Basic Biographical Details

Name: John Adam
Designation: Architect
Born: 1721
Died: 25 June 1792
Bio Notes: John Adam was born in 1721, the eldest son of William Adam architect and his wife Mary Robertson, and older brother of Robert and James Adam. He was educated at Dalkeith Grammar School but involvement in his fatherís busy practice prevented him from attending the University of Edinburgh. During the 1740s he gradually took over running the practice and administering his fatherís affairs. When William Adam died on 24 June 1748 John succeeded him as laird of Blair Adam and he was appointed ĎKingís Masoní very soon after his fatherís death. His appointment was reported in the Scots Magazine of 1 July 1748.

John immediately took his brother Robert into partnership. Between 1748 and 1758 they completed a number of contracting projects in the Highlands which were good money spinners including Fort George, which William Adam had undertaken after the 1745 rebellion. They also inherited his extensive architectural practice which, until Robert went to London and established himself there, continued to be run as a family partnership. John Adamís forte was business acumen rather than architectural talent. However he was a competent architect using English Palladian formulae. Those buildings he designed before 1760 were done so jointly with Robert Adam.

In 1761 John Adam was involved with the Society for Promoting the reading and Speaking of the English Language in Scotland and became an ordinary director.

About 1770 John Adam gave up architecture at a time when Robertís talents became obvious. He did continue as an advisor on bridges and other structures within Edinburgh. In 1768 he reported on the safety of a shop in High Street (owned by Alexander Dewar of Vogrie) opposite the Tron Kirk if the proposed alterations were carried out. In 1777 he reported with James Craig on the safety of a factory if the proposed in Bridge Street, Edinburgh, the doors and windows of which were to be enlarged.

He employed Robert and James to make designs for rebuilding Blair Adam although these were never executed. He continued to be involved in the business affairs of his brothers. After the failure of Fairholmeís Bank in 1763 he found himself in financial difficulties and the firm William Adam & Co. was established as a result. When the speculation at the Adelphi in London ended in disaster he mortgaged Blair Adam in order to avoid bankruptcy. His own business ventures included the sale of stone from the Aberdeen quarries and a partnership in the Carron Iron Works. It is possible that he was also the proprietor of a bleachfield in Maryburgh, Kinross-shire which was to be let in 1760. It was set up the year before. Applications in the newpaper advertisement advertising this stated 'Apply Mr John Adam, architect, Edinburgh, the proprietor, or Robert Burns of Barns'. There is some small ambiguity in the advertisement in that Adam and the proprietor may be two different people, although it seems unlikely.

John Adam died on 25 June 1792, leaving the Balir Adam estate to his only surviving son William Adam.

Private and Business Addresses

The following private or business addresses are associated with this architect:
 AddressTypeDate fromDate toNotes
Item 1 of 1Blair Adam, Perthshire, Scotland    

Employment and Training

Employees or Pupils

The following individuals were employed or trained by this architect (click on an item to view details):
 NameDate fromDate toPositionNotes
Item 1 of 1George Richardson  Apprentice 

