Friday, 28 February 2014

Edzell Castle Garden (2)

Along the south side of Sir David, Lord Lindsay's early 17th century walled garden are the arched-headed panels that comprise on of the highlights of the Edzell Castle Garden. The six remaining sculptures on this wall, which depict the Liberal Arts, were created by an anonymous but highly accomplished craftsmen.

The beautiful figures representing Grammar (Grammatica), Rhetoric (Rhetorica) and Argument (Dialectica) depict those studies undertaken for the first part of the medieval university curriculum, the Trivium. Grammar the art of using words correctly, was followed by Rhetoric, the art of connected discourse, followed by the art of argument.



The panels depicting Arithmetic (Arithmetica), Music (Musica), Geometry (Geometria) and the missing panel Astronomy represent the curriculum for the higher studies that formed the Quadrivium.




In the south-east corner of the walled garden had been a bath house, now vanished, that comprised three rooms, a bathing room with a well, a dressing room and a sitting room with a fireplace.

Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Dalkeith Old Wood

Dalkeith Old Wood is another precious fragment of the 'wild wood' in lowland Scotland. Like the Cadzow Oaks, Dalkeith Old Wood is bounded on two sides by rivers. It lies between the North Esk and the South Esk before their confluence at a place known as the Meeting of the Waters. The Old Wood in effect covers a peninsula with an incredibly rare landscape of remarkable oak trees. Only six miles from the centre of Edinburgh,Dalkeith Old Wood remains a secretive place.

When King James VI received news of his mother's death on 8th February 1587,at Fotheringay in England, he retired early to his private apartments at Holyrood, without even eating supper. The next day he rose early and rode to Dalkeith, passing the site of his father's murder at Kirk O' Fields and on to the place he loved and knew so well.  Dalkeith had been the seat of the regent of Scotland during his minority. It was to Dalkeith and its beautiful park that the King sought the solitude in which to grieve for his mother. Though he grieved in private, publicly he was obliged to remain on good terms with Queen Elizabeth as her heir presumptive. He would inherit the English throne one day and be able to avenge his mother in that way.

Tuesday, 25 February 2014

Ballinbreich Castle

Ballinbreich Castle is a ruined castle on the south bank of the Firth of Tay in Fife, often known and pronounced as Balmbreich. The lands had been acquired by the Leslies in 1312. They built a small keep in the 14th century that was extended in the 15th and 16th centuries into a magnificent residence surrounded by extensive gardens.. It became an impressive three storey L-plan tower with a rectangular courtyard enclosed by a curtain wall. There were ancillary buildings on three sides of the courtyard and the whole castle complex was surrounded by a moat.

 The Leslies were created Earls of Rothes in 1457. William Leslie the 3rd Earl of Rothes was killed at Flodden in 1513. George, the 4th Earl was one of the commissioners for the marriage of  Queen Mary to the Dauphin, he was poisoned and died at Dieppe. Queen Mary herself visited Ballinbreich in 1565.

John Leslie, 6th Earl of Rothes led the Covenanters in 1638 and John the 7th Earl was captured at the Battle of Worcester in 1651 and remained in prison until 1658. After the Restoration in 1663 he was made Treasurer of Scotland, then four years later Chancellor and his career culminated in the Dukedom of Rothes in 1680. This title became extinct on his death, although the earldom continued through his daughter.

The Barony of Ballinbreich was sold by John Leslie, 10th Earl of Rothes to Sir Lawrence Dundas for £20 000. Sir Lawrence recouped the cost of his investment by felling the trees surrounding the castle for sale as timber. The Barony of Ballinbreich was later sold to pay for the reconstruction of Leslie House which had been destroyed by a fire in 1763. So the Leslie family lost both their great houses.

Tuesday, 18 February 2014

Balvaird Castle

Balvaird Castle is a well preserved L-plan tower house which dates from the late 15th century. Balvaird was originally a property of the Barclays that passed by marriage to the Murrays of Tullibardine c1495 and they built the castle, possibly as their marital home. The arms of Sir Andrew Murray and Margaret Barclay are prominently displayed above the front door

Balvaird Castle is unusual for a tower house of that age in Scotland  because of the visible remains of its ancillary buildings, ranged around inner and outer courtyards, a formal.walled garden and the larger  'pleasance' or park.

This L-plan tower house was the last word in sophisticated design at the turn of the 15th century in Scotland. The circular stair was placed at the junction of the two wings so as not to use any internal space. The privies are situated at the junction of the west wing and were flushed with rain water collected in a tank on the roof.

