Kimmerghame is an attractive and compact parkland landscape with many veteran trees, centred on Kimmerghame house. The late 17th century designed landscape was informalised during the 18th and 19th century through the creation of parkland and woodland plantations.
Type of Site
An attractive and compact parkland landscape with many veteran trees, centred on Kimmerghame house. The late 17th century designed landscape was informalised during the 18th and 19th century through the creation of parkland and woodland plantations.
Location and Setting
Kimmerghame is located on the south bank of the Blackadder Water, approximately 4km south east of Duns. The landscape setting is the open countryside of the Lower Merse, characterised by smooth, undulating landform, intensive arable farming, and frequent views to more distant upland ranges, including the Cheviots to the south. Land-use within the policies includes pasture in the western parklands and cereal cultivation in the fields to the east. Flowing through the northern part of the policies, the Blackadder Water is a tributary of the River Tweed, and recognised as part of the Tweed's designation as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and Special Area of Conservation (SAC). The designed landscape encompasses a total of 104ha (257ac). A boundary wall enclosing woodlands along the north bank of the River Blackadder defines the northern limit of the designed landscape, while minor roads demarcate the perimeter to the east, south and west.
All of the main architectural components at Kimmerghame date from the 19th century or later. Kimmerghame House is a Scottish Baronial mansion built from locally quarried sandstone in 1851 to designs by David Bryce. It was partially re-built after a major fire in 1938. It retains its original 4-storey entrance tower and a 2-storey service wing. The terrace, boundary wall and seating, part of which forms the sunken garden, incorporates elements from the original 1851 structure. The ice-house to the north of the house is of cylindrical stone construction with a brick roof. The stables were designed in Baronial style by David Bryce in 1853 and are built from sandstone in a U-plan courtyard layout. Kimmerghame Quarry, located in the north-western corner of the designed landscape, was the source of the stone for both the stables and Kimmerghame House (Major General Sir John Swinton pers. comm. 2009). The walled garden comprises 3-4m high, ashlar-coped sandstone walls with interior brick lining.. Two of the doorways have heraldic plaques set above them, one of which may have been salvaged from the original mansion demolished in the mid 19th century. The single-storey with attic Gardener's Cottage is of ashlar construction, and is notable for its horizontally sliding sash windows (at the time of writing, this structure was totally destroyed by fire). The North Lodge is an L-plan Tudor-Gothic single-storey house built of coarse sandstone, while the South Lodge is of single-storey ashlar construction with modern additions and ashlar gatepiers. Kimmerghame Bridge is a sandstone single arch classical bridge across the Blackadder Water with a panel bearing the date 1822. It is located just to the north of Kimmerghame Mill on the western boundary of the designed landscape. Further downstream, the pedestrian bridge is an ornamental segmented arch bridge of Chinese style, located to the north of the house. Of probable late 19th century date, it replaces an earlier bridge in this location. The water tower, to the east of the house is a Gothic square-plan sandstone tower that stands approximately 5m high. In the north-east corner of the designed landscape, the pair of early 19th century single-storey cottages at Kimmerghame Heugh are of attic whinstone and sandstone construction.
Drives and Approaches
The main drive, established by the mid-19th century, enters the designed landscape past the north lodge and traverses a relatively straight south-easterly line before joining up with the east drive at the site of the old mansion house. This drive replaced a route used in the 18th century that entered further to the south and which is visible today both in aerial photographs and on the ground as a slightly-raised linear feature crossing the grassy parkland from the site of the present sawmill. The east drive, meanwhile, retains a course in use during the 18th century. Heading straight through mature woodlands, it then curves to follow the course of the river. To the south, the entrance by the south lodge was created in the first half of the 19th century. Today, a mown grass path that curves through woodland follows the same route as a path marked on the 1st edition OS map, published 1862.
