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James Brown and the history of Coo Palace

Posted by Katy Peck on 25 July 2019
Related property: Coo Palace
James Brown and the history of Coo Palace

As work speeds ahead at Coo Palace, we thought we’d start The Coo Palace Story right at the very beginning… with a glimpse into the rich history of this fascinating building.

The Corseyard Farm and Model Dairy, also known as Coo Palace, was constructed in the early 20th Century. Although still far cry from the luxury holiday properties it will soon become, the building was actually originally built as grand accommodation of a completely different kind… a home for millionaire James Brown’s prize Belted Galloway cows!

James Brown was half of Affleck & Brown, owners of department store once regarded as the ‘Harrods of the North’. He retired to south west Scotland around 1895, where he began an extensive building programme on his house and estate.

Brown himself had a keen interest in the Arts & Crafts movement, which was reaching its peak at around this time, and he used his fortune to indulge his passion. The movement focused on traditional craftsmanship and traditional forms, using folk, romantic and medieval styles of decoration.

Recently, we spoke to Elizabeth Brown – James Brown’s granddaughter-in-law – who still owns some of his precious artefacts and collectables. Brown liked to use local craftsmen to make some spectacular pieces for his collection. Some of the items which Elizabeth kindly shared with us included a gold peacock, which works as a fire screen. 

In addition, Elizabeth told us how James’ wife didn’t share his love of silver teapots. In attempt to change her mind, he had the above jacket made by a local silversmith for the 'brown-betty teapot', in the hopes that she would like a decorated one. We don’t know whether it swayed her opinion, but it’s certainly a spectacular piece! Last but not least, the glass and gold pot with the eagle lid was his ink well – perfect for a man of his stature, we’re sure you’ll agree!

As well as sharing these gems with us, Elizabeth has also been speaking with Conker Interiors regarding the interior design for the renovated Coo Palace; her assistance has been invaluable, and ensures that the holiday properties will honour James Brown’s original ideals and passions; including the traditional craftsmanship and elegant, simple shapes of his beloved Arts & Crafts movement.

After all, Coo Palace was nothing if not another tribute to James Brown’s love of design. Constructed with a mixture of Arts & Crafts, Art Nouveau and the Italian style in mind, it’s certainly the most elaborate dairy farm that we’ve ever seen!

The complex consisted of a milk parlour, cart shed and stabling, as well as the unmissable 23-metre-high water tower. Nestled amongst the wild and beautiful countryside of the Borgue Coast in Dumfries & Galloway, the building was and remains a significant local landmark. 

Coo Palace was a careful combination of modern (for the time) agricultural solutions, innovative materials and unique, beautiful details. It was, quite simply, a perfect mixture of style and function. With curved finials, decorative glazed tiles, Roman-style roofs and Palladian water troughs, the cows which lived here must have been some of the best cared for in Scotland! And just take a look at these beautiful tiles decorating the old horse stalls in the stables. These are just one example of the care and attention which went into every corner and aspect of the building.

Sadly, Coo Palace fell into serious disrepair following James Brown’s death. It was a functioning dairy until 1984, with 120 cows, but was sold in 1986. In 1991 it was A-Listed by Historic Scotland as an ‘important building at risk’. It was bought and sold by various owners over the years, before it was chosen to become the latest addition to our collection of holiday properties. A century after its creation, we’re working to breathe some of that original life back into this precious building – the perfect mixture of beauty and practicality, surrounded by some of the most breathtaking scenery in the region.

Keep your eyes open for more updates on construction at Coo Palace and how we’re going about transforming this magnificent old building. In the meantime, make sure to find out more about how you can be one of the first to enjoy a holiday here, as well as enjoy our 30+ other holiday properties.

Katy Peck

Katy Peck

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