Auchencraig, Largs

M040 Auchencraig, Largs

Address: Auchencraig, Irvine Road, Largs KA30 8EY
Date: 1891–3; 1894; 1895–6
Client: Dr Robert Kirkwood
Authorship: Authorship category 4 (Office) (Office)

From early 1891 John Honeyman & Keppie were working on a design for a new house, Auchencraig, at Largs for retired general practitioner Dr Robert Kirkwood. His young second family was growing rapidly and two of his older daughters still lived at home. 1

The selected site was on a steep hillside on the S. edge of Largs with extensive grounds and views W. over the Firth of Clyde. The family had previously lived in the centre of Largs in another sizable house: it was sold to a photographer named Storey for 18,000 in early 1893. 2 It is not yet clear how Kirkwood came to commission Honeyman & Keppie to design his new home, but it may have been the result of the architects' personal connections with Ayrshire.

There is nothing in the appearance of the red sandstone exterior to suggest the involvement of Mackintosh. It is conceivable however that he contributed to the design of the wooden porch, which was constructed around a year after the house was completed and has a bell-shaped, lead-covered roof, and curious cigar-shaped columns. The form of the porch, though not its details, suggest his later porch designs at Arddarroch and the Infants' entrance at Scotland Street School. Curiously, the total cost of the porch is recorded twice, in two separate locations, in the job books. 3

Internally, fireplaces, chimneypieces and woodwork details are classically inspired and comparable with near-contemporary work at both Craigie Hall and Glasgow Art Club; the billiard room has the same barrel-vault ceiling with glazed section as Craigie Hall.

There is no record in the job books of the stained glass in the porch and this was probably installed later. It is not known if Mackintosh was involved in the design. The forms and colouring of the peacocks' tail feathers do recall Mackintosh's 1896 design for a stencil for Miss Cranston's Buchanan Street tea rooms. 4

The house was mentioned in Dr Kirkwood's obituary in the Largs and Millport Weekly News, which reported that its 'appearance was unhesistatingly sacrificed to comfort and health protection', while there were 'many evidences' of Kirkwood's 'strongly aesthetic bent'. 5

Notes:

1: The Hunterian, University of Glasgow: John Honeyman & Keppie visit book, 1891–4, GLAHA 53060, p. 3. The house is named on O. S., Ayrshire III.12 (Largs) (25 inch, 2nd edition, 1895–7). Children were born in 1889, 1890 and May 1891.

2: 'Notes and Comments', Largs and Millport Weekly News, 1 April 1893, p. 3.

3: The Hunterian, University of Glasgow: John Honeyman & Keppie job book, GLAHA 53059, p. 139; The Hunterian, University of Glasgow: John Honeyman & Keppie / Honeyman, Keppie & Mackintosh job book, GLAHA 53061, p. 69.

4: See The Hunterian, University of Glasgow: GLAHA 41803, GLAHA 52869 and GLAHA 52873.

5: 'Our Losses: Dr Kirkwood', Largs and Millport Weekly News, 28 May 1898, p. 2.