Inventory Garden & Designed Landscape

NETHERBYRESGDL00294

Status: Designated

Documents

Where documents include maps, the use of this data is subject to terms and conditions (https://portal.historicenvironment.scot/termsandconditions).

Summary

Date Added
01/07/1987
Last Date Amended
30/06/2011
Local Authority
Scottish Borders
Parish
Ayton, Eyemouth
NGR
NT 94240 63272
Coordinates
394240, 663272

The ingenious and possibly unique elliptical walled garden at Netherbyres, constructed by William Crow in 1720-51, remains beautifully maintained and is planted according to a traditional layout, established before 1850. It is the most notable feature of this designed landscape which also comprises woodland, parkland and a Victorian mansion.

Type of Site

A compact, mid-18th century designed landscape that retains some features of its original structure, such as the walled garden and parkland areas. Substantial 19th-century modifications included the construction of the present house, the removal of a lake and formal garden and the establishment of new drives and woodland plantations.

Main Phases of Landscape Development

1720s-1750, 1830s-1900

Artistic Interest

Level of interest
Outstanding

The historic walled garden, maintained in excellent condition, is recognised as a work of art in its own right owing to the quality of the layout and planting schemes.

Historical

Level of interest
Outstanding

The historic walled garden, maintained in excellent condition, is recognised as a work of art in its own right owing to the quality of the layout and planting schemes.

Horticultural

Level of interest
High

Good surviving documentary evidence links the development of the designed landscape to two notable historical figures; William Crow in the 18th century and Captain Samuel Brown in the 19th century. Surviving historic plans also form a valuable source of evidence for the development and changing character of the designed landscape, while the 18th-century, elliptical walled garden forms an outstanding and possibly unique historic component.

Architectural

Level of interest
High

The rubble and brick-built walled garden at Netherbyres is of significant architectural and historic merit, with additional architectural interest provided by the house, coach house and former outbuildings.

Archaeological

Level of interest
High

Earlier features of the designed landscape, including the formal garden adjacent to the walled garden, and an old road are detectable through earthwork and crop mark evidence. Meanwhile, the sites of prehistoric ring-ditches within the designed landscape are known through aerial reconnaissance.

Scenic

Level of interest
Some

The canopy of the mature deciduous woodlands provide some scenic value in the local landscape, otherwise characterised by farmland, and the suburbs of the coastal town of Eyemouth.

Nature Conservation

Level of interest
Some

Further work to enlarge the pond at the beginning of the 21st century has created a habitat for freshwater flora and fauna. Meanwhile, the policy woodlands also provide a valuable wildlife refuge.

Location and Setting

The small designed landscape of Netherbyres is located immediately to the south of the coastal town of Eyemouth and is set within the Lower Eye valley. Apart from the Eyemouth suburbs to the north of the policy wall, the surrounding landscape comprises gently-undulating agricultural land drained by the River Eye and its tributary, the Nettly Burn. These watercourses, which define the western and southern boundaries of the designed landscape, flow within fairly narrow, steep-sided valleys. Despite its valley setting, the proximity of Netherbyres to the east coast renders it exposed to fierce salt-laden winds. Managed perimeter woodlands around the north of the estate shelter the gardens and parks from the worst excesses of these winds, and restrict views out from the policies to the surrounding landscape. Current land use within the estate includes permanent grass and pasture in the smaller parkland plots and arable cultivation in the large field to the south. The designed landscape encompasses some 31ha (77ac). Apart from the River Eye and Nettly Burn, it is bounded by the A1107 to the east and north.

Site History

Some of the most significant developments at Netherbyres can be attributed to the tenure of two key figures; William Crow (1702-50) and, a century later, Captain Sir Samuel Brown (1776-1851).

