in Ayrshire, has been associated with the Kennedy family since the Middle Ages. It was gifted by Gilbert the 4th Earl of Cassillis to his brother Thomas Kennedy, in 1569. In the 1660s, the barmekin around the tower house was breached to create the terraced gardens, orchards, and walled garden for which Culzean was notable, while the caves beneath the castle ' now a scheduled monument ' were fortified to serve as secure stores. Culzean Castle became the principal family seat when Sir Thomas Kennedy (1726-75) became the 9th Earl of Cassillis, in 1759. A continuing programme of improvements was undertaken by Sir Thomas and his successors during the 18th and 19th centuries. The 10th Earl began rebuilding the Castle to designs by Robert Adam. This work was continued by Archibald (1770-1846), the 12th Earl, later the 1st Marquess of Ailsa. From about 1810 onwards he commissioned numerous structures, both practical and ornamental, and several important architects and landscape designers were engaged to embellish the gardens and grounds with ponds, gates, lodges and pavilions, resulting in several key works of the Picturesque era. The 3rd Marquess undertook the modernisation and enlargement of the Castle in the 1870s. In 1945, the 5th Marquess of Ailsa divided the property, making over the Castle, and the policies immediately surrounding it, to the National Trust for Scotland.
The architect James Donaldson (c1756-1843) originated in Ayrshire and later inherited the estate of Williamshaw, in Stewarton Parish. He worked for Robert Mylne and was a district surveyor for the City of London. He is known to have produced a survey plan of Culzean Castle in 1818 and worked on the 1st Marquess's estate at Isleworth, which had substantial greenhouses.
List description revised as part of the Culzean Castle Estate Review (2010-11).