Inventory Garden & Designed Landscape


Status: Designated


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Date Added
Local Authority
NT 33371 65848
333371, 665848

This multi-period landscape was an early monastic site developed as a country house at the Reformation, set within a formal landscape from the mid 16th century. This formed the basis of an 18th century landscape park, extended further in the 19th century, and developed with formal gardens, an extensive circuit of picturesque walks and rides.

Type of Site

Multi-period. An important early monastic site developed as a country house at the Reformation, set within a formal landscape from the mid 16th century. This formed the basis of an 18th century landscape park, extended further in the 19th century. And developed with formal gardens, an extensive circuit of picturesque walks and rides. The designed and estate landscape is a major influence on the rural landscape and its settlement character.

Main Phases of Landscape Development

A 12th-16th century monastic settlement, 16th-mid-18th century formal landscape, late 18th-19th century landscape park, 20th century public parks.

Artistic Interest

Level of interest

Due to 20th century changes in land use and development, the landscape at Newbattle Abbey has only some value as a Work of Art.


Level of interest

Newbattle has outstanding Historical value due to its good documentary evidence from the 12th century onwards and associations with the Earls and Marquesses of Lothian.


Level of interest

Good specimen trees give this site some Horticultural value.


Level of interest

This site has outstanding Architectural value as the landscape and garden provide the setting for a Category A listed building. In addition there are a number of architectural features which, when considered together, comprise a significant assemblage of estate architecture.


Level of interest

Newbattle Abbey is of outstanding Archaeological importance. The major monastic establishment in the Lothians, it had a major influence on the settlement pattern of the area. Its developed into a secular estate is also of interest, and many earlier, medieval features seem to have been deliberately incorporated into the designed landscape.


Level of interest

Despite the enclosed nature of the landscape, Newbattle provides some Scenic interest due to the importance and extent of its 19th century planting which form a distinct landscape structure to the area south of Dalkeith.

Nature Conservation

Level of interest

The mixed deciduous woodland at Newbattle offers some Nature Conservation value.

Location and Setting

Newbattle Abbey lies 1km south from the centre of Dalkeith. The A7 (Dalkeith-Galashiels) adjoins the south-west boundary of the site and to the north, the housing at Eskbank (Newbattle Road, Abbey Road and Lothian Road) and Lothian Glen forms the boundaries. To the east, perimeter parkland belts enclose areas of park with Easthouses immediately adjacent. The southern extent of the site extends to The Beeches and ochre Burn that delimit fields immediately to the north of Lothianburn.

Newbattle Abbey sits on the west bank of the River South Esk, on the valley floor and at the confluence of numerous of the Esk's tributaries that flow through the parkland; the Queen Margaret's Burn, Pittendreich Burn and the Benbught Burn. The parkland is gently undulating, rising up to the east beyond the Esk and to the north-east and north-west. The south-west façade of the mansion is the main entrance front, with views leading directly down a tree-lined vista. To the north and east the formal gardens extend up to the river. The rolling landscape precludes any extended views out from the house except that to the south-west along the Great Avenue.

The extent of the 19th century park (238ha/588 acres) and policies at Newbattle are now reduced to 20th century housing development and urban expansion. The extensive policies have considerably influenced modern landscape development with shelterbelts, parkland trees and neat stone walls which define the farmland slopes. The Great Avenue leading south-west from the mansion is a strong feature which has persisted in the formation of Newbattle Abbey Crescent, the main axis of housing development in The Kings Park. Picturesque walks and rides along the heavily wooded banks of the Esk, in particular Lady Lothian's Walk, and walks to the south-east of the mansion within the west perimeter belt of Talbot Park.

Site History

The historical development of the landscape at Newbattle Abbey has not been researched in any depth to date. Nevertheless the major influences on its development can be discerned from consideration of both the known family history of the Earls of Lothian, and from the general architectural history of the estate.

