Gordonstoun (also known as Bog o' Plewlands)1480

Elgin, Scotland

Brief Description

The basic layout of a pre-1750 garden and parkland survive at Gordonstoun. There are formal lawns with topiary and a herbaceous border near the house, but the main feature of the design is an ornamental canal over 300 metres long backed by avenues and running in line with the main axis from the house. There are occasional charity open days.

History

The basic layout pre-dates General Roy's map of 1750 and therefore pre-dates the present mansion house. There are references to the designer Thomas Winter in the 1750s.

Visitor Facilities

Open occasionally under Scotland's Garden Scheme. For details see: www.gardensofscotland.org/index.aspx

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

Location and Setting

Gordonstoun is set on the Morayshire coast, some 1.25 miles (2km) south of the Moray Firth, 3.5 miles (5.5km) west of Lossiemouth and some 5 miles (8km) north of Elgin. The landform here slopes from the sea-cliffs gently down to the south towards Elgin and the hills beyond, and the house is set facing north and has extensive views particularly to the south. The B9040 runs to the north of Gordonstoun from Hopeman to Lossiemouth and extensive views can be obtained from this road across the Gordonstoun and Duffus estates. The house is visible from the north framed by the avenue, and the policy woodlands are significant in the landscape.

The extent and layout of the designed landscape today bears a marked similarity to that shown on General Roy's map of 1750. This shows a symmetrical design on a long north/south axis framed with woodlands over six fields at its northern end. Shelterbelts extend on a grid system over a wide area enclosing a large number of fields for that period, and extending southwards to Duffus Castle on the shore of what was 'Loch Spinae' (then an extensive loch between Duffus and Elgin). By 1868 and the 1st edition OS map, a northern drive is shown curving symmetrically to the north front of the house. A woodland has been added to the east of the main north/south axis. A small area of garden is shown to the south of the house but the canal is not shown. The mausoleum had been built by this time, on the site of St Michael's Church to the south-east of the house. A path from it to the house formed the southern boundary of the park although some woodland had been planted at the south end of the avenue.

By the 2nd edition OS map of c.1910, this latter woodland block clearly defines the southern boundary of the policies and this remains so today. By 1910 the area of gardens had been extended to the south of the house and the (thermometer-shaped) canal had been put in. The extent of the park remained the same and a new south drive had been put in to the east of the canal and along past the mausoleum to Michael Kirk Lodge. West and East Lodges had been built at each end of the north drive. Since then, the extent of the designed landscape has remained the same; more woodland has been planted south of the house and the area of parkland confined to the north-west of the house. Some school buildings have been added within the policies which presently extend to some 150 acres (61 ha).

Landscape Components

Architectural Features

The Mansion House is listed A. The Georgian 18th century central block has eight bays and a platform roof. The end wings with their steeply pitched roofs are parts of an earlier 17th century house. The Doocot in the North Park is 18th century, beehive shaped, and contains approximately 1,000 nest- holes and a potence; it is listed B. The 'Round Square' home farm is a 17th century, two-storey building around a circular court, believed to have been built for Sir Robert, 3rd Baronet (1647-1702). It is listed A and has been converted into classrooms and dormitories. A second doocot, at Windmill Cottage, is listed B, and is cylindrical with a beehive top, and is thought to have been converted from an earlier windmill.

There is also a mausoleum on the site of St Michael's Kirk, and the North Gates, although no longer an access to the house, are an impressive feature in the landscape.

Parkland

The parkland lies mainly to the north of the house where there are some remaining individual parkland trees of copper beech, oak, and horse chestnut varieties, some dating from the late 19th century. The avenue plantings to the north and south of the house are also of deciduous species with conifer plantings behind. New school buildings have been built to the north of the house and playing fields laid out mainly on formerly arable fields. The main approach today is from Duffus to the west. A Scots pine avenue lines the east drive.

Woodland

Recent plantings in the last 25-30 years have been mainly coniferous woodlands under a Forestry Commission Dedication Scheme. The yew edges to some of the woodlands are former hedges which have been allowed to grow up.

The Gardens

The centrepiece of the gardens at Gordonstoun is the ornamental loch or canal which extends along the central north/south axis of the designed landscape to the southern boundary of the former park. At its northern end it broadens into a square 'bulb'. Although many of the parkland trees to the south of the house have been lost and part of the park planted with woodland, daffodils line the canal in spring. A gateway marks the former south driveway to the mausoleum. A fine herbaceous border runs south from the house to the canal on the east side of a central lawn, once planted more formally. Some topiary remains, now somewhat less complicated than the peacocks of the 1930s. To the east of this area is a small orchard and a tennis court. To the west of the lawn is a shrubbery with Azaleas and other flowering shrubs and trees.

Features
  • School (featured building)
  • Description: The house, now a school, incorporates a 17th-century building.
  • Earliest Date:
  • Latest Date:
  • Building
  • Description: The Round Square, a circle of former farm buildings.
Ornamental Canal, Dovecote, Topiary, Herbaceous Border, Lawn, Garden Terrace, Orchard
Access & Directions

Access Contact Details

Open occasionally under Scotland's Garden Scheme. For details see: www.gardensofscotland.org/index.aspx
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

A rare, relatively intact example of designed landscape layout of gardens, parkland and woodland dating back to before 1750. The site has a rich historical association with old Morayshire families and is perhaps most notable for its scenery and the architecture associated with the famous Gordonstoun public school.

Site History

There are no plans or designs available at the house today and map evidence relies on General Roy's plan and the OS maps. There are no known designers although there are references to Thomas Winter c.1750. The basic layout pre- dates General Roy's map and therefore pre-dates the present mansion house.

The early House of Plewlands was built for George, 1st Marquess of Huntly, from whom Sir Robert Gordon, 2nd son of Alexander Sutherland Gordon, 12th Earl of Sutherland, purchased several estates from 1636 onwards. He had been created a Baronet of Nova Scotia in 1625. The lands were created into the Barony of Gordonstoun in 1642 and he renamed the house after the Barony. He became vice- Chamberlain of Scotland and a Lord of the Privy Council. His grandson, also Sir Robert, was known as 'The Warlord', and it was during his time that the 'Round Square' was built in an attempt to ward off The Devil, coming to claim his soul.

The mansion house was altered and enlarged by various owners from the 16th century onwards. The 6th Baronet died in 1795 without issue, and the title passed to Gordon of Letterfourie whilst the estates went to Alexander Penrose Cumming of Altyre who was himself later created a baronet in 1804. By 1885, his great-grandson, the 4th Baronet, Sir William Gordon-Cumming, of Altyre and Gordonstoun, held 36,387 acres in Elginshire and 2,112 acres in Nairnshire. The estate was initially rented from 1934 by Gordonstoun School and purchased a few years later. The mansion house is used by the School mainly for offices, and other school buildings and sports pitches are now sited in the Park.

Period

  • 18th Century
Associated People

Just one person associated to Gordonstoun

Contact
References

References

Contributors

  • Historic Scotland