Inventory Garden & Designed Landscape

MELLERSTAINGDL00280

Status: Designated

Documents

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Summary

Date Added
01/07/1987
Last Date Amended
30/06/2011
Local Authority
Scottish Borders
Parish
Earlston, Nenthorn, Smailholm
NGR
NT 64546 39213
Coordinates
364546, 639213

Mellerstain is an exemplar of early-mid 18th-century formal landscape design. Attributed to William Adam, the long axial vistas, dramatic folly, lake and structured woodlands serve to control lines of sight and to forge impressions of symmetry and elegance. A key, early 20th-century garden by Reginald Blomfield adds another dimension to the artistic value of the designed landscape as a whole. The scenic value of the local area is enhanced by these landscape components, while the house itself, by William and Robert Adam, is of major architectural significance.

Type of Site

A large-scale formal framework surrounds a central mansion built in two stages during the 18th century. Later parkland has become a significant element of the core landscape, while elaborate, early 20th-century garden terraces and lawns form a major attraction for visitors to the designed landscape.

Main Phases of Landscape Development

1720s-1730s; 1770-1820; 1909-11

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

Value
Outstanding

The designed landscape at Mellerstain exhibits the work of two influential and important designers. William Adam was involved in creating the original, early 18th-century formal scheme. The gardens to the south of the house are a key surviving work by architect Sir Reginald Blomfield (1856-1942).

Historical

Value
Outstanding

Surviving components such as the vistas and Hundy Mundy folly comprise important examples of 18th-century landscape design. The aesthetics of the Edwardian age, meanwhile, are represented by Blomfield's symmetrical, neo-Georgian garden, built 1909-11. Plans of the designed landscape drawn in the 18th century provide further historical value.

Horticultural, Arboricultural, Silvicultural

Value
Some

The range of mature parkland and woodland trees and the growing collection of ornamental specimens provide some horticultural value.

Architectural

Value
Outstanding

The well-maintained designed landscape forms the setting for Mellerstain House, recognised as nationally important through its category-A listed status. Further architectural features and ornamentation, including the Hundy Mundy tower, mausoleum and estate buildings contribute to the architectural significance of this site.

Scenic

Value
Outstanding

Substantial mixed policy woodland forms a prominent element in the local landscape and contrasts with the surrounding landcover of cropped and grazed farmland. Mellerstain lake and the house itself are also strong scenic elements in some views across the Tweed lowlands.

Nature Conservation

Value
High

The extensive deciduous woods form an important habitat for birds and mammals. Nest boxes have been installed on some trees and there is a resident red squirrel population, which benefits from a mature spruce plantation within the grounds. The lake and its small island offer an excellent habitat for a range of nesting waterfowl.

Archaeological

Value
High

There are a number of archaeological sites within the boundary of the designed landscape including a concentration of prehistoric features towards the south. Known through aerial photographs, these cropmarks include a possible henge site at Mellerstain Mill.

Location and Setting

Mellerstain, located 7 miles (11km) to the north-west of Kelso, is the largest Inventory designed landscape in the Scottish Borders. Encompassing 1413 hectares, the extensive policies are set within a distinctive landscape of gently rolling landform interrupted by prominent conical hills. This natural topography bore a strong influence on the original, early 18th century scheme, in which long-ranging views were encouraged over the undulations of the ground by means of the long axial vistas and the ridge-top Hundy Mundy folly at the southern edge of the designed landscape. Today, much of this design survives and there are impressive views over the fertile countryside of the Tweed lowlands, most notably towards the Cheviots to the south. The mansion, woods and artificial lake at the heart of the policies form important scenic elements, while the shelterbelts and substantial mixed policy woodlands on Mellerstain hill are prominent against the more general landscape of fields and pasture. The Eden Water, a tributary of the Tweed, flows through the south-eastern part of the designed landscape and forms the water source for Mellerstain lake. While the house and grounds are managed as a visitor attraction, the outer fields and higher grazing land are tenanted out to farmers. The boundary of the designed landscape is formed by a combination of field boundaries and shelter-belts, (especially on the west), minor roads and tracks (to the north and south-west), the course of the Hareford Burn and Eden Water (to the north-east and south), and the main A6098 road (to the south-east).

