Royal Commission on the Ancient Monuments of Scotland
|304. Powfoulis; Mansion, Carved Stones, etc.
The former mansion of Powfoulis (Pl. 202 B), now converted into a hotel, consists of a central block, probably built about the second or third decade of the 19th century, with lateral wings which were added at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries. These additions are of no Importance, but the central block deserves mention as a sample of the work of its period and also for comparison with Kincaid House (No. 321) and the approximately contemporary reconstruction at Airth Castle (No.199). The name of the architect has not been preserved.
The central block measures 56 ft. 2 in. by 40 ft. 8 in. over walls 2 ft. 6 in. thick. It is built of grey freestone ashlar, droved, and comprises three storeys and an attic, but the lowest storey on the W. front is masked, and virtually converted into a basement, by a doubly ramped carriage-way, with a parapet, which gives access to the principal floor. On the E. front, however, all three storeys can be seen. The central portion of the W. front is advanced, and is flanked by shallow pilasters which finish in crocketed pinnacles; at each corner rises a thin, false turret decorated with narrow dummy lancets and finishing in a crocketed finial higher than those on the pilasters. The floors are defined by string-courses at the levels of the window-sills, and the wall-head is topped by a pierced parapet designed to give emphasis to the central portion of the facade. The roof is hipped and slated. The approach from the carriage-way to the front door, now covered by a wooden porch which is evidently an addition, is carried over the intervening space on a barrel-vaulted bridge below which access is obtained from the basement to cellarage under the carriage-way. The front door has a four-centred arch above a transom, and is set within an elaborately moulded recess of the same shape. On either side is a mullioned window with a transom and a square hood-mould. On the floor above, the central window contains three round-headed lights and there is a narrow round-headed light in each of the pilasters; to right and left there is a square-headed two- light window. Three large dormers appear behind the parapet, but these are evidently insertions. The E. facade is generally similar but simpler; it shows the same false turrets at the corners, the same advanced central portion, though without pilasters, and the same string-courses and parapet. There are three windows on each floor, symmetrically spaced; apart from the inserted bay windows, which appear to right and left on the two lower floors, they are square-headed and of two lights, while the upper two in the central portion have hood-moulds and the first-floor one a transom as well. The N. and S. ends of the original house are completely hidden by the later additions.
The front door leads into a hall the ceiling of which is plaster-vaulted in three bays. The arches spring from mask- corbels which represent smiling or grimacing faces; a string-course defines the springing-line, and the vault ing ribs are delicately moulded. Two doors open on either side of the hall; the rooms are of no interest apart from the dining-room, which has a rounded end. The doors and panelling reproduce late Gothic ornament and are of excellent workmanship. At the back of the hall the main stair rises, the lower flight being geometric and the upper one scale-and-platt, while a service stair descends to the floor below. On the first-floor landing depressed arches and Gothic decoration again appear.
The carriage-way is revetted with ashlar walls, and its central stretch is supported on the W. by two splayed buttresses which correspond with the advanced central portion of the house-front. Its parapets are also pierced with pointed openings, and end in short, stout piers which are decorated, like the false turrets on the house, with dummy lancets. Beneath are three cellars, entered from the basement; the central one is lighted by a small pointed opening set between the buttresses.
As a contrast with the Gothic Revival style exemplified by the mansion, it is interesting to notice the former coachman's house, with its corbelled dovecot tower and crow-stepped gables-a small but pleasing sample of the Scottish Baronial style. Into the N. gable of this house there has been inserted a small 17th-century dormer pediment, inscribed in raised letters on sunk fields, D / M R / TO GOD. It seems to have been the sinister member of a pair, with a dexter neighbour bearing a corresponding inscription S / 1 B / GLORIE. The two together would then have commemorated, with the text "Glory to God", Sir James Bruce of Powfoulis and his wife Dame Margaret Rollox of Duncrub,1 whose initials also appear on the Bruce Aisle at the old church of Airth (No. '37, q.v.). It is to be inferred that Sir James Bruce built the earlier house at Powfoulis, pre sumably in the first or second decade of the i7th century.
The Bruces of Powfoulis, a branch of the family of Bruce of Auchenbowie, possessed the property from the beginning of the 16th to the beginning of the i8th century.' Thereafter the estate was sold, but in 1841 it was in the possession of a family of the same name, the proprietor being James Bruce of Powfoulis,3 who may have been responsible for the erection of the present mansion.
Just outside the NE. corner of the kitchen-garden there is a pair of gateposts of freestone showing V- channelled points and moulded capitals. The N. gate post hears on its E. face a shield on which the date i688 appears in figures which are certainly of the period; the S. post bears a shield dividing the word FAITHFULL and charged, for Bruce: A saltire and chief. The lettering seems to have been recut, and it is possible that the gate posts may have been rebuilt. The walls of the kitchen garden seem to contain masonry of more than one period, and the inner face of the N. wall is lined with brick, as at Kinnaird (No.307). Reset in the N. face of this wall, near the W. end, there is part of a large stone figure of Renaissance type.
917857 NS 98 NW 30 June 1955
1. P.S.A.S., xiii (1878-9), 168.
2.Armstrong, W. B., The Bruces of Airth and their Cadets, 62 ff.
3. N.S.A., viii (Stirlingshire) 283.