Friday, 31 January 2014

Drummond Castle

Drummond Castle, two miles south west of Crieff in Perthshire is a very impressive mansion that stands on a rocky outcrop at the end of a mile long drive. Sir Malcolm Drummond who distinguished himself at Bannnockburn in 1314 was given the land. The castle was begun in the 15th century by John, first Lord Drummond. His daughter Margaret became a lover of James IV and they were said to have married and had a daughter. But realpolitik preferred a royal marriage to Margaret Tudor, daughter of Henry VII of England. So to remove  any impediment, Margaret and two of her sisters were murdered, with poisoned fruit and are buried in Dunblane Cathedral. In 1490 her brother William Drummond was executed after he set ire to Monzievaird Church killing more than one hundred and fifty Murray's, including women and children.

Mary, Queen of Scots visited the castle with her third husband, the earl of Bothwell and in 1605 the Drummonds were created Earls of Perth, by her son James VI. James third Earl of Drummond ought with James Graham, Marquis of Montrose and was captured after the Battle of Philiphaugh in 1645, this led the keep to be destroyed by Cromwell's forces in 1650.

Recovery came with James Drummond, 4th Earl of Perth who succeeded in 1675, he built the mansion house beyond the keep forming the inner courtyard. Following James VII flight into exile, he was imprisoned for four years in Stirling Castle. In 1693 he was freed and followed the king into exile. For his loyalty he was created Duke of Perth (in the Jacobite Peerage) His son, the 2nd Duke of Perth joined the Earl of Mar in the Rising of 1715. The castle was occupied by government forces who refortified the keep.

The 3rd Duke after completing his education in France joined his mother at Drummond Castle. However he remained close to the Jacobite cause and joined Prince Charles, leading the left wing at the Battle of Culloden in 1746. He was wounded during the fighting but managed to escape on board a ship bound for France where he died during the passage. His brother John, the 4th Duke managed to escape to France where he died in 1747.

The Drummond Estates were attainted in 1746 and managed over the next 39 years by the Crown's Commissioners.  A special Act of Parliament in 1785  restored the Perth Estates to Capt. James Drummond who was created Baron Perth. His daughter Clementina Drummond succeeded her father Lord Perth in 1800. In 1807 she married Peter Robert Burrell who succeeded his mother as Baron Willoughby de Eresby in 1827. Although Sir Charles Barry drew up pland for an extensive rebuilding of the castle but in the end the alterations were more modest. The keep was restored in 1822 and made good for Queen Victoria's visit in 1842. In 1878, Clementina's daughter, Baroness Willoughby de Eresby commissioned local architect G.T.Ewing to remodel the exterior of the castle in the Scots Baronial style.

The current chatelaine of Drummond Castle is Jane Heathcote-Drummond-Willoughby, 28th Baroness Willoughby de Eresby who succeeded her father the last earl of Ancaster in 1983. In addition to Drummond Castle she also inherited Grimsthorpe Castle in Lincolnshire and a total of75,000 acres in England and Scotland. Her Scottish estate, the Drummond Estates comprises 60, 939  of those acres..

Tuesday, 28 January 2014

Phantassie Doocot

Pigeons have been kept in Scotland since the Middle Ages. Pigeon-houses or doocots as they are called in Scotland provided a supply of fresh meat during the winter. Over 500 birds nested in this unusual beehive shaped doocot. The tender young pigeons or squabs were a delicacy at Phantassie House. Their feathers were used in cushions and pillows and their droppings were used as a fertilizer or in the tanning or dying processes.

A string course prevented rats from gaining entry. The pigeons sunned themselves on the south-facing horseshoe-shaped roof of Phantassie Doocot.

Sunday, 26 January 2014

Mauldslie Castle, West Lodge

Mauldslie Castle was built in an idyllic riverside setting beside the Clyde near Carluke in Lanarkshire. The castle was built and designed for Thomas Carmichael, the 5th Earl of Hyndford by Robert Adam 1792-3' After he castle and estate were purchased by James Hozier in 1850  the castle was enlarged and remodelled by architect Daid Bryce in the Scots Baronial style in 1860. His grandson was elevated to the peerage as Lord Newlands in 1898. The family put the castle up for sale in 1930,  it was demolished in 1935 and a sewage works now occupies the site.

The West Lodge and the private  Bridge over the Clyde were built in 1861, probably by David Bryce to form the principal entrance to the estate.

The seated dog motif.

Since the castle was demolished, from being an entrance, the West Lodge now acts as a memorial.

