Sir John Clerk of Penicuik and William Adam, 1723-1727, with alterations of circa 1840. Classical country house or villa comprising 2-storey over basement, 5-bay square plan corps de logis, with flanking quadrant screen walls curving forward and linking to symmetrically disposed rectangular plan single storey over basement pavilions. Cream sandstone ashlar principal elevation and quadrants, rubble (formerly harled) walls to side and rear elevations, and pavilions, all with polished ashlar dressings and margins. Base course, eaves course, modillioned cornice at eaves, balustrade above with regularly spaced corniced and panelled dies surmounted by urns (missing 1996). Horizontally channelled strip pilasters framing centre 3 bays and clasping corners at principal and 1st floors, pilaster pedestals to outer left and right with Latin inscriptions. Margined window jambs with cill and lintel courses at forming grid pattern at principal floors to side and rear elevations of main block. Margined windows to screen walls and pavilions.
NE (PRINCIPAL) ELEVATION: splayed ashlar forestair rising to corniced entrance porch projecting at principal floor in centre bay; architraved doorpiece surmounted by armorial panel with flanking foliate scrolls. Lugged architraves to window at 1st floor in centre bay, and regularly fenestrated flanking bays; carved stone swags with masks over ground floor windows; alternate triangular and segmental arched pediments to 1st floor windows. Pediment with modillioned cornice over centre
3 bays; bold foliate carving in tympanum with architraved oculus at centre.
NW ELEVATION: 4-bay elevation; basement and principal floor openings infilled and subsequently exposed after demolition of additions, regular fenestration at 1st floor.
SE ELEVATION: mirrored image of NW elevation.
SW (REAR) ELEVATION: symmetrical 5-bay elevation, ashlar forestair (formerly balustraded) in centre bay rising to projecting quatrostyle portico comprised of stone balustraded parapet with corniced piers at base of Tuscan columns and corresponding pilasters supporting entablature with mutuled cornice and blocking course. Garden door centred behind portico at principal floor; flanking windows, blind at right with trompe l'oeil painted urn.
QUADRANT SCREEN WALLS: 2 storey, 2-bay regularly fenestrated quadrant screen walls (with single storey rubble vaulted passage surviving to rear of S wall) flanking principal elevation of main block, curving forward to pilastered corners, and down-swept to single bay sections adjoining pavilions; margined square windows to basement, principal floor windows round-arched with keystones, and linked by band course
at impost level, corniced wallhead surmounted by blind balustraded parapet.
N PAVILION: 2 x 1-bay, symmetrical principal elevations with string course at principal floor, margin and cornice at eaves, and horizontally-channelled pilasters clasping corners. Single bay elevation to NE comprising basket-arched cart arch at basement, with Venetian window centred above, now brick-infilled with modern opening inserted at left. Decorative wallhead stack comprising corniced and panelled shaft over open-pedimented base with flanking foliate scrolls and blind oculus at centre. Regularly fenestrated SE (courtyard) elevation. Matching wallhead stack with less elaborate scrolls centring SW elevation. Later door and window inserted into left bay and to centre respectively at basement of NW (rear) elevation; regular fenestration in bay to right and at principal floor. Basement openings linked by band course.
S PAVILION: mirrored image of above, with matching principal and SW elevations; 3-storey SE elevation; tall rendered brick chimney obscuring pilaster to outer right; segmental-arched openings with fluted keystones to sub-basement presiding over walled service courtyard enclosed by high rubble wall with monopitch service wing (possibly circa 1840) at right.
Most openings to main house now brick-infilled. Single 12-pane oak sash and case window with radial upper sash surviving in N quadrant; some 12 pane windows and shutters remain to pavilions. Roofs now removed. Single panelled, pilastered, and corniced polished ashlar multi-flue stack rising through centre of main block.
RETAINING WALLS: extending to N and S at rear elevation of main block, and to E from service courtyard with doorway and steps immediately to E.
TERRACES, STEPS AND GATEPIERS: garden walks on earth terraces leading to walled garden and 'fort' to S and W respectively; sandstone steps to S walk; circular section gatepiers (caps missing) opposite NW gateway to walled garden.
Statement of Special Interest
One of Scotland s most important country houses, the well-documented collaboration between William Adam and the lawyer-scholar, Sir John Clerk of Penicuik, resulted in a highly original design on a freshfield site. Sir John s father had planned a house here, and a drawing of 1698 shows a plain square box with coupled chimneystacks perched on top of a tall piended roof. This became the basis, enriched and Palladianized, of the present house. John Baxter Senior was the mason contractor, and William Sylverstyne the stone carver. The house was recast circa 1840 with a symmetrical arrangement of large well-designed additions (possibly Thomas Hamilton) flanking the rear elevation to provide a drawing room and ball room (demolished 1954). It appears that the parterre within the principal courtyard was excavated at this time, and the cills of basement windows lowered with the forestair. Further extensions were added to the front of the pavilions in the 1880s, but these were also demolished in 1954. Until recent consolidation work, the corps de logis retained many timber sash and case windows, in a 12-pane pattern to the principal floors, and 16 and 4-pane patterns to the basement, although it is likely that the majority of the multi-pane windows are from the 1840 re-casting. A photograph of circa 1956 shows a blind window at 1st floor displaying what appears to be the original 24 pane arrangement with thicker glazing bars. Since the fire of 1973, the house has lost some urns from the principal balustrade and pediment, and the ornate 19th century cast-iron balustrade to the principal forestair. It has also lost its roofs, essential to understanding the French and Dutch influence of the design. Of grey slate, they comprised a distinctive and unusual domical piended platform roof to the main block, piended and bell-cast roofs to pavilions with a monopitch to the service wing. A-group with Doocot, Gazebo, Walled Gardens, Ice House, Dairy, Game Larder, and East Lodge (Kevock Road, Lasswade).
W Adam VITRUVIUS SCOTICUS (pub1812, reprinted with introduction by James Simpson, 1980), plates 46 and 47; NEW STATISTICAL ACCOUNT, (1843) p33; appears on 1st edition OS map 1854; J Fleming, ROBERT ADAM AND HIS CIRCLE (1962), pp33-44, p330; C McWilliam, LOTHIAN (1978), pp314-316; A A Tait, THE LANDSCAPE GARDEN IN SCOTLAND (1980) p21-22; I Gow "Mavisbank, Midlothian" in COUNTRY LIFE (20/8/1987), pp70-73;
J Macaulay THE CLASSICAL COUNTRY HOUSE IN SCOTLAND 1660-1800 (1987), pp60-65; Eds J Dixon Hunt & P Willis THE GENIUS OF THE PLACE (reprinted 1988), pp197-203; J Gifford, WILLIAM ADAM (1989) p.314-316; I Gow and
F Tindall in THE JOURNAL OF THE ARCHITECTURAL HERITAGE SOCIETY OF SCOTLAND, WILLIAM ADAM (1989), p67 and pp104-107; I Gow THE SCOTTISH INTERIOR (1992), pp88-90; J Thomas, MIDLOTHIAN RIAS GUIDE (1995) p42-43; M Glendinning, R MacInnes, A MacKechnie A HISTORY OF SCOTTISH ARCHITECTURE (1996), pp116-120.
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Printed: 16/07/2019 09:26