Two main areas of parkland are situated to the north and south of the house. Both are attractive and in good condition, with a wide age-range of trees. Older specimens include oak, sweet chestnut, lime, Wellingtonia, spruce and Scots pine. Younger trees include different oaks, copper beech, southern beech, birches and maples. A well-preserved ha-ha separates the parkland from the core garden areas and the woodlands that line the east drive. The core parkland areas around the house were established by the early 19th century. Estate survey plans show that originally, the designed area extended only as far as the long north-south boundary that runs immediately east of the present walled garden. The planting of clumps and perimeter woodland in these fields took place during the first half of the 19th century.
To the north, north west and north east of Kimmerghame House, the policy and riverside woodland mainly consists of beech, larch, spruce, oak and ash. The policy woodlands to the west and south west comprise beech, horse chestnut, oak, birch and yew. The trees that were planted to be admired as individual specimens around the house and walled garden have now grown into a more established woodland comprising beech, birch, oak, larch and fir. Meanwhile, to the east of the house, veteran trees and old beech and yew hedges still follow an older garden alignment. They line a straight, mown grass avenue which turns on a right-angle towards the former site of the original gardens. Following the same alignment as the original 18th-century drive, they also appear to be depicted on some of the late 18th-century and early 19th-century estate maps.
Between the house and the walled garden there is a small arboretum containing a choice range of specimen trees. These include maples, fir, Wellingtonia, and birch, along with some recent plantings of Kousa dogwood (Cornus kousa), different maples and 30 different varieties of birch.
The principal garden today comprises a wide terraced lawn that opens out from the south elevation of the house. Three sets of stone steps descend from each level and the whole is enclosed by a low wall topped with decorative cast iron urns. Immediately to the west of the house is a sunken garden planted with small ornamental shrubs and flowers. It was created from the footprint of the part of the house that was destroyed by fire in 1938.
The present house and terraced garden partially occupy the site of the gardens first mapped on an estate survey of 1742 and removed in the mid-19th century. These appear to have initially comprised an enclosed formal garden and several enclosed 'kitchen grounds' accessed by a path that led due south of the old mansion. These may have contained some of the fruit trees ordered by George Hume from London in 1695 (Kelsall and Kelsall 1990: 26). Maps produced a century later at the close of the 18th century and start of the 19th century indicate two larger gardens occupying these areas; a formal or walled garden divided into quadrants by paths and, to the south, an orchard.
The present large walled garden was built in the first half of the 19th century, probably c.1840s. It features tall north and side walls, built to trap and reflect the sun's warmth, while a low wall and railings delimit the southern side. Two sentinel clipped yew trees flank the entrance gate, and serve to focus the view along the immaculate lawn walk towards the peach and glasshouse, which is centrally located at the far end. This walk, lined by veteran apple and plum trees forms the central axis of the garden. There are two large beds to the east and west of the main axis. The west is currently down to green manure to maintain fertility levels, and the east is used for kitchen garden produce. Box-lined beds also extend around all sides if the garden, with a herbaceous border to the south. Soft fruits are cultivated, while trained fruit trees ascend the north, east and west walls. To the south-west, a topiary yew hedge marks the transition from a wilder woodland-style garden to formal flower and produce. A range of fruits are cultivated within the glass-house, including the Tamarillo, or tree-tomato. Beyond the low south railing of the walled garden is a strip planted with young ornamental trees, including Magnolia, a toon tree (Cedrela sinensis) and rose (Rosa rugosa 'blanc doublet de coubert').
- Mansion House (featured building)
- Description: Kimmerghame House is a Scottish Baronial mansion built from locally quarried sandstone in 1851 to designs by David Bryce. It was partially re-built after a major fire in 1938.
- Earliest Date:
- Latest Date:
- Historic Environment Scotland An Inventory of Gardens and Designed Landscapes in Scotland
- Site of Nature Conservation Importance
- Site of Special Scientific Interest
Written descriptions and maps from the late 17th to 19th centuries reveal the existence of a formal landscape altered and informalised to achieve the design structure still discernible today. Blaeu's map of 1654 depicts a house at Kimmerghame. By the end of the 17th century, this was the residence of George Hume of Kimmerghame (b.1660), an avid diarist whose entries written from 1694-1702 contain incidental details about the estate grounds.
