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 Cat Gates, formerly known as the Swinston gateway, was intended as an extravagant showpiece. Today it is an important as a component of one of the most outstanding and ambitious landscaping schemes undertaken in Scotland. It was erected for the 12th Earl of Cassillis, although the idea of a grand entrance at Swinston, on the route from Maybole, originated with the 10th Earl who had commissioned Thomas White, the landscape gardener, to plan the layout of the grounds in the 1780s. White's designs included the scenic landscape that would have been encountered upon passing through the gates. Most of this landscape has now been obscured by later planting and service roads. The style of the gate must have been a matter of much consideration as there are 4 designs by John Thin, including a castellated one, in the Cassillis archive. Although designed in 1796, the gateway is unlikely to have been erected before 1809/10, as it was at this time that the 12th Earl achieved a clause in an Act of Parliament for improved Ayrshire roads permitting him to re-route the road from Glenside to Turnberry Park, to pass this point. The impact of the gate itself was severely diminished when the route to Turnberry was diverted by the County in 1817. The gates must therefore have been erected between 1810 and 1816. The scheme, as built, had a pair of lodges but these were demolished in the 1950s.
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 John Thin (c1765-1827), who lived in Edinburgh, is associated with William Sibbald and W H Playfair, for whom he was a draughtsman. He is known to have been involved with an unbuilt scheme of Sibbald's for a church at Falkirk and he produced several designs for gateways, with lodges, for Culzean and Saltoun Hall.
Previously listed as Gate Piers at Swinston Lodge. List description revised as part of the Culzean Castle Estate Review 2010-11.