1587-90; additions and alterations by Sir William Bruce and Robert Mylne, 1673; further additions and remodelling by William Burn and David Bryce, 1841-45 (see Notes). Outstanding domestic castle of singular scale and complexity comprising 16th century I-plan keep with later Renaisance and Scots Baronial additions to N and S forming roughly symmetrical T-plan, situated on low ground beside the Leader Water by the town of Lauder. Dramatic vertical composition and massing characterised by contrasting turreted roofscape dominated by central ogee-roofed tower. 16th century core: predominantly sandstone rubble with pink Bassendean sandstone ashlar dressings. Defined by corner towers, intermediate turrets and oversailing wall-walks behind balustraded parapets. Scots Baronial additions to N and S: squared and snecked greywacke sandstone rubble with long-and-short ashlar dressings. Castellated oriel windows, pedimented dormers breaking eaves and swept-roof towers with ball finials.
W (PRINCIPAL) ELEVATION: balustraded entrance stair flanked by outsized urns, rising to terraced entrance court. 6-storey ogee-capped tower to centre. Rounded towers advance to left and right, corbelled out to square at 5th floor and flanked by 2-stage circular turrets at corner angles. Corbelled balustraded balconies link towers at 3rd and 5th floors. Advanced pyramidal and swept-roof towers flanking. N WING: characterised by gated service court with segmental-arched covered walkways to ground and 1st floors. S WING: single-storey, 5-bay, segmental-arched conservatory/garage with advanced 2-stage bell-tower to centre on raised balustraded court.
E (REAR) 16th CENTURY SECTION: 4-storey, 8-bay, with corner towers to E, corbelled out to square-plan at upper level with crow-stepped gables linked by balustraded balcony. Corner towers to W incorporated into 17th and 19th century remodelling. N AND S ELEVATIONS: 6 semi-circular towers project at intervals with intermediate turrets to centre; oversailing wall-walks behind balustraded parapets.
Predominantly 12-pane glazing to timber sash and case windows. Variety of tall, coped end and ridge stacks. Clay cans. Cast-iron rainwater goods.
INTERIOR: mix of Jacobean and Scots Baronial decorative scheme with some exceptional 17th century Carolingian elements retained. Timber panelled entrance hall leading to elaborate processional suite of public rooms extending the length of the main body of castle. Ground floor: bolection-moulded oak panelling, red granite chimneypieces and compartmented plaster ceilings to panelled room, billiard room and library. State apartments at 1st floor (Ante Drawing room and Dining Room) retain elements of 17th century decorative scheme, dominated by intricately detailed and themed plasterwork ceilings by George Dunsterfield and John Hulbert, 1674-5. 19th century Jacobean staircase with 1670s oak-panelling. Chimneypieces of yellow sienna marble from David Ness, Edinburgh. Upper floors with plain marble chimney pieces. Large groin-vaulted coal house to service quarters kitchen.
EAGLE GATES AND BOUNDARY WALLS: chanelled ashlar square-plan gatepiers capped with eagle statuettes; ornamental cast-iron gates; swept quadrant walls flanking. Evidence of former single-storey, L-plan lodge within stonework behind quadrant wall to E. Circular iron gateposts with shallow conical caps to W (stables) entrance. Coped rubble walls bound estate to N, S, E and W.
Statement of Special Interest
A-group with 'Castle Wynd, Hume Lodge Including Boundary Wall to N and W', 'East High Street, Wyndhead Stables Lodge', 'Thirlestane Castle Estate, Garden Cottage', 'Thirlestane Castle Estate, Stables Offices' and 'Thirlestane Caste Estate, Walled Garden' (see separate listings).
Thirlestane Castle is a building of exceptional architectural and historic significance to Scotland. Its scale and complexity are the product of three principle building phases during the 16th, 17th and 19th centuries. The 16th century structure is distinguished by its innovatively long plan form aligned W-E, its large rounded towers at each corner and semi-circular wall towers connected by broad oversailing parapeted wall-walks. These elements are particularly important suvivals and provide a unique contribution to Scotland's domestic architecture of the period.
The 1673 Renaissance additions by master masons, Sir William Bruce and Robert Mylne, include the advanced pavilion wings (originally with ogee-roofs) to the principal elevation, the raised terrace, classical doorpiece and grand entrance stair. This phase of building also includes the magnificent plasterwork ceilings by George Dunsterfield and John Hulbert, among the finest of their kind, possibly surpassing those by the same craftsmen at the Palace of Holyrood in Edinburgh (see separate listing). Eminent Scottish architect, Robert Adam, worked on 2 proposals for remodelling before 1790 but neither of these were carried out. The 19th century Scots Baronial additions by leading exponent of the high Victorian Scots Baronial style, William Burn, possibly aided by David Bryce, include the ogee-roofed central tower, the swept spirelets of the N and S wings and the service court. These large-scale additions complement the grain of the earlier fabric to create a unified whole.
A motte-and-bailey castle first occupied the site in the 12th century, little of which appears to remain or have been incorporated in the later fabric. A short-lived Italianate artillery fort, built by the English, occupied the site between 1548 and 1550. Work on the earliest section of the present residence was begun in 1587 by Sir John Maitland, Chancellor of Scotland, who, in 1590, was created Lord Maitland of Thirlestane. His descendent, also John Maitland, later the Duke of Lauderdale, employed Sir William Bruce while the 9th Earl of Lauderdale, who succeeded to the property in 1839, employed Burn to provide a new suite of rooms and incorporating the old corner tower and the adjacent pavilion into the new wing. The influential Maitland family were landowners in Lauderdale from the 13th century and descendants continue to reside at the castle.
Significant in terms of its proximity, the castle is closely associated with the development of the Royal Burgh of Lauder. The earliest mentions of Lauder, then Lawedir, date from the the 12th Century when the motte and bailey was built. The town preserves much of its original medieval plan form, with two back lanes (one of which is Castle Wynd demarking the eastern boundary of the castle) and the main street, centred on the old Tolbooth (see separate listing).
William Burn planned and supervised the work between 1840 and 1844 which were completed at a final cost of £25,000. Burns alterations saw the W corner turrets corbelled out once more restoring them to their original form. It is understood that David Bryce may also have had a hand in the final designs. Bryce joined the office of William Burn in 1825, aged 22 and by 1841, had risen to be Burn's partner. Bryce certainly added the conservatory to the N wing a few years later. Following the establishment of a trust spearheaded by the National Heritage Memorial Fund, a critical programme of conservation was undertaken in 1978-82 by Crichton W Lang and further repairs were completed by David Willis in 1993. Consolidation and restoration work is ongoing (2008), principally at upper and attic interior levels which are currently unoccupied.
List description updated at resurvey (2009).