Tuesday, 9 April 2013

(26) Adam of Blair Adam

Adam of Blair Adam
coat of arms
William Adam (1689-1748) was the most successful Scottish architect of his generation, and in 1728 bought a property in Edinburgh's Cowgate where he built a new tenement of considerable size.  In 1734 he bought lofts and granaries in Leith, presumably as a store for building materials, and his property there was expanded five years later.  In 1726 he had bought a small estate (North Merchiston) just outside Edinburgh, where he seems to have let the house and planted the parkland, but in 1731 he made the much more ambitious purchase of the 817 acre Blair Crambeth estate (known as Blair Adam from c.1769) in Kinross-shire; this cost £8,010 Scots (the equivalent of £667 10s sterling).  Between 1739 and 1747 he added several adjoining estates, so that he ended with a total of over 3,000 acres.  

When he first bought the property it was 'a wild uncultivated moor', and in 1733 he began the improvement of the estate, making enclosures, planting trees, and introducing better quality livestock.  Since there was no habitable dwelling, he built a house, one half of which was to accommodate his resident factor and the other half for his own use on his visits to the property; the house was soon after enlarged by the addition of single-storey lateral wings.  When, a few years later, he acquired the adjoining Woodend estate he acquired a 'Mansion House... which already had trees and walks around it, suitable to the residence of a Scottish gentleman of that period' but this he allowed to go to ruin.  In 1740 his purchase of Dowhill brought him 'a Castle, which was... fit for the habitation of a Gentleman's family', but he again declined to set himself up as a laird and converted the building into labourers' cottages.  

He used Blair Adam as a retreat during the Jacobite rising of 1745, when it was no doubt prudent to retire from Edinburgh, but otherwise he seems to have regarded Blair Adam as an investment (there was coal on the estate) and perhaps as providing the basis for future generations to establish themselves as lairds.  

When William Adam died in 1748 he was succeeded as laird of Blair Adam by his eldest son, John Adam (1721-92), who immediately took his next brother, the great Robert Adam (1728-92) into a partnership which continued until Robert moved to London in 1758.  John was financially embarrassed by the failure of Fairholme's Bank in 1763, and it was in an effort to improve the family finances that the firm of William Adam & Co. was established in 1764 to undertake speculative building in London, principally at the Adelphi.  When that speculation ended in financial disaster in 1772 John was obliged to mortgage the Blair Adam estate in order to avoid bankruptcy.  Despite these difficulties, John obtained designs from his brothers Robert and James Adam in 1772 for building a new house at Blair Adam, and although these were not carried out, both wings of the house were lengthened in 1775. 

At John's death in 1792 the house passed to his only surviving son, the barrister and MP, the Rt. Hon. William Adam (1751-1839), who made further alterations in 1815-16, and in 1833 added lodges and gates and a monument commemorating his grandfather's acquisition and improvement of the estate and his father's creation of a walled garden.   William's grandson, the Rt. Hon. William Patrick Adam (1823-81) made further changes to the house in 1859 to the designs of David Bryce.  On the death of his son, Sir Charles Elphinstone Adam (1859-1922), 1st baronet, the estates passed to his nephew, Capt. Charles Keith Adam RN (1891-1971), who was brought up in Australia but returned to Scotland to manage the estate.  His son, Keith Robert Adam (b. 1944) is the present owner, and now offers bed and breakfast accommodation.

For lists of the architectural works of William Adam and his sons, the reader is referred to Sir Howard Colvin's Biographical Dictionary of British Architects, 4th edn, 2008.  There is also a list of Robert Adam's works in Wikipedia.

Blair Adam, Kinross-shire

Blair Adam House: the self-effacing house of Scotland's grandest 18th century architectural dynasty

The architect William Adam purchased the Blair Crambeth (subsequently Blair Adam) estate in 1731 and shortly afterwards built the modest five bay two storey house which forms the centre of the present building.  By 1736 Adam had enlarged the house by the addition of harled single-storey wings, originally of three bays, which continued the line of the original block.  Both were extended by John Adam in 1775, the south wing being heightened and given a bowed end.  The north wing was made an L-shape by the construction of a block across its end which stretches back to the west and joins it to the office range.  This range – originally very plain – was remodelled in 1815-16 and a low rubble-walled tower was built behind it.  

