1738. Altered and extended, 1898, William Richard Lethaby. 2-storey and basement with attic floor to Lethaby's N wing. Orkney sandstone dressings to window and door surrounds. Diamond-shaped terracotta ventilation bricks to most elevations.
W ELEVATION: main block: entrance door to right; 6-pane rectangular fanlight; glazed and timber door. Chamfered sandstone surround. Narrow, linear 1st floor window centred above; moulded sandstone surround. Central ground floor window; moulded surrounds; flanking horizontal basement windows. Basement bipartite window to far left; tripartite window above to left. 1st floor quadrapartite window above, hugging eaves. Moulded sandstone eaves course with square corbels to W elevation, main block. Advanced 2-storey wing to right. Single ground and 1st floor windows to left. Scroll skewputts; keystone to left dated '17'; keystone to right dated '38'. Plain wall to left return; stone bench. Ground floor window to right return. Advanced 2-storey wing to N (former detached out buildings altered by Lethaby into smoking room and gun room). Crowstepped gable wall; corbelled kneelers; sandstone quoins. Central 1st floor window; circular ventilation hole in gable apex. Courtyard wall extends from right of gable wall to chapel. W face, exposed rubble wall; harled E face. Steps lead down into courtyard from W; further steps within courtyard. Flagstoned courtyard. Lethaby's N service wing to left of advanced former smoking room; steps lead up to service door to right; glazed and timber door; narrow window to left flank; lattice glazing. Small, leaded window to far left. 3 1st floor lattice windows above. Crowstepped M gable; 2nd floor window to centre of left gable; window to left of right gable; circular window to right.
N ELEVATION: former 2-storey gun and smoking room wing set back to right. Glazed and timber door in former gun room; window to right, long and short sandstone quoins to window surrounds. Window to left; small 1st floor lattice window hugging eaves above. Raised wallhead to narrow section to far left; small lattice window to ground and 1st floor. Assymmetrical N gable wall added by Lethaby; long and short sandstone quoins to left; plain sandstone quoin to right. 2-bay, 4-storey section to left; 3-storey, single bay section to right. 3 segmentally arched basement windows; boarded to left. 3 ground floor windows; 4 1st floor windows; smaller leaded window to far right. Ground and 1st floor windows centred above each other to left gable section; 2 2nd floor windows in gable wallhead. 3 central bullstanes. Single storey wall to left enclosing kitchen court; round-headed doorway to right; timber boarded door. Timber door to coal chute to left. Timber boarded door to outside lavatory to far left; small leaded window to right flank.
E ELEVATION: tall, harled kitchen court wall obscures basement and ground floor level to right. Wall swept on left return; sandstone wallhead. 3-bay section to right, surmounted by 3 pediments. Basement door and 2 windows (not seen); 3 ground floor windows; 3 1st floor windows centred above. 3 2nd floor tripartite windows; chamfered and moulded stone surrounds and mullions. Roll-moulded hoodmould above tripartite windows, with raking shoulders. An initial in each pediment spelling TMT (Thomas and Theodosia Middlemore) and dated 1898; rose, heart and thistle finials surmount pediments. Square hole between pediments; extending decorative pipe brackets. 3-storey; 3-bay section to left. Regularly placed fenestration; 3 windows to each floor including piano nobile windows to dining room. Low sandstone wall stands infront of ground floor windows; central opening with steps leading down to paved area. 4 large pots surmount wall. Advanced wing to far left; gabled section to right. Forestair; stone steps lead up to drawing room door; asymmetrical arch below; curved stone bench below steps. Decorative wrought-iron balustrade to steps. Central, glazed drawing room door; roll-moulded surround; 6-pane fanlight. Flanking windows; 2 1st floor windows; moulded surrounds to all. 2 heart shaped windows with star and moon crescent above in apex. Ball finial surmounts gable; coped, shouldered gable head. Leaded, bipartite basement window to left of stairs. Plain bay to left of gabled section; central leaded basement window. Right return of gabled section; advanced chimney breast to left of elevation; sandstone quoins. Leaded basement window to left of chimney; sloping wall from left meets advanced stack; inner angle corbel stone above left of window. Tall, coped and half-shouldered sandstone stack; decorative corbels. Breast stepped to right at basement level. 3 basement windows to right of chimney; transomed and mullioned leaded ground floor hall window to right. 2 1st floor windows at eaves.
