Biography of Robert Adam

Portrait of Robert Adam

Robert Adam was an eighteenth century architect famed for his interiors.

When and Where was he Born?

3rd July 1728, Kircaldy, Fife, Scotland.

Family Background:

Robert Adam was the son of a Stonemason.


Edinburgh University. (Never graduated due to illness and the upheavals of the ’45 Jacobite Rebellion. (See also Charles Edward Stewart “Bonnie Prince Charlie”)

Timeline of Robert Adam:

1739: Adam moves to Edinburgh at the age of eleven, where his father had become the most popular architect in Scotland.

1748: His father dies when he was 20 and Robert becaomes a member of the family firm now called Adam Brothers.

1750: Adam leaves the firm to go on the “Grand Tour” in France and Italy. He studies widely the classical Roman ruins and increases his drawing skills. On his return to London he opens his own architectural practice and soon becomes established as one of the most fashionable designers amongst the High Society. His Practice is timely as there was a renewed interest in England for all things Classical and the “Palladian Movement” (Based on the proportional architecture of the Italian Andrea Palladio) had just firmly taken hold. Adam was no slavish Palladian however and his style has become known as “neoclassical”. He adapted and developed ancient styles rather than simply copying them.

Fitzroy Square, London
Plaque commemorating Robert Adam as the architect in Fitzroy Square, London (copyright Anthony Blagg)

As Adam was more often than not asked to renovate existing buildings much of his work is concerned with interiors. He was obsessive over every detail and designed everything himself down to plasterwork and fireplaces. He moves beyond Roman Style and is influenced by Greek, Byzantine and Italian Baroque design.

1792: Leases for the construction of Adam’s designs for the eastern and southern sides of Fitroy Square in London are granted and the buildings would be finished after his death by his brothers James and William. The best examples of his exterior work still in existence are Admiralty Arch in London and Bowood House.

When and Where did he Die?

3rd March 1792, 11 Albermarle Street, London, England of a burst peptic ulcer and irritable bowel syndrome whilst at home.

Age at Death:



Never married.

Site of Grave:

Westminster Abbey, London.

Westminster Abbey
Westminster Abbey, London
(copyright Anthony Blagg)

Places of Interest:


Pulteney Bridge, Bath.


Kedleston Hall, Derby, DE22 5JH. (Interiors) (National Trust).


Ugbrooke Park, Chudleigh, TQ13 0AD.
Saltram house, Devon. (National Trust).


Admiralty Arch, The Mall. (Exterior).
Bowood House.
Fitzroy Square. Adam designed eastern and southern sides.
Kenwood, Hamstead, NW3 7JR (English Heritage)
Osterly Park, Jersey Road, Isleworth. (National Trust.)
Royal Society of Arts, 8 John Adam Street, WC2N 6EZ. (Fireplaces)
Sir John Soane’s Museum, has a collection of 9,000 drawings. 13 Lincoln’s Inn Fields, WC2A 3BP.
Apsley House, Now The Wellington Museum, Hyde Park Corner, W1V 9FA.
Kenwood House, Hampstead, NW3 7JR.


Osterley Park, Jersey Road, Isleworth, (Interiors) National Trust
Syon Park, Brentford, Middlesex, IW8 8JF.


Tables: Buscot Park, Oxfordshire. (National Trust).


Theatre and town Hall, Bury St Edmunds.


Hatchlands. (National Trust).


Bowood House and Gardens, Register House, Edinburgh.
Entrance to the Old College, Edinburgh University.
Number 7 Charlotte Square, Edinburgh.
Gosford House, Longniddry, Eh32 0PY. (Designed central block and wings).
Newliston, Kirkliston, West Lothian, Scotland, EH29 9EB.
Yester House, Clifford, East Lothian, WH41 4JH.
Exterior: Culzean Castle, Strathclyde, Scotland.
Mellerstain House, Gordon, Berwickshire, Borders, TD3 6LG.


Croome Court, Pershore. (Interiors).


Harewood House, Harewood, Leeds, LS17 9LQ.
Newby Hall and Gardens, Rippon, North Yorkshire, HG4 5AE.
North Wing and Library: Nestell Priory, West Yorkshire. National Trust.