Blair Adam in 1994.  © Nicholas Kingsley.  All rights reserved

The house’s main entrance was moved to a small late 19th century extension on the south side; behind this rises a block built by David Bryce in 1859 which replaces a late 18th century alteration, and west of this is a plain block of 1847.  The top-lit entrance hall is late 19th century, and from it a short passage gives access to Bryce’s dining room of 1859.  This has a huge cast iron chimneypiece, presumably supplied by the Carron Ironworks, in which the Adams were major shareholders.  

Blair Adam: drawing room

‘The Corridor’ is Bryce’s main 1859 interior and occupies the space between the original house and later extensions.  The 18th century staircase hall is preserved  but the cast-iron balustrade is a change of 1847; the library in the north wing is also Georgian, with a tunnel-vaulted plaster ceiling and a mid 19th century white marble fireplace from the Carron Ironworks; the schoolroom was added by John Adam as a dining room.  Near the house are the mid 18th century coach house and a walled garden formed by John Adam in 1755-61.

Descent: William Adam (1689-1748); to son, John Adam (1721-92); to son, Rt. Hon. William Adam (1751-1839); to son, Admiral Sir Charles Adam (1780-1853); to son, Rt. Hon. William Patrick Adam (1823-81); to son, Sir Charles Elphinstone Adam (1859-1922); to nephew, Capt. Charles Keith Adam (1891-1971); to son, Keith Robert Adam (b. 1944).

The Adams of Blair Adam

William Adam (1689-1748)
by William Aikman
William Adam (1689-1748) of Edinburgh and Blair Crambeth.  Son of John Adam, builder of Kirkcaldy (Fife) and his wife Helen Cranstoun; born 30 October 1689.  He was brought up as a mason in his father's business, but little is known of his early life.  Although he liked to regard himself principally as an architect - a profession of which he became the leading practitioner in Scotland by the 1730s - he was also a building contractor on a large scale and involved in a varied of business enterprises, including quarries at South Queensferry, which supplied much of the building stone for his works in Edinburgh.  From these businesses more than from architecture he made a substantial fortune which was invested in Edinburgh house property and subsequently in the Blair Adam estate.  He married 1716, Mary daughter of William Robertson, of Gladney and had issue:
(1) Janet (known as Jenny) Adam (b. 1717)
(2) John Adam (1721-92) (q.v.);
(3) Robert Adam (1728-92), the celebrated architect; born 3 July 1728; MP for Kinross, 1768-74; died unmarried and without issue, 3 March 1792; buried in Westminster Abbey;
(4) James Adam (1732-94), architect; died 20 October 1794;
(5) William Adam (b. 1738), architect;
(6) Elizabeth (known as Betty) Adam (fl. 1792)
(7) Helen (known as Nellie) Adam;
(8) Margaret (known as Peggy) Adam;
(7) Mary Adam, m. Rev. Dr John Drysdale (d. 1788), Dean of the Chapel Royal, Edinburgh and Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland;
(8) Susannah Adam, m. John Clerk of Eldin, the inventor of the system of 'breaking the line' in naval warfare, and the son of Sir John Clerk of Penicuik;
He purchased the Blair Crambeth (later Blair Adam) estate in 1731 and added adjacent properties to it 1737-47, while also enclosing and planting the estate and building a modest house there.
He died 24 January 1748 and was buried in the family mausoleum in Greyfriars churchyard, Edinburgh.