William Crow was descended from a long line of Crows, or 'Craws', at Netherbyres. Records indicate their presence on the estate from at least the 1550s, with Crow inheriting the property in 1706 while still an infant. Following a Masters degree in Edinburgh, he returned to Netherbyres in 1720 to manage the estate. As a promising mathematician and engineer, William participated in contemporary academic debate, conducted his own experiments at Netherbyres and helped establish the Edinburgh Philosophical Society in 1737. His surviving letter to Dr Alstone, Professor of Botany at Edinburgh forms a particularly crucial piece of evidence for his interest in horticulture, his plants of choice at Netherbyres, ('I deal only in the hardy flowering shrubs'), and his close observation of the effects of frost-damage (quoted in Furness 1986a: 90-2). Most significant perhaps, is his reference to a 300 foot long wall of peaches. This, together with his mathematical background, points to Crow as the designer and builder of the exceptional, perfectly elliptical walled garden still standing within the designed landscape.

In the seventy years following Crow's death in 1750, the estate changed hands several times. Initially, his wife and daughters lived on at Netherbyres while the lands were managed by John Molle of Mains. From 1767 to 1813, William Crow's son, George resided at Netherbyres. After George's death Netherbyres passed to a nephew who commissioned Blackadder to survey the grounds in 1818. By the 1820s, the estate was suffering extreme financial difficulties.

Rescue, and a new phase of activity at Netherbyres, arrived with the purchase of the estate by Captain Samuel Brown. Distinguished by his successful sea-faring and engineering career, Captain Brown acquired Netherbyres between 1822 and 1830. With the same energy and ambition that characterised his working life (he was responsible for at least 40 suspension bridges and was knighted in recognition of his achievements by Queen Victoria in 1838), he set forth on a number of significant changes at Netherbyres, including demolishing the old house, constructing a new mansion and making improvements to the walled garden. Research by the present owner, Colonel Furness, indicates that Brown's ideas for the gardens could, at times, range from the practical (installing fences to avoid trespass along the river), to the unworkable; a fanciful vision of a canal around the exterior of the walled garden was thwarted by the factor's advice regarding the difficulties and expense involved (Furness 1986b: 77-8).

Cartographic evidence provides the clearest indication of development in the latter half of the 19th century (1896-8, OS). After Brown's death in 1851, the estate was purchased by the Ramsay L'Amy family. In addition to enlarging the house, they were probably responsible for the removal of the formal garden and pond to the south of the house and the planting of further woodlands, including a large roundel towards the south of the estate. The total effect was a reduction of the earlier geometric characteristics of the design in favour of greater areas of parkland and softened edges.

After a further two changes in ownership at the start of the 20th century, the father of the present owner purchased the property in 1928. Significant contributions to the estate at Netherbyres since then have included the addition of a small wing to the house in the 1930s, the continued management and replanting of the woods, the careful maintenance of the layout of the walled garden, and the partial re-digging and dredging of the pond to the south east of the house. In the 1990s, Colonel Furness gifted Netherbyres House to the Gardeners' Royal Benevolent Society and renovated the ancillary buildings for rented accommodation. New additions, meanwhile, include a 1991 residence on the site of the former Victorian glasshouse within the walled garden, and a new property on the site of the former mid-19th century South Lodge, which by the 1980s had become derelict and a target for vandalism.

Landscape Components

Architectural Features

Netherbyres House is a Tudor-Jacobean-style gabled mansion designed by George Angus and built in 1834-35 for Samuel Brown. It was enlarged during the 1860s and a small wing added to the north side in the 1930s. Now forming an L-plan, the front and south-west sides are of coursed-cream sandstone, while the rear and north-east side are painted harl. The interior was converted for use as a residential home in the 1990s. A small wooden pavilion across the parking bay to the east was built by shipyard apprentices employed by the Furness family before the Second World War. The house and policies are enclosed by rubble boundary walls with cream sandstone gatepiers at the north and south entrances. To the east of the house, the elliptical-plan walled garden was devised and built c.1730s with further improvements c.1834. To the west of Netherbyres house, the 3-bay, sandstone rubble Coach House, fronted by a U-plan stable courtyard also dates to the 18th century with 19th-century additions and alterations. This building, now with lawns to front and back, and the former laundry, to the north west, were converted to residential use in the late 20th century. Further single-storey ancillary structures lie to the west of the coach-house. A late 20th-century house occupies the site of the former mid-19th century South Lodge.

