Archerfield 111

Dirleton, Scotland

Brief Description

Archerfield House has been developed as a conference venue and golf course, but the basic layout of the 18th-century designed landscape remains intact. Sensitive restoration of the house and landscape has included the replanting of earlier features such as avenues.

History

Archerfield House and the original main beech avenue date from about 1730. The present landscape was designed around 1780, probably by Robert Robinson, and incorporated the flower garden at Dirleton. The two estates were separated in the 20th century. After a period of neglect the house was renovated and opened as a conference centre and wedding venue in the early-21st century. The parkland has been converted into two golf courses, one of which had opened originally in 1869.

Detailed Description

The following is from the Historic Environment Scotland Gardens and Designed Landscapes Inventory. For the most up-to-date Inventory entry, please visit the Historic Environment Scotland website:

http://portal.historic-scotland.gov.uk/hes/web/f?p=PORTAL:DESIGNATIONS:0

Type of Site

A landscape of open parkland with double avenue of beech trees and the later planting of mixed deciduous shelterbelts and policy woodlands.

Location and Setting

Archerfield is situated near Dirleton village, 2 miles (3km) west of North Berwick, and just over 1 mile (2km) from the Firth of Forth. The main A198 road to North Berwick forms the southern boundary of the site, the policy woodlands define the west boundary, and the East Lodge is at Dirleton village. The geology of the headland is of interest with a volcanic vent exposed at Yellow Craig with its attendant sills and metamorphosed rocks. The surrounding rocks are of the lower Carboniferous series and include a highly fossiliferous limestone. The coastal strip is designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest for its botanical, ornithological and geological interest. The soils are also unusually alkaline with a very high pH of 8.5, and the woodlands near the coast are subject to wind, salt and sandblasting. The surrounding landscape is flat, with volcanic intrusions forming isolated hills as at North Berwick Law. Views into the designed landscape are limited by the surrounding policy woodlands.

General Roy's map of 1750 shows the then new house of Archerfield at the east end of a long double avenue running west to east and with one large rectangular enclosure to its north. By the 1st edition OS of 1853, the designed landscape had been laid out to its fullest extent. The design has been attributed to Robert Robinson in c.1780. The resulting informal landscape design removed the west half of the main avenue, shown on Roy's plan, although the east half was kept. A pond is shown to the north of the house and a large walled garden had been built to the east of the Home Farm. Broad Wood and Eldbotle Wood had been planted up and small clumps had been planted in the parks. By the 2nd edition OS of c.1900, the areas of woodland had been joined but otherwise the structure of the design was the same. The area within the designed landscape today is 572 acres (232ha).

Landscape Components

Architectural Features

Archerfield House with Pavilion Wings is currently listed A and is of high architectural value. It is a large, classical mansion built as a corps de logis flanked by screen walls linking it to a pair of two-storey pavilions, although the screen walls have since been lost. The main house is three storeys high but has been used since World War II for agricultural purposes and the entrance porch has been replaced with barn doors to admit farming equipment. Archerfield Home Farm, currently listed B, has been renovated and there are two lodges, of which West Lodge is currently listed C. The large Walled Garden has been used in recent years as part of the farm and the ornamental gates, taken down for safe-keeping, have since been re-erected.

Parkland

The area of former parkland is shown on the 1853 map and it extended from the Home Farm in the west up to the East Lodge. There do not seem ever to have been many individual trees planted in the parks although a few small clumps were planted in the park to the east of the house. The main feature within the parkland was the impressive double avenue of beech trees shown in photographs earlier this century, unfortunately lost before the 1960s. The parkland area has survived as open fields although many are now in arable use but the structure remains similar to that laid out in the 1780s.

Woodland

The area of woodlands on the estate has increased, particularly to the north, approaching the shore of the Firth of Forth where a large area was planted up by the Forestry Commission in the 1950s. The shelterbelts and policy woodlands are planted with mixed deciduous species and there are still a few older ornamental trees to be found in Broad Wood although many more are thought to have been cut down during World War II. Most of the old woodlands had been cleared prior to the 1960s and they have since been replanted by Hamilton & Kinneill Estates Ltd, mainly as commercial coniferous woodlands under Forestry Commission Dedication Schemes and for game-cover.

The Gardens

The area around the house and north of it toward the small ornamental loch was laid out, originally, as a shrubbery. Immediately around the house were lawns and gravel paths, with specimens of ornamental shrubs and trees. The small loch remains although the area around it is now overgrown; there was once an island reached by a small rustic bridge. A summerhouse is marked on the 1853 map on the north bank opposite the island. To the north of the shrubbery is a pavilion, once the start of an 18-hole golf course on the Links, now the headquarters of the Edinburgh and Lothian Clay Pigeon Shooting Club. Dirleton Gardens (q.v.) were the main flower gardens for Archerfield and lie to the east more than a mile away from the walled kitchen garden near Collegehead Farm (the Home Farm). They were both described in articles in the Journal of Horticulture and Cottage Gardens in 1865.

Walled Garden

The kitchen garden was divided into three main compartments and had extensive ranges of glass, including seven vineries and two peach-houses, as well as forcing houses and pine pits. While most of this garden was a kitchen garden, there were also some flower borders. The glasshouses were derelict and demolished in 1960, and the walled area is now used as part of the farm yards today.

Features
Avenue
Authorities

Electoral Ward

  • Aberlady/Gullane/Dirleton
History

Detailed History

The following is from the Historic Environment Scotland Gardens and Designed Landscapes Inventory. For the most up-to-date Inventory entry, please visit the Historic Environment Scotland website:

http://portal.historic-scotland.gov.uk/hes/web/f?p=PORTAL:DESIGNATIONS:0

Reason for Inclusion

The original designed landscape of 1780 is still discernible today despite several changes and modern additions, and comprises parkland, woodland, gardens and notable architectural features.

Main Phases of Landscape Development

Late-18th-century (c1780) incorporating earlier elements (1730, double avenue beech trees) with later 20th century alterations (separated from Dirleton q.v.) and additions (1950s).

Site History

Archerfield House and the main beech avenue were designed in c.1730; the present landscape was designed c.1780, probably by Robert Robinson, and incorporated the flower garden at Dirleton. The two estates became separated in the 20th century.

Historically, Archerfield was part of the Dirleton estate (q.v.) which was purchased in 1663 by Sir John Nisbet, a lawyer and Lord of Session. When he died in 1687 the estate devolved on his cousin William, who had a new house built at Archerfield around 1730. The architect is unknown although alterations were made to it by John Douglas, and by Robert Adam in 1790. The impressive beech avenue to the house was planted before 1750 and the informal landscape was laid out reputedly by Robert Robinson in c.1780. In 1799 William's granddaughter, Mary Hamilton Nisbet, married the 7th Earl of Elgin and their daughter, Lady Mary Hamilton Nisbet, succeeded to Archerfield and Dirleton. She married Robert Dundas who changed his name to hers. Their only daughter, Mary, married Henry Nisbet Hamilton Ogilvy of Biel, Archerfield, Dirleton, Winton and Wellvale in 1888.

After her death, Archerfield was sold but many of the estate papers were retained at Biel. The house and grounds at Archerfield were sold again in 1938 and the house was then requisitioned during the War by the Ministry of Defence. In 1946 Archerfield was purchased by the Mitchells who are market gardeners, and in c.1960 the estate was purchased by the 14th Duke of Hamilton & Brandon. With so many changes in ownership, details of the development of the landscape at Archerfield have been lost over the years.

Period

  • Late 18th Century
Associated People

People associated to Archerfield

Contact
References

References

Contributors

  • Historic Scotland