William Adam, 1726-33; W jamb and orangery John Adam, 1754-58; porch, Wardrop and Reid, 1872; N pediment rebuilt, Robert Rowand Anderson, late 19th century. Palladian country house comprising 3 storey and basement, 9 bay corps de logis connected by 2 storey, 3 bay links to 2 storey, 3 bay pavilions. Tooled coursed pinkish sandstone rubble (originally harled) with polished dressings. Random rubble wings. Base course; dividing band course between basement and ground floors; long and short, V jointed, rusticated quoins; relieving arches; moulded eaves course.
N (ENTRANCE) ELEVATION: symmetrical.
Corps de logis: bays grouped 2-5-2; single storey, 3 bay tooled coursed ashlar porch advanced to centre of ground, 1872 by Wardrop and Reid; round arched doorway to centre with Gibbs surround; flanked by engaged Tuscan columns and surmounted by a open pediment enclosing a scrolled cartouche bearing incorporating "RD" (for Robert Dundas); 2 leaf panelled timber door; round arched niches to flanking bays, again with Gibbs surrounds, on Tuscan pilasters; clasping Tuscan blocked pilaster buttresses to angles. Left and right returns: Venetian windows; blocked pilasters to angles; continuous moulded cornice with coped balustrade. Round arched windows above small basement windows of porch to re entrant angles. 3 niches with keystones to centre bays of 1st floor; 3 architraved windows above to 2nd floor surmounted by carved pediment, re built circa 1890, enclosing Dundas and Oliphant coat of arms, supported on 4 engaged Ionic columns; regular fenestration to 2 flanking bays. Outer bays advanced; small windows with rusticated surrounds to basement; windows with keystone and Gibbs surrounds to ground floor; dividing band course; architraved windows with keystones to 1st floor; windows with moulded surround to 2nd floor. Continuous dentil moulded cornice with coped balustrade.
Links: angled, symmetrical; 2 storey, 3 bay; raised from single storey by Wardrop and Reid 1877. Polygonal headed doorway to centre with Gibbs surround, glazed to left link, panelled to right link; surmounted by pediment; pilasters supporting basket arched frame to angles; octagonal windows with Gibbs surrounds to ground of flanking bays; single window above, each with keystone and moulded surround; moulded cornice with coped balustrade and urn finials.
Pavilions: symmetrical; regular fenestration to N elevations; 3 bay inside returns with Venetian windows to centre of ground floor; regular fenestration to flanking bays; 2 small windows to centre of 1st floor; regular fenestration to flanking bays.
W ELEVATION: symmetrical, 2 storey and basement, 6 bay; 9 pane windows with keystones and rusticated surrounds to basement; pedimented windows with moulded surrounds to ground floor; outer left bay of basement and ground floor masked by link; architraved windows to 2nd floor.
W Elevation of Pavilion: 4 bay; infilled doorway to centre of ground; panelled timber door to right with 2 pane fanlight; window to outer right; 2 small windows to centre 2 bays of 1st floor; windows to outer right and left bays of 1st floor. Later wing advanced to outer right, W elevation not seen 1997; left return (courtyard elevation) dated 1888 on shouldered wallhead stack; glazed door to left bay at ground; regular fenestration to remainder.
S ELEVATION: symmetrical.
Corps de logis: tooled random rubble, 7 bay, grouped 2-3-2. Perron stair, circa 1800, to 3 bay flat roofed porch advanced to centre; circa 1800, through basement and ground floor; 6 pane barred windows to basement, blind to centre; balustraded dividing band course above; large window to each bay of ground floor flanked by engaged Corinthian columns supporting moulded frieze; glazed timber 2 leaf doors with 2 pane fanlights to left and right returns reached by circa 1800 balustraded swept stone steps. Regular fenestration to basement and ground floors; round arched window to centre 3 bays with keystones; 3 9 pane windows to 2nd floor breaking eaves cornice; surmounted by pediment incorporating carved Scottish Royal Coat of Arms, thistle an rose, and motto "NEMO ME IMPUNE LACESSET"; surmounted by pair of sphinx. Regular fenestration to flanking bays.
Left Link: 5 bay, bays to left obscured by trees; window to 1st floor of penultimate bay to right with moulded surround and keystone; small window to outer right of ground floor of penultimate bay to right; windows to 1st floor of flanking bays; pilasters supporting basket arch frame to angles; blocking course with stone urns to angles.
