At the request of the National Trust for Scotland, an analytical building survey of Culross Palace was undertaken in advance of reharling works for the north, west and east elevations of the north range, and of the north wall and east gable of the lower extension to the east. A full drawn stone-by-stone survey was prepared for the three elevations that were stripped off the existing cement harl; with the south elevation retaining its harling. The survey also included small-scale roof investigations to detect any evidence for earlier roofing materials and for eaves and verge details; however no evidence survived. A brief desk-based study informed the analytical assessment.
Construction breaks and remains of quoining indicated the survival of an earlier structure, incorporated and enlarged by Sir George Bruce’s remodelling of the north range in 1611. The earlier building generally corresponds with the footprint of the existing structure, but was smaller in its southern extent. MacGibbon & Ross recognised similar evidence in the 1880s, which they interpreted as an earlier stable.
The new survey also identified crosswall remains and cill stones that suggest the previous existence of a stair tower at the rear. This would have provided access to the hall at attic level in a more elegant manner than the existing internal turnpike stair within the west room on the first floor. A rear stair tower would also mirror the arrangement of the west range, remodelled by Bruce only 15 years earlier.
Evidence for reset quoins, inserted flues and apparently blocked fireplaces combine to suggest a now lost west extension; this apparently of similar height than the extisting north range. Historic photographs underpin the evidence for a pre-existing west extension because the west gable of the existing north range is shown without crowsteps. This implies that the roof had at some point continued further west – the present crowsteps must have been rebuilt with reused stones, probably after the National Trust for Scotland acquired the building in 1932. Some of the stones used to block flues and fireplaces serving the west extension retained internal plaster and paint on their underside – a possible resource for paint analysis, as they were most likely reused from a demolished building on site, perhaps even from the demolished west extension. Further details such as the removal and rebuilding of the east dormer at rear, the reduction in height of the loading door to the east extension loft and the complete reroofing in pantiles all combine to reveal that Culross Palace’s north range has a far richer building history than the overall presentation of a homogenous structure might suggest at first glance.