S ELEVATION: advanced symmetrical 2-bay, crowstepped Lethaby wing to right. 2 piano nobile windows to drawing room; 2 1st floor windows centred above. Small square leaded window in apex; stone transom and mullion. Moulded surrounds to all windows. Star finial to gable apex. Single bay to left return; ground floor window (former door); chamfered sandstone door surround; rounded mullion and window surround within. Elevated ground floor window; 1st floor window hugging eaves. Central 2-bay section; 2 basment windows and 2 larger ground floor windows. Cornice with extending decorative pipe brackets spans central section revealing eaves level of original house. 2 1st floor windows and flanking smaller 1st floor leaded widows. Small square attic window in left gable. Advanced gable of earlier house to left; 2 ground floor and 2 1st floor windows. 2 ground floor windows to right return; bipartite 1st floor window breaking eaves to right. Plain wall to left return. S elevation of former gun and smoking rooms: ground floor luggage door to far right; steps lead up to door; stone newel carved as a ship's bollard to left. Moulded surround to door; decorative carved lintel. 4 panes in timber door; 12-pane fanlight. Bipartite window above door. Basement window to left of door. 3-bay former smoking room to left of luggage door; roll-moulded door surround to tall central window; steps lead up to window; carved stone pot. Clock face above door inscribed with Middlemore's family motto; 'Mon Desire Loyalte'. Flanking windows; 3 1st floor windows centred above; hugging eaves. Ground and 1st floor window to left in former gun room.
Predominantly 12-pane timber sash and case windows; some 24, 18, 9 and 6 pane windows. Lattice glazing and leaded casements to some bipartite and tripartite windows. Timber boarded doors with glazing. Pitched roofs; stone slates; some overhanging eaves supported on brackets. Sandstone skews; some moulded skewputts. Crowstepped gables to NW and SE. Various ridge and gable apex stacks; coped and predominantly of exposed stone. Cast-iron downpipes.
INTERIOR: fine, intact interior complete. Stone steps, plain wooden balusters lead from entrance courtyard door up into hall. Large red sandstone fireplace to left; arched fireplace opening; triple roll-moulding; green glazed tiles. 5 corbelled candlestick supports above; 7 coats of arms in bas relief; Middlemore's family motto 'Mon Desire Loyalte' below. Sandstone extends from chimney breast to form arch over hall window to right of fireplace. White painted floor-to-ceiling panelling; cornicing; oak floor. 2-leaf door leads into drawing room. White painted timber panelling continues; white painted, decorative floral plaster frieze. Roll-moulded sandstone fire surround; bordered by cut green marble. Colourful Delft tiles to fireplace cheeks. 2-leaf door leads from hall into dining room. White painted timber panelling continues; white painted, wild flower plaster decoration to frieze and beams. Fireplace recessed into original house wall; roll-moulded sandstone surround; green glazed tiles. Plain corridor leads N-wards from hall; red tiled floor. Serving room (now kitchen) due N of dining room. Timber floor and plain cornice to smoking room; large roll-moulded sandstone surround to fireplace; sandstone mantel; 2 stone corbels; green glazed tiles to fire cheeks. Unaltered basement kitchen. Flagstone floor; original kitchen dresser and large range in situ. Exposed stonework to piers between windows. Vaulted Chintz/Morning Room to S of entrance door; moulded sandstone fireplace surround; Delft tiles. Library to E of Chintz room; moulded sandstone fireplace surround; green glazed tiles. Vaulted stair well ceiling; foliage decoration to plaster cornice. Stone arch breaks up narrow corrider; 1st floor bedrooms lead off corridor. Floral theme carried through to bedroom plaster friezes; and to ceilings; standstone fireplaces; Delft tiles. 2nd storey not seen, 2000.
Tall rubble wall surrounds square-plan garden to NE of house; swept in places. 2 timber boarded doors; simple timber latch, in W wall. Lean-to shed in SW angle. Glasshouse and lean-to shed to N wall. Timber boarded door in S wall leads into rectangular-plan garden (the Red Garden) to E of house, (now plain lawn). Low wall to E continues S-wards to enclose South Lawn and meets driveway to S. Low wall to S of Red Garden; intermittent stone plinths atop wall. Line of cannons resting on low plinths runs parallel to S of wall.
