Basic Biographical Details

Name: James Adam
Designation: Architect
Born: 21 July 1732
Died: 20 October 1794
Bio Notes: James Adam was born in 1732 in Edinburgh, the third son of William Adam and his wife Mary Robertson and the younger brother of John and Robert Adam. He was already a competent draughtsman in his early twenties. He made a tour of Italy from 1760 to 1763. He was accompanied by the draughtsman George Richardson and in Venice he was joined by the French architectural draughtsman Charles-Louis Clérisseau who went with him to Rome. From there he visited Naples and Paestum and although the intention was to continue to Greece and Sicily, this did not happen. He kept a journal during his trip and it shows the critical attitude to Palladio and an interest in ‘grotesque’ and Pompiean decoration. This type of decoration later appeared in the introduction to ‘The Works of Robert and James Adam’. In personality James Adam lacked the drive, ambition and genius of Robert. He was clearly happy to remain in his shadow as junior partner in the firm in London rather than setting himself up independently. Robert had already established the Adam style by the time he returned from the study tour and James seems to have had little input into its development. However he does share the credit for the many buildings he and Robert designed together. A small number of buildings were designed by James on his own but these do not truly reflect his talent.

James was also responsible for four buildings in Glasgow which were all built after Robert’s death in 1792. Although the Infirmary in Glasgow was a joint design, James is credited with the design of the Tron Church and the Assembly Rooms in ‘The Picture of Glasgow’ (1812). James signed the drawings St George’s Episcopal Chapel in York Place, Edinburgh and was also probably responsible for the adjoining manse.

In 1769 James succeeded his brother as Architect to the King’s Works when Robert was elected MP for Kinross. James continued in this post until it was abolished in 1782.

In the 1770s James acquired an estate in Essex. He published a book on agriculture which was a compilation of writings by other authors. It was not at the time considered to be a particularly useful book. He also planned a treatise on architecture but this was never completed. He invented what he called the ‘Britannic Order’ and a sketch by him for a ‘Chapiteau Ecossais’ survives. Three of James’ architectural sketch books are in the Clerk of Penicuik archive at Penicuik House.

James Adam died in London on 20 October 1794.


'Practical Essays on Agriculture' (1789)

Portrait by Allan Ramsay about 1754. (Laing Art Gallery, Newcastle-upon-Tyne). Another portrait by Pompeo Batoni executed while James Adam was in Rome is illustrated in 'Robert Adam and His Circle'.

Employment and Training


The following individuals or organisations employed or trained this architect (click on an item to view details):
 NameDate fromDate toPositionNotes
Item 1 of 1R & J Adam17581794Partner 

