The Maxwell at Glenlair Trust

James Clerk MaxwellGlenlair House, near Corsock in Dumfries & Galloway, is famous as the home of the eminent scientist, Professor James Clerk Maxwell. Born in Edinburgh in 1831, Professor Clerk Maxwell moved with his father John to Glenlair soon afterwards and lived there until his death on November 5, 1879. The house was largely destroyed by fire in 1929, although the oldest part designed by Walter Newall was completely renovated in 1993 by the present owner Captain Duncan Ferguson for use by his mother.

Glenlair is the Home Farm of the original estate of Middlebie and is now a 120 acre (52 ha) farm of which 80 acres is under grassland, the remaining 40 or so acres in amenity and semi-natural woodland, which provides shelter from almost all directions. Two water courses, the larger River Urr and its tributary the Glenlair Burn, occur on the farm forming valuable wildlife corridors. The River Urr in particular is a valuable Trout and Salmon river.

Panoramic view of Glenlair House and CottageThe Ferguson family have occupied Glenlair for over 50 years, having moved there in February 1950. Col. Ferguson died in 1966, and his widow Jean in January 2001 having lived for five years in the renovated Servant’s Quarters of Glenlair House. In 1994, Duncan & Henrietta moved in to the old Gardener’s Cottage, which has been extensively enlarged and modernised since Maxwell’s day. Their energies are directed at restoring as much of the old walks, gardens and woodlands as possible, with particular emphasis on the creation of wildlife habitats and conservation of all forms of flora and fauna. Having now completed the stabilization of the ruins of Glenlair House and established a visitors’ centre in the original porch, they are turning their attention to restoring the farm buildings built by Maxwell and designed by Walter Newall. These contain many unique features, including stabling for shire horses and thru-floor pig-feeders long since removed from other farmyards.

Glenlair Birdseye View

A bird’s eye view of Glenlair

A bird’s eye view of Glenlair on the 190th anniversary of the birth of James Clerk Maxwell prepared for the Orkney Science Festival 2021.

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Glenlair Yard Entrance

Visit by Professor Isobel Falconer

On a beautiful summer’s day, Professor Isobel Falconer, accompanied by her daughter Jennifer paid a visit to James Clerk Maxwell’s home at Glenlair. Until recently Isobel was the curator of the Cavendish Museum in Cambridge and as one might expect her knowledge of Maxwell and his life was encyclopaedic! One very interesting outcome of the …

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Damaged Lintel

Recent Repairs and Maintenance

After a somewhat hectic year in 2016, we have taken the opportunity to carry out essential work on the building to ensure its continued survival. All windows and gutters were cleaned and painted, and a broken lintel was gingerly replaced.

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In the Woods

Visit by a group from Quests and Retreats

On a somewhat overcast and rather driech day, Glenlair was enlivened by the arrival of a group of enthusiasts led by Dr. Jan Hogarth and accompanied by the renowned harpist Wendy Stewart intent on discovering just how the setting, the scenery and the landscape influenced Professor James Clerk Maxwell in his pursuit of those mysterious …

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