On the 17th June this year the AMC outing was a
lunch and tour of this interesting house by kind permission of the
owners, Mr & Mrs Patrick Dromgoole. The committee arrived with food
and wine at 12 to be greeted by the housekeeper and tour guide Mrs
Anne Hainey. It was a dry, warm day but dull. Penkill, a family
house, looked wonderful as usual and we set up our buffet in William
Bell Scott’s banqueting hall.
Penkill’s history begins probably in the 14th century. The original
building was a Tower House which is still an integral part of the
present building. It was of four storeys and the first Laird was
Adam Boyd 1532. In 1628 Thomas Boyd married Marion Mure of Rowallan
and the Tocher wing (Dowry wing) and staircase tower were added.
The Boyds were a prominent Scottish family. Sir Robert
Boyd fought with Bruce at Bannockburn. Another Robert was regent in
However, its history in more recent times is linked with the
Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood whose leader and founder was Dante
Gabriel Rossetti. In 1857, Spencer Boyd the last of the Boyds in the
direct male line inherited the ruined Penkill and decided to rebuild
it. He and his sister Alice were very artistic. Spencer was a
talented carver and Alice a painter. William Lash their maternal
grandfather, a wealthy industrialist, supplied the money.
The architect was Alex George Thomson (no relation to ‘Greek’
Thomson). The pepper-grinder tower was built
and the old blended
into the new. Enter William Bell Scott in 1859. Already married,
aged 49, he and Alice Boyd fell in love and thus Alice and Spencer
were introduced to the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood.
William Bell Scott and his wife visited Penkill. Spencer and Alice
spent winters in London and summers at Penkill. When Spencer died in
1865 it became awkward for William Bell Scott to make long visits to
the castle and so the staircase mural came about. This beautiful
depiction of the poem by James I, the King’s Quair (ie quire or
book), was viewed by our members in two groups. Parts of the mural
are still lovely but many parts are requiring restoration. The mural
was finished in 1868. Many Pre-Raphaelite adherents visited and
stayed at Penkill and brought gifts. William Morris wrote this
description of Penkill to his daughter: “The place is lovely. It
lies on the hillside on a spit of ground with a beck running on
either side. From the tower you can see the great wide Firth of
Clyde – Ailsa Craig plain to see and the mountains of Arran in the
After his wife’s death, William Bell Scott came to stay with Alice
and he designed the banqueting hall which was added in 1883-1885.
William Bell Scott died in 1890 and Alice in 1897.
A happy chapter ended and Penkill passed into the Courtney Boyd
family and near oblivion for 75 years.
In 1978, an American, Elton Eckstrand, bought Penkill and in 1992 it
was bought by its present owners Mr & Mrs Patrick Dromgoole.
Many thanks to them for permitting us to hold our outing in their
family home and to Mrs Hainey not only for her excellent tour but
for showing us how to heat up the quiches, etc. in what is now the
For more information on the Pre-Raphaelites,
follow this link.