Craigends House as designed by David Bryce, 1857



Craigends House was rebuilt in 1857 to a design by the architect David Bryce, R.S.A. The new building replaced the structure which had stood since the 15th century and was situated nearer the River Gryffe. The estate of Craigends had been in the possession of the Cuninghame family since 1477. John Charles Cuninghame, 17th Laird of Craigends, was the last to hold that esteemed title when he died in 1917 without leaving an heir.
The Cuninghame family of Craigends were descendants from the ancient family of the Cuninghame of Kilmaurs in Ayrshire. William Cuninghame, the first Laird of Craigends was the second son of the Alexander Cuninghame, Earl of Glencairn. He was granted the lands of "Craiganys (Craigends) in Strathgryffe on the 4th of February 1479.

The first mansion house was built around this time by William and stood for over four centuries on the river bank just to the west of the mansion designed by Bryce in 1857. The 10th laird William Cuninghame built a large barn and stables in the form of a square court around 1760. At the same time he built other office houses using the resources from the nearby stone quarry. In 1762, he built an arched bridge over the river Locher and enclosed much of the his land. He also planted young trees on the south side of the river Locher. He died in 1765 and was succeeded by his son Alexander. This Alexander added an estate in Jamacia to his inheritance and in 1777, he made a fine orchard and garden of around three acres. This area was surrounded by a high stone wall and was adjacent to the barns and stables built earlier. On the north side was a hot wall and the Inner side of the wall had a long gravel walk, which formed a kind of terrace; above which stood a fine peach hot house some 63 feet long. At each side were stair ways, each of eight steps. A further gravel road meandered down to the bridge built by his father earlier. At this time a great number of additional trees were planted. There was also around this time a wooden bridge, to the west of the house, which was only for the use of the family, this bridge carried them over the river Gryffe. It is interesting to note that one of the crops planted was tobacco (brought from Tobago), in some five acres. Obviously an attempt to cultivate in Scotland, but nothing more was heard of this experiment. The old house being of thick walls, small windows, secret recesses, and towers of defence (see picture below) was demolished during the time of Alexander Cuninghame, the 16th laird.

The Statistical accounts of Scotland in 1796 and 1845 both mention Craigends House. In 1796 reference was made "At Craigends, the property of Mr Cuninghame, there are 30 acres of planting, in which are found some very stately old ash, elm, and plane trees, superior to any in the parish. One ash,in particular, deserves attention. It measures 5 feet in diamater at 18 inches above the ground. The trunk, which is perfectly straight, rises 45 feet without a branch, and its top is in proportion to the whole". Reference is also made to the Coal and limestone mines owned by Cuninghame of Craigend. The 1845 Statistical account was written prior to the property being sold to the afforementioned Alexander Cuninghame. In this account it refers to other houses in the parish as being "modern, handsome, elegant and substantial", however when describing Craigends House suggests that "with the exception of an elegant addition made within these few years, in the form of a drawing room, and relative accomodations,- though not a very spacious, is yet an ancient and massy structure; of which the walls, with small apartments formed within the wall itself, speak of ages long since gone by; while a large extent of fine, and some of it old, wood, is in keeping with the venerable fabric." Could these words have hastened the demolition of this historic and ancient building when Alexander purchased the property ? It may well have done, as it suggests to me, that the family home was not in keeping with other landed proprietors in the parish at that time.

The new palatial mansion house was built using stone quarried less than 100 yards from where the house stood. It is understood that this house was one of the first to set the example of a great central hall forming the main lounge and sitting room of the dwelling. This new house would not enjoy the same lifespan as the original house. John Charles Cuninghame died in 1917 and his wife Alison Pearson died in 1958. In 1961 the house contents were sold by auction and left vacant. It was eventually demolished in 1971, despite many efforts to have it retained as a centrepiece of the new community that was under consideration by the new purchasers of the estate Taylor Woodrow.

Original Mansion house built in 1479
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