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 56c. 1745Braemar CastleBraemar AberdeenshireScotlandRoofless turrets with crenallations and star-shaped curtain wall.
Item 2 of 56c. 1745House for Andrew Fletcher, Lord Milton  EdinburghScotland 
Item 3 of 56c. 1745Skene House  AberdeenshireScotlandBroader SE wing to balance NW wing
Item 4 of 561750Banff CastleBanff BanffshireScotlandRebuilding
Item 5 of 561750Hopetoun HouseAbercorn West LothianScotlandCompletion
Item 6 of 56c. 1750Tweeddale Lodging  EdinburghScotlandAllterations
Item 7 of 561751Argyll Arms HotelInveraray ArgyllScotland 
Item 8 of 561751Buchanan CastleDrymen Stirlingshire/DunbartonshireScotlandAlterations to house and gardens
Item 9 of 561751Dalkeith House  MidlothianScotlandRepair and refacing
Item 10 of 561751Douglas Castle  LanarkshireScotland
Item 11 of 561752Scheme for uniting Edinburgh Old and New Towns  EdinburghScotland 
Item 12 of 561753Castle GrantGrantown-on-Spey MorayshireScotlandAdditions
Item 13 of 561753Edinburgh City Chambers  EdinburghScotland 
Item 14 of 561753Mausoleum to William Adam, Greyfriars Churchyard  EdinburghScotland 
Item 15 of 561753Yester HouseGifford East LothianScotlandGates at end of village avenue.
Item 16 of 56c. 1753Gunsgreen HouseEyemouth BerwickshireScotlandAttribution
Item 17 of 561754Arniston House  MidlothianScotlandDining room and drawings rooms on west side (Building of scotland gives date as 1753)
Item 18 of 561754Custom HouseLeith EdinburghScotlandEnlargement
Item 19 of 561754Dumfries HouseCumnock (near) AyrshireScotlandContinued designs after his father's death in 1748. Also designed large frame above chimneypiece and Avenue Bridge.
Item 20 of 561755Craigiehall GrottoSouth Queensferry West LothianScotland 
Item 21 of 561755House at Drumsheugh  EdinburghScotland 
Item 22 of 561755Inveraray Courthouse and PrisonInveraray ArgyllScotlandTownhouse or courthouse
Item 23 of 561756Lord Lovat's House  EdinburghScotlandConversion of house into an office for the Commissioners of Annexed Estates.
Item 24 of 561757Craigiehall BridgeSouth Queensferry West LothianScotland 
Item 25 of 561757Hawkhill VillaLeith EdinburghScotland 
Item 26 of 561757Wardhouse  AberdeenshireScotlandAttribution - may be Adam or Douglas
Item 27 of 561758Inveraray Castle estate, Gothic Bridge over River ArrayInveraray ArgyllScotland 
Item 28 of 561758Paxton House  BerwickshireScotland 
Item 29 of 56c. 1758Yester HouseGifford East LothianScotlandInterior of great saloon. In collaboration with Robert Adam.
Item 30 of 561759Craigiehall TempleSouth Queensferry West LothianScotland 
Item 31 of 561759Inveraray Castle Estate, Elliptical Garden or Frew's BridgeInveraray ArgyllScotlandFrank Walker gives 1758.
Item 32 of 561760Ballochmyle HouseMauchline AyrshireScotland 
Item 33 of 561760Inveraray Castle estate, Court of Offices, Cherry ParkInveraray ArgyllScotland 
Item 34 of 561761Moffat HouseMoffat DumfriesshireScotland 
Item 35 of 561761The Whim  PeeblesshireScotlandAddition of library (forming south wing)
Item 36 of 56c. 1761Duff House  BanffshireScotlandFireplace in private dining room
Item 37 of 561762George Heriot's Hospital  EdinburghScotlandGateway and porter's lodge on the north side. Now demolished.
Item 38 of 561763Kerse House  StirlingshireScotlandOffices. Not clear if these were built.
Item 39 of 561763Moy HouseForres MorayshireScotlandInternal alterations. 'Buildings of Scotland' attributes the design of the house to John Adam.
Item 40 of 561763Terrace of three houses, Adam Square  EdinburghScotland 
Item 41 of 561764Buchanan ChurchMilton of Buchanan StirlingshireScotland 
Item 42 of 561764Gordon CastleFochabers MorayshireScotlandProvided design - in consultation with the duke's surveyor Abraham Roumieu.
Item 43 of 561764Tolbooth SteepleBanff BanffshireScotlandBy 'Mr Adam'
Item 44 of 561765Castle GrantGrantown-on-Spey MorayshireScotlandAdditions
Item 45 of 561765GranaryPortsoy BanffshireScotland 
Item 46 of 561766Auchincruive  AyrshireScotlandInteriors
Item 47 of 561766Dunrobin CastleDunrobin SutherlandScotlandQuadrangular stables (uncertain if actually built. If built they were destroyed by fire in 1790)
Item 48 of 561767Cullen House and estate buildingsCullen BanffshireScotlandMinor works including broad staircase. In conjunction with brother James.
Item 49 of 561767Luton Hoo  BedfordshireEnglandLeft incomplete in 1774. Probably also designed stables.
Item 50 of 561768Craig Castle  AberdeenshireScotlandNew wing
Item 51 of 561770Lower North Water BridgeSt Cyrus KincardineshireScotlandWith John Smeaton and Andrew Barrie
Item 52 of 561770North Water Bridge over the North EskSt Cyrus KincardineshireScotlandAdvised on design
Item 53 of 561772Troup House  BanffshireScotlandMay have given advice on construction.
Item 54 of 561775Blair Adam  Kinross-shireScotlandExtension of wings and addition of porch
Item 55 of 561776Nostell Priory  YorkshireEnglandNew wings begun but work suspended. Finally completed in 1875.
Item 56 of 561790sMonymusk House  AberdeenshireScotlandProvided chimneypiece for great hall - swept away 1937


