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- Date Added
- Local Authority
- Planning Authority
- NT 31030 66981
- 331030, 666981
James Playfair, 1786-91 with later alterations and additions. 3-storey, symmetrical 3-bay square-plan castellated mansion, (formerly a hotel), with circular angle towers, battlements and late 19th century square plan entrance porch; 2 storey, 3-bay wings with chamfered, square angle piers (half piers at junction with main block) and Soanian terminal drums; single storey, 5-bay office block to W. Stugged and droved ashlar sandstone with polished and droved dressings. Base course; moulded cills to 1st floor widows; chamfered surrounds to windows; hood moulds to ground and 1st floor windows and to 2nd floor of towers; cill course to 1st and 2nd floors; eaves course; battlements.
N (ENTRANCE) ELEVATION: segmental-arched and hood moulded doorpiece
to square-plan entrance porch at ground in bay to centre; blocked door; carved and painted armorial panel above; bipartite ogee-arched and hood-moulded window to each return; tripartite window at 1st floor; tripartite window at 2nd floor above. Tripartite window at each floor in each flanking. Point-arched window to front and out-facing aspects at each floor to angle towers. Bipartite windows at ground and 1st floors in each bay to flanking 3 bay wings. (All windows at ground floor blinded). 5-bay office wing to W: window in bay to centre; window in bays flanking; flat-arched opening to outermost flanking bays.
S (REAR) ELEVATION: 4-bay symmetrical, with angle towers, 2 bay wings and 7-bay office block. Window at each floor in each bay to main block. Window to front and out-facing aspect at each floor to angle towers. Tripartite window at each floor in each bay of wings. (All windows at ground to main block blinded). Window in each bay to office block.
E (SIDE) ELEVATION: Advanced 2-storey, 3-bay wing with 2-bay 2nd storey of main block behind: bipartite window at each floor in each bay of wing; tripartite window in each bay at 2nd floor to main block set back behind.
W (OFFICE BLOCK) ELEVATION: single storey office block projecting W at ground from W face of W wing, in turn projecting from 4-bay W face of main block. Window in each bay at 2nd floor of main block.
Stone mullions and transoms to windows; 12-pane timber sash and case windows to main block; pointed-arched 8-pane timber sash and case windows to angle towers; 6-pane casement window with fixed 2 pane above to flanking wings; 8-pane timber sash and case windows to rear wings; no window frames left in office block; piend and platform roof (slates missing); flat roof (missing) to office block; stacks to wings and to centre of main block; cast-iron rainwater goods.
Statement of Special Interest
Built by James Playfair for Henry Dundas, 4th son of Robert Dundas of Arniston. Henry Dundas was created 1st Viscount Melville in 1800. Not only is the castle an important piece of architecture of its time, but Henry Dundas was an extremely important political figure in late 18th/early 19th century. He was dubbed the uncrowned King of Scotland, a title earned by such appointments as Solicitor General for Scotland, Lord Advocate, Treasurer of the Navy and Keeper of the Signet and Privy Seal. The Melville Monument in St Andrew Square was erected in his honour after his death in 1811.
The castle replaced the earlier Melville Castle which had belonged to David Rizzio, and which Mary, Queen of Scots had visited. Its situation in a beautifully wooded clearing beside the River North Esk had been celebrated by Sir Walter Scott who dubbed it Melville's beech grove. Melville's new Gothic fortress, reminiscent of Inveraray Castle, was sobered by its classically symmetrical proportions, its inscised Soanian terminal drums, similar to those of Soane's Langley Park gateway designs, and the classical interior detail. The previously fine interior was noted for its grandeur. A full-height 3-storey stair well was terminated by a ceiling painted with putti. Decorative banisters and friezes continued up to an Ionic colonnade. The bow-ended dining and drawing rooms benefited from views over parkland down to the river. The house is now a shell with little more than the cantilevered stair remaining. The entrance porch was added in the late 19th century. Formerly a hotel which closed in the 1980s. A Group with Chestnut House, East Lodge, Esk Cottage, Garden Cottage, Garden Farmhouse, Walled Garden and Lodge, South Driveway Bridge, South Lodge, Walled Garden Steading, and Willie's Temple.
SRO RHIP (6699); NLS Playfair Journal MSS; appears on 1st edition OS map (1854); F Groome (1892), p473; 1st Statistical Account p287; NSA (1843) p.333; C McWilliam, LOTHIAN (1978) pp320-322; J Thomas, MIDLOTHIAN RIAS GUIDE (1995) p29.
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Printed: 23/01/2019 13:41