Site History

Mellerstain has remained within the ownership of a single family since the estate was acquired in 1642 by George Baillie of Jerviswood, Lanarkshire. While his son was imprisoned and publicly executed for his role in conspiracies against the crown, his grandson, (also George) went on to live a long life during which he instigated the main framework of the Mellerstain designed landscape. In his youth, George had weathered the political fallout of his family's troubles by means of a period of exile in Holland and had returned only when the rise of William II (William of Orange) offered safety and the restoration of his forfeited lands. With his new bride, Grisell Hume, George Baillie settled into a new political career before eventually turning his attention to the improvement and alteration of the house and grounds.

In 1700, George Home of Kimmerghame (q.v.) described the former Mellerstain residence; 'they have ane old tower wt but one room off a floor about 5 storey high but it looks vert ruinous' (quoted in Cruft et al. 2006: 529). Something entirely new was needed. In 1724, the Baillie's commissioned the renowned architect, William Adam, to design a new mansion with a suitable setting. Adam had been working for Grisell's brother at nearby Marchmont (q.v.) at the time, and the similarity of design between the two estates is notable. As with Marchmont, Adam aligned the house with a long, tree-lined avenue. To the south, a new ornamental canal and folly, the Hundy Mundy tower, enhanced impressions of order and symmetry and encouraged far-ranging views. A further east-west avenue provided a long, straight approach to the core area around the house. This early 18th century design, with its controlled lines of sight, focal points and the manipulation of perspective and geometry, was typical of the era. While only two wings of the actual house were built, the main elements of the formal landscape were established by 1738.

The next main phase of development took place in the later 18th century. Following the death of his maternal grandmother, Grisell, George Hamilton inherited Mellerstain in 1759 and assumed the family surname of Baillie. He returned to Scotland inspired from a Grand Tour that had included visits to Rome and Geneva, and commissioned Robert Adam to complete the main house with the addition of a large, castellated central block in the 1770s. Although there are no immediately accessible records to verify associated landscaping work, the cartographic evidence of later 18th-century to early 19th-century maps and plans reveal the ambitious scale of contemporary projects to plant substantial woodland plantations and shelter-belts in and around the designed landscape.

The house and grounds passed through succeeding generations during the 19th century, who, with time, also inherited the earldom of Haddington. The landscape retained its essentially formal character although some adherence to changing aesthetic values can be detected through alterations such as the informalisation of the approach route during the early 19th century, and the creation of a parkland setting around the house. The next major change came at the start of the 20th century when the elderly George Baillie Hamilton, 11th Earl of Haddington, commissioned the architect Reginald Blomfield to create a grand, new garden to the south of Mellerstain House in 1909 and to alter the form of the canal.

Today, the various historic elements of the designed landscape are still readily discernible. Some features suffered increasing dereliction during the later 20th century, such as the walled garden, a thatched summer-house and a boat-house on the lake. In general, however, the essential character of the designed landscape has endured. The woodlands, which had been largely clear-felled following the Second World War, were steadily restored by the 12th Earl of Haddington during the 1950s. In 1986, the Mellerstain Trust was established in order to administer the house and gardens as a visitor attraction and to ensure their ongoing maintenance. Projects since then have included schemes to replant native broadleaves and to promote and conserve wildlife habitat. The flower beds and borders in Blomfield's terraced garden were replanted in 1995, while more recently, work has concentrated on improving the network of visitor paths and trails and adding to the collection of ornamental trees to the south east of the house. The wooded ground around the Hundy Mundy folly is now run as a natural burial site.