Wednesday, 22 January 2014

West Green House

Last Saturday I managed to track down a copy of February's World of Interiors (at a motorway services of all places). I wanted to see the piece about Lord (Alistair) McAlpine's garden in Italy. A fascinating man of wide interests, impeccable taste, and an avid collector etc, etc. I never met him but did take some photographs of West Green House in Hampshire for decorators Colefax and Fowler. Lord McAlpine had rented West Green House from the National Trust from 1976 to 1990.

West Green House is a 17th century mansion built by General Hawley.  He led the cavalry charge at the Battle of Culloden in 1746. Lord McAlpine  created a  garden of great panache, a classical triumphal arch has an obelisk on top dedicated to "the first lady Prime Minister of Britain". She was a close personal friend and frequent visitor to West Green House. The house was damaged by an I.R.A. bomb three weeks after Lord McAlpine had left the house at the expiry of his lease.

Driving home later that evening on Saturday I heard on the radio that Lord McAlpine had died. Rather a curious coincidence and very sad.

Oval cushions, painted by George Oakes on an
18th century seat in the drawing Room.

The Garden Dining Room

Friday, 17 January 2014

The Hermitage, Dunkeld

The Hermitage pleasure ground at Dunkeld was created in the mid to late 18th century by John Murray 3rd Duke of Atholl to embellish the policies of Dunkeld House. While the Murray family's main house was, and is at Blair Castle seventeen miles to the north, they also maintained Dunkeld House as a winter retreat. Successive Dukes of Atholl planted trees to enhance the landscape.

The Hermitage was built between 1757-8 as a venue for viewing the spectacular Black Linn Falls on the River Braan. The stone pavillion was built right on the edge of the gorge with a viewing platform to afford the best experience of the turbulent waters. It was once described as , "one of the most elaborate furnished decorative garden buildings in Scotland". The interior contained a hall of mirrors lined with looking glasses, that contrived to bring the crashing waters inside to create what must have been wonderful illusions and effects.

In 1760 the poet James Macphearson claimed to have discovered some "lost" poems, written in Gaelic by Ossian, son of the legendary Fingal. The discovery quickly fired the public imagination to the extent that the Hermitage was soon called Ossian's Hall, a stone seat fashioned from the living rock  became Ossian's Seat, and in 1785 an artificial cave was constructed at the head of the valley to be known as......Ossian's cave. The stone bridge spanning the gorge, the best place to view Black Linn Pool,  somehow avoided the fashion  remaining Hermitage Bridge. There is a Douglas Fir beside the pool that is said to be the 4th tallest tree in Britain.

Such was the fame of the Hermitage or Ossian's Hall that it attracted such illustrious visitors as poet William Wordsworth and his sister Dorothy, the  painter J.M.W.Turner, composer Felix Mendlesohn and even Queen Victoria herself. The guide, "hermit" Donald Anderson would greet  visitors dressed  in animal skins, his long beard augmented with lichen and other organic debris.

In 1803 Dorothy Wordsworth described her visit, "Our guide opened a door, and we entered a dungeon like passage, and, after walking some yards in total darkness, found ourselves in a quaint apartment stuck over with moss, hung about with stuffed foxes and other wild animals, and ornamented with wooden books covered with old leather backs, and mock furniture of a hermit's cell. At the end of the room, through a large bow window, we saw the waterfall...a very beautiful prospect."

However in 1869 Ossian's Hall was blown up in protest at the tolls the Duke of Atholl charged to cross Dunkeld Bridge. The designed landscape was left to fall into unmanaged decay. In 1943 the Hermitage and the surrounding area was sold by the widow of the 8th Duke of Atholl to the National Trust for Scotland. The present Hermitage was built in 1951 but it  is a dull echo of the original, the mirrors produce no optical illusions, however the viewing platform retains its spectacular views.

Wednesday, 15 January 2014

Bankton House

This lovely house is just south of Prestonpans in West Lothian.  Well known to  drivers on the A1 travelling east from Edinburgh...... at least those who do not keep their eyes on the road. So beautiful, it really is hard to resist a glance. The 17th century mansion is covered in a distinctive ochre harling and is flanked by two symmetrical pavilions. On one side is a doocot (with a small exhibition about Bankton House on the ground floor).

The other pavilion was once an apple store and has now been converted into a dwelling.

The original building on the site was erected by the monks of Newbattle, in the 12th century.  Then it was known as Holy Stop, later corrupted to Oliestob. At the Reformation Oliestob like the rest of the property belonging to Newwbattle Abbey passed into the hands of Mark Kerr, 1st Earl of Lothian.

 In 1742 the estate was purchased by Col. Gardiner who was killed within sight of his house, after fighting on the losing side, against Bonnie Prince Charlie at the battle of Prestonpans on 21st September 1745. The house was then bought  by Edinburgh advocate Andrew McDoull, who took the title Lord Bankton when he was appointed to the bench. His title then became attached to the house.