Buildings and Designs

This architect was involved with the following buildings or structures from the date specified (click on an item to view details):
 Date startedBuilding nameTown, district or villageIslandCity or countyCountryNotes
Item 1 of 101 27 Portland Place  LondonEngland 
Item 2 of 1011750sWestminster Abbey, monuments  LondonEngland 
Item 3 of 1011750Hopetoun HouseAbercorn West LothianScotlandCompletion
Item 4 of 1011753Cumnock ChurchCumnock AyrshireScotland 
Item 5 of 1011753Yester House, St Bothan's ChapelYester East LothianScotlandProbably designed Gothic facade to truncated church to serve as burial place for 4th Marquess of Tweeddale
Item 6 of 1011754Dumfries HouseCumnock (near) AyrshireScotland 
Item 7 of 1011755Culzean Castle  AyrshireScotlandWas approached for commission to design a villa - scheme not carried out.
Item 8 of 1011756Newhall HouseGifford East LothianScotlandAlterations or additions contemplated - not carried out?
Item 9 of 1011757Craigiehall BridgeSouth Queensferry West LothianScotland 
Item 10 of 1011759Craigiehall TempleSouth Queensferry West LothianScotland 
Item 11 of 1011761Bowood House  WiltshireEnglandMausoleum - in memory of the 1st Earl
Item 12 of 101c. 1761Duff House  BanffshireScotlandFireplace in private dining room
Item 13 of 1011762St Nicholas' Chapel, Monument to Sir Benjamin Keene (d.1757)King's Lynn NorfolkEngland 
Item 14 of 1011763Kedleston Church, Monument to Sir Nathaniel Curzon (d. 1758)  DerbyshireEngland 
Item 15 of 1011763St Michael Penkevil Church, Monument to Admiral Edward Boscawen (d.1761)  CornwallEngland 
Item 16 of 101After 1763Mersham Church, tablet to Sir William Knatchbull (d.1763)Mersham KentEngland 
Item 17 of 1011766Auchincruive  AyrshireScotlandInteriors
Item 18 of 1011767Cullen House and estate buildingsCullen BanffshireScotlandMinor works including broad staircase - in conjunction with brother John. Also Ionic entrance gateway design on his own.
Item 19 of 1011767Design for a castellated house, Lowther   WestmorlandEngland 
Item 20 of 1011767Luton Hoo  BedfordshireEnglandLeft incomplete in 1774. Probably also designed stables.
Item 21 of 1011767The Shire and Town HallHertford HertfordshireEnglandMainly responsible?
Item 22 of 101After 1768Castle Upton, mausoleum in memory of Hon. Arthur Upton (d.1768)  Co. AntrimNorthern Ireland 
Item 23 of 101After 1769Romsey Abbey Church, tablet to Lady Palmerston (d.1769)  HampshireEngland 
Item 24 of 1011770Hitchin Priory  HertfordshireEnglandDesigns drawn up for remodelling old house and for new house on different site - neither was executed. However new south front based on the designs of the Adam brothers.
Item 25 of 1011771House, Mansfield Street and Duchess Street  LondonEnglandRebuilding
Item 26 of 1011773Alnwick Bridge  NorthumberlandEngland 
Item 27 of 1011773Caldwell HouseUplawmoor RenfrewshireScotland 
Item 28 of 1011774Ardencaple HouseHelensburgh DunbartonshireScotlandCastellated addition
Item 29 of 1011774The OaksCarshalton SurreyEnglandTemporary garden pavilion for fete-champetre held on 9 June 1774.
Item 30 of 101After 1774Worcester Cathedral, monument to Bishop James Johnson (d.1774)  WorcesterEngland 
Item 31 of 1011775Hampton  MiddlesexEnglandAlterations to villa, probably including the remodelling of the portico.
Item 32 of 1011775Kelburn Castle grounds including monument to 3rd Earl of Glasgow (d. 1775)Kelburn AyrshireScotlandMonument to the 3rd Earl
Item 33 of 1011775Milton Abbey Church, table tomb to Lady Milton  DorsetEngland 
Item 34 of 1011775Moccas Court  HertfordshireEnglandDraw up plans for house. Executed not by the Adams but by A Keck.
Item 35 of 1011775The ElmsEpsom SurreyEnglandAdditions and alterations
Item 36 of 101c. 1775Combe BankSundridge KentEnglandAddition of two wings with domed pavilions. One built at this time, the other later.
Item 37 of 101c. 1775Woolton Hall  LancashireEngland'Greatly enlarged'
Item 38 of 1011776Hendon PlaceHendon MiddlesexEnglandNew front
Item 39 of 1011776Knowsley  LancashireEnglandDairy
Item 40 of 1011776Nostell Priory  YorkshireEnglandNew wings begun but work suspended. Finally completed in 1875.
Item 41 of 1011776Wenvoe Castle  GlamorganWalesCastle style house. Plans carried out with some modifications.
Item 42 of 1011777Hulne Park, Brizlee TowerAlnwick NorthumberlandEngland 
Item 43 of 1011777Mamhead  DevonEnglandEnlarged ('probably')
Item 44 of 1011777Wormleybury  HertfordshireEnglandInterior decoration
Item 45 of 101c. 1777The OaksCarshalton SurreyEnglandCastellated additions to house - begun but never completed.
Item 46 of 1011778Botanic Gardens, memorial urn to Carl Linnaeus  EdinburghScotland 
Item 47 of 1011778Langside  RenfrewshireScotland 
Item 48 of 1011778Old Calton Burying Ground, Monument to David Hume (d.1776)  EdinburghScotland 
Item 49 of 1011778Weald Hall  EssexScotlandDecoration of dining room
Item 50 of 1011780Byram Hall  YorkshireEnglandDecoration of library etc.
Item 51 of 1011780Column in memory of the 3rd Duke of Queensberry (d.1778)Dumfries DumfriesshireScotland 
Item 52 of 101c. 1780Mistley Hall with Swan Fountain and nearby cottages  EssexEnglandAlterations
Item 53 of 101c. 1780Oxenfoord Castle  MidlothianScotlandRemodelling
Item 54 of 1011781Moccas Court  HertfordshireEnglandCeiling etc of circular drawing room
Item 55 of 101After 1781St Michael's Graveyard, monument to Hugh Lawson (d.1781)Dumfries DumfriesshireScotlandProbably
Item 56 of 1011782Dalquharran Castle  AyrshireScotlandColvin gives 1789-90
Item 57 of 1011782Jerviston HouseMotherwell LanarkshireScotland 
Item 58 of 101After 1782Heston Church, monument to Robert Child (d. 1782)Heston MiddlesexEngland 
Item 59 of 1011783Castle Upton  Co. AntrimNorthern IrelandAlterations
Item 60 of 1011784Brasted Place  KentEngland 
Item 61 of 1011785Ashburnham Place  SussexEnglandEntrance lodges
Item 62 of 1011785Sunnyside HouseLiberton EdinburghScotland 
Item 63 of 101c. 1785Houses on South Bridge and Hunter Square  EdinburghScotlandScheme drawn up but not executed. Kay's scheme used instead.
Item 64 of 1011786Marlborough HouseBrighton SussexEnglandRemodelling
Item 65 of 1011787Glasserton House  WigtownshireScotland 
Item 66 of 1011787Kirkdale HouseCarsluith KirkcudbrightshireScotlandOriginal house by Robert Adam. Bridge designed by Adam and also probably the octagonal farmstead.
Item 67 of 1011787MilburnEsher SurreyEngland 
Item 68 of 1011788BarholmCreetown (near) KirkcudbrighthsireScotland 
Item 69 of 1011788Castle Upton  Co. AntrimNorthern IrelandFurther alterations and castellated stables.
Item 70 of 1011789Balmakewan House  AberdeenshireScotlandDrew up design - not executed.
Item 71 of 1011789Buscombe HouseHare Hatch BerkshireEnglandProbably remodelling
Item 72 of 1011789NewlistonKirkliston West LothianScotland 
Item 73 of 1011789Yester HouseGifford East LothianScotlandRemodelling of centre of north front
Item 74 of 101c. 1789WyresideGarstang (near) LancashireEnglandAlterations and additions including portico.
Item 75 of 1011790sMonymusk House  AberdeenshireScotlandProvided chimneypiece for grewt hall - swept away 1937
Item 76 of 1011790Airthrey CastleBridge of Allan StirlingshireScotland 
Item 77 of 1011790Alva Churchyard, Johnstone Family Mausoleum, Monument to John Johnstone     
Item 78 of 1011790Archerfield  East LothianScotlandRemodelling of interior
Item 79 of 1011790Balavil HouseKingussie Inverness-shireScotland 
Item 80 of 1011790ChampfleurieKingscavil, Linlithgow  ScotlandDesigned plan for house. Bears no relation to present house which is a late 19th century tower-house, L-plan, beef-red sandstone.
Item 81 of 1011790Cluny CastleCluny AberdeenshireScotlandProposals for duplicating 17th century house
Item 82 of 1011790Dunbar Castle  East LothianScotland 
Item 83 of 1011790Glencarse House  PerthshireScotland 
Item 84 of 1011790Seton House  East LothianScotland 
Item 85 of 1011790Tulloch CastleDingwall Ross and CromartyScotlandCastellated folly called Caisteal Gorach.
Item 86 of 1011790Westerkirk Churchyard, Johnstone family mausoleum for Sir James JohnstoneWesterkirk DumfriesshireScotland 
Item 87 of 101c. 1790Fullarton House, piers terminating forecourt walls and stables  AyrshireScotlandCastellated stables and farm buildings. Also possibly gatepiers (Close & Rich).
Item 88 of 101c. 1790(?)Udny HouseTeddington MiddlesexEnglandProbably added picture gallery about this date.
Item 89 of 1011791Walkinshaw HousePaisley (near) RenfrewshireScotland 
Item 90 of 1011792Dalkeith House  MidlothianScotlandBridge over River Esk in grounds (Montagu Bridge)
Item 91 of 1011792Glasgow Infirmary  GlasgowScotlandMainly responsible at least at stage of execution.
Item 92 of 1011792Mauldslie CastleCarluke LanarkshireScotland 
Item 93 of 1011792St George's Episcopal Church and Manse  EdinburghScotlandSigned the drawings - may be largely responsible.
Item 94 of 1011792Stobs CastleCavers RoxburghshireScotland 
Item 95 of 1011793Balbardie HouseBathgate West LothianScotland 
Item 96 of 1011793Barony Church  GlasgowScotland 
Item 97 of 1011793Tron Kirk  GlasgowScotlandRebuilding. Credited with designing this on his own.
Item 98 of 1011794Dalkeith House  MidlothianScotlandEntrance gates from Dalkeith
Item 99 of 1011795Parish ChurchLasswade MidlothianScotland 
Item 100 of 1011796The Assembly Rooms  GlasgowScotlandMainly responsible for design?
Item 101 of 1011955Craigiehall GrottoSouth Queensferry West LothianScotland 


