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
Pitmedden has outstanding value as a Work of Art based on the artistic restoration of the formal gardens.
The association with the Seton family and the historical references to the original gardens give Pitmedden high Historical value.
Horticultural, Arboricultural, Silvicultural
The range of plants, particularly the roses and apples gives Pitmedden some Horticultural value.
The garden walls and pavilions are listed category A, giving Pitmedden outstanding Architectural value.
The woodland strips in the surrounding agricultural landscape give Pitmedden high Scenic value.
The early 19th century woodland gives the site a little Nature Conservation value.
- Not Assessed
The original garden was created in the late 17th century; it fell into decay in the 19th century and was used as a kitchen garden when the NTS acquired the property. Between 1952-61 the NTS recreated the formal gardens; other restoration continued until 1978.
Pitmedden Estate was acquired by James Seton in 1603 and it was his second son Alexander who, with his wife Margaret Lauder, created the garden in 1675. He was an advocate in Edinburgh and had been brought up by the 3rd Earl of Winton at Winton in East Lothian. A friend of Charles II, Alexander was knighted in 1664 and died in 1719. He knew Sir William Bruce of Kinross well and it is likely that Sir William could have influenced the design. The garden was recognised as 'one of the best laid out gardens in the north of Scotland' (c.1800). In 1818 the house was badly damaged by fire and all the family papers were lost including those of the garden. In c.1860 Sir William Coote Seton demolished the remains of the house and built the present one. In 1894 the estate was sold to a local farmer, Alexander Keith, and it was his son, Major James Keith a recognised agriculturalist, who gave the property to the National Trust for Scotland in 1952. The NTS acquired the estate with the intention of recreating the walled garden and they asked Dr James S. Richardson to formulate the designs. In 1980 following the bequest of Mr William Cook of Little Meldrum Farm, Tarves, the NTS was able to set up the Museum of Farming Life in the stables.
Pitmedden House is a two-storey mansion, listed category B, possibly built by William Henderson in c.1853. The east front was remodelled in 1944-45 by A.G.R. Mackenzie. The stables and outbuildings were probably built during the mid-19th century.
Pitmedden Great Garden, the walls, artefacts and pavilions were built c.1675 and are all listed category A. The south terrace was demolished and partially rebuilt in the 19th century and the pavilions were reroofed in c.1956. The Fountain in the upper garden was restored in 1956 and incorporates 17th century stone. The Fountain in the lower garden was created by J.S. Richardson from fragments from Pitmedden and part of Roger Mylne's Linlithgow Cross. The Sundial was set on its present site in 1958.
The parks are bordered by shelterbelts, some of which have been recently replanted with hardwoods and a nurse crop of conifers. There are several small clumps within the parks and one of these has also been replanted. Rare breeds of Shetland sheep are kept for the interest of visitors and are grazed in the west parks. The drives are sheltered by woodland strips. There is a sycamore avenue to the north of the gardener's cottage and a beech shelterbelt along the south drive. A beech avenue has been planted along the west approach. The car park is situated to the south of the garden.
Except for one copse surrounding the lime kiln outside the park, the woodland is mainly composed of shelter strips bordering the fields planted c.1800, of predominantly beech, some lime and, more recently, conifers. There are the remnants of a woodland shrubbery planting to the east of the walled garden along the Bronie Burn and around the pond.
Dr Richardson based the pattern for the four outstanding parterres from a bird's eye view of Edinburgh drawn in 1647 by James Gordon of Rothiemay showing the layout of the gardens at Holyrood House. The parterres lie in the four quarters of the walled garden with the fountain as the centrepiece. Three of the designs for the parterre are abstract forms and the third is the Seton Coat of Arms. Over 4.5 miles of box was planted to create the intricate shapes; some are filled with coloured gravel and others with over 40,000 bedding plants raised annually in the greenhouses. Along the west/east central axis of the garden, leading from the stairway, is a double row of clipped pyramidal yews. The large herbaceous borders planted under the north and east walls were originally designed by Sybil, Lady Burnett from Crathes, and were designed to be viewed from above and provide blocks of colour. Fan trained plums and espalier apple trees of the older varieties have also been planted along the walls; these are a legacy from the days when the garden was used as a kitchen garden.
A high retaining stone wall divides the upper from the lower terrace joined at the centre by an elegant double flight of steps. The two identical pavilions lie at either end and the 12' (4m) high wall and tall yew buttresses have been replanted under the retaining wall. The fountain and lily pond at the centre of the upper terrace have been reconstructed and the water flows to the font recessed in the stairway. Deeside peebles, cut in half, were used as cobbles to form the paths. Surrounding the fountain is a simple formal design of pleached limes about 9' (3m) high, centred on two old yews. There are period wall plants and authentic period style seats under the west wall between the buttresses. There is also a large period style bed of old fashioned species roses against the outer west wall and the upper lawn.
A herb garden on the upper terrace to the north of the house completes the restoration. It is also laid out in quarters edged with box, and is linked by espalier apple trees trained into an arch; each quarter is filled with different herbs, many labelled. During the summer months the garden is full of colour and interest.
Behind the farm buildings is the propagating area supplying the garden with its bedding and herbaceous plants. There is one greenhouse, partially heated.