The designed landscape is set within the valley floor of the Lower Tweed. Dryburgh Abbey, and the core parkland and woodland policies of Dryburgh Abbey House occupy the flat ground within the loop of the Tweed. The inner parkland core of the designed landscape enriches local landscape views and forms a crucial setting for the principal architectural features of Dryburgh, most notably the medieval abbey ruins, and Dryburgh Abbey House. The woods comprise an attractive mix of oak, sycamore, ash and hawthorn with occasional holly underplantings.
Type of Site
A romantic landscape of the late 18th to 19th century designed around the centrepiece of the consolidated medieval abbey ruins, with associated estate infrastructure. Although the designed landscape now contains seemingly disparate elements under separate ownerships (Dryburgh Abbey, Dryburgh village, the core policies of Dryburgh Abbey House, a 1930s hotel and grounds, agricultural buildings at Dryburgh Mains), unity still derives from wider landscape views in which principal design features remain visually prominent. In addition to the abbey, these include the inner parkland core, temple, and Wallace Monument, with important woodland backdrop.
Location and Setting
The designed landscape is set within the valley floor of the Lower Tweed, and contains the small village of Dryburgh. This is a landscape dominated by the wide, meandering river channel, which flows in a pronounced loop around the southern boundary of the designed landscape. Wooded river bluffs on the south bank of the Tweed, together with steeply rising hillsides to the north, provide a certain degree of enclosure within this landscape. Dryburgh Abbey, and the core parkland and woodland policies of Dryburgh Abbey House occupy the flat ground within the loop of the Tweed. A natural wooded mound to the west, Bass Hill, and the more pronounced relief of the steep hillsides to the north, provide distinctive elevated stages for an early 19th century temple and Wallace Monument. Although many views within the valley landscape are intimate and small-scale in character, these higher locations provide good vantage points that encompass views of much of the designed landscape and the valley lands beyond. Encompassing a total of 98ha (242ac), the designed landscape is bounded to the south by the Tweed. The minor road approaching Dryburgh and the edge of Dryburgh Farm mark the eastern boundary. The northern boundary is formed by the summit of the hill to the north, together with the outer edge of the woodland plantation, while to the west, a field division to the west of Dryburgh Mains comprises the western boundary of the designed landscape.
Dryburgh Abbey comprises the substantial medieval and late-medieval remains of the abbey church and associated monastic complex, including gatehouse, cloister and conventual ranges. The entire site is scheduled on account of its nationally significant archaeological remains. The chapter house, an impressive barrel-vaulted room with early decorative painting, may be the earliest complete example in Scotland (Cruft et al. 2006: 221). Later monuments and memorials are prominent in and around the ruins and include features relating to David Erskine's late 18th-century to early 19th-century interventions and design projects, such as a carved obelisk, erected 1794 to commemorate Hugh de Moreville, the Abbey's founder. Among other later memorials set within the abbey church is the red, polished-granite tomb-chest of Sir Walter Scott (d.1832), and a memorial to Field Marshal Earl Haig, also buried at Dryburgh in 1928.
David Erskine's other key commemorative, architectural features occupy prominent locations in the local landscape. The enormous red sandstone Wallace Monument overlooks the designed landscape from Clint Hill to the north. Constructed by local artisan John Smith and set within mature woodland, it was erected on its pedestal in 1814 and comprises a colossal statue of William Wallace complete with brightly-painted, saltire shield and double-handed sword, and an adjacent, ornamental, inscribed urn. Stretching across the wide channel of the Tweed, to the west of Dryburgh Abbey, is the Dryburgh suspension bridge (just outside the designed landscape boundary). The present structure, built 1872, is a replacement for two earlier, failed bridges on the same site. The first, commissioned and opened by Erskine in 1818, was the first chain bridge in Britain, constructed in 1817 by John & Thomas Smith (Cruft et al. 2006: 223). The bridge provides access from the south bank of the river to the circular, neo-classical Temple of The Muses, which sits atop the summit of a distinctive natural mound known as Bass Hill, and which was dedicated to the poet James Thomson in 1812 through an elaborate Masonic ceremony (Murray Lyon 1900: 455-6). It features 9 Ionic columns, a shallow domed roof and bronze figures of the Four Seasons, by Siobhan O'Hehir. These were installed in 2002 to replace the original missing centrepiece of statue and circular pedestal.
Erskine's principal residence was Dryburgh Abbey House, set in parkland immediately to the south east of the medieval abbey complex. The present structure was largely rebuilt in 1892-4 by Henry Francis Kerr following a fire. Comprising 2 storeys with basement and attic, it features a symmetrical principal elevation and central entrance with Ionic columns. It occupies the site of a 16th-century tower house that was drastically remodelled for Erskine in 1784. Some 18th century core features remain, while the internal scheme, and external embellishments are Kerr's work, and are chiefly in Scottish Renaissance style. The policies feature two lodge buildings (c.1817 and 1840), a cylindrical rubble-built, pink-harled dovecot, dated 1828, an adjacent sundial with large, square, stone base and circular dial, by Adam Simpson of Lessudden, and a tunnel-form ice-house (Cruft et al. 2006: 224). Like the house, the Gothick-style stables were rebuilt following the late 19th century fire. Originally constructed in 1820 by John Smith of Darnick, they comprise a courtyard block with ornate, crenellated principal elevation, and entrance archway. The old corn mill was rebuilt from abbey remains and is now in use for fishing.