Small orchard to N of house; low rubble wall. Former lean-to kennels to N; 2 windows to N; door to W; later pitched outbuilding attached to S; 2-leaf doors to W; small window to right in S elevation; steps lead up to door to right in E elevation; window to left. Stone slate pitched roof to later building; stone slate lean-to roof to former kennels. Rubble boundary wall extends E and W from lean-to; joining boundary wall to Gardener's Cottage to W; terminating in square-plan gatepier with conicial apex to E at former rear entrance (now current entrance) to Melsetter House.
Statement of Special Interest
A-Group with Melsetter Chapel, Lodge and Gatepiers, Kitchen and Walled Gardens, Burial Enclosure, Estate Office, Gardener's Cottage, The Hall, Laundry House and Spinning Cottage. William Lethaby was one of the most prominent exponents and promoters of the Arts and Crafts movement. Thomas Middlemore, a Birmingham industrialist bought the Melsetter Estate in 1898. At that time it comprised the entire island of Hoy, as well as the adjacent smaller islands of South Walls, Fara and Rysa. Melsetter had been the home of the Moodie family from the late 16th century until around the earlier 19th century when it was sold to the Heddle family. Melsetter is depicted on J van Keulen's map (which possibly dates from 1695); and again on J Wallace's 1700 map. The majority of the remaining structures at Melsetter, which date in part from 1738, were retained by Lethaby, although greatly modified. Lethaby extended the existing house by adding to the SE to create a large drawing room and a N wing to contain servants rooms and 1st floor guest bedrooms. He also raised the height of the existing house by another storey and joined the W outbuildings to create a smoking and gun room. The building is unified by the harled exterior and the use of local sandstone dressings and enlivened by small details such as heart-shaped windows and symbols. The remodelling/construction of the house and surrounding buildings at Melsetter was one of Lethaby's most important commissions. It is unusual in that it involved the redevelopment of an entire complex of buildings, which form a harmonious whole. Lethaby also took advantage of an established garden and designed parterres into a Melsetter Cross in the Red Garden (now a lawn). The designed landscape at Melsetter is significant, it has outstanding scenic and architectural interest and is included in the Inventory of Gardens and Designed Landscapes. Melsetter was requisitioned by the Admiralty during the 2nd World War and used as the residence of the Admiral commanding at Scapa Flow. Some original Arts and Crafts fittings and fixtures, designed by Lethaby and Moris & Co. remain in the house. May Morris, daughter of William Morris, was a friend of Theodosia Middlemore and knew Melsetter well; the house remains as she described it, 'a sort of fairy palace on the edge of the great northern seas, a wonderful place this building, which was remotely and romantically situated, with its tapestries and its silken hangings and its carpets, which came from my father's workshop. It seemed like the embodiment of some of those fairy palaces of which my father wrote with great charm and dignity. But for all its fineness and dignity, it was a place full of homeliness and the spirit of welcome, a very lovable place...built for home life as well as for dignity.'
J van Keulen, NIEUWE PASKAART VAN DE ORCADES EYLANDEN, ?1695; J Wallace, THIS MAP OF THE ISLANDS OF ORKNEY..., 1700; 1st Edition 25" OS Map (CXXII.8), 1881; F H Groome, ORDNANCE SURVEY OF SCOTLAND, Vol IV, 1883, p278; M Morris, VOTE OF THANKS AND DISCUSSION in JOURNAL OF THE ROYAL INSTITUTE OF BRITISH ARCHITECTS, 20 February 1932, p303; The Times, October 31st 1949; Land Use Consultants, AN INVENTORY OF GARDENS & DESIGNED LANDSCAPES IN SCOTLAND, Vol 3, 1985, pp125-130; G Rubens, WILLIAM RICHARD LETHABY, 1986, pp129-140, 148-154; P Jones, MELSETTER HOUSE in THE ARCHITECT'S JOURNAL, 10th October 1990, pp36-57; L Burgher, ORKNEY, 1991, pp75-76; J Gifford, HIGHLANDS AND ISLANDS, 1992, pp341-342; T Garnham, WILLIAM RICHARD LETHABY, MELSETTER HOUSE in ARTS & CRAFTS HOUSES I, 1999; NMRS Archive.
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Printed: 21/01/2019 01:10