Landscape Components

Architectural Features

Mellerstain House is a castellated Georgian mansion built in two phases. The flanking pavilions belong to an uncompleted house designed by William Adam in 1725-9, while the classically proportioned central block of yellow dressed sandstone was built c.1770-8 to designs by his son, Robert Adam. On a high ridge, at the far end of the vista to the south-east, the Hundy Mundy eye-catcher forms a distinctive silhouette. Begun in 1726, it takes the form of a tall Gothic archway with square turreted towers. Other 18th-century architectural features include the mausoleum to the north of the house, built in the form of a classical temple c.1736 by James Runciman, and two ruinous lodges on the old drive and by the walled garden. Closer to the house, the 2-storey, rubble-built, 18th-century stables and cottage block was probably remodelled c.1859, when a clock from Lauder Tolbooth featuring the date 1735 was inserted into its west, crow-stepped gable. Most of the other nearby ancillary buildings were added or remodelled during the 19th century. In contrast to the Georgian symmetry of the main design features at Mellerstain, the Norman cottage to the north-west of the house is an exemplar of rusticated cottage orné. Adapted from earlier structures in the mid to later 19th century, the harled and thatched building is surrounded by its own busy garden area and is secluded from the wider parkland landscape by an enclosure of shrubs and trees. The east and west lodges were built in the earlier 19th century following a reorganisation of the approach routes to Mellerstain. Further 19th-century accommodation was provided by The Row, a single storey range of cottages opposite to the east lodge and the two storey Garden Cottage. The adjacent walled garden, with coped, brick-built walls, is derelict, but still features ornate wrought iron gates. To the west of the house, a small, single-arched bridge over the Eden Water retains some of its original, 18th-century fabric.

Drives & Approaches

Two, short, near-symmetrical drives curve through the parkland from the east and west lodges and converge at the north front of the house. This arrangement was established by the earlier 19th century after the alteration of a more rigid, 18th century design. Previously, routes in from the surrounding landscape were channelled along the principal, long, tree-lined avenues before reaching Mellerstain. Visitors on the road from Earlston, for instance, traversed nearly a mile and a half (2.3km) of die-straight road before a sharp, 90 degree turn brought them to face the house along the intersecting north-south avenue. This formal effect was subsequently softened through a project to conceal the junction point in the late 18th to earlier 19th century. The east-west road north of the house was curved outwards and sunk, so that it could no longer be seen by the occupants, while new lodges and curving sections of drive effected a more informal final approach to the house and its forecourt.

Parkland

From the decorative wrought iron fence and gate that define the northern forecourt of Mellerstain House, parkland stretches and widens out to the north and north-west as far as the sunken minor road and Mellerstain Home Farm. Some young deciduous saplings have recently been planted to complement the existing scatter of older beech, oak, sycamore and sweet chestnut specimens. In the 19th century, open parkland also swept down from the south front of the house, but this was replaced with Blomfield's terraced gardens and lawn in 1909-11. Plaques on a range of trees growing to the south-east of the house record the date of visit and name of the dignitaries who planted them. More recent ornamental additions complement the older trees in this area.

Avenues and Vistas

A notable feature of the policies is the enduring structure of the long axial avenues of the early 18th-century landscape. Historic maps are the best source for appreciating their original scale. Roy's Military Survey of 1747-55, for instance, shows the 3km long east-west axis, which was lined with a double row of trees, and the principal north-south avenue. This main avenue stretched from the north front of the house up to the summit of Mellerstain Hill and from the south front of the house down to a plantation beyond the canal, a device that led the eye towards the more distant Hundy Mundy folly on the skyline. Later, the double avenue of trees on the east-west avenue was reduced c.1800 to a single avenue of beech and lime, while subsidiary, perpendicular rides and avenues were planted over or removed by the early 19th century. Nonetheless, the dominant framework of the two axial vistas endures. A ride up the densely wooded Mellerstain hill preserves the original effect of the northern channel, while to the south, Blomfield's garden terraces and lawn were designed to preserve and enhance the linearity of the original formal scheme.