The later, secular estate of Newbattle Abbey originated from the Cistercian foundation of Newbattle Abbey, the 'most important medieval monastic house in the Lothians' (McWilliam, 1978). The Cistercians, primarily farmers, generally sited their houses in fertile river valleys with easy access to water. Founded in 1140, the church was dedicated to St Mary in 1233, but was secularised by 1587. Mark Kerr (d.1584), abbot of Newbattle, renounced popery at the Reformation in 1560, but continued to hold the benefice in commendam, that is until a pastor was appointed. This was never to happen, thereby Newbattle Abbey, a premier Midlothian estate, passed to the Kerr family, and became a seat of the Earls of Lothian for the next 400 years. The remains of the conventual buildings, burned by the English in 1548, were incorporated into the mansion c1580 by the son of Abbot Kerr, Mark Kerr (d.1609), created 1st Earl of Lothian in 1604. His Newbattle lands were formed into a barony in 1587 and in 1589 Newbattle united with Prestongrange to become the lordship of Newbattle.

William Kerr (1605?-75), son of 1st Lord Ancrum, who married Anne Kerr, Countess of Lothian in 1631 and thereby became 3rd Earl of Lothian, undertook a Grand Tour in 1620. His travel journal survives. A leading Convenanter, he was Governor of Newcastle in 1640, Lieutenant General of the Scots army in Ireland and a member of the Commission at Breda who sought to invite Charles II to Scotland. 1st Lord Ancrum, Gentleman of the Bedchamber and Keeper of the Privy Purse, was a close friend of Charles I and it was probably through him that Newbattle's famous collection of books, pictures and sculpture originated. There is evidence that the house was aggrandised with a formal west façade with classical orders and it may be that the grand formal approach to Newbattle Abbey was first laid out for the 3rd Earl (McWilliam, 1978, p.348 mentions work by John Mylne of a new west front).

Important survivals from the 17th century gardens are two multi-faced sundials, (moved to their present position before 1889). By the 1720s there is a description of the gardens, which mentions a statue of a gladiator, known to have stood at the outer gate to Newbattle Abbey (Macky, 1724). This was probably one of a number of copies of the Borghese gladiator, part of the collection of Prince Borghese, a copy of which was made in 1631 for Charles I, possibly Le Sueur. (Another was commissioned by the 8th Earl of Pembroke for his garden at Wilton, and is now at Houghton Hall, Norfolk). This may also date to the 3rd Earl's time.

A Catalogue of some of the most considerable trees in Scotland (1789), itemises trees at Newbattle Abbey and this list was compared with measurements taken in 1874 (Laing, 1875 pp.535-6). The girth of the trees stated are considerable and although assessment of their age may well be misguided ('Many other Planes at Newbattle were planted before the Reformation…') some of these trees may derive from the mid-17th century formal landscape laid out by the 3rd Earl.

Robert Kerr, 4th Earl of Lothian (1636-1703), was appointed privy councillor to King William in 1689, Lord High Commissioner of the King to the General Assembly of the Kirk in 1692 and in 1701 created 1st Marquess of Lothian. Evidence that he was involved in laying out a formal landscape in contemporary fashion is attested by a letter, dated 1685, from him instructing Lady Lothian to have the canals completed, the rubbish removed and the ground levelled. Estate accounts for 1696 include the erection of an 'Eagle House'.

The earliest description of the gardens dates to 1724:

'This noble seat lies in a bottom, in the middle of a wood in a park encompass'd with a stone wall of about 3 miles circumference. The entry to the palace is as magnificent as can be imagin'd. In the area between the Avenue and the outer gate, is the statue of a gladiator; and on each side of the gate there is a large stone Pavilion; and through four square green courts you come to the Palace, each of the three first courts having rows of statues on each side, as big as the life, and in the fourth court the biggest holly trees I ever saw…. Underneath the great Stairs you enter a paved court which makes the centre of the house and carries you into the gardens.' (Macky, 1724).

By 1735, a park (possibly the site of a deer park) extended to the east of the River Esk and Newbattle Abbey, situated on the west side of the river, was approached by a long avenue to its west (Adair, 1735). Roy's Survey (1747-55) shows the landscape in more detail with woodland concentrated along the banks of the River Esk and clothing the ridge which runs north-east to south-west, to the north-west of the mansion. The Great Avenue approach led from Dalkeith road (now the A7), through the village of Newbattle clustered at the gates of the mansion, and then up to the south-west front of the mansion.