The Murrays of Balvaird were the forebears of the family that were later created Viscounts Stormont and Earls of Mansfield. As they rose the aristocratic ladder the Murrays extended Balvaird Castle. When the 2nd Lord Balvaird succeeded as 4th Viscount Stormont in 1658 the family left Balvaird for Scone to the north of Perth and the old castle declined in importance until it ended up as a home for landless agricultural workers.

Burleigh Castle

Sir John Balfour acquired land at Burleigh near Kinross c.1445 that was to become the family's seat for 250 years. The remain of Burleigh Castle now comprise a small tower house built around 1500 and a round corner tower joined by a curtain wall with the main entrance gate. The round tower has a rectangular room over-sailing on top supported by continuous corbelling very similar to Claypotts castle. An inscription dates this decorative tower, designed to embellish the entrance facade to 1582.

A James Balfour of Burleigh was involved in the murder of Cardinal Beaton and was held as a french galley-slave for two years. On his return to Scotland he was appointed lord President of the Court of Session and he was instrumental in having James Douglas, 4th Earl of Morton executed for his part in the murder of Lord Darnley.

In 1707 Robert Balfour fell in love with a local lass, but he was sent away as she was not of the 'right' class. When he returned, Balfour found that the lass had married a school master, whom he shot and killed. Balfour was captured and sentenced to death and only managed to escape execution by swapping clothes with his sister and escaping to France. Robert Balfour, 5th Lord Burleigh returned to Scotland to fight on the Jacobite side in the 1715 Rising and as a consequence the family estate was forfeit. Burleigh Castle then passed to the Irwins and finally to the Grahams of Kinross. The castle is now in the care of the state.

Friday, 14 February 2014

David Rizzio's Tree

David Rizzio was an Italian nobleman from Piedmont who came to Scotland in 1561 in the entourage of an ambassador.  An accomplished musician and an excellent singer he came to the notice of Mary, Queen of Scots when she was looking to recruit a bass singer. He was wanted to accompany  her three ladies- in -waiting who sung the soprano parts, to form a vocal quartet. Then in 1564 when the previous incumbent retired, Mary appointed David Rizzio as her secretary for relations with France, an important position that came with an quarterly salary of £20

Rizzio wanted  a country retreat to reflect his important position at court. The Queen tried to persuade Lord Ross to give her secretary the lordship of Melville. Although he did not agree to this request, David Rizzio was able take apartments in the castle outside Edinburgh, and so Melville Castle became known to locals as 'Rizzio's House'. The Queen was a frequent visitor.

On one of Mary's visits Rizzio planted a tree, a sweet chestnut (castanea sativa)  in the grounds of the castle, as a token of his affection. The tree has survived 450 years, a magnificent specimen of enduring love. In response, the Queen planted five oak trees along the drive.

Such public displays of affection as the planting of this tree were to lead to David Rizzio's downfall. The Protestant lords, managed to persuade her husband, Lord Darnley, that the Catholic Rizzio was not only the Queen's lover but was responsible for her pregnancy. In 1566 they broke into the Queen's apartments at Holyrood and stabbed him, 57 times. A few years later Darnley was himself murdered, by among others the Queen's new lover, the Earl of Bothwell. Mary was accused of complicity in Darnley's murder and as a consequence was taken capture and forced to abdicate her throne..Although Mary managed to escape, to England, after many years of imprisonment she was executed by her cousin Elizabeth. The venerable sweet chestnut at Melville Castle remains as an enduring symbol of the Queen's and Rizzio's ill-fated mutual affection.

Monday, 10 February 2014

Cadzow Oaks

This is a magical place. An ancient oak wood.  A precious fragment of the 'wild wood' that we are incredibly lucky to have still. 300 Sessile oaks (quercus petraea) growing above the Avon Water Gorge in Lanarkshire. This 'wild wood' of the popular imagination is now described by scientists as 'woodland pasture'.When the ice began to retreat 10 000 years ago, living things began to move in gradually from the south,  lichens, mosses, fungi and ferns then seed bearing plants and finally trees. As soon as the Neolithic people returned to Scotland, with their animals after the Ice Age, they began to manage the environment. They exploited it for hunting, grazing, fuel and food and it turned out that woodland flourished under human management.

Coppicing allowed light to fall on the forest floor which encouraged germination and new growth. The multi-trunked oaks at Cadzow are evidence of coppicing long, long ago. An important consequence of this act of decapitation was to confer virtual immortality upon the severed stump. A coppiced tree lives for much  longer than a maiden tree, almost forever, forever when compared to human lives.

