Listed Building

The legal part of the listing is the address/name of site only. All other information in the record is not statutory.


Status: Designated


There are no additional online documents for this record.


Group Category Details
100000019 - 4, 5, 6
Date Added
Local Authority
East Lothian
Planning Authority
East Lothian
NT 63364 75894
363364, 675894


Tudor style country house with complicated building

history spanning several centuries. It is sited on ground

falling steeply to S. It possibly evolved as follows.

Square, 4-storey pele tower extended, circa 1650 to W by

6 irregularly spaced bays, and simultaneously long

buttressed 3-tier terraces created; W extension possibly

modified circa 1750, accompanied by interior

re-decoration; William Atkinson, 1806, made 2-storey

additions to E and W, creating 500' facade (largely

demolished 1952), 5th storey and bartizan added to tower,

and various unifying alterations and additions to existing

openings (eg hoodmoulds, chamfered reveals and

enlargements). Chapel created R Rowand Anderson,

1883 (demolished 1952), out of former conservatory at

W end. Red sandstone, rubble to tower, with coursed,

droved W extension and ashlar dressings; Atkinson's

work in stugged stone again with ashlar dressings,

battlemented parapets and octagonal bartizan. Harled

3-storey and basement bays to S.

N (ENTRANCE) ELEVATION: ashlar base course; ashlar

entrance porch moved (post 1928) from earlier position

and adapted on E extension; square, projecting and

battlemented with hoodmoulded door and windows on

returns, carved armorial door over doorway, breaking parapet.

Regular fenestration; buttress marking gable of 3-storey

block at W, with 2, 2-storey bays beyond, of 2 ground

floor windows and central, timber mullioned,

Perpendicular traceried tripartite above. 3 projecting

2-storey bays to outer left (1806), adjoined to tower;

4-centred window at centre to ground floor, with lancet

windows above and flanking. Octagonal battlemented stair

turret adjoined to W end of N side of tower, with

arrow-slits, leading to battlements.

Atkinson's curtain walls, with estate office and garage

added to outer left.

S (GARDEN) ELEVATION: tower to right with 4-centred

ground floor window, larger 1st floor window and

(3-light) 2nd floor (2-light) window, 2 lancets to

3rd floor, flanking armorial carving and square, tripartite

window above string course in 4th floor. Ashlar corner

buttresses. 6, 3-storey and basement bays to centre,

3 regularly grouped to right with French door onto

double stair in left bay and windows to each remaining

bay at each floor (reducing in size); 3 bays to left with

arrow-slit lancets left of centre to former stair, and

2 widely-spaced regular bays to left, with windows as

right bays.

To left 2-storey block with 3 windows at ground floor and

tripartite above at centre; flight of steps to outer

corner, leading to site of former chapel.

E ELEVATION: curtain walls of 1806 additions adjoined,

serving to bound kitchen garden, leading to service court

further E.

W ELEVATION: gabled elevation with octagonal stacks on

skews, pair to left, trio to right; rectangular single

storey battlemented porch at ground, with pointed arched

doorway; gothic bipartite at 1st floor.

Studded doors. 12-pane glazing pattern to regular

windows, horizontal-pane to mullioned, Perpendicular,

sash and case traceried windows. Large coped ridge and

gable stacks. Grey-green slates; skylights.

INTERIOR: wooden newel stair in earlier part; vaulted

basement; some circa 1750 work retained, including fine

timber stair with barley sugar and turned balustrade;

bolection moulded dining room (former library)

chimneypiece with lugged timber surround; Moxon and

Carfrae interior decoration, 1831; panelled doors with

carved and gilded architrave; Tapestry Room decorated

by Robert Lorimer, circa 1887, to display early 18th century

tapestries and given fine chimneypiece with blue and

white tiles.

TERRACE WALLS: rubble stone and gablet coping.

