Ardgowan, a late 18th century country house, is set in a tranquil 400 acre estate on the Firth of Clyde, Scotland, only 30 minutes from Glasgow International Airport and less than one hour from Prestwick International Airport.
Ardgowan Estate is owned by the Shaw Stewart family and has been in the family for over 600 years. The house is set in the middle of 400 acres of beautiful parkland on the south shores of the Firth of Clyde and is home to Lady Shaw Stewart and her son Sir Ludovic, the 12th Baronet.
The lands of Ardgowan were given to John Stewart by his natural father King Robert 111 of Scotland in 1403. Robert 111 was Robert the Bruce’s great grandson and the estate has been passed down from father to son or uncle to nephew to the present day.
There was a castle at Ardgowan in the 11th Century but the present one dates from the 15th Century. Its predecessor was much fought round in the Wars of Independence, and Robert the Bruce was present at battles here in 1303 and 1314.
Helenor Houston was Sir John Shaw’s grand–daughter and her marriage to Sir Michael Stewart in 1736 greatly enriched the family and led to the building of Ardgowan House. The name Shaw Stewart was born and the estate increased in size as they inherited the western half of Greenock.
Ardgowan House was built between 1798 and 1801 by Sir John Shaw Stewart the 4th Baronet. The house was designed by Hugh Cairncross who was Robert Adam’s assistant when he designed and built Culzean Castle in Ayrshire.
The design for the landscaped parkland around the house still survives. Signed by the designer James Ramsay in 1797, the planting accurately followed his plan. The snowdrops were also planted at this time by Sir John’s wife.
The completed interior was furnished by the firm of Gillows of Lancaster and the walls were hung with paintings collected on successive Grand Tours. To these were added a series of family portraits by Sir Henry Raeburn in 1816 and the portrait of Emperor Napoleon by Lefevre which hangs on the main staircase. This was given to Sir Michael Shaw Stewart, the 6th Baronet, by Napoleon’s mother Mme. Mere whom he had met in Elba. Michael also brought back to Ardgowan the hat which had been worn by Napoleon during the campaign of 1807
Later generations altered the house; William Burn was commissioned to alter the interior, especially the entrance and the staircase in 1835, returning to work here again in 1852. The chapel, designed by Henderson, was added in 1854 and in 1904 Sir Robert Lorimer restored the house and added the conservatory.
In 1854 Jane Shaw Stewart sailed to the Crimea. Like Florence Nightingale, she was a pioneering nursing sister and superintended the hospital at Balaclava.
Ardgowan was used as a military hospital during the Great War 1914 – 1918 and again during the Second World War 1939 – 1945. In August 1941, following an abortive air raid on Greenock, the Luftwaffe dropped a stick of bombs close to Ardgowan. Fortunately there were no casualties but many windows in the house were smashed and Ardgowan gained the dubious distinction of being the first Scottish hospital to be damaged by German bombs.
Over the years farming and forestry have been the traditional enterprises of the estate. However as times have changed the family has diversified into other businesses. Lady Shaw Stewart has developed Ardgowan Antiques, corporate entertaining and residential study tours in Ardgowan House. The home farm at Bankfoot has been developed as Ardgowan Livery offering horse livery services.