Drives & Approaches

Cartographic evidence indicates two relatively straight drives leading into the policies from both north and south in the mid 18th century (Roy 1747-55, NAS RHP141751). The northern approach led past the walled garden on the right before a 90° angle turn led to a gentle descent towards the former house. The southern approach entered the policies along an old road via a bridge over the Nettly Burn before again, turning to lead to the former house. These approaches were evidently lined with trees, suggested by the remnant lines of trees depicted in the first edition Ordnance Survey (1855-7, OS 25”) a line of decaying veteran elm stumps near the southern turning point towards the house, and two linear cropmarks visible in aerial photographs of the field to the south-west of the present approach. These marks probably denote the former field boundaries either side of the approach, and marked on Blackadder's survey map of 1818 (NAS RHP141751).

By the mid 19th century, these rather straight, rigid approaches had been replaced. Now, the south drive, bordered by mainly mixed deciduous planting, winds around the north edge of the park in an 'S' bend and leads to the coach house and main house. Another drive enters the estate from the A1107 to the north, leading past the north-west elevation of Netherbyres house before turning and connecting with the south drive. A further entrance via a tension bridge over the River Eye, built by Samuel Brown, was closed when the bridge was demolished in 1929 due to its dangerous condition.

Paths & Walks

Many of the woodland paths marked on the first and second Ordnance Survey maps are maintained (1855-7, OS 25”; 1896-8, OS 25”).

Parkland

Located to the east of the south drive, the principal parkland area features veteran specimens of ash, oak, elm and holly, a small number of which could pre-date 1800. The large cereal fields in the southern half of the estate was subdivided into four parks in the early 19th century, and included House Park, Mid Park, East Bank and Crow Field (NAS RHP141751). These were partly amalgamated by the mid 19th century, with the large wooded roundel present by the time of the second Ordnance Survey (1896-8, OS 6”). This contains mainly hardwood species with a few conifer survivors, and is a prominent scenic component within the policies today.

Woodland

Perimeter woodland curves along the policy boundaries. Along the south, by the Nettly Burn, and the north-west, on the bank of the River Eye, mixed deciduous species predominate with some cypress trees serving to screen the Eyemouth suburbs from the house. Young trees planted among the older specimens in the Nettlyburn plantation will ensure the continued survival of this woodland area. To the south west of Netherbyres House, an ornamental wood is gradually reverting to mixed woodland. Horse chestnuts, and other hardwoods standing in the area between the walled garden and the north are interspersed with occasional conifers, probably planted towards the end of the 19th century. A more recent conifer belt edged with ash screens the A1107 along the eastern boundary.

Water Features

An 18th-century canal that extended south-east from the coach house is clearly visible in a photograph of the 1920s. It was mostly infilled during the 20th century, and now only remnants of its edging can now be seen.

A lake with sinuous edging located at the far end of the formal garden is shown on the first edition Ordnance Survey map (1855-7, OS 25”). A small island within the lake was aligned with the long central axis of the formal garden, which suggests that views from the house were deliberately focused towards this point. By 1900, the pond had been infilled. Partial re-digging and dredging in the 1930s and in the early 21st century have now succeeded in re-establishing a small pond within the woodland at this location.

The Gardens

Today, there are no significant formal gardens associated with Netherbyres House, apart from a simple terraced lawn that extends from the north-eastern elevation of the house. To the south-east, there is a long area of grass pasture with a good range of trees including copper beech, elm and maple. The first edition Ordnance Survey map, however, indicates that formerly, this was the site of a long, rectangular formal garden (1855-7, OS 25”). Evidence for its layout derive both from this map and the faint undulations that can still be seen on the lawn and grass pasture in this area, particularly in dry weather conditions. A central point, some 100m from the house, was enclosed by a curving path which formed an elliptical area, echoing the shape of the walled garden. This area was further subdivided by intersecting paths and featured symmetrical tree-planting. An urn from this garden is now sited in the walled garden. Meanwhile, the long path leading from the house formed a long central axis which may have served to focus views from the house towards the lake and its small island to the south-east. This garden was removed prior to 1900.

