Location and Setting
Glenbervie House is situated east of the confluence of the Pilketty Burn and the Bervie Water, approximately 8 miles (13km) south-west of Stonehaven on the edge of the Howe of Mearns. The A94(T), the main Perth-Aberdeen route, lies approximately 1 mile to the east. The steep banks of the two river valleys lie to the west and south of Glenbervie House and the site is extremely susceptible to frost. The underlying rocks are of the Lower Old Red Sandstone series and soil conditions are mainly light loam. The surrounding landscape is largely agricultural. There are no significant views out, except to the east across the parkland. The northern boundary wall and doocot are of some significance from the main road through the village.
The house stands at the south-west corner of the designed landscape which extends north to the main road, south to the Water of Bervie, east to the edge of the shelterbelt which encloses the fields, and west to the village church and graveyard. Documentary evidence is confined to General Roy's map of c.1750, the 1st edition OS map of c.1850 and the 2nd edition of c.1910. They show that the extent of the landscape has remained similar throughout this period.
The Home Farm is incorporated into the designed landscape north-east of the house at the corner of the north and east drives. In all, the designed landscape includes some 130 acres (52ha) today.
The present designed landscape was established between 1750 and c.1850 and may have incorporated parts of an earlier landscape shown on General Roy's map in c.1750.
Early records show that, during the 13th century, the Melvilles were lairds of Glenbervie. In 1296, Edward I stayed at the house on his way north. At this time, Glenbervie belonged to Sir John Melville who was later murdered on account of his unpopularity with the people. In 1468 the estate passed from the Melvilles through marriage to the Auchinleck family of Ayrshire. In 1492 its connection with the Douglas family began when Sir William Douglas of Braidwood, second son of the 5th Earl of Angus, married the then heiress. A successor of his, also named William, inherited the title of 9th Earl of Angus in 1588 and died at Glenbervie some three years later. Sir William Douglas, 3rd Baronet of Glenbervie, was created one of the first Baronets of Nova Scotia in 1625.
The estate was sold by Sir Robert Douglas to his second cousin, Robert Burnett, in 1675 and, soon after his purchase, he married Katherine Douglas, a daughter of Sir William Burnett. In 1721, the Burnetts sold to William Nicolson of Mergie, later Sir William Nicolson of Kemnay. Thus, for the second time in their history, Glenbervie and Kemnay had the same owners, the first being William Douglas in c.1562. Sir William Nicolson was a great agricultural improver in the area, indeed he was the first person to grow hay from seed. In 1831 Robert Badenach acquired the property through a Nicolson heiress. Their son, James, was also an improver and was a prominent figure in the 19th century life in the area. He enlarged the house and further embellished the grounds which had been laid out by his father. The estate is, at present, the property of Mrs Patience Badenach Nicolson of Glenbervie who has further developed the gardens since the 1930s.
Glenbervie House, listed category B, is a three-storey castle, the original date of which is unknown. The building was altered c.1700 and again in the mid-19th century. It was restored in 1965.
The Doocot, listed category B, is dated 1736. It stands in the field to the east of the west entrance gates. The Ice House stands next to Glenbervie House. The West & East Gates, listed category B, are thought to be 18th century. In the walled garden stands the Sundial, listed category B, which is dated 1767 and the glasshouse, made by Moncrieffe of Edinburgh, which is thought to be dated c.1800 although the glass was replaced in 1953. A summerhouse is set into the slope of the walled garden. A summerhouse, noted on the 1st edition OS map in the woodland next to the east drive, had gone by the 1930s.
The parkland lies to the east of the house. It is enclosed by a ha-ha wall on the inner edge. The east drive runs along the northern boundary. It is lined with beech and sycamore, some over 200 years old and other younger Victorian specimens of sycamore and lime. Within the parkland are specimen trees of copper beech, sycamore and Wellingtonia. Reference to the 1st & 2nd edition OS maps indicates that the park was never well stocked with trees, a point confirmed by the present owner. A flagstaff marked on the 1st edition OS map has gone.
The woodlands flank the east drive as far as the edge of the parkland where they continue south to the Water of Bervie to form the southern enclosure of the park.
The woodlands on either side of the east drive are coniferous, planted as amenity woodland about 20 years ago under the Forestry Commission Small Woods Scheme. Within the woodland on the north side of the drive, lies an elongated canal which had been formed, prior to 1850, to provide ice for the house. Around it stands the remains of some yew and other ornamental planting. The woodland east of the park is predominantly beech around 150 years old with some younger naturalised beech and sycamore. A footpath which is indicated through the woodland on the 1st & 2nd edition OS maps is now a tractor track down to the Ford of the Water of Bervie. An area of mature mixed woodland stands on the bank between Glenbervie Castle and the Pilketty Burn.
A woodland garden lies in the woodland on the south-western boundary of the park. A blaes pathway, edged by mown grass, runs through it and, in addition to the mature beech canopy, ornamental trees and some Rhododendron have been planted. A new woodland garden has been created by Mrs Badenach Nicolson to the north of the house next to the west drive amid a mature tree canopy of mixed deciduous trees and Victorian conifers. The understorey has been cleared and been replanted with rowan, Cercidyphyllum, Halesia carotina and Embothrium sp., together with a variety of conifers.
The Pilketty Burn runs through the garden on its way south to meet the Water of Bervie which has been diverted to form the Mill Pond just within the northern boundary of the garden. In these damp areas, a new water garden with Hostas, Primulas and other moisture-loving woodland species has been established. Some areas have been left uncut to encourage wild flowers such as the aconites.
An area of formal lawn lies adjacent to the east front of Glenbervie House on which specimen trees of Monkey puzzle, oak, copper beech and larch stand. An old larch tree here is reputed to be one of the oldest in Scotland.
This lies on the west bank of the Pilketty Burn and is laid out in a traditional formal style. The valley setting of the garden enables a magnificent view of the overall garden to be taken from the west drive which extends past the house down to the Ford of the Water of Bervie. Two footpaths descend from this drive and cross the Pilketty Burn at the east and west corners of the southern boundary of the garden. Between the Burn and this southern boundary, lined by a Fuchsia hedge, is a pond with a statue of Mercury surrounded by Azaleas which provide a fine display in spring. There are also some old species roses in this part of the garden.
The walled garden is dominated by the fine conservatory which extends along the inner south-facing wall. Beneath it, the garden is laid out in a series of beds, many edged with box. A central pathway leads down the garden and through an archway to the summerhouse which stands on the lawn and is flanked by two yew trees wreathed in Tropaeolum. The path continues around the summerhouse and down past a circle of display bedding to the main gate of the garden in the south boundary. The former straight lines of the box-edged borders have been curved into serpentine walks. Shrubs, flowers and vegetables are planted in blocks of single species through the garden for their colour and texture and they contribute to a magnificent display in spring and summer. The double herbaceous borders, in particular, have some interesting plants including Veratrum nigrum and Kirengeshoma palmata. The greenhouse is fully stocked and also provides a fine display; variegated Abutilon lines the walls between climbing Geraniums and Pelargoniums, and figs, peaches and tomatoes are grown. To the north of the walled garden is a series of enclosures formed by yew hedges.