Right Link: doorway off centre to right of centre bay; 2 leaf timber door reached by stone steps; window to centre of 1st floor above; windows to centre of flaking bays at 1st floor; barred window off centre to left of ground floor right bay; pilasters supporting basket arch frame to angles; blocking course with stone urns to angles. 2 windows to ground floor of left bay of right return; blank panel above; windows to ground and 1st floor of right bay. Window to ground of recessed bay to outer right; blind window to 1st floor.
E ELEVATION: symmetrical, 6 bay; regular fenestration to all floors; outer right bays of basement and ground floors masked by link; blind windows to 1st and 2nd floors above.
E Elevation of Pavilion: asymmetrical, 5 bay; large round arched doorways to centre, penultimate bay to right and outer right bays of ground; glazed 2 leaf doors to centre and penultimate bay to right; opening to garage to right, flanked by small window to outer right; infilled round arched doorway to penultimate bay to left; outer left blank; irregular fenestration to 1st floor.
ORANGERY AND WEST OUTBUILDINGS: circa 1753. 2 storey, originally U plan, courtyard now roofed over. Linked to W of house by single storey lean to with corrugated iron roof and 2 2 leaf boarded timber doors to N elevation. Random rubble wall with polished gatepiers to N of lean to, forming courtyard to rear of pavilion.
N ELEVATION: asymmetrical, 7 bay; round arched doorways with imposts detail to centre bay and penultimate bays to left and right; doorway to bay to right of centre; window to bay to left of centre flanked by 2 windows; blind window to outer right; window to outer left flanked by small window to right. Large louvred openings to penultimate bay to right and outer right; regular fenestration to remainder.
W ELEVATION: 3 bay; centre bay originally an open courtyard, now gable timber roof; irregular fenestration to inside left return; infilled doorway off centre to left of ground of bay to right; blind window above; Venetian doorway to Orangery in bay to outer right, set in recessed round arch; boarded glazed timber 2 leaf door with 8 pane fanlight.
S ELEVATION: Orangery. 7 bay, symmetrical, droved snecked sandstone rubble with polished dressings. Round arched doorway set in recessed round arch with boarded, glazed timber 2 leaf door with 8 pane fanlight to centre; round arched windows with long and short voussoirs and impost details to remaining bays.
E ELEVATION: 7 bay, near symmetrical. Large window opening to centre of ground flanked by 2 panelled timber doors; regular fenestration to 3 central bays of 1st floor. Outer bays advanced; ground floor of penultimate bay to left and outer left obscured by lean to (see above), regular fenestration to 1st floor; window to ground floor of penultimate bay to right, doorway to outer right; single window to outer right at 1st floor; small rooflight to centre.
STABLES, EAST OUTBUILDINGS AND EAST COURTYARD: 2 storey, U plan; linked to E of house at rear of pavilion by random rubble wall to S, with boarded timber door; coursed rubble coped wall to N, swept down to E, polished gatepiers with spherical caps to far E; forming cobbled courtyard, mounting block still in place.
N ELEVATION: 9 bay, near symmetrical; round arched doorway to 3rd and 7th bays from left of ground; 2 leaf boarded timber doors and 5 pane fanlights; regular fenestration to remaining bays of ground floor; 5 windows to 1st floor that to outer right breaking eaves.
W ELEVATION: 7 bay, asymmetrical; wide round arched doorways to centre and flanking bay to left of ground; glazed boarded timber doors, now garages; 20th century lean to addition advanced to flanking bay to right, with window and boarded timber door to left return, slate roof; piended dormer to centre of 1st floor; small 4 pane window to flanking bay to right. Outer bays advanced; doorway with relieving arch to outer left and outer right bays; boarded timber doors; piended dormer above each at 1st floor; piended dormer to penultimate bay to right at 1st floor; penultimate bay to left blank. Pall stone to outer left corner.
S ELEVATION: partially obscured by trees; 7 bay, round arched window with impost detail to each bay.
E ELEVATION: 3 bay; centre bay recessed; obscured by 2 timber lean to additions to inside returns; window opening breaking eaves with cat slide roof to inside right return. Windows off centre to right of ground and 1st floors of bay to outer right. Large opening with metal lintel to ground of bay to outer left; window opening off centre to left at 1st floor.
EAST COURTYARD: tooled, snecked rubble with droved dressings and polished ashlar coping to S, E and N; outbuilding/stables to W (see above); opening to W of N wall; lean to shelter with corrugated iron roof to inside of N wall; cobbled floor.