Walled Gardens

This exceptionally rare, mathematically-laid out elliptical walled garden may have been inspired by J Worlidge's Art of Gardening (1682) which praised the concept of a circular garden as being '..very pleasant…The walls about such a Garden are very good for fruit, the Wind being not so severe against a Round, as against a streight Wall' (quoted in Mills 1986: 30). William Crow, mathematician and horticulturalist, almost certainly devised the garden during the 1730s. Measurements of the sun-catching portion equate very well with his description of a 300 foot peach wall and it is possible that a line of ash trees, partially surviving outside the wall to the south east, was planted along the ellipse's directrix (a straight line, perpendicular to the long axis of the ellipse, which helped to measure the precise curve of the wall).

Existing research on Samuel Brown's correspondence suggests that when he acquired the estate in the early 19th century, the walled garden had fallen into disrepair, and served more as an enclosure for fruit trees than a formal space. A veteran pear tree may be a survivor from this period (Col. Furness, pers.comm.). Two distinct phases of rubble-stone work visible on the exterior western curve also indicate that originally, this part of the wall was significantly lower, and perhaps allowed views in from the house. Brown built up the walls to a uniform height and added further red-brick lining along the interior.

The formal layout of the interior remains largely intact today and can also be attributed to the tenure of Brown. Perimeter walks and equally-spaced paths converge in the centre where a large, planted urn currently replaces the earlier centrepieces of a fountain, and before that, a pond.

The content of the walled garden is superbly managed. Despite the demolition of the Victorian glasshouse on the interior of the west-facing wall, and its replacement by a modern house, the impression of colour and symmetry within the walls remains striking. Fruit trees and flourishing 'Kiftsgate', white rambling rose, ascend the brick interior of the walls, beds stocked with roses and ornamental shrubs line the paths and form islands within the inner lawns. A large yew hedge running across the garden divides the ornamental section from a smaller area of vegetable plots, while dwarf box hedging and a box parterre adorn the south-eastern quadrant of the ellipse. A blue-green gazebo installed in the opening years of the 21st century is modelled on an example from the gardens at Tyninghame, near Dunbar.

References

Bibliography

Maps, Plans and Archives

1747-55 General Roy's Military Survey

1771 Andrew Armstrong and Mostyn Armstrong, 'Map of the County of Berwick'

1797 John Blackadder, 'Berwickshire'

1818 John Blackadder, 'Estate of Nether-Byres. Property of William Molle Esqr. By John Blackadder, surveyor', NAS RHP141751

1826 T Sharp, C Greenwood and W Fowler, 'The County of Berwick'

1855-7 survey Berwickshire, 1st edition OS 1:2500 (25”) and OS 1:10560 (6”), published 1858-60

1896-8 survey Berwickshire, 2nd edition OS 1:2500 (25”) and OS 1:10560 (6”), published 1908-9

NAS GD416/33 Correspondence and plans relating to improvement of Captain Brown's house and pleasure ground of Netherbyres at Ayton, Berwickshire, Including: Letter from H Freeman, Deptford, to Captain Brown [endorsed with pencil sketch of buildings at Netherbyres] 1833-34

NAS GD416/3 Legal papers and correspondence relating to Netherbyres House, Ayton, Berwickshire. Including: Architectural elevation and plans of house by Alexander Mitchell [1832]. Bond and disposition in security for £5000 by Samuel Brown in favour of Joseph Gunson Esq of Ingwell near Whitehaven, 1834. Plans and reports [by Brown] of alterations to garden, [1833].

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

Furness, S J 1986a, 'Captain Sir Samuel Brown of Netherbyres', History of the Berwickshire Naturalists' Club, 43, 73-9

Furness, S J 1986b, 'William Crow of Netherbyres', Proceedings of the Berwickshire Naturalists' Club, 43, 90-2

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

Longville, T 2000, 'Go for a total ellipse', Country Life, 194, 19, 126-31

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

Mills, S 1986, William Crow of Netherbyres (1704-1750): A sketch of his life and work, manuscript held by RCAHMS MS/499/17 Netherbyres Inventory Research Folder

Note of Abbreviations used in references

NAS: National Archives of Scotland

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

About the Inventory of Gardens and Designed Landscapes

Historic Environment Scotland is responsible for designating sites and places at the national level. These designations are Scheduled monuments, Listed buildings, Inventory of gardens and designed landscapes and Inventory of historic battlefields.

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Images

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Printed: 03/06/2020 11:46