William Adam (1689-1748) was the son of John, a Kirkcaldy mason and Helen Cranstoun, daughter of the 3rd Lord Cranstoun. He became a leading light of Scottish architecture; he was, “The Universal Architect of Scotland.”
William Robertson of Gladney
Not content with building his reputation as an architect, Adam was involved in a number of entrepreneurial ventures including, brewing, milling, forestry, agriculture and also brick and Dutch pantile manufacturing with William Robertson of Gladney.
William Adam married Gladney’s daughter Mary Robertson in 1716 and together had four sons and six daughters, the best-known of which are Robert, James and John who became architects of renown.
During his lifetime Adam was awarded a number, estimated at 70, of large architectural commissions of which around one third survive today. They included the substantial remodelling and enlargement of the magnificent Hopetoun House, originally designed and built by Sir William Bruce in 1699, on the outskirts of Edinburgh.
Other notable projects were the new Edinburgh Royal Infirmary, the remodelling of Floors Castle in the Scottish Borders for John the 1st Duke of Roxburghe, Haddo House in Aberdeenshire for the 2nd Earl of Aberdeen and the design, with Roger Morris and others, of Inveraray Castle for the 2nd Duke of Argyll.
In 1730, he was appointed Mason to the Board of Ordinance in North Britain, a position which, following the Jacobite uprising of 1745, provided him a number of lucrative military building contracts. The following year, thanks to his growing wealth he bought Blair Crambeth, a small estate near Kelty in Fife, subsequently re-named Blair Adam.
William Adam died in 1748 and is buried in Greyfriars Kirkyard in Edinburgh in a tomb designed by his son John. His obituary carried in the Caledonian Mercury left us with this thought, “It is fortunate he has left behind some promising young men to carry on what he has so happily begun.”