Argyll and Bute

Former Ascog Parish Church
©2022 Gazetteer for Scotland

Former Ascog Parish Church

A prosperous settlement on the east coast of the island of Bute, Argyll and Bute, Ascog lies 2 miles (3 km) southeast of Rothesay to the east of Loch Ascog. Ascog overlooks the Firth of Clyde and offers spectacular views east to Great Cumbrae and the Scottish mainland beyond.

The Ascog Estate, including a mill, Loch Ascog and Nether and Over Ascog, was bought by John Stewart of Kilchattan in 1594. A little coal seam here was worked in the 17th C. and there was a salt pan at Ascog Point in the 18th C., while on the shore to the north of Ascog Bay, next to Montford, the mill operated until c.1870. In 1831, it became the property of hydraulic engineer Robert Thom (1774 - 1847) but was divided after his death, although with strict conditions applied to building plots to maintain the exclusivity of the settlement. The 17th-century Ascog House is now owned by the Landmark Trust, while Meikle Ascog (originally Ascog Lodge), built as its more commodious successor, remains in private hands. Most of the other properties were built by wealthy Glasgow merchants, including Ascog Hall which dates from 1844 and has an unusual Victorian Fernery that is open to the public. Other fine Victorian villas, all set in substantial grounds, include Ascogbank (c.1833), Balmory Hall (1861; formerly the Laidlaw Memorial Home), Millburn House (c.1870) and Southpark (later 19th C.). Ascog Mansions was once Blair Lodge, the home to a sister of the Marquess of Bute, but became the Railway Convalescent Home in 1924. Its ornate whitewashed gateway remains. Anne's Lodge (now demolished) was built as a holiday home for Glasgow cotton merchant Robert Bartholomew (d.1855), inherited by his daughter Susan Henn (1853 - 1911), the first woman to compete in the America's Cup (1886), and then by her cousin Robert Bontine Cunningham-Graham, the romantic adventurer who became known as Don Roberto (1852 - 1936). To the south, towards Kerrycroy, is The Hermitage, another fine Victorian house, which was home to the artist and garden designer Edward La Trobe Bateman (1816-97).

At the instigation of David Bell of Old Craigmore House and Robert Thom (1774 - 1847), the Italianate former Ascog Parish Church was built in 1842 by the Glasgow architect David Hamilton (1768 - 1843) as a Chapel-of-Ease for Kingarth. However, in the aftermath of the Disruption, it opened as a Free Church the following year, perhaps the first Free Church building in Scotland. Having lain empty since 1999, this was converted to form a private house in 2012. The painter Montague Stanley died in Ascog in 1844 and is buried next to this church. A German-designed Huf house was built behind Ascog in 2011.

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