Auchinleck House, Ayrshire

Location in Boswell's time: 

Picture of Auchinleck House (May 2013)The present-day Auchinleck House was built ca. 1758-60 by Alexander Boswell, replacing what became known as the Auchinleck Old Place, which was built in 1612. Most remains of an even older castle on the lands had already disappeared by then.

The architecture of the house itself borrows heavily from nearby Dumfries House, which was built just a few years earlier by the Earl of Dumfries. However, being of more limited means that his neighbour, Alexander (then known as Lord Auchinleck, due to his position as a judge in the Court of Sessions) opted for a smaller solution. The architect of Auchinleck House is not known, and it has been speculated that Lord Auchinleck simply told a builder to design a smaller version of Dumfries House with a more compressed main building and without any wings. Even so, Auchinleck House did contain some advanced features for its day, including some very modern plumbing, as was later discovered when the house was renovated in the late 20th century.

The location today: 

Auchinleck House was uninhabited and not taken care of for a few decades until in 1986 it was turned over to the Scottish Historic Buildings Trust (SHBT) by a descendant of the 18th century Boswells. The SHBT did some renovations on the building, before in 1999 Auchinleck House was sold to the Landmark Trust.

It has since been thoroughly renovated and is now open both for visiting and for staying, accomodating up to thirteen guests at a time.

Auchinleck House is located some 4 km west of the village of Auchinleck, and it is most easily accessible by car. If you're not driving yourself, you can take bus X76 from Glasgow via Kilmarnock and get off either at Auchinleck Main Street or a bit further on in the town of Cumnock. A cab (one-way) will cost you around £15-20 from Cumnock. Don't forget to bring your wellies, as the grounds can be rather muddy.

If you decide to stop by Auchinleck itself, don't forget to visit the village church, next to which is the Boswell Mausoleum, the biographer's final resting place. The pub across the road from the church is named Boswell Arms, but apart from that it has no connection with Boswell. 

Association with Boswell: 

Contrary to what was thought by some of his early biographers, James Boswell was almost certainly not born at Auchinleck, which was still in the possession of his grandfather in 1740, but in his father's house in Edinburgh. Boswell's father became the 8th Laird of Auchinleck in 1749, and Boswell himself became the 9th Laird in 1782. Boswell was enormously fond of the place and the surrounding lands, as is documented in his journal and by his surviving correspondence with overseers James Bruce and Andrew Gibb.


Is James Boswell related to....?


Is James Boswell related to....?


Boswell's Circus

The first Boswell's Circus was founded in 1882 by James Clements Boswell, the son of the clown and artist James Boswell (1826-1859). It closed in 1898. J. C. Boswell had five sons who were all artists, and the circus was revived in 1912 as Boswell's Royal Hippodrome and Circus Company. It later became known as Boswell Brother's Circus and Menagerie, and later again as just Boswell's Circus. The artist family of Boswell are not closely, if at all, related to the biographer James Boswell (1740-1795). You can read more about the circus and it's history here.

Eve Boswell

Pop singer Eve Boswell was born Eva Keleti in Budapest, Hungary in 1924. In 1939 she joined Boswell's circus (see above) as an artist. She fell in love with Trevor McIntosh, step-son to one of the owners of the circus, whom she later married. He also taught her English and suggested she change her name to Eve Boswell, after the circus. As is the case with the Boswell family who founded the circus, Eve Keleti Boswell is obviously not related to James Boswell, the biographer. You can read the story of her life in an obituary here.

The Boswell sisters

The Boswell sisters (the Bozzies) was a popular US harmony singing group active in the 1920s and 30s. It consisted of sisters Martha Boswell (1905-1958), Connie Boswell (1907-1976) and Helvetia Boswell (1911-1988), daughters of Alfred Clyde Boswell (1877-1944) and Meldania Foore (1870-1947). According to army records, A. C. Boswell was born in the US in 1877, and there appears to be no immediate connection between him (or his daughters) and James Boswell, the biographer. Read more about there Boswell Sisters here.

Leonard Boswell

US Congressman Leonard Boswell was born 1934 in Missouri, the son of Melvin and Margaret Boswell. I have not been able to trace his ancestry any further at this time.

James Boswell (1906-1971)

The painter James Boswell (1906-1971) was born in New Zealand, the son of Scottish born schoolmaster Edward Blair Buchanan Boswell (1860-1933) and Ida Fair.  Edward B. B. Boswell was born in Lanarkshire, son of James Boswell, who was born in Ormiston, East Lothian about 1832. James was the son of the caster Alexander Boswell and his wife Jane. Alexander's father seems to have been a James Boswell born ca. 1781. While the names James and Alexander runs in both the family of the biographer and of the painter, there is no evidence of any family relation between the two.


Who, then, is related to James Boswell?

The answer to part of that question can be found on the James Boswell desdendancy chart. You are welcome to ask questions about this, as well as other Boswell branches and descendants of James Boswell's ancestor in the forum.

Was James Boswell really a freemason?


Was James Boswell really a freemason?


James Boswell was admitted a Freemason in the Canongate Kilwinning Lodge in Edinburgh on August 14, 1759, probably on a recommendation from his uncle John Boswell. Later on he became Master of his lodge for two terms, and Depute Grand Master of Scotland from 1776 to 1778. Incidentally, the Grand Master of Scotland during Boswell's terms as Depute was his close personal friend Sir William Forbes.

How did James Boswell die?


How did James Boswell die?


Boswell died in the early morning of May 19, 1795, in his London apartment at Great Portland Street. He was buried at Auchinleck a few weeks later.

Boswell's final downfall began when, on April 14 of that year, he suddenly feel ill during a meeting at the club and had to be taken home to his lodgings. From this time on, until his death, he suffered from fever, shiverings, headache and stomach disorder. He remained confident of a recovery until the last, although unable to read, write or even leave his bed.

William Ober, in Boswell's Clap and Other Essays: Medical Analyses of Literary Men's Afflictions (1978), concludes that the actual cause of death was uraemia provoked by an acute recrudescence of chronic urinary tract infections. The book is available via


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