architecture, belvedere, Dumfries and Galloway, eyecatcher, Folly, garden history, landscape, Summerhouse, Tower

The Temple, Cally House, Gatehouse of Fleet, Dumfries & Galloway

Tucked in woods behind Cally House (now the Cally Palace Hotel) is an absolutely enchanting little gothic tower, known as The Temple. It was built in the late 18th century as an eyecatcher from the house, but is now surrounded by trees in a sequestered spot.

Cally House was designed by Robert Mylne for James Murray and built in the 1760s. Accounts show that the Temple was constructed in the last years of the 1780s, as a feature in the landscape around the new mansion. During the recent restoration, evidence was found that the tower had probably been lime-washed, thus enhancing its visibility from the house and from the walks and rides in the ornamental demesne. It is hard to imagine now, with the folly surrounded by trees, but old photographs show the view from the tower as an open landscape with clumps, specimen trees and a view to distant hills.

The external staircase leading up to the first floor.

The pleasure grounds at Cally House were laid out by the architect-turned-landscape designer James Ramsay (died 1820), and the folly is attributed to him, although there is little evidence.  A visitor in 1792 found the grounds ‘laid out and decorated with great taste’. His account shows that as well as ornamenting the park, the tower was earning its keep as a dwelling:

‘Within the extent of the pleasure-grounds is a house occupied by a farm-servant, which has been built in the fashion of a Gothic Temple, and to accidental observation has all the effect that might be produced by a genuine antique.’

That ‘farm- servant’ was William Todd, described by a descendant as the drover who looked after the estate’s black cattle. He lived in the tower from around 1782 to 1792, and brought up his family there in that period. Later the temple was said to have been home to ‘the person who had charge of the ornamental ground’.

Looking out into the dense woodland that now surrounds the tower.

In 1939 the Cally House estate was bought by the Forestry Commission, and in the 1930s the mansion (by now remodelled several times) opened as a hotel and was renamed the Cally Palace. The grounds became home to commercial plantations, and the southern third of the pleasure grounds was later cut off by the construction of the busy A75. The little temple slumbered on, dilapidated and roofless, but lost none of its charm, and in 2015 a restoration project was completed that saw it consolidated and secured for the future. The project was overseen by the Gatehouse Development Initiative, which worked with the Forestry Commission and a dedicated group of volunteers to secure funding. The architect for the project was Michael Leybourne, of Savills Dumfries office.

A vignette of the tower drawn by illustrator Hookway Cowles, date unknown, and used on a Christmas card sent by Mrs Murray Usher in the middle of the 20th century.

Few views of the Temple are known, so The Folly Flâneuse was delighted to find this illustration on the excellent Gatehouse Folk website (link below), especially as there is a seasonal connection. The folly featured on a Christmas card, sent in the middle of the last century by the then owner of the Cally Estate, Elizabeth Murray Usher (1903-1990), a descendant of James Murray.  The drawing is signed ‘Hookway Cowles’, not a name that was familar, so some research was needed… Hookway Cowles (1896-1987) was born in Yorkshire and had a peripatetic childhood as the son of a clergyman. He studied art and became an illustrator, working with a number of publishing houses to design dust-jackets, and produce cover images for fashionable magazines. Most famously, he worked on an illustrated edition of the novels of H. Rider Haggard for Macmillan Books. How he came to draw local scenes for Scottish Christmas cards is unknown, but the Folly Flâneuse fears she has digressed enough for now.

The restored temple is cherished by the local community, and has been the focus of projects and events, including inspiring a volume of poetry, which you can see here

Many thanks to Margaret Wright for help with this post. For more on the history of Gatehouse of Fleet see the excellent website

Any thoughts or questions? Please scroll down to the comments box if you would like to get in touch. Thank you for reading.

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8 thoughts on “The Temple, Cally House, Gatehouse of Fleet, Dumfries & Galloway”

  1. Gwyn says:

    Does that railing close off the top of the steps, preventing visitors from plummeting through the open doorway? Shame.
    I presume your writing is informal, and that it’s properly known as the Calexandra Palace Hotel.

  2. Editor says:

    Yes, health and safety and all that, you can’t even get to the door to look in. Afraid it is only you uncouth folk in London who abbreviate the names of your grand edifices!

  3. Gwyn says:

    I don’t know what I was thinking of. Clearly it’s the Caledonian Palace Hotel.

    1. Editor says:

      You’ve spent too many years living just down the road from the Ally Pally!

  4. Julia Abel Smith says:

    The long-suffering heroine of Cally at this period is James Murray’s wife, Lady Catherine Stewart. They married in 1752 when James already had an illegitimate daughter, whom she brought up with affection. However, in 1760s Murray eloped with Grace Johnston, the governess, but Lady Catherine, known to her family as Katie, continued living at Cally. In 1787 Katie wrote to Ann Stewart, née Murray, of Shambellie (I am unsure whether she was the illegitimate daughter) wife of William Stewart, asking her not to mention her husband while ‘his frenzy remains’. Grace and James eventually returned to Cally, which they enlarged to accommodate their four children, and Lady Katie died in 1799.

    1. Editor says:

      Hello Julia and thanks for this fascinating extra information. Is James Murray any relation of Augusta Murray, of Dunmore Pineapple fame, whom you wrote about so movingly recently?

      1. Julia Abel Smith says:

        Yes, indeed – I hope the following explanation might will be clear!

        Lady Augusta Murray’s mother, Charlotte Stewart, was a younger sister of Catherine (Katie), who married James Murray of Broughton and lived at Cally.

        Catherine and Charlotte’s father, 6th Earl of Galloway, was the brother of Lady Euphemia, who was the mother of James Murray.

        Lady Katie therefore married her first cousin, a frequent occurrence at that time.

        Lady Augusta Murray, the subject of my book ‘Forbidden Wife’, was therefore the niece of Lady Katie and cousin, once removed, of James Murray of Broughton. The Stewart family tree at the beginning of the book may be helpful?

        I wonder whether the Temple at Cally was built at the instigation of Lady Catherine or James Murray and Grace Johnston?

        1. Editor says:

          Thanks for summarising the relationship. I will try to investigate further once life returns to something like normal and I can get into archives.

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