Robert, 4th Marquess of Lothian undertook extensive remodelling of the mansion 1770-5. At a cost of £4779 the house was battlemented, harled, and a conservatory with flanking grottoes and a hermit's cell were built. The next major period of change to the house and grounds was in the 19th century when the 8th Marquess (1832-70) employed William Burn (in 1836) and David Bryce (between 1856-66) to remodel and extend the house. The period of development was continued by the 9th Marquess (d.1900) during the 1870s. Although little is known of the design of the formal gardens laid out on the north-east front of the mansion at this time, one of the Nesfield family may have been involved in its design (for having inherited Blickling Hall, Norfolk in 1850, the 8th Marquess employed Matthew Digby Wyatt and Markham Nesfield, to create a new parterre there in 1870). The design for the parterre itself was by Constance, Marchioness of Lothian, and an intricate pattern of herbaceous beds, ribbon borders and hedges was completed by 1872.

Early 20th century photographs show the gardens in their hey-day. The south terrace gardens leading directly down to the river were formally planted and decorated with flights of steps and urns. To the east front a large formal parterre consisted of intricately cut scrollwork lawns, separated by gravel strips from box-edged segmental beds filled with contrasting patterns of bedding (Country Life, 1902).

In 1930, shortly after inheriting the estates of Newbattle, Monteviot, Ferniehurst and Blickling, the 11th Marquess of Lothian decided to hand over Newbattle Abbey, its contents and 125 acres of garden and parkland to a foundation that would run an education college. Newbattle Abbey College opened to students in 1937 and, apart from a break during World War II, its educational role continues to this day.

Landscape Components

Architectural Features

Newbattle Abbey The present building, incorporating the remains of the medieval monastic buildings, was extended in the 17th century and remodelled in a castellated style in the late 18th century. Alterations by William Burn in 1836 were followed in 1858, by the addition of a small two-storey wing on the north-east front by David Bryce, and a further castellated addition in 1886. The Stableyard, 19th century, is two-storey, rubble built to a courtyard plan with a clocktower on the north-west wing.

The Port Lodges (on the B703) form the principal entrance to the mansion. The two early 18th century, rubble-built pavilions have balustraded parapets, corner finials with urns between. Rusticated gate piers surmounted by large fluted urns with floral swag decoration are linked to the lodges by a short colonnade surmount by couchant lions. Eskbank Lodge, (at the junction of B703, Newbattle Road and Abbey Road) has flanking pedestrian gateways and dates to post-1894 (OS, 1894). The panelled gate piers with hand gates and outer piers are surmounted by armorial unicorns with heraldic shields bearing the Lothian sun motif and initials WL (William, Marquess of Lothian). Piers terminate the sandstone quadrant walls. Now unused, the grounds are part of St David's Roman Catholic High School grounds. Dalkeith Lodge, a sandstone baronial lodge with an asymmetric gothic gateway, was built sometime after 1853, and said to be 'a direct copy of a gateway in Rome (Carrick, 1907). A second lodge stood to the south-east of the Dalkeith Lodge but has been demolished and its site has been incorporated into the grounds of St David's school.

The King's Gate, a tripartite entrance gateway of ashlar blocks with a large central arch and smaller flanking hand gates, was erected in 1822 for George IV's visit to Newbattle Abbey. It originally stood within the south-east park as an eyecatcher, but was repositioned as a result of A7 roadworks. It now sits at the end of the south drive. The Gateway to Lady Lothian's Walk (off the A7) is a 19th century hand-gate entrance, stone-built with a rounded archway over. Further to north-west is a carriageway gateway entrance with 19th century simple stone piers with pyramidal finial stones and a matching post for a hand-gate to the side. The Gateway Entrance marking the east entrance to Lady Lothian's Walk has stone gate piers and a pedestrian side entrance.