Woodland

An extensive, mixed woodland canopy over Mellerstain Hill and around the southern margins of the lake form the principal woodland components in the designed landscape. They are complemented by shelter-belt plantations around the square inner fields of the policies, and outlying blocks such as Marchfield plantation to the west, and the ridge-top strip of trees that flanks the Hundy Mundy tower to the south. In terms of structure, the present Mellerstain woodlands bear a close resemblance to the original planting schemes of the mid-later 18th century. Following the clear-felling of many hardwoods during the Second World War, re-planting schemes ensured that new hardwoods, nursery crops and single beech plantations followed the boundaries of the earlier plantations. The main northern axial avenue is preserved as a ride through the plantation on Mellerstain Hill that terminates at a clump of veteran beech, spared from the wartime felling project. Maps and plans of the 18th century show that in addition to the main avenues, the larger policy plantations were divided by numerous rides that fanned out diagonally and reconverged on a series of circular glades. Both the Roy and Blackadder maps depict a particularly large, circular clearing on the summit of Mellerstain Hill, a feature which perhaps strengthened its qualities as a focal point at the end of the northern vista by allowing the summit to be seen in profile. Meanwhile, woodland along the Eden Water was probably first planted in the earlier 18th century and enlarged c.1770s. Today, the veteran beech, oak, sycamore, lime and horse and sweet chestnuts in this area form an attractive woodland setting for footpaths. Through the administration of the Mellerstain Trust, the woodland resource is maintained through careful replanting and management schemes and nest-boxes are used to encourage birds.

Small, late 19th century woodland garden areas remain evident around the house but are no longer maintained as such. To the east of the house, some exotic trees and shrubs planted by the 12th Earl of Haddington can still be spotted. To the west, large rhododendron bushes are now beginning to encroach upon narrow grass paths that lead to a clearing where the ha ha divides the core area from the adjacent fields.

Water Features

Mellerstain Lake is the main water feature of the designed landscape. Fringed by deciduous woodland, it is prominent in views south from the house, and affords a valuable habitat for birdlife. The lake owes much of its present form to Reginald Blomfield's garden scheme of 1909, when the banks of the existing formal 'Dutch Canal' were 'naturalised' to create a more sinuous form. The earlier canal, fed by the Eden Water, had been created c.1727 as part of William Adam's formal landscape design. Depicted on both Roy's Military Survey, and Sharp's plan of 1765, the canal was surrounded by raised grass walks that were adorned, at intervals, by classical statues (Ottewill 1989: 25-6). Pencil lines on Thomas Garth's plan of 1756 suggest that at one time, thought was given to softening the straight lines of the canal, but in the event, this linear strip of water remained largely unchanged until Blomfeld's intervention. In addition to informalising the shape, this early 20th-century project involved rebuilding the north end to match the segmental southern end, and the construction of a new retaining wall to strengthen the banks. Periodic dredging of the lake assists with problems of silting.

The flowing stream of the Eden Water contrasts with the serene character of the lake. As shown by sketched plans dated 1727 and 1748, William Adam was also involved in a project to manipulate this watercourse. In 1748, the southern end of the canal was dammed to create the cascades, which allowed the water to fall to its natural level. Renovated by Blomfield in the early 20th century, the cascades were repaired again c.1970s.

The Gardens

Extending from the south front of Mellerstain House, the formal terraces, parterres and lawn comprise a major example of Edwardian garden design. They were commissioned in 1909 from Sir Reginald Blomfield, eminent architect, author and proponent of symmetry and formality in the garden. Structurally, the gardens were designed to fit with the existing formal arrangement inherited from the early 18th century. Immediately below the house, a paved, central platform encourages the viewer to stand and gaze along the principal vista towards the Hundy Mundy tower, while symmetrical ornamentation such as topiary and classical statuary emphasise the elegance and inherent order of the older design. The gardens are arranged on three levels. From the upper terrace, a double stairway over a pillared loggia descends to a rectangular walled compartment that contains axial paths and two large, geometric parterres. Another set of double stairs curves around a semi-circular, balustraded pond and leads to a smaller terrace before emerging onto a large expanse of lawn. Blomfield's original design had been much more grandiose, with larger terraces extending virtually all the way to the lake (Ottewill 1989: 24-5). As he wryly noted in later memoirs, 'we had to abandon this; indeed it would have required the resources of Louis XIV to carry out the whole of my design' (1932: 83). In the revised scheme, the lawn remains as a simple, sweeping linear channel defined by beech hedging on its outer edges.