Predominantly 12 pane timber sash and case windows (thicker astragals largely dating from William Adam scheme). Piended grey slate roofs with lead ridges. Primarily double and triple corniced ashlar ridge stacks with circular cans. Mainly cast iron rainwater goods, with some lead downpipes and decorative hoppers.
INTERIOR: arcaded entrance hall through 2 storeys with baroque plasterwork by Joseph Enzer, 1730-35; clock dated 1592 from original tower house in 18th century case by Francis Brodie of Edinburgh. Oak Room with fine panelling; basket arched William Adam fireplace with late 19th century overmantles; opens into porch of circa 1800 leading to garden. Old library to 2nd floor plasterwork by Enzer, elaborate frieze and plaster vaults; original book cases now grained and house porcelain collection. Dining room (restored 1995) and drawing room (restored 1997) in W range by John Adam, 1753; plasterwork in drawing room designed by John Adam, executed by Philip Robertson 1762-63. New library, Thomas Brown and Adam Lumsden, 1866-68; library fireplace in Jacobean style reading "ELD 1868 RD". Remains of railway from old kitchen to dining room.
HA-HA: stone Ha ha to N of house, running from E to W.
SUNDIAL: to centre of S lawn; circular plan; egg and dart carving around base of shaft; gadrooning to base of waisted neck; gnomon ornamented with raised thistle.
Statement of Special Interest
Arniston House is an exceptionally fine example of a country house designed for "convenience and use" (Sir John Clerk of Penicuik). The land on which the Arniston Estate stands was originally used by King Malcolm for hunting from Edinburgh Castle. It changed hands various times over the subsequent centuries. After the reformation the property was divided into several units, the most significant of which was bought in 1571 by George Dundas, 16th laird of the Dundas Estate, as inheritance for his son James, of his second marriage to Katherine Oliphant (the union of the two families being represented by the Elephant of the Oliphant family and Lion of the Dundas family on the North Lodges, see separate listing), as he already had an heir to his present estate at South Queensferry from his first marriage. James took over the estate around 1600, and the original house is thought to have been built circa 1620 and was a U plan building with a large walled garden. He also extended the estate, buying farms such as Castleton (see separate listing). His grandson Robert inherited the estate in 1679, and, on his return from exile in Holland in 1689, began to improve Arniston. He intended to construct a new house and also improve the estate in accordance with the mansions and grounds he had seen on the continent. The improvements to the gardens were begun, but it was Robert's son, also called Robert, who commissioned William Adam to design the new mansion house. The design for the present Arniston House was clearly influenced by the design of James Gibbs for Down Hall in Essex, although it was by no means a copy. Adam was also inspired by the ideas of Sir John Clerk of Penicuik, for whom he had designed Mavisbank (completed in 1727). Clerk's poem The Country Seat described the 'usefull' country house, which Arniston undoubtedly was, being also a design of good taste "...blending of the cultivated with the natural senses..." (A.A. Tait, p132). William Adam's design was based on the foundations of the existing 17th century house. The house was entered by the 3 bay temple front, with rusticated ground floor and round arched openings (now masked by the 1872 porch addition). The 3 niches above, which were to contain portrait busts, still survive. The remainder of the house was harled rubble with single storey passages to the service pavilions. The building of Arniston was not completed until the mid-18th century as Robert ran out of money. By this time William Adam had died so his son John took on commission in 1753 for Robert, 4th Lord Arniston. John Adam was responsible for the west range, which he adapted to current taste, replacing the double-height apartments with the dining room and drawing room. Both have recently been restored (1997) after dry rot was discovered in 1957. William Adam's arrangement for the grounds (which seems to have been carried out to the south) mixed the formal with the informal, and comprised a bastioned parterre, wilderness, great avenue, cascade and basin. From the 1750's there was long period of improvement, principally involving the informalising of the grounds. John Adam also continued to work on the grounds where his father had stopped, and was responsible for some of the changes. By 1764 the parterre and cascade had gone. In 1791 Thomas White designed an improvement/informalisation plan for the Arniston grounds, and although little of this was actually carried out the gardens did become more informal towards the beginning of the 19th century. The Scottish Royal Coat of Arms within the pediment of the south elevation, like some of the stones on the rustic bridges in the sunken garden (see separate listings), possibly originated on Parliament House, Edinburgh, which was re faced by Robert Reid in 1803.