The history of the designed landscape at Newhall relates almost entirely to the 18th and 19th centuries, but given the age and early monastic tradition of the site earlier landscape activity cannot be ruled out.
In 1646, Dr Alexander Pennycuick, a surgeon, acquired Newhall. His son, also Alexander (1652-1722), was a physician, botanist, poet and friend of James Sutherland, author of Hortus Edinburghensis, (1684). Alexander Pennycuick the younger, had an extensive knowledge of the surrounding Tweeddale landscape and published his Description of Tweedale, (1717), Little is known of the landscape at this period. The Pennycuick family lived mainly at their principal house at Romano and seem to have made no changes to the tower at Newhall. The property was given to one of his daughters on her marriage in 1702 to Mr Oliphant, who being in debt, sold it to Sir David Forbes, a lawyer in 1703.
Sir David Forbes was married to Catherine Clerk, sister to Sir John Clerk, 1st Bt. of Penicuik (q.v. Inventory, Volume 5, p.186-92). His son, John Forbes, was a close friend and patron of Allan Ramsay who addressed several poems to him an elegy to 'Lady Newhall', as he styled Mrs Forbes. William Tytler of Woodhouselee (1711-92), the Scottish historian and Edinburgh lawyer, described listening to Ramsay reciting different scenes from The Gentle Shepherd when visiting Newhall, said to be its setting. Allan Ramsay had an intimate knowledge of the area from his frequent visits there. One suggestion is that Sir William Worthy may represent Sir David Forbes (Brown, 1919; Young 1998).
Sir David Forbes and his son, John, were both responsible for the early planting, including the wooded glen of Habbie's Howe, the focus of the drama of The Gentle Shepherd. In addition to his interests in the arts and improvement of his estates, John Forbes was particularly interested in the cultivation of potatoes, no doubt due to the characteristics of the local soils. The first trials of growing potatoes in pure wheat were supposedly at Newhall in 1750 (Scottish Historical Review, 1919). Forbes got into financial difficulties in the 1740s, having added the lands of Carlops and Spittals to the estate and spent 'considerable sums on his house, parks, planting and improvement, and upon coal works' (Brown, 1919). He died in 1748.
Newhall changed ownership several times before being bought in 1783 by Thomas Dunmore (1706-88) for his grandson and ward, Robert Brown (1758-1832). Brown was a Glasgow merchant, founder of the weaving village at Carlops in c1784, where he established an industry of handloom weavers.
Brown enlarged and remodelled the house and carried out extensive planting. He commemorated his grandfather by an obelisk memorial. In celebrating Newhall as the setting for The Gentle Shepherd, he identified all the places in the poem and marking the direction in which the different spots lay. He is credited with leaving 'untouched the Newhall avenues, now grown up, but he continued the planting of the grounds and the glen, and much of the timber in Habbie's Howe is due to him.' (Brown, 1919). Changes such as the curving drive may relate to his improvements. A practical farmer, he practised and promoted crop rotation suited to the poor peaty soil, experimenting particularly with turnips and carrots and rejected the theory of high input-high output cropping in favour of small one-family farms. The settlement pattern resulting from this around Carlops persisted until the 1920s. Brown was also a poet, and author of two five-act historical dramas, as well as a drama entitled Mary's Bower or The Castle in the Glen. Mary's Bower, a small stone building, survives at Newhall, looking out over Newhall Glen. Sir John Watson Gordon (1788-1864), the artist most associated with Newhall, painted six scenes for the play.
Newhall belonged to three generations of Browns. The last, Horatio Brown, sold the estate in 1925. the current owner bought it in 1946, the family have been tenants prior to 1915.