Importance of Site
A site included in the Inventory is assessed for its condition and integrity and for its level of importance. The criteria used are set out in Annex 5 of the Scottish Historic Environment Policy (December 2011). The principles are represented by the following value-based criteria and we have assigned a value for each on a scale ranging from outstanding value to no value. Criteria not applicable to a particular site have been omitted. All sites included in the Inventory are considered to be of national importance.
Work of Art
Despite the lack of early records or design plans, the 1780 layout of the landscape at Archerfield gives it a little value as a Work of Art.
There are few historical records of the development of the gardens but there are photographic records taken in the 1950s of the remnants of the pre-1750 Beech Avenue. The association with the Hamilton Nisbets gives it some Historical value.
Horticultural, Arboricultural, Silvicultural
There is no plant collection at Archerfield.
Archerfield House is regarded as of outstanding Architectural value.
The policy woodlands are visible from the surrounding area and provide some scenic contrast and variety.
The Gullane to Broad Sands SSSI contains 728 acres (294ha) of land important for its sand-dune system as a site of national importance for wintering waders, and for its geological interest. This area is adjacent to the designed landscape which provides some additional woodland habitat.
- Not Assessed
Location and Setting
Archerfield is situated near Dirleton village, 2 miles (3km) west of North Berwick, and just over 1 mile (2km) from the Firth of Forth. The main A198 road to North Berwick forms the southern boundary of the site, the policy woodlands define the west boundary, and the East Lodge is at Dirleton village. The geology of the headland is of interest with a volcanic vent exposed at Yellow Craig with its attendant sills and metamorphosed rocks. The surrounding rocks are of the lower Carboniferous series and include a highly fossiliferous limestone. The coastal strip is designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest for its botanical, ornithological and geological interest. The soils are also unusually alkaline with a very high pH of 8.5, and the woodlands near the coast are subject to wind, salt and sandblasting. The surrounding landscape is flat, with volcanic intrusions forming isolated hills as at North Berwick Law. Views into the designed landscape are limited by the surrounding policy woodlands.
General Roy's map of 1750 shows the then new house of Archerfield at the east end of a long double avenue running west to east and with one large rectangular enclosure to its north. By the 1st edition OS of 1853, the designed landscape had been laid out to its fullest extent. The design has been attributed to Robert Robinson in c.1780. The resulting informal landscape design removed the west half of the main avenue, shown on Roy's plan, although the east half was kept. A pond is shown to the north of the house and a large walled garden had been built to the east of the Home Farm. Broad Wood and Eldbotle Wood had been planted up and small clumps had been planted in the parks. By the 2nd edition OS of c.1900, the areas of woodland had been joined but otherwise the structure of the design was the same. The area within the designed landscape today is 572 acres (232ha).
Archerfield House and the main beech avenue were designed in c.1730; the present landscape was designed c.1780, probably by Robert Robinson, and incorporated the flower garden at Dirleton. The two estates became separated in the 20th century.
Historically, Archerfield was part of the Dirleton estate (q.v.) which was purchased in 1663 by Sir John Nisbet, a lawyer and Lord of Session. When he died in 1687 the estate devolved on his cousin William, who had a new house built at Archerfield around 1730. The architect is unknown although alterations were made to it by John Douglas, and by Robert Adam in 1790. The impressive beech avenue to the house was planted before 1750 and the informal landscape was laid out reputedly by Robert Robinson in c.1780. In 1799 William's granddaughter, Mary Hamilton Nisbet, married the 7th Earl of Elgin and their daughter, Lady Mary Hamilton Nisbet, succeeded to Archerfield and Dirleton. She married Robert Dundas who changed his name to hers. Their only daughter, Mary, married Henry Nisbet Hamilton Ogilvy of Biel, Archerfield, Dirleton, Winton and Wellvale in 1888.
After her death, Archerfield was sold but many of the estate papers were retained at Biel. The house and grounds at Archerfield were sold again in 1938 and the house was then requisitioned during the War by the Ministry of Defence. In 1946 Archerfield was purchased by the Mitchells who are market gardeners, and in c.1960 the estate was purchased by the 14th Duke of Hamilton & Brandon. With so many changes in ownership, details of the development of the landscape at Archerfield have been lost over the years.
Archerfield House with Pavilion Wings is currently listed A and is of high architectural value. It is a large, classical mansion built as a corps de logis flanked by screen walls linking it to a pair of two-storey pavilions, although the screen walls have since been lost. The main house is three storeys high but has been used since World War II for agricultural purposes and the entrance porch has been replaced with barn doors to admit farming equipment. Archerfield Home Farm, currently listed B, has been renovated and there are two lodges, of which West Lodge is currently listed C. The large Walled Garden has been used in recent years as part of the farm and the ornamental gates, taken down for safe-keeping, have since been re-erected.
The area of former parkland is shown on the 1853 map and it extended from the Home Farm in the west up to the East Lodge. There do not seem ever to have been many individual trees planted in the parks although a few small clumps were planted in the park to the east of the house. The main feature within the parkland was the impressive double avenue of beech trees shown in photographs earlier this century, unfortunately lost before the 1960s. The parkland area has survived as open fields although many are now in arable use but the structure remains similar to that laid out in the 1780s.
The area of woodlands on the estate has increased, particularly to the north, approaching the shore of the Firth of Forth where a large area was planted up by the Forestry Commission in the 1950s. The shelterbelts and policy woodlands are planted with mixed deciduous species and there are still a few older ornamental trees to be found in Broad Wood although many more are thought to have been cut down during World War II. Most of the old woodlands had been cleared prior to the 1960s and they have since been replanted by Hamilton & Kinneill Estates Ltd, mainly as commercial coniferous woodlands under Forestry Commission Dedication Schemes and for game-cover.
The area around the house and north of it toward the small ornamental loch was laid out, originally, as a shrubbery. Immediately around the house were lawns and gravel paths, with specimens of ornamental shrubs and trees. The small loch remains although the area around it is now overgrown; there was once an island reached by a small rustic bridge. A summerhouse is marked on the 1853 map on the north bank opposite the island. To the north of the shrubbery is a pavilion, once the start of an 18-hole golf course on the Links, now the headquarters of the Edinburgh and Lothian Clay Pigeon Shooting Club. Dirleton Gardens (q.v.) were the main flower gardens for Archerfield and lie to the east more than a mile away from the walled kitchen garden near Collegehead Farm (the Home Farm). They were both described in articles in the Journal of Horticulture and Cottage Gardens in 1865.
The kitchen garden was divided into three main compartments and had extensive ranges of glass, including seven vineries and two peach-houses, as well as forcing houses and pine pits. While most of this garden was a kitchen garden, there were also some flower borders. The glasshouses were derelict and demolished in 1960, and the walled area is now used as part of the farm yards today.