Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Melville House

One of the most beautiful Classical houses in Scotland, and one of the earliest, was built on the Monimail Estate by architect James Smith (c.1645-1731) for George Melville, 1st Earl of Melville. Work on the house, intended to impress his countrymen with his wealth and power, started in 1692.


The Melville's had been protestant supporters during the reign of Charles II but when George Melville was implicated in the Rye House Plot to put the Duke of Monmouth on the throne, they had to flee into exile in Holland. Only in 1689 could the family return, with William and Mary. For his loyalty to King William, George Melville was rewarded with the position of Secretary of State for Scotland and a year later the earldom followed. He was the most powerful royal servant in Scotland at a time when loyalty to the exiled James II was still prevalent among landowners in Scotland.  His desire to impress  led to the commission of the fabulous bed made for the apartment of state at Melville House. When the family decided to sell Melville House in 1949 the bed went to the Victoria and Albert Museum where it is described as "the most spectacular single exhibit in the Victoria and Albert's British Galleries."


The architect James Smith had been appointed Surveyor of Royal Works in 1683 and is believed to have been a protege of the great Sir William Bruce. Melville House has been called the finest example of Scottish Palladianism and it is a wonderful facade of great strength and simplicity. It has a plan in the classic H shape with two projecting wings joined by screen walls on the south, original entrance front.


The entrance to the forecourt is flanked by two of the most delightful ogee roofed pavilions, with weather vanes displaying the date. 1697. A long avenue of beech trees ran straight to the south.