George Jardine Kidston (1835-1909) had made money as Chairman of the Clyde Shipping Company, the oldest steamship company in the world, which ran tugs on the Clyde and coasters out of Glasgow.
When, after renting Finlaystone for twenty-five years, he finally bought it in 1897, he engaged John James Burnet, a leading commercial architect, to give the house some style and fit it better for his family and for entertainment. The Glasgow-born Burnet had studied at the Institute des Beaux Arts in Paris, so though local he was not parochial.
The ground floor was developed mainly with men and sport (notably fox-hunting) in mind. It was enlarged to accommodate a porch, a cloakroom and a billiard room.
A top storey was inserted in the roof to provide nurseries for grandchildren and a flat for the butler. To balance the new addition to the ground floor, Burnet added a heavy cornice and carved stone crest at the roof line.
Perhaps the most striking feature of Burnet’s interior is the pair of pink marble pillars with a mythological beastie at their base. This was Burnet’s favourite way of ending a stair rail.
While the house ws being altered in 1900, the garden was given its present structure. The John Knox Tree (given its name after John Knox gave his first communion next to the tree in 1556) was moved on railway tracks to let more light into the drawing room of Finlaystone House.
George Kidston’s sister, who came to control the household after his wife died on the birth of their ninth child, ruled on the first floor- a more feminine place of entertainment. The drawing room with its baroque door-case, white marble fireplace, high ceiling, and bow window overlooking the Clyde, is possibly one of the finest of Burnet’s interiors.
Because of his work the house is designated ‘historic’.