Detailed HistoryThe 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
Kimmerghame is an intact and beautifully-maintained designed landscape, documented by an outstanding collection of 18th and 19th-century estate plans. The policies provide the setting for a good range of architectural features, including a walled garden that retains its traditional layout and function. The Blackadder Water is designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and Special Area of Conservation (SAC).
Main Phases of Landscape Development
Late 17th-18th century, 1820-60
Kimmerghame is first mentioned in 11th century charters (Kent 2004). However the majority of historical data on the development of the estate landscape dates from much later periods. Written descriptions and maps from the late 17th to 19th centuries reveal the existence of a formal landscape altered and informalised to achieve the design structure still discernible today.
Blaeu's map of 1654 depicts a house at Kimmerghame. By the end of the 17th century, this was the residence of George Hume of Kimmerghame (b.1660), an avid diarist whose entries written from 1694-1702 contain incidental details about the estate grounds. They reveal a man of some horticultural interest who consulted a local gardener on a new layout for his garden walls, who ordered great numbers of fruit and specimen trees from London, including 50 pears, 30 apples, peaches, plums and quinces, and who felt moved to record his irritation when sows broke through a garden wall and trampled his vegetable plots (Kelsall and Kelsall (eds) 1990: 13, 26, 132). Some of Hume's work may well be depicted on William and James Cockburn's later survey of 1742. This shows a well-established garden and designed landscape composed of a series of formal enclosed spaces to the south of the house and avenues or rides radiating through plantations both north and south of the river.
In 1718, the lands at Kimmerghame became a barony when Andrew, Lord Kimmerghame was given a royal charter. After two further changes of ownership in the 1730s and 1750s, the estate was sold to Archibald Swinton in 1771 who had also purchased Manderston (q.v. Inventory) two years earlier. Late 18th-century and early 19th-century estate maps show that by this time, a less formal design for the gardens prevailed. To the south of the house, there remained an enclosed garden, divided into quadrants by paths and with a central pond. However, the woodland rides were gone, more parkland specimens had been planted around the house, and a new drive entered the grounds from the west.
The Swintons left in 1803. Of several subsequent owners, it was the Bonar family who stayed long enough to consider and implement changes to the estate between the years 1818 and 1847. During this period, the fields to the east of the house were planted with clumps and sinuous plantations, thus bringing this area into the overall design for the first time. A number of architectural features, including Kimmerghame bridge, ice-house, north and south lodges and Gardener's cottage also date to their time at Kimmerghame while surviving improvement plans document further, unfulfilled proposals for a new house and for the layout of the grounds. The present walled garden first appears on an 1845 estate plan, and it seems likely that this too was constructed in the first half of the 19th century, along with a glasshouse still in use today.
In 1850, the Swintons returned to an altered Kimmerghame, with Archibald Swinton's eldest son, John Campbell-Swinton inheriting the estate from an aunt. By this time, the existing house was visibly past its prime (New Statistical Account 1845: 270), and the change in ownership brought a new and immediate impetus for change. Built in 1851 to designs by David Bryce in mature Scottish Baronial style, the new, much larger house was positioned south of the old, simple two-storey mansion, on the site of the earlier formal and kitchen gardens (RCAHMS BWS/50/46). The old mansion was demolished, while a stable block built shortly afterwards completed the suite of architectural components on the estate. The creation and adornment of the garden terraces to the south, and the planting of specimen conifers around the estate probably took place soon after the construction of the new house.
In 1937, a devastating fire broke out during works to install electricity and heating. The house was rebuilt, albeit much reduced in size. Surplus stone from the ruinous parts was commandeered as runway material as part of the war effort. The footprint of the original 19th century structure was later converted into a sunken garden.
Today, much of the historic structure of the designed landscape remains intact. Some of the oldest surviving trees look to be at least 250 years old, and could well date back to the formal designed landscape as mapped in 1742. The estate remains with the Swinton family and the present owner, Major General Sir John Swinton has augmented the plantings with German red oaks, southern beech, the handkerchief tree (Davidia involucrate), and many different birches and maples. The estate is in very good condition and the gardens are well maintained by one full-time gardener.