A pair of Sundials each dated 1635, with octagonal dials, gnomons and armorial panels, stand on the chimeras, on 19th century tiered bases. The Conservatory, perhaps an Orangery or Camellia House, is a mid-18th century, classical, rectangular seven-bay building, converted into a Fernery, with rockwork in 'grottoesque' style. A supposed hermit's cell lies on its north wall. The building now lacks glass in the roof and window arcades. To the north-west are the remains of a flued brick wall that supported a range of glass. The Estate Wall includes part of the original abbey wall, known as the Monlkand Wall, to the south-west. The rest of the estate was enclosed in the 19th century by a stone wall with a convex stone cope.

The Walled Garden (Lamb's Nursery) dates to the mid 19th century (1854, OS 6"). Enclosed on three sides with sandstone rubble walls, the brick-lined front has an ashlar coping with 3 curvilinear gableheads and intermittent doorways. The gableheads emulate the curvilinear gables on Newbattle Abbey.

Drives & Approaches

The principal entrance to the mansion still lies from the south-west, through the 18th century Port Lodges. On the approach to the mansion the drive is lined with an avenue of common yew (Taxus baccata). Some mature sweet chestnuts (remnants of 18th century planting?) stand outside the yew avenue. On the north-west side of the avenue is a more recent planting of common lime. This formal approach existed by the mid 18th century (Roy's Survey, 1747-55).

To the south-west of the Port Lodges the Great Avenue continued, overall extending 1km, to lead onto the public road at Hardengreen, now the A7. it terminated in a roundel of trees, probably to screen the public road when driving away from the mansion. The route of the avenue has been developed as Newbattle Abbey Crescent, serving housing development (Hardengreen), and there are scant remains of the original planting.

Immediately to the south of the Port Lodges the road from Eskbank (B703) runs north-south across this axial route, an arrangement which has persisted since the mid 18th century.

A number of drives were laid out as part of the 19th century expansion of the park and policies, mainly in the 1850-60s (1854, OS 6"; Estate plan, 1861). In particular the construction of Newbattle Road, a new turnpike road to the west of the park, meant changes were made to the drive alignments. One led through Dalkeith Lodge, and over the north park, with views across to the Maiden Bridge (Country Life, 1902, p.339). Another further to the west led from Dalkeith through Benbught Wood. The latter drive does not survive and the area is now part of Newbattle Golf Course.

Paths & Walks

Extensive walks and rides were laid out, including a circuit walk with views from the higher parts of Kirk Bank over the valley floor and across to the river. The woodland in Kirk Bank is dominated by common lime and the walks were lined, in part, by yew. The walk passed between the walled garden and the Fernery at Archbishop Leighton's House. In the mid 19th century this walk crossed the public road (Newbattle Road, now the B703) by a metal bridge to continue through the perimeter belt as far as the Harden Green (1854, OS 6"). Many sections of this route are now impassable, and have been lost where the tree-belt has been felled to accommodate the golf course.

Immediately opposite the mansion, the east bank of the river is planted with evergreen shrubs and trees (including cherry laurel (Prunus laurocerasus), Portuguese laurel (Prunus lusitanica), and Rhododendron species). The walks continue further south through Lord Ancrum's Wood; the planting is more naturalistic with no exotic species. The wood is dominated by common lime.

Lady Lothian's Walk in the south park leads along the east river bank and was opened to the public in 1990 by the 12th Lord Lothian.


Analysis of the park's development has still to be researched. The parkland at Newbattle Abbey is extensive, despite 20th century development on the west banks of the Esk, which has significantly diminished its maximum extent. Considerable areas of ornamental parkland were laid out during the 19th century, principally to the north-east of the mansion. Nevertheless, the perimeter belts and woodland planting which delineate the individual parkland enclosures form a distinctive landscape character and style.

Ruchale Park, in the valley to the north-east of the mansion, was the site of a wartime ATS camp and part of it is now within Dalkeith Golf Course. Parkland trees have been felled in both these areas although some 19th century sycamore (Acer pseudoplatanus) and oak (Quercus robur) do survive. St David's Park, a small park north of the Esk, has been converted into a public park and recreation area serving local housing which has been developed (20th century) within the perimeter parkland belt to the north. Fortescue and D'Arcy Parks, to the south of Waterfall Park, have been combined into one area and for a major part of the Dalkeith Golf Course. A few scattered specimens of oak and sycamore survive in this area.