John Adam (1721-92) of Blair Adam.  Eldest son of William Adam (1689-1748) and his wife Mary, daughter of William Robertson of Gladney; born 5 March 1721.  Educated at Dalkeith Grammar School but his plans to go on to Edinburgh University were prevented by the demands of his father's architectural practice, which he inherited in 1748; he succeeded him also as Master Mason to the Board of Ordnance, 1748.  He took his brother Robert into partnership, 1748-58, and although John was a competent architect he contributed mainly business ability to the firm, with Robert playing a greater part in the firm's design output; after Robert moved to London in 1758 he ran the firm alone until c.1770, when he seems to have given up practice, except for occasional work as an expert in bridge building.  He matriculated his coat of arms at office of Lord Lyon King of Arms, 1756.  He married 8 July 1750 Jean (d. 1795), daughter of John Ramsay of Woodstone (Kincardineshire) and had issue;
(1) Rt. Hon. William Adam (1751-1829) (q.v.);
(2) John Adam (d. 1769); died while a schoolboy at Eton;
(3) Jean Adam, m. 11 August 1779 Thomas Kennedy of Dunure (Ayrshire);
(4) Mary Adam, m. 17 July 1779 George Loch of Drylaw (Midlothian);
(5) Louisa Adam, d. unmarried and without issue.
He inherited the Blair Adam estate from his father in 1748, and extended the house in 1775.
He died 25 June 1792, aged 71, and was buried in the Adam mausoleum in Greyfriars churchyard, Edinburgh.

William Adam (1751-1839)
engraving of 1803, from Wikimedia Commons
Rt. Hon. William Adam (1751-1839), KC, MP, PC.  Elder and only surviving son of John Adam (1721-92) and his wife Jean, daughter of John Ramsay, born 21 July 1751.  Educated at Edinburgh High School and Edinburgh University (called to Scottish bar, 1773), Christ Church, Oxford and Lincoln's Inn (called to English bar, 1782; KC 1796; Bencher and Treasurer, 1808); he gave up a legal career and entered Parliament as MP for Gatton 1774-80, Wigtown Burghs 1780-84, Elgin Burghs 1784-90, and Ross 1790-94,  and came to play a significant role as a party manager for the Whigs, where his loyalty to friends and magnanimity to enemies stood him in good stead.  An example of this is that he played a major part in negotiating the Fox-North coalition in 1782-83, despite having fought a duel with Fox in 1779, in which the latter was slightly injured; and he was rewarded for this with junior ministerial office as Treasurer of Ordnance 1780-82, 1783; he was out of Parliament, 1794-1806, during which period he built a successful legal career; but returned to politics as MP for Kincardine 1806-12.  In keeping with his political character, he revered the memory of his father and grandfather, and in 1811 published as Vitruvius Scoticus a collection of engravings principally of their work, and later a centenary history of Blair Adam, 1834.