Dendrochronology (tree ring analysis) has dated many of the trees to c1460, at the time the oaks were enclosed in a park, however the oldest of them may well date to the reign of David 1 (1124-1153) which would make the Cadzow oaks the oldest living trees in Scotland.

These veteran trees  have had the space to grow and develop their own  extraordinary contorted shapes. Many of the trees are what is known as stag headed with bleached dead branches sticking out from the living crowns. This is a characteristic of veteran oaks and is one of the tree's  survival mechanisms. As the trunks begin to age, the outer branches die back to conserve  the tree's resources, it then forms a newer crown lower down.

Up close these veteran trees are as extraordinary as they are from a distance. Their trunks are gnarled and twisted, festooned with epiphyte ferns, with mosses and epicormic twigs sprouting whiskery from the rough bark. The hollows and crevices are home to many species of invertebrate creatures and insects, some of them so rare that Cadzow has been declared an S.S.S.I. or Site of Special Scientific Interest.

One of the defining characteristics of woodland pasture is that the trees are spaced out  from each other, standing in open grass land, cropped by deer, wild boar and aurochs and later by cattle, sheep and pigs. Trees growing in an open savannah is a landscape that has always been loved by people and stirs something  deep within the human psyche. Perhaps we recognize our original forest home. A place to get lost in, a place to hide in. And as Chateaubriand observed, 'forests were the first temples of God.'

The Cadzow oaks were once a part of one of the royal forests established by David 1 (1124-1153). Before  his reign, land tenure in Scotland was still based on the old Celtic and Norse traditions. David 1 systematically introduced the (alien) feudal system into Scotland in which sovereignty is vested in the Crown. He created the first burghs, founded monasteries, established sheriffs jurisdictions and granted feudal charters to the Norman knights and those Scots who supported him. Royal forests including Cadzow were established where henceforth no one could hunt without the monarch's permission.

By the early 14th Century Cadzow had passed into the hands of the Hamilton family. In the early 16th Century Cadzow was enclosed in a park formed by closing off a bend in the Avon Water to form a hunting reserve. The Hamilton family built the 'castle in the woods of Hamilton', now known as Cadzow castle on the edge of the gorge. Hunting remained at the heart of land use in Cadzow and in the 17th Century the duke of Hamilton built the magnificent hunting lodge of Chatelherault on the eastern side of the gorge. However by this time the fox was fast becoming the quarry of choice leaving deer as merely graceful adornments to the landscape.

In the mid 19th Century the woodland landscape of Cadzow inspired  the Cadzow artists a group of landscape painters. The Cadzow oaks passed into the care of to the state in 1973, in lieu of death duties after the death of the 14th  Duke of Hamilton, and now form part of the Chatelherault Country Park

Sunday, 9 February 2014

Huntingtower Castle

Huntingtower Castle, known as  Ruthven Castle until 1600 was an important Scottish power house. Although it now appears to be a single building, originally there were two separate tower houses, built at more or less the same time and only a few meters apart. Many years later the gap between them was filled in to create a single dwelling. The tower houses appear to have been built around 1500. Historians have speculated that the reason that there were two towers, may have had its origins when the owner of the estate Sir William Ruthven, whose family had held the lands for 200 years, granted letters of legitimation and the division of the estate between his two sons in 1487.

The east tower conforms to the usual layout of a Scottish tower house of the period, even though the building had earlier origins, as a gatehouse. The service buildings were on the ground floor, with the hall on the first floor and the private apartments on the two top floors. The great treasure of Huntingtower is the very rare painted ceiling in the first floor hall. It has been dated to c.1540 and that makes it a remarkable, almost unique survival. The ceiling panels are ornamented with a knotwork pattern in black on a white background. The patterns on the joists are painted in black and white on a red ground. The beams are decorated with leaves, scrolls and animal patterns. The walls also have traces of painted plaster indicating what a magnificent appearance this room must once have had.

The west tower is larger and a storey higher than its neighbour. Although the floorboards are no longer there, the traces of  lozenge patterned wall decoration above the north door in the hall give an idea of how wonderful this room must have looked  in the 16th century.

In 1487 James III created a later William Ruthven, Lord Ruthven. Patrick, the 3rd Lord Ruthven was one of the staunchest supporters of the Protestant Reformation in Scotland. He was a friend of Lord Darnley, Mary, Queen of Scots second husband and in September 1565 entertained the couple during their honeymoon. Lord Ruthven was one of those who participated in the murder of David Rizzio in 1566 and afterwards fled abroad, to Newcastle where he died soon after. His son, the 4th Lord Ruthven returned to Scotland in time to assist in the forced abdication of the Queen at Lochleven on 24 July 1567. He was present at the coronation of the queen's son, James VI at Stirling and was appointed treasurer of Scotland. In 1581 he was created earl of Gowrie.