In the 20th century the house became acquired by the state owned National Coal Board who had a colliery next door. From its ruinous state the building was converted into four flats between 1988 and 1995. The orchard on the north side of the house was replanted with old varieties of apples, pears, medlars, quinces, gauges and plums. The apple crop goes to make cider. The five residents of Bankton House all have to agree, should they wish to change the colour of the lovely ochre harl. Here's  hoping for perpetual disagreement.


Monday, 13 January 2014

Mains of Fintry Castle

This land north of Dundee once belonged to the Stewarts and then in the 14th century it passed to the Douglas, earls of Angus. In the 16th century it changed ownership again and became the property of the Graham family. The castle is said to have been built by Sir David Graham, nephew of the infamous Cardinal Beaton and a date stone indicates the work began in 1562. At that time it was known as Mains of Fintry Castle after that branch of the family's original home in Stirlingshire. Sir David remained loyal to the Roman Church, along with many others in the north of Scotland during the Reformation. He was unfortunate to have been implicated in a serious plot to land a Spanish army in Scotland. As the leaders of the conspiracy were some of Scotland's  most powerful nobles, including the earls of Errol, Huntly and Angus, King James VI felt unable to take action against them, so it was the Laird of Fintry who was made the scapegoat. Following a trial he was executed at the Cross in Edinburgh in 1592.

The Grahams of Fintry retained the estate until the beginning of the 19th century. The last member of the family to reside there was a friend of Robert Burns, to whom the poet addressed two of his works. When Robert Graham sold up he included the condition that his descendants should bear the territorial distinction, "Graham of Fintry", a condition which has been adhered to. The Grahams went out to the Cape Colony and a scion of the family, Lieutenant-Colonel John Graham who served in the army during the Frontier Wars,  founded in 1812 a military camp in the Eastern Cape, named Grahamstown in his honour.

The estate had been bought by the Erskine family who changed the name of the castle to Linlathen. In 1913 the estate, including the ruins of Mains Castle were purchased by wealthy businessman Sir James Caird, who generously donated it to the city of Dundee for use as a public park.

Sunday, 12 January 2014

King Tom

King Tom (1851-1878) was the foundation stallion of Baron Meyer de Rothschild's stud at Mentmore. Foaled in 1851 he was by Harkaway out of Pochohontas by Glencoe. A thoroughbred he won races as a two year old and when not fully recovered from injury he was second, by a length, to Andover in the Derby. He raced again as a four year old before breaking down and being retired to stud.

Between 1861 and 1871 he was one of the top ten sires fourteen times and leading sire in Great Britain and Ireland in 1870 and 1871. He sired the 1866 and 1867 Oaks winners Tormentor and Hippia, and the 1870 Derby winner Kingcraft. He sired the 1864 Oaks winner Tomato and Hannah who won the Oaks, 1000 Guineas and the St. Ledger.

When he died at the age of twenty seven in 1878 he was buried in the grounds of Mentmore Towers beneath a life size bronze statue of him by sculptor,  Ernst Boehm. When the Primrose family sold Mentmore Towers the statue was removed to Dalmeny where it now stands in the policies beside the house.

Saturday, 11 January 2014

Barnbougle Castle

Barnbougle Castle stands on the shore of the Firth of Forth in the policies of Dalmeny House near South Queensferry. The original castle which dated from the 13th century was built by the Mowbray family who in 1615 sold it to the Hamilton earls of Haddington. The Hamiltons later sold it to the Primrose family in 1662. Barnbougle Castle became the seat of the Primrose earls of Rosebery until Dalmeny House was completed in 1817. By then Barnbougle had fallen into a serious state of dilapidation and disrepair. One story is told that on a particular  evening during supper, a large wave crashed in through the dining room windows. Presumably that was the final straw. After the family had moved out the building was used to store explosives. An accidental explosion left the castle in ruins.

The ruins were rebuilt  around 1880 by Archibald Primrose, 5th Earl of Rosebery. He was foreign secretary in 1886 and again from 1892-94 and prime minister from 1894-95. Lord Rosebery was a supporter of Scottish Home Rule. The prime minister used Barnbougle Castle to house his private library and it was here that he used to write and practice delivering his speeches, in a specially constructed gallery.

Friday, 10 January 2014

Phantassie Farm Steading

Phantassie Steading is a fine example of a 19th century (c.1840) Scottish estate farm steading. Sadly, no longer used for the purpose for which it was built, now abandoned  it is no doubt awaiting redevelopment, as bourgeois  housing.