Gillray cartoon depicting Adam's duel with
Charles James Fox in 1779
from Wikimedia Commons
He was Lord Lieutenant of Kinross-shire, 1802-39 and Lt-Col commanding the Kinross-shire Volunteers.  In 1802 he was appointed auditor to the 6th Duke of Bedford, Counsel to the East India Company, and Solicitor-General to the prince of Wales (from 1805 Attorney-General). In 1806 he became Chancellor of Duchy of Cornwall 1806-15; and at the end of his period in this office he was appointed to the Privy Council, 1815. In 1814 he at last achieved Scottish judicial office as a Baron of the Scottish Court of Exchequer (1814-19), and in 1816 he took his seat as Lord Chief Commissioner of the Jury Court of Scotland 1816-31, trial by jury in civil causes being then first established by his efforts.  He married 7 May, 1777, the Hon. Eleanora (1749-1808), daughter of Charles Elphinstone, 10th Baron Elphinstone, and had issue:
(1) John Adam (1779-1825), born 4 May 1779; educated at Charterhouse; served in East India Co. service in India (acting Governor General, 1823); died unmarried and without issue, 4 June 1825;
(2) Admiral Sir Charles Adam (1780-1853) (q.v.);
(3) William George Adam KC (1781-1839), born 6 December 1781; educated at Charterhouse; barrister, accountant-general of the Court of Chancery; died unmarried and without issue, 16 May 1839; buried at Greyfriars, Edinburgh;
(4) Rt. Hon. General Sir Frederick Adam GCB GCMG PC (1784-1853), born 17 June 1784; entered Charterhouse 1794 but served in the army from an alarmingly early age (Ensign, 1795, Lt., 1796; Major, 1803; Lt-Col., 1804; Colonel, 1812; Maj-Gen. by 1815; Lt-Gen., 1830; General, 1846); served under Sir Ralph Abercromby in Netherlands and Egypt, 1799-1801; in Sicily 1806-11, in the Peninsula War (wounded twice) (1812-13), and at the Battle of Waterloo, 1815 (wounded again); Lord High Commissioner of Ionian Islands, 1824-32; Governor of Madras, 1832-37; knighted (KCB) 1815; GCMG 1832; GCB 1840; appointed to Privy Council, 1831; married 1st, 20 July 1811, Amelia (d. 1812), daughter of Stephen Thompson, and had issue a daughter, 2nd, 23 June 1820, Diamantina Palatiano (d. 1844) and 3rd, 24 July 1851, Anne Lindsey (d. 1904), daughter of John Maberley MP, and had issue a son; he died 17 August 1853;
(5) Francis James Adam (1791-1820); born 24 March 1791; married 11 August 1817, Mary Augusta Dalrymple (d. 1865) (who m.2, 1834, Rev. Richard Lister Venables), daughter of Gen. Alexander Marcovitch Poltoratzky of St. Petersburg and had issue one son; died 8 June 1820;
(6) Clementina Adam (1785-1877); married 27 April 1807 John Anstruther-Thomson (d. 1833) of Charleton (Fife) and had issue two sons and five daughters; she died 29 October 1877.
He inherited the encumberered Blair Adam estate from his father in 1792 but faced continuing financial difficulties throughout most of his life.  In 1801 the bankruptcy of an uncle who owed him £25,000 caused a crisis, alleviated by his appointments in 1802; in 1808 he was obliged to borrow money to pay the debts of his son, John, and contemplated selling his estate, but was lent £10,000 by his Whig friends; in 1812 his salmon fishery on the R. Tay was destroyed by flooding, causing further losses.  Only in old age did the salary of his judicial office provide a measure of security.
He died on 17 February 1839, aged 87.

Admiral Sir Charles Adam KCB (1780-1853) of Blair Adam.  Second, but eldest surviving son of Rt. Hon. William Adam (1751-1839) and his wife the Hon. Eleanora, daughter of Charles Elphinstone, 10th Baron Elphinstone, born 6 October 1780.  His mother's brother was Admiral Lord Keith and under his patronage he entered the navy at an early age (Lt. 1795; Captain, 1799; Rear-Admiral, 1825; Vice-Admiral 1837; Admiral, 1848); saw service in East Indies, 1795-1802 and home waters, 1803-15; was Captain of the Royal Yacht, 1815-25, and was Commander-in-Chief in the West Indies, 1841-45.  He was MP for Clackmannan and Kinross, 1831-41, 1846-47, and was First Sea Lord, November-December 1834, April 1835-September 1841 and July 1846-July 1847; on retiring from Parliament he was appointed Governor of Greenwich Hospital, 1847 and an Elder Brother of Trinity House.  He was Lord Lieutenant of Kinross-shire, 1839-54, in succession to his father and Captain commanding the Kinross-shire Yeomanry, and was knighted (KCB) in 1835.  He married 1822 Elizabeth (d. 1871), daughter of Patrick Brydone FRS and had issue:
(1) Rt. Hon. William Patrick Adam (1823-81) (q.v.);
(2) Charles Brydone Adam (1825-40), born 26 June 1825; lost in HMS Fairy, 1840;
(3) Mary Adam (c.1829-1900), married 8 September 1859 Hugh Lindsay Antrobus (d. 1899), second son of Sir Edmund Antrobus, 2nd bt. and had issue one son and three daughters; she died 31 December 1900.
He inherited the Blair Adam estate from his father in 1839.
He died at Greenwich Hospital, 16 September 1853.