The beds and borders on the terraces are immaculately maintained. The parterres have traditionally featured rose specimens within the box-edged compartments. In 1995, these were largely replaced with roses such as Bonica, The Fairy and Rose De Rescht. The mixed borders, meanwhile, contain an impressive and colourful array that includes Geraniums, Delphiniums, and Cimicifuga against a backdrop of wall roses.

Walled Gardens

Both Roy's Military Survey (1747-55) and Garth's plan of 1756 suggest an earlier walled garden site may have been located in the present parkland area to the north of the house. By the 1820s, a new kitchen garden had been established on sheltered, sloping ground on the north bank of the Eden Water, to the south-east of Mellerstain House. Today, this garden is derelict and heavily overgrown. With coped, brick-built walls, it had originally featured a glasshouse range along the north wall. By the mid-20th century, however, decline had set in; wrought iron gates were moved to Tyninghame shortly after World War II, while a visitor from the Berwickshire Naturalists Club in 1968 noted how time had eradicated the 'long borders of mauve and cream coloured stocks, the double herbaceous borders….the pots of lilac and Laburnum flowering early in the greenhouses' (Elliot 1969: 17). In the later 20th century, the garden was let briefly as a nursery.

References

Bibliography

Maps, Plans and Archives

1747-55 General Roy's Military Survey

1756 Plan by Thomas Garth, showing plantings, photographic copy, RCAHMS BWD/57/49

1765 Plan by Robert Sharp of the Sneep, the Hon. George Baillie, Esq. proprietor, RCAHMS BWD/57/48

1776 George Taylor and Andrew Skinner, 'A. Taylor and A. Skinner's Survey and Map of the Roads of North Britain or Scotland 1776'

1797 John Blackadder, 'Berwickshire'

1821 John Thomson, 'Berwick-Shire'

1826 Sharp, Greenwood and Fowler, 'The County of Berwick'

1855-7 survey Berwickshire, 1st edition OS 1:2500 (25”) and OS 1:10560 (6”), published 1862

1896-8 survey Berwickshire, 2nd edition OS 1:2500 (25”) and OS 1:10560 (6”), published 1909

RCAHMS: National Monuments Record of Scotland (NMRS) and photographic and manuscript collections

Sources

Printed Sources

ASH Consulting Group 1998, The Borders landscape assessment, Edinburgh: Scottish Natural Heritage

Blomfield, R 1932, Memoirs of an Architect, London: Macmillan and Co

Cruft, K; Dunbar, J and Fawcett, R 2006, Borders, London and New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press

Elliot, W R 1969, 'Vignettes of some Berwickshire gardens, being the presidential address of William Ryle Elliot, F. S. A. Scot.' History of the Berwickshire Naturalists' Club, 1968, 38, part 1

Girouard, M 1958, 'Mellerstain, Berwickshire– I: A seat of the Earl of Haddington' Country Life, Aug 28, 416-19

Historic Scotland on behalf of Scottish Ministers, The Lists of Buildings of Special Architectural or Historical Interest

Land Use Consultants 1987, Inventory of Gardens and Designed Landscapes in Scotland, Edinburgh: Historic Scotland, Scottish Natural Heritage

Lawson, B, n.d. A Brief History and Guide to Mellerstain House: Home of the Earl and Countess of Haddington Selkirk: Kelpie Books

Ottewill, D 1989, The Edwardian Garden New Haven, Conn. and London: Yale University Press

Taylor, C 1998, Parks and Gardens of Britain: A Landscape History from the Air Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press

Note of Abbreviations used in references

RCAHMS: Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland

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Images

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Mellerstain House looking NE, with terraced garden
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Printed: 14/12/2018 00:45