Wednesday, 8 January 2014

Rosebery Steading

In 1805 the earl of Rosebery built himself a new farmyard. To create the greatest impact the steading was placed opposite the main gates to Rosebery House, the earl's principal  seat  in Mid-Lothian.. The steading is arranged around an enclosed courtyard. Opposite the  entrance,  the clock tower incorporates a doocot and has a fantastic tall spire. The screen walls are castellated in the Gothick style. Rosebery Steading is one the of the finest and most iconic farm steadings in Scotland.

Saturday, 4 January 2014

Culdees Castle

Culdees Castle near Muthill in Perthshire was built for the Speir family by architect James Gillespie Graham. Built in 1810 Culdees Castle was a fine mansion in the Gothick style. In 1867 the house was enlarged and remodeled in the Scottish Baronial style by the architect David Bryce. Finally the last major work to be done at Culdees was when the interior was reorganized by Sir Robert Lorimer. In 1967 the current owners successfully applied for a demolition order,  however it was  never carried out. The result is that while the castle still has its roof intact, leaks over the years have allowed water to get inside and the floors have largely rotted and collapsed, while the windows still have their pains of glass intact.

The owners of Culdees Castle, the Maitlands family live in their new farmhouse next door. They seem content to allow the castle to decay next to them and appear to be resistant to any attempt to restore the ruin.

Thursday, 2 January 2014

Drummond Castle Gardens

Visitors to Drummond approach the castle up the long avenue, turn through the tunnel into the outer courtyard, then turn under gatehouse arch into the inner courtyard. Only when they reach the parapet wall does the magnificent formal garden come, spectacularly , into view. Nothing can prepare one for the visual impact of the reveal,  a  coup de theatre, unsurpassed by any other garden in Scotland.

Drummond has all the features expected of a Scottish Renaissance garden, terraces, statuary and garden ornaments. An early reference to gardening at Drummond came in 1508 when lord Drummond sent cherries to James VI when he was hunting nearby.The famous John Mylne sundial at Drummond has an inscription on the shaft to say that it was erected by the 2nd Earl of Perth in 1630. The 2nd Earl of Perth who was a privy councillor to both James VI and Charles I is credited with transforming the castle and policies at Drummond between 1630 and 1636.The Drummonds were ardent royalists and that saw the castle ransacked by Oliver Cromwell.

The 17th century saw the tenure of the 4th Earl of Perth who was an enthusiastic agricultural improver. He is said to have planted an avenue of four rows of trees from the castle policies to Perth , over twenty miles away. The 2nd Duke of Perth's involvement in the Jacobite Rebellion of 1715 meant that any further improvements to the estate had to wait until the return from exile of his son, the 3rd Duke of Perth. In 1946, the Drummonds lost the estates again.

When in 1785 the Drummonds finally recovered their estates the fashion was for sylvan romantic landscapes rather than for formal planting. However, as it always does, fashion changes so that when Clementina Drummond succeeded her father in 1800 it coincided with a revival of interest in the formal style of 17th century gardening.

In 1807 Clementina Drummond married Peter Burrel who in 1827 succeeded his mother as Baron Willoughby de Eresby. The couple introduced formal terraces and elaborate parterres to create one of the most ambitious revival gardens of early Victorian Scotland. It is thought that Lewis Kennedy, who earlier in his career had worked for Empress Josephine at Malmaison and later became the factor at Drummond was responsible for the design and planning of the garden.

The central feature of the garden is a parterre of St. Andrews Cross with the sundial at its centre. Other features refer to the Drummond arms and the coat of arms of the Willoughbys. A coronet of box hedging completes the heraldic design. This is an early example of the celebration of a landowning family's heraldic devices.

There is a strong central north south axis reached down the impressive flight of steps to the sundial, to the classical arch, through the kitchen garden beyond and down a vista cut through the woodland beyond and out into the country. This element of the design is inspired by French gardens. Whereas, the fountains, terraces statuary and urns are features derived from Italian garden design. Architectural elements and sculpture were placed at the end of vistas as focal points to act as eye-catchers for those walking around the gardens.

Much of the planting at Drummond had been simplified since its Victorian heyday, but the emphasis on topiary so popular at the time remains as a feature of the gardens. Sadly many of the great swathes of bedding plants have been swept away, particularly to be regretted has to the loss of the great blocks of Salvia Patens,'Oxford Blue' which used to be planted below the terraces.

After the Second World War the gardens at Drummond had become badly overgrown and it was then chatelaine, Phyllis Astor, wife of the 3rd Earl of Ancaster who decided to revive them. The original structure was retained but with a simplified planting regime, the result is nothing less than spectacular. Current owner,the 27th Baroness Willoughby de Eresby, daughter of the last earl of Ancaster has set up a trust to safeguard the future of this internationally important garden.

Tropaeolum speciousum