Huntingtower or Ruthven Castle as it was called was the setting for the celebrated Scottish coup d'edat known as the 'Ruthven Raid'. In August 1582 Lord Gowrie and others anxious to remove the young king from Catholic influence took advantage of his presence in Perth to invite him to stay  at Ruthven. The king accepted. He was held capture at Ruthven (Huntingtower) until June 1583 when the sixteen year old King managed to escape. James took his revenge and Lord Gowrie was tried, found guilty, and executed at Strirling in 1584. His property including Ruthven was forfeited to the crown, however James restored the estates and titles of the 1st Earl to his son James Ruthven. He died two years later and was succeeded by his younger brother John. John, the 3rd Earl Gowrie was also implicated in a conspiracy against James VI as a result of which the name of Ruthven was abolished, their arms deleted and all their lands forfeit. In 1600 Parliament also decreed that the place of Ruthven henceforth be called Huntingtower.

Huntingtower became crown property until in 1663 Charles II granted it to James Murray, earl of Tullabardine. When the 4th Earl of Tullabardine died at Huntingtower in 1670 without heir  the property passed to his cousin, John Murray, 2nd Earl of Atholl, whose seat was Blair Castle. It was  at Huntingtower that the 1st Duke of Atholl's wife gave birth to Lord George Murray, Bonnie Prince Charlie's military commander during the Jacobite Rebellion of 1745. In 1805 the 3rd Duke of Atholl sold Huntungtower to a local mill owner who used it to house his workers. Huntingtower was entrusted into the care of the state in 1912.

Friday, 7 February 2014

Preston Mill

Preston Mill near the village of East Linton was East Lothian's last working water mill. The buildings date from the 18th century although some parts of them  may date from the 17th century when the mill served the neighbouring Smeaton Estate. There has been a mill on the site, making use of the power of the River Tyne since the 16th century. Given to the National Trust for Scotland in 1950, Preston Mill was last used for the production of oats in 1959.

Now a museum, the kiln with its conical  roof is very popular with photographers.

Tuesday, 4 February 2014

Jupiter Artland, "Landscape with Gun and Tree 2010"

Landscape with Gun And Tree 2010 by Cornelia Parker.

"In Gainsborough's, Mr and Mrs Andrews, a couple are posed under a tree, Mr Andrews carries a shotgun under his arm and his wife sits with her (unfinished) hands in her lap. In Landscape with Gun and Tree, a gun has been left leaning against a tree, possibly loaded."

Sunday, 2 February 2014

Culross Palace

Culross Palace is a beautifully restored merchants' house on the north shore of the Firth of Forth in Fife. 'Palace' in the Scots language denotes a mansion with a courtyard, not necessarily a royal residence, although James VI  did visit on several occasions. Culross Palace was built between 1597 and 1611 for Sir George Bruce who had made his fortune from the production and sale of salt and coal. He was a great innovator as well as an entrepreneur whose coal mine at Culross was the first in the world to extend under the sea, in 1575, beneath the Firth of Forth.

Culross was an important seaport and once it gained the status of a royal burgh  was able to trade with foreign ports. Although constructed from local sandstone, many of the materials used in the Palace were the result of Sir George's  foreign trade. Baltic pine was used in the floors, ceilings and roof,  red pantiles used to cover the roofs were brought back as ballast in the otherwise empty ships. Imported Dutch glass and floor tiles were also used.

After Sir George's death in 1625, his son also George inherited the major part of his father's estate, and his son Edward, 1st Earl of Kincardine was probably born in the Palace in 1629. He was a Royalist who was enobled by Charles I shortly before his execution. His younger brother Alexander Bruce, 2nd Earl of Kincardine was also an ardent Royalist and he went into exile during the Commonwealth. After the Restoration he returned to Scotland where he held many government offices including Privy Councillor. He lived in the Palace until he had built  Culross Abbey House in 1670. Later in life he experienced financial difficulties which  his son Alexander was unable to reverse. After his death in 1705 the estate was put up for sale.

The Palace was bought by Col. John Erskine of Carnock, whose mother was Sir George Bruce's granddaughter. He became M.P. for Culross at the Scottish Parliament from 1702 to 1707 and afterwards at Westminster. The property changed hands again several times, being used for a while as tenements until finally in the late  nineteenth century it was unoccupied and fell into disrepair. The Earl of Dundonald bought the Palace in 1921, he was descended from the builder Sir George Bruce, but he never lived in it and in 1932 sold it to the national Trust for Scotland.