Rt. Hon. William Patrick Adam (1823-81) of Blair Adam.  Eldest son of Admiral Sir Charles Adam KCB (1780-1853) and his wife Elizabeth, daughter of Patrick Brydone FRS, born 14 September 1823.  JP and DL for Kinross-shire and Fife; Major in Fife & Kinross Volunteers; private secretary to Lord Elphinstone as Governor of Bombay, 1853-58; MP for Clackmannan and Kinross, 1850-80; a Lord of the Treasury, 1865-66, 1868-73; First Commissioner of Works, 1873-74, 1880; Governor of Madras, 1880-81.  He married 23 February 1856, Emily (d. 1906), daughter of Gen. Sir William Wyllie GCB and had issue:
(1) Sir Charles Elphinstone Adam (1859-1922), 1st bt. (q.v.);
(2) William Keith Adam (1861-1900) (q.v.);
(3) Lt-Col. Frederick Loch Adam MVO (1864-1907), born 10 April 1864; an officer in Scots Guards (Lt-Col.); ADC to Viceroy of India 1894-1904 and Military Secretary to Viceroy, 1906-07; married 5 March 1906 the Hon. Lilian Theresa Claire Baring (1874-1962), only surviving daughter of Alexander Hugh Baring, 4th Baron Ashburton, but died without issue, 31 March 1907;
(4) Francis John Adam (1869-70); born 8 May 1869; died 19 June 1870;
(5) Clementina Mary Adam (d. 1944), Lady in Waiting to HRH Princess Patricia of Connaught; died unmarried, 8 February 1944;
(6) Emily Elizabeth Adam (d. 1932), married 1st, 5 July 1895, Maj. the Hon. Lionel Henry Dudley Fortescue (d. 1900), third son of 3rd Earl Fortescue, and 2nd, 3 September 1912, Walter B. Ferrie of Vancouver, Canada; died 3 February 1932;
(7) Constance Marion Adam (d. 1956), m. 7 August 1907 Ernest (d. 1929), son of John Turner Hopwood of Ketton Hall (Northants) and had issue; died 24 February 1956.
He inherited the Blair Adam estate from his father in 1853.
He died in India, 24 May 1881, aged 57.

Sir Charles Elphinstone Adam (1859-1922), 1st baronet, of Blair Adam.  Eldest son of Rt. Hon. William Patrick Adam (1823-81) and his wife Emily, daughter of Gen. Sir William Wyllie GCB, born 7 August 1859.  Educated at Eton, Christ Church, Oxford (MA 1885), and Inner Temple (called to the bar, 1885); created a baronet, an honour which it had been intended his father should receive, 20 May 1882; barrister; private secretary to Parliamentary Secretary to Treasury, 1892-94, Lord Privy Seal, 1894, and Chancellor of Duchy of Lancaster, 1894-95; JP and DL for Fife; Convenor of Fife County Council, 1893-1910; Lord Lieutenant of Kinross-shire, 1909-11; served in First World War with Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve, 1915-16.  He married, 25 October 1913, Edith (d. 1929), daughter of William Dobson of Victoria, British Columbia, Canada but died without issue; baronetcy extinct on his death.
He inherited the Blair Adam estate from his father in 1881.  At his death it passed to his nephew, Capt. Charles Keith Adam (q.v.).
He died 6 December 1922, aged 63.

