Penkill Castle - 2005 Members' Summer Outing
Penkill Castle

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 1466.
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 distance.”

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 old kitchen!

For more information on the Pre-Raphaelites, follow this link.

Isabel Garrett.






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