Cambusnethan Priory, was designed by James Gillespie Graham and completed in 1820. It is generally regarded as being the best remaining example of a Graham-built country house in the quasi-ecclesiastical style of the Gothic revival. It was rented for a short number of years in the early 1960s as an architects office for the team who built the 60s part of Livingston, Scotland. Later it was used as a hotel and restaurant and “mediaeval banqueting hall”, the last use being tenuously linked with William Finnemund, the 12th century, Laird of Cambusnethan.
There was originally a Norman tower house near the site of the present building, and this was replaced by a manor house during the 17th century. The manor house burned down in March 1816,and the present house was commissioned and built in 1820.
The Priory was built for the Lockhart family of Castlehill, their coat of arms being carved above the main entrance and etched in every balustrade of the main staircase inside. The arms represents a casket, heart and lock and derives from the tradition that the ancestors of this family carried Robert the Bruce’s heart back from the holy land. The nearby Cambusnethan Manse (now Elaina Nursing Home, Netherton) was also the birthplace of John Gibson Lockhart, Sir Walter Scott’s biographer and later son in law.
There are few remaining examples of early 19th-century Neo-Gothic mansions remaining in Scotland as many were demolished in the late 1950s and 1960s. Cambusnethan House is a notable building in its own right as a good example of the neo-Gothic style, and also because so few buildings of this type still remain.
The house is two and three storeys high with turrets at each corner, a three-story bow in the west elevation, and a massive square porch. Characteristically, the house was very ornately decorated with a variety of architectural details; castellated roof lines, scrolled pinnacles, narrow pointed windows and drip moulds, and various cornices, besides carved motifs and decorated chimneys. Some of the ornate pinnacles have been removed in the interest of safety, and there had been at a recent extension to the lower ground floor across a sunken passage across the house with a roof flush with ground level.
Karen and Dave Barrett of Project Paranormal did a live investigation here, she states that
” When I first went in, a few people were picking up on a man in a long black coat. They said he wasn’t particularly nice, and that he was watching me throughout. Got the name Rab through on ItC. It. Said he was watching me. Also got 2 women through called Alice and Margaret, and that they were scared as they had been held there. Got a lot of things through like fire, and burned down, and the previous building Cambusnethan House, was burned down before being destroyed and then the priory was built. When I was in the back left turret, something breathed on me. I was the only person there so I’ve no idea what that was.”