Bibliographic References

The following books contain references to this architect:
Item 1 of 6APSD The Dictionary of Architectureed Wyatt PapworthThe Architectural Publication Society (8v 1852-1892) 
Item 2 of 6Bolton, A T1922The Architecture of Robert and James Adam 1758-1794   
Item 3 of 6Close, Rob and Riches, Anne2012The Buildings of Scotland: Ayrshire & Arran New Haven and London: Yale University Pressp107
Item 4 of 6Colvin, Howard2008A Biographical Dictionary of British Architects 1600-1840 London: YUP. 4th edition 
Item 5 of 6Fleming, John1962Robert Adam and his Circle   
Item 6 of 6Fleming, John1984James Adam in Naples Oxford , China and Italy, Writings in Honour of Harold Acton, ed. Chaney & Ritchie 

Periodical References

The following periodicals contain references to this architect:
 Periodical NameDateEditionPublisherNotes
Item 1 of 1The Library of Fine Arts1831ii, nos 9-10 James Adam's Italian journal published in this journal.

Archive References

The following archives hold material relating to this architect:
 SourceArchive NameSource Catalogue No.Notes
Item 1 of 2Penicuik HouseArchive  Architectural sketchbooks of James Adam.
Item 2 of 2Soane MuseumSoane Museum Collection James Adam sketches in volume vii of Adam drawings.