Other architectural features of note include Dryburgh Mains, a two-storey farmhouse, and the adjacent Orchard Field, a large walled enclosure commissioned by Erskine to establish fruit trees on a sheltered site. Its entrance, the Orchard Gate is a grand, heavily-ornamented, pink-sandstone arch, built around 1820, and bearing the inscription; Hoc pomarium sua manu satum parentibus suis optimis sac D S Buchanae comes ('D. S. Erskine, Earl of Buchan, dedicated this orchard, planted with his own hands, to the best of parents.'). The fine wrought iron gates beneath the arch resemble the bear gates at Traquair (q.v. Inventory) and were presented by Lord Glenconner. The nearby Stirling Tower, is a crenellated tower painted white and blue, and forms part of Stirling Cottage, which is named after a former resident, the sculptor Edwin Stirling. At the crossroads, the telephone kiosk is of the K6 variety, designed by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott in 1935. Standing within its own grounds to the north-west of the abbey complex is Dryburgh Abbey Hotel. This is a red-sandstone, Baronial-style building, remodelled in 1931 from an existing early 19th-century house. Associated features include stables, walled garden enclosure and crow-stepped lodge, probably by John Smith c.1840.
Drives and Approaches
The present designed landscape contains separately-owned grounds, accessed by separate drives. Dryburgh Abbey House, the residential centre of the 18th-19th century estate, is accessed via a relatively straight, beech-lined drive that leads through parkland before curving towards the entrance forecourt. It traces an approach depicted on historic maps and the first OS edition (Blackadder 1797; Sharp Greenwood and Fowler 1826, 1855-7,OS 25'). Dryburgh Abbey Hotel is accessed via a separate drive that leads from a lodge at the main crossroads of Dryburgh village. Similarly, it follows a trajectory in place by the mid-19th century (1855-7, OS 25'), is lined with beech trees, and traverses a relatively straight course before curving towards the present hotel building.
The inner parkland core of the designed landscape enriches local landscape views and forms a crucial setting for the principal architectural features of Dryburgh, most notably the medieval abbey ruins, and Dryburgh Abbey House. Partly fringed by loose clumps and strips of trees along the curving bank of the Tweed, the parkland incorporates a good range of specimens, including a relatively high number of 'county champions', recorded on account of their girth and/or height (www.thetreeregister.org ). Sycamore, oak, lime, Scot's pine, beech and copper beech grow in the vicinity of Dryburgh Abbey House. Closer to the abbey, meanwhile, the broadleaves are interspersed with fine conifer specimens, mainly established during the 19th century. These include Atlas cedar, Lebanon cedar, Lawson's cypress and Wellingtonia. The most famous specimen is the Dryburgh Yew, a well-proportioned heritage tree said by tradition to have been planted around the time of the foundation of the abbey in the 12th century (Rodger et al. 2003: 29). More recent plantings carried out at Dryburgh Abbey under Historic Scotland's stewardship include maples, sweet chestnut, ash, Himalayan cherry and Dawyck beech.
Mixed deciduous woodland borders the north bank of the Tweed where it loops around the abbey site. Further woodland strips and blocks are situated to the north of the designed landscape core. The largest blocks ascend the steep hillsides of Clint Hill, and form the immediate landscape setting for the Wallace Monument. The woods comprise an attractive mix of oak, sycamore, ash and hawthorn with occasional holly underplantings Terraced paths to the monument lead through this woodland, and are lined with some particularly fine veteran beech specimens. The small clump of woodland in the field north of the statue may have been a Scot's pine roundel, but has now lost any clear artistic outline. Meanwhile, the woodland on Bass Hill around the Temple of The Muses is also scenically prominent, with the tops of conifer specimens projecting from the surrounding broadleaf canopy.
Productive gardens cultivated during the 19th century included the orchard by Dryburgh Mains. This vast enclosed orchard, with its unusually ornate gate, was founded by David Erskine, 11th Earl of Buchan in the early 19th century. By the end of the 19th century, however, only the southern half of the orchard was maintained, and today, the entire enclosure lies empty.
To the north of the present Dryburgh Abbey Hotel is a large, rectangular walled enclosure. Similarly, this formed a productive garden space during the 19th century, associated with the former country house on this site. Divided into quadrants by intersecting paths, the walled garden became disused during the 20th century, and is no longer maintained for horticultural use. There are other small gardens attached to houses in the designed landscape, but these are not relevant to the designed whole.
