The fascinating story of historic Dumfries House

Dumfries House holds a very special place in Scottish history.

When the foundation stone was laid in 1754, it became the first home to be designed by John, Robert and James Adams, the architects whose practice became arguably the most famous in the UK.

The house hit the headlines in 2007 when Prince Charles, the Duke of Rothesay, led a consortium of charities and heritage organisations to buy the property and preserve it for the nation.

Simon Green’s book, published by the Royal Commission on the Ancient & Historic Monuments of Scotland (RCAHMS), delves into the archives of the Bute family – who owned the house from the early 19th century until the death of Lady Bute in 1993 – to tell the story of the people behind the building.

The photographs, line drawings and other illustrations are the real stars of the show, giving a glimpse into the life of the house’s residents. The family trees at the start of the book are useful when switching between the generations, while the fold out plans and drawings of the house are also a useful addition to the text.

Green’s prose is informative without becoming bogged down in technical details, lifting the work above the standard of lesser coffee-table books.

Green – an architectural historian at the RCAHMS, who carried out a survey of the house in 2007 – was assisted in his work by editor Jane Thomas, who has been a curator of the commission’s collections for more than 20 years.

Dumfries House is not only known for its architecture but also for its fixtures and fittings, including furniture made by Thomas Chippendale and three renowned Edinburgh-based furniture makers – Francis Brodie, William Mathie and Alexander Peter.

Green dedicates a chapter to the original fitting out of the house, and doesn’t skimp on details of life ‘below stairs’, completed with images of the corridors and the kitchen.

Dumfries House, by Simon Green, published by RCAHMS, £30.

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