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Scottish Architecture

( Originally Published 1921 )



ARCHITECTURE in Scotland followed on much the same lines as in England until the middle of the fifteenth century, when it assumed a more definitely national character. Inspiration was largely drawn from abroad, especially from France, with which country there was close political connection. This resulted in a picturesque and interesting development on French lines, especially after Robert Bruce (A.D. 1306—29) secured the independence of Scotland. In Melrose Abbey is to be seen the influence of French and Spanish art, while in Rosslyn Chapel Portuguese influence is apparent ; for it is very similar in detail to the Church of Belem, near Lisbon. The most important cathedrals are those of Edinburgh, Glasgow (p. 335 D), with its famous crypt, S. Andrews, Kirkwall, Dunbiane, Aberdeen, and Elgin ; while the Abbeys of Kelso, Melrose, Dunfermline, Holyrood, and Dryburgh are the best known. In these, lancet windows either singly or in groups were used long after they had been discontinued in England ; while the Flamboyant tracery of French Gothic was followed in preference to the Perpendicular style of English Gothic.

Pele or bastle houses were towers with projecting angle turrets, and consisted of single rooms one over the other accessible by " turnpike " or winding stairs. The " corbie " or " crow-stepped " gable was used in preference to the straight-sided gable of England. In vaulted roofs a continuous barrel vault with surface ribs was occasionally employed.

Scotland is specially rich in castles and mansions of the Gothic period which possess distinctive character, and in which the native stone was almost universally employed.

Glamis Castle (p. 431 G, 1I) has many characteristic features, such as the grouping of buildings at various angles, and the vast height of bare walls combined with a picturesque use of circular turrets. Glamis Castle is the traditional scene of the murder of Duncan by Macbeth, and the " Shame of Glamis " is referred to by Shakespeare:

"This castle hath a pleasant seat ; the air
Nimbly and sweetly recommends itself
Unto our gentle senses."

Castles and mansions in Scotland from the thirteenth to the seventeenth century have a national character of their own, and are divided by McGibbon and Ross into four periods. First period (thirteenth century) : castles were erected on the Norman model with lofty walls of enceinte, usually of the plainest description and with towers to defend the curtain walls as at Rothesay (p. 431 A, B). Second period (fourteenth century) : castles have a tower similar to the Norman keep with a " barnikin " or courtyard surrounded by a wall which was less extensive than in the thirteenth century. The L-plan formed by the addition of a wing to one angle of the keep was adopted as at Glamis (p. 431 G), and ornamental features were rare. Third period (A.D. 1400–1542) : the keep was still used together with the L-plan, and a tower containing a stair was inserted in the angle (p. 431 G, H). Large castles display an increase in ornament, and the buildings round a wall of " enceinte " formed a central courtyard. Fourth period (A.D. 1542–1700) : traditional plans were adhered to—the courtyard for larger buildings and the keep with L-, Z-, T-, or E-plans for smaller buildings as at Stirling (p. 431 K). Old defensive forms such as corbellings, angle turrets with conical roofs, and battlements became mere ornaments, while dormer windows and clustered chimneys reflect Renaissance influence. George Heriot's Hospital, Edinburgh (p. 431 L, M, x), is one of the finest examples of the Fourth period, which takes us into the early Renaissance style, both in dignity of plan and beauty of detail, notably in the entrance gateway with its subtle Renaissance treatment.

A series of plans and sketches of different types of buildings, showing the national character of Scottish architecture, is given on p. 431.



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