Invermay 8871

Perth, Scotland

Brief Description

Invermay is a fine example of the picturesque landscape movement and is in good condition. It is an early 19th century landscape incorporating the remnants of an 18th century formal design. A new house was built on the site of the Old House of May and a complementary landscaped park laid out which emphasises the natural beauty of the Humble Bumble Gorge.

History

Invermay House (Old House of Invermay) was built around a tower on a promontory overlooking the Water of May in 1633 by David Drummond and his wife Elizabeth Abercrombie. A small enclosed garden was created just to the south of the house. This was surrounded by yew, some of which remains today. Several account books and factors' reports have survived from the early 19th century and they describe the transformation of the policies between 1800 and 1810 when Colonel Hepburn Belshes laid out the park and garden.

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

Invermay is a fine example of the picturesque landscape movement and is in good condition. It is an early 19th century landscape incorporating the remnants of an 18th century formal design. A new house was built on the site of the Old House of May and a complementary landscaped park laid out which emphasises the natural beauty of the Humble Bumble Gorge.

Location and Setting

Invermay is situated off the minor road between Forteviot and Dunning approximately 1.5km south of the B935 at Forteviot and some 4km northeast of Dunning. It lies south of the confluence of the Water of May and the River Earn overlooking Lower Strathearn. The designed landscape stretches south to Roeglen Wood, west to the minor road near the parish boundary and east along the Back Burn to the junction of the road. The soil is a light loam and the climate is typical of central Scotland and the gardens are well protected by extensive woodland. To the north the site is bounded by the rich farmland of Strathearn and to the south the ground rises to moorland on the Ochil Hills. There are long views across Strathearn to Ben Vorlich in the distance and south to Clevage Hill and the Ochil Hills. There are long views from the A9 of the woodland covering the Water of May. Within the site there are particularly dramatic views along the Humble Bumble gorge.

The house lies almost in the centre of the policies. General Roy's map of 1750 shows six symmetrical blocks of woodland to the south of the Old House of May. By the first edition OS map of 1859 the extent and layout of the policies had completely changed. The formal 18th century design had been informalised. Part of the woodland had become pasture enclosed by trees and the policies extended east and west of the new house. The designed landscape of 498 hectares has not altered much in size since 1859 but several woodland boundaries have changed within the policies.

Landscape Components

Architectural Features

Invermay House, listed category A, was built around 1750 and was remodeled by Robert Burn in 1806. It is a traditional Scottish country house with white harled walls and stone dressings around the windows. The main entrance was moved from the western approach to the present northern one in 1904, when the house was re-aligned. Old House of Invermay, listed category A, contains a tower probably built in the late 16th century and altered during the mid 17th century. A coach house and stables were added in the mid 18th century at around the same time as the new house was built. There were further additions in the 19th century and these buildings have recently been restored.

The octagonal wooden Summerhouse built in the early 19th century is no longer extant. The Ice House, to the east of the house, is egg-shaped and was referred to in the late 18th century account books. Over the Ice House is the early 19th century Game Larder. The Dairy is a single-storey building with a doocot in its eaves, constructed in 1803. The Stables is a classical two-storey building constructed in 1805. The Game Larder, Dairy and Stables were designed by Alexander Laing. The Home Farm was built between 1781-2 and appears in the overseer's account books. The Walled Garden, designed in 1802 by Walter Nicol lies just to the east of the farm buildings. The Green of Invermay Entrance Gates and Piers were built around 1904 and the finials from the West Lodge gatepiers were mounted on top of the circular piers. All the buildings detailed in this paragraph are group listed category B.

Scott's Bridge, over the Water of May, was probably built in the late 17th century and crosses the water just to the south of another 19th-century bridge. Both bridges are group listed category B. West Lodges and Gates were designed by Alexander Laing in 1803 and are listed category B. The pair of single-storey Gothic lodges are now roofless. The park wall, also listed category B, was begun by the Belshes in around 1800 and is more than 2.5km long. The octagonal Doocot at the northern end of the drive was built in the late 18th century and is listed category B. South Lodge lies at the end of the long drive running southeast from the house and Invermay Lodge is located at the northeastern end of the long drive with begins at Scott's Bridge. Muckersie Chapel was first mentioned in the 12th century and was reconstructed c.1840 as the burial place for the Belshes. It is listed category C(S).

Parkland

The Water of May divides the park and policies into two sections. The northern part includes North and South Hallbank which are separated by a woodland strip. It also includes the Eugoffie Parks. In the mid 19th century there were several clumps and specimen trees in them but now most have gone. A woodland shelter belt runs from the Green of Invermay for several miles along the minor road towards Ardargie House Hotel.

The southern section stretches up to Roeglen Wood which is planted on the lower slopes of Clevage Hill. The western side which contains Dovecot Park, Lawnhill Park and Kidhill Park includes the 'picturesque' approach from the West Lodges. In his book 'The Landscape Garden in Scotland', Alan Tait suggests that this is the drive cited by the factor when explaining his quarrel with the designer Walter Nicol to the owner Colonel Belshes over payment for Nicol's services. He wrote 'Mr Nicol staked out an approach to the new lodges, a sunk fence, and some walks through the woods''.

