Harburn House was built in 1804 for Alexander Young (1757-1842), factor to the Duke of Hamilton, to replace Hayfield House, which lay further to the north. Although the Ordnance Gazetteer (1882) notes the existence of 'Harburn Castle', said to have been fortified during Cromwell's invasions, nothing survives.
The designed landscape at Harburn (95ha; 235 acres) is centred on the early 19th century house. Apart from the remains of an early 18th century (?) lime avenue, near the site of Hayfield House, and recent planting (late 20th century), the structural planting and design layout dates to the early 19th century. Three improvement plans for the estate survive. The first is dated 1805 and the tentative design shown is developed further in Baucop's plan (1808) which is more elaborate with lakes and individual parks. The third plan, prepared in 1815 by Thomas White Jnr. is not dissimilar to that produced by Bauchop and was not fully executed.
White's plan recommended thinning of the tree plantations, and a picturesque treatment of the perimeter plantations by reshaping them, so that their perimeter followed a serpentine line. He also recommended laying out extensive walks and rides through them. He proposed merging the two existing small lakes to the north of the house in order to create a larger lake and extending northwards to end within the perimeter parkland belt. He also proposed creating another to the south-west. Although Young did not execute this scheme in full, by the mid 18th century the main lake to the north of the house had been enlarged and three islands added (1853-6, OS 6").
In the 1850s the building of the Caledonian Railway and realignment of the public road network, to the north-west of Harburn, led to the construction of a new lodge and the rearrangement of the drives, including a new vehicular bridge and footbridge giving access across the railway line. The two lodges which lay on the public road now lie within the park.
Mid-20th century work included the construction of two new lakes, on the sites proposed by White. Harburn is run as a commercial and sporting estate with the house now a hotel and conference centre.
Harburn House is a square, two-storey, attic and basement Georgian house of five bays and two full height bows to the rear. Park railing separates the house from the immediate grounds to the north-west. The Stable Yard/Steading consists of a square cobbled courtyard with an arched and gabled pend, and is possibly contemporary with the earlier house. At the south front a late-19th century timber Summerhouse, with tiled roof and wooden finials on the gable ends, stands on the lawn. It has a gabled front door, with flanking coloured glass windows, fretted barge boards, and a small verandah. The Doocot, c1830, comprises a castellated stone tower, with machicolations. The main Lodges and Entrance Gateways to Harburn lie on a side road just off the B7008. The semicircular stone walls are finished with plain stone pillars surmounted by shallow pyramidal cap stones. The gates are plain wrought-iron. The lodge c1850 is a single storeyed gable building. A single-span bridge carries the drive across the railway, c1850. The Old Lodges now lie within the park on the old road before the Caledonian Railway line was constructed c1850. These are simple, stone-built lodges with later additions. The 19th century South Lodge and Whistle Gate Lodge are both plain and single-storey. Two Bridges cross the burn on the main drive. The first is a plain, single-span, rubble-built bridge. The second bridge, also single-span, crosses the burns from the ponds to the north-east of the house, and provides a principal view of the house. It has piers with shallow pyramidal cap stones. The burn is broken up by a series of mini-cascades. In the woodland garden to the south of the house there are two small ornamental bridges with 19th century decorative cast-iron railings. In the park to the south-east of the house is a Monument, a plain stone column with ball finial decoration, commemorating the visit of Charles X of France to Harburn in 1832. Although Cromwell's Stone is marked on the OS map, it cannot now be located.
Drives & Approaches
There are two principal drives, both dating to the early 19th century scheme. The main, north, drive enters from a side road of the B7008 by the main lodge now to the north of the railway. After crossing the railway the drives leads across the north park, an undulating landscape with views of streams and lakes. The approach to the house is contrived and laid out to take advantage of the natural topography so there are only occasional views of the house in its parkland setting; as one progresses, they disappear before arrival at the east front.
The south drive enters the estate from the B7008 at Harburnhead and leads across the south park, to the east of the woodland garden, to arrive at the east front of the house.
Paths & Walks
The remains of a walk, now overgrown, links the north drive and walled garden. A hardcore track to the south-east of the doocot leads down to the lakeside path, crossing the burn by a stone bridge.
The park is enclosed by thick perimeter planting of mixed conifers and deciduous trees. The house is located on higher ground overlooking the Bents Burn, which floes south-west to north-east across the park, and feeds the lakes. To the north of the house is a series of inner parks, all separated from one another by inner tree belts and clumps in a picturesque style, while to the south of the house is a series of larger, rectangular, enclosure parks which extend to the public road (B3007).
The remains of parkland planting include sycamore (Acer pseudoplatanus), common oak (Quercus robur), and copper beech (Fagus sylvatica, 'Purpurea'). Trees in the immediate vicinity of the house include common lime (Tilia x europaea), sycamore, common oak and sweet chestnut (Castanea sativa); the latter may relate to the landscape associated with Hayfield House. Flowering cherries around the house are the most recent planting.
The main lake, sited north of the walled garden, is roughly crescent shaped and some 6.5ha in extent. A narrow path with stone edging leads around the lake perimeter and is planted to either side with rhododendron. The tree canopy overhead consists of common lime, Scots pine (Pinus sylverstris), silver birch (Betula pendula), common yew (Taxus baccata), and Irish yew (Taxus baccata, 'Fastigiata'). Three islands are planted with Rhododendrons and a mixture of deciduous and coniferous trees. A rustic boathouse was sited on the south-east banks.
The pleasure grounds initially shown as part of Bauchop's scheme were developed further as suggested by White. They are laid out in woodland, extending along Bents Burn and the main lake to the north and to the south-west of the house. A series of walks in the south-west pleasure grounds lead though an early 19th century beech wood to a series of ponds laid out along the burn, crossed in two places by ornamental bridges. A large wood, north-west of the lower pond, relates to White's proposals and has been underplanted with Rhododendrons.
Recently these ponds have been extended (mid 20th century) and there has been further planting of hybrid Rhododendron.
The position of the walled garden is as suggested by White (White, 1815); on lower ground between the stable yard and the main lake. Three doors lead into the garden, on the north, east and south walls; those in the east and south walls link with the walks around the lake.
Attached to the north wall of the garden are a potting shed and a boiler room, each lit by ornamental gothic windows. A small stone font with stone mask has been set into the south garden wall. There are two glass houses on the south-facing wall, and a pit house; fruit trees trained on the walls. The Bents Burn flows through the eastern half of the garden, where it has been channelled to feed a formal stone-lined canal.
Originally the garden was designed as both a flower and vegetable garden, with gravel paths dividing the separate compartments. The remnants of a double central mixed border and peripheral borders survive, as do borders edging the canal and a clipped yew arbour which once housed a 19th century cast-iron bench.
Maps, Plans and Archives
1805 Plan for Improvement of the Ground around the House of Hayfield, 1805. Private Collection.
1808 R. Bauchop, 'Plan of the Lands of Harburn and Haymains belonging to Alexander Young Esq, Surveyed January 1808'. Private collection.
1815 Thomas White (Junior), 'A Design for the Improvement of the Grounds of Harburn, the Seat of Alexander Young Esq', 1815
1864 Plan of estate, based on 1st edition OS 1:10560 (6"), 1864: SRO RHP 3914
Groome, F. Ordnance Gazetteer (1882)
Historic Scotland on Behalf of Scottish Ministers, The List of Buildings of Special Architectural or Historic Interest
McWilliam, C. Buildings of Scotland: Lothian (1978)
Arnold, W. The Historic Houses of Scotland (1988)
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Printed: 25/10/2021 13:56