On the far south-west is The King's Park, where few trees survive, those that do being the remnants of the Great Avenue. Major housing development has been located in The King's Park, where the Pittendreich Burn has been culverted. Talbot Park, further to the south, is still grazed pasture, as is Campbell Park, further south again.


In the vicinity of Dalkeith Lodge areas of late 17th-early 18th century woodland survive mainly extensive plantings of lime with yew understorey. The configuration of most of the mid-18th century woodland survives, particularly along the river valley and along Kirk Bank which is oriented north-east to south-west, west of the mansion. On the east side of the River South Esk, the perimeter planting of the deer park retains some early oak stands.

The Gardens

A formal garden, laid out in the mid 19th century, lies on the mansion's north-east front. On its north-east side a yew hedge which has matured to three times its intended height encloses it. When the formal garden was laid out the sundials, originally situated at the wings, were removed and erected on stone platforms which were placed in bays formed in the yew hedges. A central gravel path leads through the yew hedge and curves around the site of a famous great beech tree, no longer extant (Country Life 1902). The area beyond the formal garden to the river was informally planted with trees and shrubs. To the north-west is an extensive shrubbery of Rhododendrons and mixed evergreen shrubs.

Following excavations by the Marquess of Lothian between 1878 and 1895, the foundations of the Abbey Church of St Mary have been laid out in the gravel, following through into the mansion where they are distinguished by patterns in the parquet flooring. Circular flowerbeds planted with roses represent the position of the pillars.

On the south-west front the lawns are planted with specimen trees, some dating from the 19th century.

Walled Gardens

The walled garden is situated to the north-west of the mansion, on the north side of Newbattle Road, and lies on the top of Kirk Bank. The walls now enclose a modern (1990s) housing development. The style of the north wall emulates the Dutch gable son the mansion by William Burn. In common with many of the larger walled gardens built at this period, it was a pleasure garden as well as a productive area, and lay on the circuit of walks. Originally furnished with a range of glasshouses – vineries, peach houses, conservatory, etc. (none of which survive) – it was constructed by 1892 (1892, OS 25"). The central conservatory included a rockery.

To the north of the main walled garden, a walled extension was built including a further range of glasshouses, in the late 19th century. These survive. To the south of the walled garden there are the remnants of an orchard.



Maps, Plans and Archives

1735 John Adair, 'A map of Mid Lothian by Mr John Adair FRS', 1735

1745-55 General Roy's Military Survey, 1747-1755

1852/3 survey, 1st edition OS 1:10560 (6"), published 1854

1861 Estate plan based on 1st edition OS, 1861: SRO RHP 10019

1892 survey, 2nd edition OS 1:2500 (25"), published 1894

1905-6 survey, 2nd edition OS 1:2500 (25"), published 1908

Alexander Archer, 'View of the Abbey from the Drive,' 1834, Ink sketch: NMRS

Newbattle Abbey, 1850, Colourtype: NMRS

Laing, D. Correspondence of Sir Robert Kerr, 1st Earl of Ancrum and his son, William, 3rd Earl of Lothian 1616-1649 (1875)

The Gardener's Chronicle, 5 September, 1891, pp.278, 283

Old Statistical Account, Statistical Account of the Parish of Newbattle (1794)

Lothian Family Papers: SRO GD 40


Printed Sources

Carrick, J. C. The Abbey of St Mary, Newbattle. A Memorial of the Royal Visit (1907)

Country Life (3 September, 1902)

Country Life (8 July, 1993)

Macky, J. A Journey Through Scotland, In Familiar Letters from a Gentleman Here to his Friend Abroad (1724)

McWilliam, C. Buildings of Scotland: Lothian (1978)

Historic Scotland on Behalf of the Scottish Ministers, The List of Buildings of Special Architectural or Historic Interest

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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Printed: 30/05/2024 10:19