INTRODUCTION · THE GROUNDS · THE ARCHITECT · ABOUT THIS SITE
Craigends House, although less than a mile from Houston, was situated in the neighbouring parish of Kilbarchan as the river Gryfe (or Gryffe) curves between the two providing the northern and eastern boundaries of the grounds. Where the Cunninghames lived for nearly five hundred years there is now a large private housing development.
THE OLD HOUSE · THE 1857 MANSION · AFTER THE CUNINGHAMES
The Old House
Old Craigends House, from MacKenzie's Kilbarchan, A Parish History
Little is known of the old Craigends House. Probably built in the late fifteenth century, it was designed more for defence than for beauty. This was not without good reason, as one Cunninghame laird was waylaid and murdered by a neighbouring family on his way home. Once such days were over the house was extended, probably in the early nineteenth century. Most of it was still old and considered out of date. William Cunninghame, the fifteenth Laird of Craigends, lived there only a few years before selling it to his uncle Alexander Cunninghame. The new laird commissioned a large new house from David Bryce, by then a well-known architect of Scottish country houses.
The 1857 Mansion
Craigends House, entrance front, by David Bryce, © RCAHMS
The new Craigends House was a far grander and larger building designed to show the wealth and taste of its inhabitants. The architect David Bryce was the foremost exponent of the Scottish Baronial style, and no expense was spared in its design and construction. Each elevation was distinctly different. An approach from the front revealed a collection of towers, the largest some six stories high. From this protruded the entrance wing, its relatively modest door flanked by two passages of scripture engraved in stone plaques.
EXCEPT THE LORD BUILD THE HOUSE, THEY LABOUR IN VAIN THAT BUILD IT
EXCEPT THE LORD KEEP THE CITY, THE WATCHMEN WAKETH BUT IN VAIN
To the right of the entrance were large windows of the central hall overlooking the terraces leading down to the Gryfe. At the rear of the house was an elegant suite of rooms overlooking the garden, leading into the large conservatory which was an integral part of the design. From the outside this fa�ade was less castellated with larger windows and canted bays, although it still had many characteristic architectural features such as the small round corner towers (tourelles) and crow-stepped gables.
Craigends House, viewed from the rear, from MacKenzie
Alexander Cunninghame enjoyed his new house for eight years before dying aged sixty-two in 1866. His son John Cunninghame inherited the house aged only fifteen, and lived there for over fifty years. When he died in 1917 he had no heir, but he had married in 1901, and his wife Alison lived the rest of her life in the house, latterly with her sister.
After the Cunninghames
In 1961 the last inhabitant of Craigends House passed away, and the house and land were inherited by a nephew. The contents were auctioned and a new owner was sought. For several years the garden was maintained, to the delight of locals who enjoyed walking through the grounds. Some were surprised to find the house open, and explored the magnificent suites of rooms with their beautiful plaster ceilings and parquet floors. However, not all visitors came to admire the house, and it attracted unwelcome attention from vandals.
The ruins of the house in 1974
Over a decade the house fell into disrepair until in 1971 it had lost most of its roof, its floors were collapsing, few windows had glass in and it was a danger to those youths still treating it as a plaything. Meanwhile the estate had been acquired by the construction firm Taylor Woodrow for a large new housing development. Despite much protest the house was mostly demolished, leaving only the front entrance standing. In 1980 this too was deemed dangerous and demolished.
Demolition, 19th May 1980
Of the house today all that remains is the lion that stood on top of the entrance gable, which can now be found outside the Carrick Centre in Houston, the coat of arms from the entrance front, which is mounted near the site of the house, and a few tiles removed by the author's family from the heap of rubble (one is shown below). The site of the house was recently covered by housing.
All content © 2002 Alastair Disley. No part of this site may be reproduced without prior permission.