Bibliographic References

The following books contain references to this architect:
Item 1 of 8Campbell, R H1961Carron Company Edinburgh 
Item 2 of 8Close, Rob and Riches, Anne2012The Buildings of Scotland: Ayrshire & Arran New Haven and London: Yale University Pressp633
Item 3 of 8DNB Dictionary of National Biography  Old DNB. Entry by A A Tait.
Item 4 of 8Fleming, John1962Robert Adam and his Circle   
Item 5 of 8King, David2001The Complete Works of Robert & James Adam  Appendix C: 'Works done by John Adam on his Own'.
Item 6 of 8Mowat, I R M1983John Adam as Town Plannerno 10Scottish Georgian Society Bulletin 
Item 7 of 8Namier, L and Brooke, J1964The House of Commons 1754-1790  Volume ii, pp8-10
Item 8 of 8Sharples, J, Walker, D W and Woodworth, M2015The Buildings of Scotland: Aberdeenshire South and Aberdeen London and New Haven: Yale University Pressp99

Periodical References

The following periodicals contain references to this architect:
 Periodical NameDateEditionPublisherNotes
Item 1 of 2Architectural ReviewFebruary 1958  Article by T C Barker ' The Aberdeen Quarries'
Item 2 of 2Caledonian Mercury12 December 1761   

Archive References

The following archives hold material relating to this architect:
 SourceArchive NameSource Catalogue No.Notes
Item 1 of 3Edinburgh City ArchivesEdinburgh Dean of Guild19/02/1772 [White & Mitchell]
WARRANT GRANTED: 19 February 1772.
PETITION LODGED: 6 December 1771.
PETITIONER: White & Mitchell, merchants.
SITE: High Street, opposite the Tron Kirk.
PROPOSAL: To enlarge the shop windows.
NOTES: The shop is owned by James Dewar of Vogrie and he had previously applied to the Dean of Guild Court to have an alteration to his shop front. On 29 November 1768 the Court asked John Adam, William Milne and Alexander Gowans, architects to report on the safety of what was proposed and they did so on 1 December 1768, in the affirmative. The matter went to the Court of Session in a bill of advocation by the heritors in the flats above and they insisted on having a cautioner. Dewar wished to stand as his own cautioner but this was not accepted and his petition was refused. A drawing is mentioned in the reclaiming petition of James Dewar of Vogrie to the Court of Session, dated 16 November 1769.

Item 2 of 3Edinburgh City ArchivesEdinburgh Dean of Guild02/04/1777 [Patrick Walker]WARRANT GRANTED: 2 April 1777.
PETITION LODGED: 10 February 1777.
PETITIONER: Patrick Walker, factor appointed by the Court of Session on the estate of the deceased Robert Ranken, ship carpenter in Inverkeithing.
SITE: Bridge Street.
PROPOSAL: Alterations to windows and doors.
NOTES: The factory is dated 23 December 1775. There is a report here dated 1 April 1777 by John Wilson and Alexander Laing, masons on behalf of themselves and John Adam and James Craig, architects, having inspected the tenement in Bridge Street and declared the intended work to be safe.
Item 3 of 3RIBA Archive, Victoria & Albert MuseumRIBA Drawings Collection Sketch book by John Adam of buildings seen in England, 1748.