Not everyone from the village of Dunlop has seen Dunlop House, even fewer have roamed it's stately halls and rooms. Inset about a mile from the nearest road in deep forest, it's remoteness has certainly helped keep the estate a mysterious place.
We have to turn the clock back to the 1200's to start the history rolling at the Estate. Commissioned by the family of Dunlop the building here today is actually the fourth in succession to other structures. Little is known of the very first building, but there are mentions of a residence on these lands around 1260. The second larger structure was completed around 1300, then a third completed around 1600.The present Dunlop House was completed in 1834, the same year construction began on the Dunlop Parish Kirk.
There lies some confusion as to exactly where the previous buildings were. There are some ruins up the hill to the North West but some local historians talk of horse stables and not the previous Mansions. Amazingly the Dunlop family held the reigns of the estate for nearly 600 years. That ended with the death of James Dunlop in 1858, the last direct descendant of the Dunlop's of Dunlop.
The next 75 years saw some instability in the use of the House. It was purchased by a Mr Thomas Dunlop Douglas and he began renting out the House several years after he purchased it. One of the more famous tenants was Francis Henderson and his family. Mr Henderson was one of the brothers who owned the Glasgow steamship company Anchor Line. It was during his tenure at Dunlop House that Mr Henderson gifted a window to the Dunlop Parish Kirk.
The building was designed by David Hamilton, the very famous Glasgow born architect. (There's a little more about him at the bottom of the page). Mr Hamilton favoured Italian styles in his illustrious design career but Dunlop House is more of a Jacobean style with a Scottish flair. Walking up to the front entrance of the building is quite breathtaking. The formidable stature of the stonework interlaced with round turrets gives the impression of looking up a cliff face. Accentuating a feeling of vertigo is due to the windows being smaller on each successive floor. It really is quite magnificent and looks more like a small Castle than a Mansion. It's a unique style even by David Hamilton standards, Dunlop is lucky to have such a piece of history. The detail of the interior is equally memorable. The drawing room has a coffered ceiling, almost every room is full of deep cornice work. Tall Corinthian pillars grace the hall and guide an admiring eye up the grandiose staircase. It's 12,220 square feet and four stories high. You sure as heck don't want to have to do the dusting, hoovering and window cleaning yersel!
Photo: Dunlop House May 2005 - empty and boarded up.
700 years of private ownership ended with a bang in 1933 when Ayrshire County Council bought the House. From the outset it was used as a hospital / convalescence home. Interesting to note in the annuls of Ayrshire history, that Dunlop house was one of the first Stately Homes to be offered to the Red Cross in 1939 when WW11 broke out. After the War it was used by Ayrshire Mental Health Services right up until 2000. Unfortunately this is where the story of Dunlop House gets a little ugly.
East Ayrshire Council as it is now called, sold the building to a property developer. Plans are afoot to turn this rare piece of history into luxury flats. Such a move by the Council leaves many folk including myself speechless. This is a fine piece of history that has roots as far back as the 13th Century. It is no more ridiculous to sell it to a construction company than selling our Churches for demolition. David Hamilton the architect would be turning in his grave if he knew what was going on at Dunlop House right now.
Fortunately some common sense has prevailed. The building is now listed as a "Class A Historical Site", and we have Mr Hugh Hamilton of Dunlop to thank for his undying and persistent efforts to have the classification changed. Needless to say this has put the site into a state of limbo. As of May 2005 the House was heavily fenced off with security warnings posted everywhere.
Standing forlorn with no life in it's windows, no happy voices reverberating through it's corridors, no children running through the gardens. Dunlop House stands like an accused on death row. But... for now.... the place that became architect David Hamilton's personal favourite, has at least a stay of execution.
Photo: The Gatehouse Dunlop House.
A little bit about the Architect....
DAVID HAMILTON was born in Glasgow on May 11th 1768. He initially worked as a stone-mason before becoming an architect.
Martin J. Galloway Editor.