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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:
Reason for Inclusion
The ruins of Dryburgh Abbey form the ultimate picturesque garden folly within this unique park and woodland landscape by the Tweed. Of major significance both archaeologically and architecturally, the Abbey serves as the main focus of a late 18th to early 19th-century designed landscape that was celebrated in the 19th century for its romantic and antiquarian appeal. The scenic value of the wider landscape endures, while surviving commemorative monuments and varied architectural features offer outstanding historic and architectural interest.
Main Phases of Landscape Development
12th century (foundation and initial construction of Dryburgh Abbey); late 18th century to 19th century; 1930s
Dryburgh Abbey was founded in 1150 by Hugh de Moreville, Constable of Scotland and friend of King David I (1124-53). King David funded many of Scotland's abbeys and priories around this time, and de Moreville invited the Premonstratensians, a recently established order from Alnwick, Northumberland, to set up their religious house at Dryburgh. An ancient yew close to the ruins may date from this early period of the abbey's history (Rodger et al. 2003: 29). The seclusion afforded by the Tweed, which flows around the site on three sides, was appropriate for the contemplative life, which would have involved the cultivation of monastic gardens to serve the culinary and medicinal needs of the religious community. The form and history of such gardens are unknown and it is likely that they were destroyed during the Border conflicts and raids of the 15th and 16th centuries.
Having served merely as a source of building material in the centuries following the Reformation, the abbey attained a new role in the late 18th and 19th century as a picturesque folly in an aristocratic park. David Erskine, the 11th Earl of Buchan and founder of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, acquired the estate in the 1780s, possibly inspired by a perceived ancestral link with the lands (Mackechnie 2002: 227). He was in a position to exert considerable change on the existing landscape. Erskine was a wealthy aristocrat and renowned antiquarian known for his eccentricity and penchant for pomp and display. Over the coming years, the local Tweed valley landscape became an arena for building and design projects that perfectly encapsulated his taste for the romantic and the historic.
Although some guidance may have come from Captain George Isham Parkyns in 1804, a theorist on the Romantic landscape, Erskine is credited as the main driving force for the overall design at Dryburgh. In 1784, he ordered the demolition of much of the earlier tower house on the site of the present Dryburgh House in order to extend and rebuild a new mansion from the remaining parts. Naturally, the surrounding policies became a focus for development and Erskine set about integrating the abbey into a much wider design. Most invasive was the programme of excavation, alteration, consolidation and landscaping that took place among the surviving ruins themselves. Memorial stones were shifted about, a medieval-style Latin phrase was cut into a wall, busts were placed in the chapter house, shrubs and trees planted, and an obelisk erected as a gesture of commemoration to the Abbey's founder (Mackechnie 2002: 226). Meanwhile, Erskine commissioned new and conspicuous monuments to the Scottish past. In 1812, he dedicated the newly-built, Neo-Grecian Temple of the Nine Muses to the local Borders poet James Thomson (1700-1748). Two years later, a colossal statue of Sir William Wallace was complete. Raised on the hillside overlooking Dryburgh, the statue became the first landscape monument to this national hero (Mackechnie 2002: 228). Perhaps the ultimate coup came later on, however, when Buchan persuaded his contemporary, Sir Walter Scott, to accept a burial plot within the footprint of Dryburgh Abbey church (Mackechnie 2002: 229). Erskine died before Scott, but would surely have approved of the high drama with which the funeral cortege was performed in 1832.
Erskine had helped usher in a romantic era of taste with antiquarian interests. Via historical and literary associations, made explicit in the landscape, Dryburgh became a celebrated destination for a kind of pilgrimage- tourism during the 19th century. Contemporary engravings depict elegantly-dressed ladies and gentlemen strolling through the lush, ivy-clad ruins of the abbey. Thomas Agar Holland published long fervent poems on the qualities of the landscape in the 1820s (Agar Holland 1826), and tourist guides of the earlier-mid 19th century recommended a visit (eg. 1836), and the system of access to the abbey had certainly become One visitor was dismayed at the In addition to the built elements, the landscape was also noted for the presence of the veteran Dryburgh yew and the long-established parkland trees. During this period, further specimen conifers were planted around the ruins; trees that remain distinctive in the present landscape.
A number of changes occurred during the late 19th century and early 20th century. Dryburgh Abbey House and the stables had to be rebuilt in the 1890s following a major fire. Erskine's vast orchard, which had been part of his more functional programme of estate improvement and development, was much reduced by the close of the 19th century (1896-8, OS 25'). In 1931, the other country house within the designed landscape was rebuilt, and developed as a hotel; the present Dryburgh Abbey Hotel. In 1919, Dryburgh Abbey itself was taken into state care, and over the following years, work commenced to consolidate the ruins and to level and returf the ground surfaces. Dryburgh Abbey remains under the stewardship of Historic Scotland, while Dryburgh Abbey House and immediate grounds remain in private hands.
- Late 18th Century
- 18th Century
- Features & Designations
Historic Environment Scotland An Inventory of Gardens and Designed Landscapes in Scotland
- Key Information
Late 18th Century
- Related Documents
- CLS 1/891
Designed Landscape: Conservation Management Plan with plans - Digital copy
Peter McGowan Associates - 2018
- CLS 1/891