The 1st edition OS map shows that these parks were designed with many specimen trees in them but now only a few remain. These are mainly oak, sycamore and beech. The policies extended further south and each park was sheltered by woodland plantations. In the mid 19th century ornamental drives ran throughout the policies and woodland, linking all the components of the designed landscape.

Woodland

In 1883, Thomas Hunter in 'The Woods, Forests and Estate of Perthshire' wrote of Invermay, 'all the hardwood trees' especially the oaks, thrive exceedingly well, and the beeches are remarkable for the cleanness of their stems.' He also considered that the Belshes planted most of the woodland after they arrived in the 1740s. By the mid 19th century, the woodlands were extensive and according to Hunter, the trees along the sides of the Water of May were mostly hardwoods including oak, beech, elm and sycamore. The woodlands further south, in particular Roeglen Wood, grew 'very fine' plantations of larch and spruce which had matured in only 70 years. Invermay still has very fine woods which are renowned for their hardwood timber, especially oak. They have been carefully managed over the years and this continues today. Small blocks of faster growing conifers were planted amongst the maturing oaks and beech. Some ornamental conifers such as specimen monkey puzzle, spruce and Douglas fir grow amongst the oak and beech closer to the house. Hybrid rhododendrons, including some R. ponticum varieties were used as ground cover. The elms that were planted on the sides of the Humble Bumble gorge have died through Dutch Elm disease.

Water Features

The Humble Bumble is a natural gorge where the water of May rushes through a narrow gap only 1-metre wide in some places. At its steepest, the cliff-face rises 20-30m. In the early 19th century walks were cut along both sides and a rustic bridge was built to cross the tumbling stream just above and to the east of the narrow gorge. This spectacular scene was a favourite place of Sir Walter Scott and it has hardly changed since his regular visits of the 1820s. Only the elms which contributed much to the character of the planting have been lost.

The Upper Pond lies on the southern edge of a shelterbelt just above Home Farm. It actually consists of two water bodies that almost join together. The Lower Pond lies to the east of the stables on the edge of the woodland. The western drive crosses it and divides it into two ponds.

The Gardens

The garden around the house is mainly lawn. On the west side of the house, a semi-circular beech hedge was planted around 1950 to channel the eye into a short avenue in the centre. At the end of this vista stood the octagonal wooden summerhouse which had been moved from the south side of the walled garden. The summerhouse no longer exists. On the eastern side of the house there is another important vista across the lawns to the rustic Game Larder. The ancient 17th century yew hedge lies between the house and the Old House. The hedge encloses the garden around the Old House and provides protection for the flower and vegetable garden where an attractive herbaceous border lies along the southern wall of the Old House.

Walled Garden

Walter Nicol designed this garden in 1802. It is shaped like a trapezium with the shortest wall on the north side. A large conservatory stood against this wall and the OS plans indicate that there was a flower garden shaped like a half-oval at the southern end. This garden thrived until World War II but gradually declined after that and today is not in use at all.

Features

Style

  • Picturesque
  • Country House (featured building)
  • Description: Invermay House, listed category A, was built around 1750 and was remodeled by Robert Burn in 1806. It is a traditional Scottish country house with white harled walls and stone dressings around the windows.
  • Earliest Date:
  • Latest Date:
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

Invermay is a fine example of the picturesque landscape movement, comprising an early 19th century landscape incorporating the remnants of an 18th century (and earlier) formal design. There is a good recorded history of the estate, with connections to Sir Walter Scott and the well-known Scottish designer Walter Nicol, and much of the design layers remain intact today.

Main Phases of Landscape Development

16th, 17th, 18th and 19th centuries

Site History

Invermay House (Old House of Invermay) was built around a tower on a promontory overlooking the Water of May in 1633 by David Drummond and his wife Elizabeth Abercrombie. A small enclosed garden was created just to the south of the house. This was surrounded by yew, some of which remains today. The Belshes family bought the property around 1740 and began construction of the new house which they completed in 1750. The extensive formal landscape evident on General Roy's 1750 map is likely to have been initiated in the late 17th / early 18th century and further embellished by the Belshes as they built the new house. The Belshes travelled extensively throughout Europe as part of the Grand Tour.

Several account books and factors' reports have survived from the early 19th century and they describe the transformation of the policies between 1800 and 1810 when Colonel Hepburn Belshes laid out the park and garden. Many trees were planted and accounts exist for the supply of trees from Dickson of Perth and others from 1800 to at least 1808. The architect Alexander Laing was involved in preparing designs for several of the buildings constructed at this time including the lodges, a gazebo, a doocot and a game larder. The Walled Garden, the model Dairy and Home Farm were all added around this time. The wall around the policies was built around this time. Sir Walter Scott visited Invermay regularly in the 1820s and particularly admired the spectacular scenery of the Humble Bumble gorge.

Sir John Forbes of Fettercairn succeeded to the estate and his only daughter married Lord Clinton in the 1870s. Lord Clinton owned several estates around Britain and Invermay was sold around 1900 to the Frazers. The house has been recently modernised by the present owners, the Wemyss family.

Associated People

Just one person associated to Invermay

Contact

Telephone

0131 668 8600

Official Website

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References

Contributors

  • Historic Scotland