1782 for Sheriff Stevenson; enlarged 1854; further baronial addition, 1892 for Admiral Sir James Erskine. 3-storey with attic and basement, 1-3-1 bay rectangular-plan central Gothick house; later 3-storey with basement Scots Baronial tower house wing to S with angle 'stair tower' and cap house; later single storey extension to N. Buff harling with tabbed ashlar quoins. Projecting moulded base course and eaves course below parapet. 1892 garden terrace, Rev. John Constable.
E (PRINCIPAL) ELEVATION: to centre, piended skew-gabled entrance porch comprising polished ashlar door surround with margins and chamfered arrises, lintel inscribed "J.E fecit 1854"; stepped hoodmould with scrolled label-tops supporting moulded Erskine family heraldic plaque; window to each return. Main 3-bay Gothick house to rear comprising regularly placed bays to outer bays of basement, ground and 1st floor, central 1st floor window in-filled and inscribed "VENLAW This portion of the house was built by Sheriff Stevenson on the site of Smithfield Castle AD 1782 and was bought by Major Archibald Erskine AD 1798"; central wallhead dormer breaks parapet. Flanking main house, single bay recessed wings of identical style and height with similar wallhead dormer on left wing. To right, single storey, flat-roofed wing adjoining basement level with paired arched windows to left (right now in-filled), blind to remainder of elevation. To left of main house, advanced 3-storey baronial wing with basement and cap house; full-height, single bay tower clasping angle to left: small window to basement right with corbelled bipartite angle bay to ground floor resting on angle buttress; central window to 1st floor with further window to right of 2nd floor; heavy moulded parapet with corbelled angle turret to right, partially concealing crow-stepped cap house with central window in gable. To left angle, full height 'stair' tower with 3 regularly placed windows to ground floor, small window to rear at basement level; 2 mis-aligned windows to 1st and 2nd floors; band course separating attic level with 3 small windows aligned with ground floor bays; tall conical roof surmounting.
S ELEVATION: 3-storey with attic and basement, 2-bay tower house wing: to basement right, ashlar steps with curved wing walls leading to later semi-glazed timber door with side lights, to left small window. Sloped base course leading to ground floor with bipartite window to left and single window to right. 2 smaller windows to right of 1st and 2nd floors aligned with those below, left windows placed more centrally than those below. Heavy moulded parapet with corbelled angle turret to left, partially concealing gabled nepus of crow-stepped cap house with central window. To extreme right, full height angle tower (see E ELEVATION).
W (REAR) ELEVATION: to right, rear of tower house: paired windows to basement divided by corbel of central 1st floor bay window (lintel inscribed JEE 1892 MEC); window to 1st floor left, 2 regularly placed bays to 2nd floor. Moulded parapet with corbelled round angle towers partially concealing crow-stepped cap house with central window in gable. To centre, rear of earlier 2- storey house with attic and basement: full height 3-light canted bay to centre with flat single bay wings adjoining, all with arched windows (paired to ground floor right); parapet to central bay and right broken by gable-headed attic dormers; later metal fire escape to right bays. Adjoining to left, much later single storey flat-roofed wing: blind door to right, rest of elevation concealed.
N ELEVATION: 2-storey with basement, 2-bay: much later single storey wing concealing basement level with timber door to left and modern garaging to right. To main house, paired arched windows to ground and 1st floor now blind and harled, bar window to left on ground floor; gablehead stack of house rises behind wing.
Mostly timber sash and case plate glass glazing, some with arched heads. Pitched and piended blue grey slate roof, original roofline to centre and right of principal elevation of; conical slate roof to tower with metal finial; corrugated-metal roof to later single storey wing. Lead ridging, flashings and valleys to main roofline. Painted cast-iron rainwater goods with partially concealed gutters. Tall harled gablehead stacks to earlier house with tabbed quoins, plain ashlar neck copes and tall terracotta cans.
INTERIOR: former country house, used as a wartime hospital, in use as a hotel since 1949. Library Bar and Lounge: oak panelling, window surrounds and book alcoves; marble and carved timber fire surround. Dining Room: ornate fire surround, timber picture rails, dado, panelling beneath windows and skirting boards; plaster corniced ceiling and polished parquet wood floor. Timber panelled doors to most rooms with timber window surrounds, some with arched window-heads.
TERRACE: 1892, Rev. John Constable. Viewing and sitting terrace to SW of house, almost triangular-plan with canted angle; coursed whinstone rubble with roll-moulded drip quoins to front, higher wall to rear with plain drip quoins, inset moulded plaque to centre inscribed "These Terraces and Grounds were designed & laid out by The Rev. John Constable July 1892 AD." Part of coursed rubble walled garden remains to E of house, round angle tower with corbelled parapet to SW corner; interior of garden contains modern dwelling.
Statement of Special Interest
Venlaw House, now Venlaw Castle Hotel, stands on the site of Smithfield Castle once owned by the Dicksons of Winkston. The property was sold to the March family, then to the Stevensons. Whilst it was in the possession of Alexander Stevenson - Sheriff of Peebles (circa 1782) he changed the name to Venlaw (taken from the name of the adjacent hill) and built the original Gothick house, slightly altered but still visible to the centre of the main elevation. Stevenson's sisters inherited the property in 1789 and they sold it to Ludovic Grant, a writer from Edinburgh. He conveyed the land to William Grant who in turn sold them to Major Archibald Erskine. The house was passed through generations of Erskines until it came, in 1862, to James Elphinstone Erskine (later K.C.B) and Margaret Constable, his wife from 1885. They added a further storey to the original house and were responsible for the baronial wing to the south. The terrace to the SW of the Castle was designed and laid out by the Rev John Constable of Marston Biggot - the father of Margaret. James Erskine had entered the Royal Navy in 1852, and was an Admiral of the Fleet from 1902 until his retirement in 1908. A detachment of the British Red Cross had been set up in the area in 1911-12, with the newly widowed Lady Erskine leading the Peebles Branch. During World War I, houses were used as hospitals and mansions as convalescent homes. Venlaw was used as a home for 12 naval officers. In 1915, the intake increased to 30 and Venlaw was accepted as an auxiliary Red Cross Hospital. The Erskines' son, Lieutenant Commander David Erskine sold the estate in 1924 to a Mr Richard Davidson, a retired tea planter in India. In turn, his widow sold the estate to Miss Walton in 1946. This was the last time the house would be a private residence. Mr Alexander Cumming and his wife Jean Brownlee bought the building to open expressly as a 'hotel'. They found they had to pay 'development tax' (levied on people turning private houses into hotels) but Cumming fought to have the tax abolished, which he achieved and he is recorded in Hansard. The hotel opened for business in 1949. The hotel remained in the family until 1997, when it was sold to the present owners who renamed it Castle Venlaw Hotel. Below the house, there are 2 surviving cultivation strips; the third is now incorporated into the gardens of houses on Edinburgh Road; to the E of the hotel is a former walled garden (now housing a private residence). The Lodge to the castle is listed separately within Peebles Burgh.