William Keith Adam (1861-1900).  Second son of Rt. Hon. William Patrick Adam (1823-81) and his wife Emily, daughter of Gen. Sir William Wyllie GCB, born 16 April 1861.  Educated at Oxford (BA).  A residential magistrate in Western Australia.   He married 10 July 1888 Jane Emily (d. 1952), daughter of George Walpole Leake QC of Perth, Western Australia, and had issue:
(1) Robert William Wyllie Adam (1889-1916), sergeant in Western Australian forces; killed in action, 25 July 1916;
(2) Charles Keith Adam (1891-1971) (q.v.);
(3) Rose Emily Adam (d. 1970), married 4 November 1922, John, son of John Henderson of Clifton House, Ashbourne (Derbys); died 21 March 1970;
(4) Eleanora Constance Adam (d. 1981), married 9 November 1929, Air Commodore Athol Wordsworth Mylne RAF, son of Rt Rev. Louis George Mylne and had issue three sons.
He died 12 December 1900.

Capt. Charles Keith Adam
Image: Joan Daker
Capt. Charles Keith Adam (1891-1971) of Blair Adam.  Second but only surviving son of William Keith Adam (1861-1900) and his wife Jane Emily, daughter of George Walpole Leake QC of Perth, Western Australia, born 29 April 1891.  Educated at Royal Naval Colleges, Osborne and Dartmouth; joined Royal Navy 1903 and served in First World War 1914-18, in Southern Russia, 1919-20; retired 1934; Capitan di Navio in Columbian Navy, 1934-37; recalled to Royal Navy, 1939-46 (DSO 1942); member of Royal Company of Archers; JP and DL for Kinross-shire; member of Kinross-shire County Council from 1937 (Convenor, 1955-60); Lord Lieutenant of Kinross-shire, 1955-66.  He married 28 January 1939 Barbara Eunice (d. 1988), daughter of Maj-Gen. Arthur Henry Marindin CB DSO of Fordel (Perthshire) and had issue:
(1) Janet Eunice Adam (b. 1940)
(2) Clementina Caroline Adam (b. 1942), married 3 August 1968 David Charles William Adams, son of Cdr. Charles Poynder Adams DSC RN and had issue three sons;
(3) twin, Keith Robert Adam (b. 1944), now of Blair Adam; born 26 October 1944; educated at Eton and Trinity College, Dublin (BA, BSocSc), member of Royal Company of Archers, 1991; married 1 July 1972 Elizabeth, daughter of S. Burnside of Cultiagh, Northern Ireland and has issue two sons and two daughters;
(4) twin, (Rose Alison) Rita Adam (b. 1944), born 26 October 1944.
He inherited the Blair Adam estate from his uncle in 1922.  At his death the estate passed to his only son.
He died 14 December 1971, aged 80.


J. Fleming, Robert Adam and his circle, 1962; Architectural Heritage, iv, pp. 2-4; W. Adam, Vitruvius Scoticus, 1811; J. Gifford, William Adam, 1989; F.W. Robertson, ‘John Adam’s 18th century walled garden at Blair, Kinross’, Garden History, (31:1), 2003, pp. 48-66; J. Gifford, The buildings of Scotland: Perth & Kinross, 2007, pp. 203-06; Sir H.M. Colvin, A biographical dictionary of British architects, 1600-1840, 4th edn., 2008, pp. 40-59; Oxford Dictionary of National Biography articles on William AdamJohn AdamWilliam Adam, John AdamSir Frederick Adamhttp://www.burkespeerage.com/Search/FullRecord.aspx?ID=56.  I am grateful to Susan Cooke for supplying the image of Capt. Adam.

Where are their papers?

Adam family of Blair Adam: deeds, estate and family papers, 1607-1863; family correspondence and papers, c.1660-19th cent. [National Records of Scotland, GD247, GD268]; estate, family, personal and household papers, 17th-20th cents. [Private collection: enquiries to National Register of Archives of Scotland]; 
Robert and James Adam, architects: architectural drawings of Robert and James Adam [Soane Museum]; family correspondence and notebooks of James Adam 1754-94 [National Records of Scotland, GD18]

Revision & Acknowledgements

This account was first published on 9 April 2013 and was revised on 15 October 2013 and 6 June 2019. I am most grateful to Susan Cooke for additional information.

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