CHAPEL REMAINS: chapel demolished 1952, but chequered

stone floor tiles retained; red sandstone gothic aumbry,

sacrament house and corbelled piscina (Rowand Anderson,

1883 ?), and pink sandstone bellcote comprised of

pinnacle flanked ogee with Celtic cross, all embedded in,

or set against, walls; pond formed from 2 hoodmoulds.


walls including rubble boundary wall by drive coped with

stugged coursed stone battlements; steps cut down by

4-centre arched gateway to W in boundary wall to W of

house, panel with lamp standard above flanked by

decorative wrought-iron work; Gothic summer house at

close of 1st terrace, stugged stone, buttressed.

DRIVE ARCH AND PIERS: pointed arch, buttressed gateway

by Atkinson, 1806, leading to service court; 2 square,

pyramid capped gatepiers to drive in wall bisecting drive

to N.

KENNELS: 1864. 5-bay lean-to kennels, against boundary

wall bisecting drive to E; stugged stone, chamfered

reveals to 5 kennel doors; grey slates; parapet and

railed courtyard to N kennel.

SERVICE COURT: William Atkinson, 1806. Assorted group

of offices to E of house, including work of 1864,

currently in neglected state (1988). Stugged red

sandstone and chamfered reveals to openings; some grey

slate roofs retained. Battlemented corner tower adjoined

to dairy with ventilator, multi-pane windows and louvred


Statement of Special Interest

Lord Belhaven, anti-Unionist, lived at Biel in the early

18th century, and inserted a dated stone (1707), with

latin inscription, currently in National Museum of Scotland.

An oil painting of the S elevation of Biel, dating from

just prior to the work by Atkinson may be seen at Scone

Palace, additions to Taymouth Castle, and Abbotsford. The

gardens with terraces, were landscaped in a pioneering

manner for Scotland in the 17th century, and continue to

present an outstanding quality today. Biel's classical

gatepiers, East Lodge, Bridge, Pitcox Lodge, dovecot and

cottages at Beesknowe and Biel Mill are listed separately.

Biel House is listed category A despite demolitions, out of consideration for the early fabric and fine gardens.



NMRS plans (copied from those in possession of C Spence)


Bleau's 1654 map of East Lothian.

T Hannan, FAMOUS SCOTTISH HOUSES 1928, pp.17-20.

C McWilliam, LOTHIAN 1978, pp.101-2.

TRANSACTIONS of the Edinburgh Architectural Association,

vol III, pp 1-2.

TRANSACTIONS of East Lothian Antiquarian and Field

Naturalists, vol III, pp 207-12.


D Croal, SKETCHES OF EAST LOTHIAN 1904, (5th edition, 1947),

pp 51-54.

COUNTRY LIFE, 30th August 1902.

Moxon and Carfrae, ACCOUNT BOOK, No 300, 1831.

National Gallery of Scotland (Nisbet Hamilton Ogilvy

file); report by Robert Lorimer on picture and tapestries at

Biel, 1920.

NSA vol II, p 57.

C E Green, EAST LOTHIAN, 1907.

INVENTORY of Gardens and Designed Landscapes in Scotland,

1988, vol V.

About Listed Buildings

Listing is the way that a building or structure of special architectural or historic interest is recognised by law through the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) (Scotland) Act 1997.

We list buildings of special architectural or historic interest using the criteria published in the Historic Environment Scotland Policy Statement.

The statutory listing address is the legal part of the listing. The information in the listed building record gives an indication of the special architectural or historic interest of the listed building(s). It is not a definitive historical account or a complete description of the building(s). The format of the listed building record has changed over time. Earlier records may be brief and some information will not have been recorded.

Listing covers both the exterior and the interior. Listing can cover structures not mentioned which are part of the curtilage of the building, such as boundary walls, gates, gatepiers, ancillary buildings etc. The planning authority is responsible for advising on what is covered by the listing including the curtilage of a listed building. For information about curtilage see Since 1 October 2015 we have been able to exclude items from a listing. If part of a building is not listed, it will say that it is excluded in the statutory address and in the statement of special interest in the listed building record. The statement will use the word 'excluding' and quote the relevant section of the Historic Environment Scotland Act 2014. Some earlier listed building records may use the word 'excluding', but if the Act is not quoted, the record has not been revised to reflect current legislation.

If you want to alter, extend or demolish a listed building you need to contact your planning authority to see if you need listed building consent. The planning authority is the main point of contact for all applications for listed building consent.

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