John Adam (1721-1792)

From Wikipedia: “Fort George (Gaelic: Dùn Deòrsa or An Gearastan, the latter meaning literally “the garrison”), is a large 18th-century fortress near Ardersier, to the north-east of Inverness in the Highland council area of Scotland. It was built to control the Scottish Highlands in the aftermath of the Jacobite rising of 1745, replacing a Fort George in Inverness constructed after the 1715 Jacobite rising to control the area. The current fortress has never been attacked and has remained in continuous use as a garrison.

The fortification is based on a star design; it remains virtually unaltered and nowadays is open to visitors with exhibits and facsimiles showing the fort’s use at different periods, while still serving as an army barracks.

Work began in 1748, with Colonel Skinner in charge, and the Adam brothers, John, Robert and later James, acting as contractors, overseeing around 1,000 soldiers who provided labour and defended the site against attack.

The entrance is reached via a ravelin, a free-standing defensive structure incorporating a guardhouse and completely exposed to fire from the main fort, then by a raised wooden walkway, complete with drawbridge (see image), bridging across a wide ditch set between heavily defended bastions. The ditch forms a wide killing ground openly exposed to gunfire from these walls.”

John Adam was born in 1721, the eldest son of William Adam architect and his wife Mary Robertson, and older brother of Robert and James Adam. He was educated at Dalkeith Grammar School but involvement in his father’s busy practice prevented him from attending the University of Edinburgh. During the 1740s he gradually took over running the practice and administering his father’s affairs. When William Adam died on 24 June 1748 John succeeded him as laird of Blair Adam and he was appointed ‘King’s Mason’ very soon after his father’s death. His appointment was reported in the Scots Magazine of 1 July 1748.

John immediately took his brother Robert into partnership. Between 1748 and 1758 they completed a number of contracting projects in the Highlands which were good money spinners including Fort George, which William Adam had undertaken after the 1745 rebellion. They also inherited his extensive architectural practice which, until Robert went to London and established himself there, continued to be run as a family partnership. John Adam’s forte was business acumen rather than architectural talent. However he was a competent architect using English Palladian formulae. Those buildings he designed before 1760 were done so jointly with Robert Adam.

In 1761 John Adam was involved with the Society for Promoting the Reading and Speaking of the English Language in Scotland and became an ordinary director.

About 1770 John Adam gave up architecture at a time when Robert’s talents became obvious. He did continue as an advisor on bridges and other structures within Edinburgh. In 1768 he reported on the safety of a shop in High Street (owned by Alexander Dewar of Vogrie) opposite the Tron Kirk if the proposed alterations were carried out. In 1777 he reported with James Craig on the safety of a factory if the proposed in Bridge Street, Edinburgh, the doors and windows of which were to be enlarged.

He employed Robert and James to make designs for rebuilding Blair Adam although these were never executed. He continued to be involved in the business affairs of his brothers. After the failure of Fairholme’s Bank in 1763 he found himself in financial difficulties and the firm William Adam & Co. was established as a result. When the speculation at the Adelphi in London ended in disaster he mortgaged Blair Adam in order to avoid bankruptcy. His own business ventures included the sale of stone from the Aberdeen quarries and a partnership in the Carron Iron Works. It is possible that he was also the proprietor of a bleachfield in Maryburgh, Kinross-shire which was to be let in 1760. It was set up the year before. Applications in the newpaper advertisement advertising this stated ‘Apply Mr John Adam, architect, Edinburgh, the proprietor, or Robert Burns of Barns’. There is some small ambiguity in the advertisement in that Adam and the proprietor may be two different people, although it seems unlikely.

John Adam died on 25 June 1792, leaving the Blair Adam estate to his only surviving son William Adam.”

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