Ladykirk (also known as Whytrosik and Lady Kirk)4165

Prestwick, Scotland

Brief Description

Ladykirk is situated just to the east of Prestwick airport. The house is encircled with planting and the estate incorporates the ruins of the Lady Kirk.


There was an enclosed wooded park at Ladykirk in the mid-17th century. By 1775 there was a house with grounds and the ruins of the Lady Kirk itself. The estate was further developed through the 19th century with orchards and other tree planting.

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:

Type of Site

A parkland landscape established in the second half of the 18th century with a major phase of mid 19th century architectural development. The original Georgian mansion is no longer present, although other notable key structures, including the stables and riding school by George Tattersall, gateway and lodges, and walled garden, remain in good condition and in use.

Location and Setting

Occupying a flat shelf of ground above the River Tweed, the policies of Ladykirk are located in the extreme south east of the Berwickshire Merse. The Northumbrian village of Norham lies 1.2 miles (2km) to the north east on the other side of the meandering river. Coldstream, 5 miles (8km) upstream, is the nearest town within the Scottish Borders. While the agricultural estate of Ladykirk extends over a much larger area of open farmland, the designed landscape itself is clearly defined by a continuous rubble wall that encloses a total of 175ha (432ac). In this region, locally intimate views along the Tweed corridor are enriched by the abundant broadleaf cover of the Ladykirk parks and woodlands, which extend down to the river bank. Bounded by the Tweed to the south and east, Ladykirk adjoins the Milne Graden estate to the south-west while a minor road through the hamlet of Upsettlington defines the northern extent of the designed landscape.

Landscape Components

Architectural Features

The principal, late 18th-century mansion was damaged by flooding in the earlier 20th century and was demolished during the 1950s and 60s. A replacement house with Lorimer-type bellcast gables was built in 1965-6 in the north-west corner of the 18th-century walled garden. At the main entrance to the policies, the west lodge is a fine classical composition designed by William Elliott c.1799 and is based on Robert Adam's entrance for Syon House. With the original cast-iron gates and railings still in place, the ensemble comprises a high arched gateway surmounted with a coade-stone Percy lion, linked by colonnades to single-storey lodges that feature niches on their principal fronts. The Ladykirk stables and riding school are exemplars of Victorian Palladianism. Designed by George Tattersall in 1845, the costly project involved the construction of a U-plan complex of two-storey stables with adjoining rectangular two-storey riding school with large entrance porch. Other mid to later 19th-century features include the classical-style North Lodge c.1850, an East Lodge, 1875, a two-storey Butler's House by the entrance to the new house, and a Tudor-style Gardener's Cottage c.1846, immediately to the west of the walled garden. To the south, a mausoleum built in the early 19th century for William Robertson was never used. An egg-shaped, semi-subterranean ice-house with passage entrance, designed c.1849, is located above the river bank, where the rubble policy wall, that encloses the designed landscape, incorporates archways, grills and lowered portions to accommodate the ebb and flow of Tweed floodwaters. Curiously, another ice-house is marked nearby on the 2nd edition OS map (published 1900, OS 25'). In the park to the north-east, the remains of Sibyl's Well feature a stone inscribed with the words, 'Sybill's Well and end of the Bloody Headrig', (a minor burn).

Drives and Approaches

Three approach drives still converge on the site of the old Ladykirk House, pulled down after flooding in the mid-20th century. The west entrance, with its tall lion gateway is by far the most impressive. From here, the principal drive, lined by a fine display of daffodils, Rhododendron and Azaleas, curves through a long woodland strip. The shorter, north approach from Upsettlington leads past the stables and riding school before entering the main park. The east drive is no longer in use and is mostly grassed over, although stone gatepiers and cast-iron gates still mark the old entry point from the outer, to the inner parkland around the site of the former house.

Paths and Walks

Mown grass paths lead from the walled garden through the parks. A woodland walk that encircles the grassy slope to the south of the old house site is known as 'Lady's walk' on account of the tradition of gentle strolls that began and ended at the house. Sycamore, sweet chestnut and oak with an understory of Rhododendrons, Azaleas and laurel flank this path and form an attractive and secluded woodland setting with occasional views extending out towards the parks and along the meandering river.


An abundant parkland landscape featuring a good age range of trees stretches over the flat ground from the site of the old mansion. Individual specimens include oak, sycamore, horse and sweet chestnut and lime. Some champion trees, including a majestic sweet chestnut, are survivors from initial planting work during the 1700s, while some veteran beech have only recently succumbed. Two grassy mounds within the inner park constitute the scheduled remains of two Bronze Age barrows, or burial mounds. A further mound has been interpreted as the base for a 19th-century folly that was never built (NMRS, NT84NE 32). Sunken ditches that trace the boundary of the inner parks and the long, curving west drive ensure uninterrupted views across the policies towards fields still in use for grazing. Important components of the broader parkland panorama are circular clumps and roundels of trees that punctuate views of the outer parks. Some former clumps are in the process of being replanted, while others retain mature specimens.


Surviving estate records indicate that major campaigns of planting were undertaken during the later 18th century. Among the proposed schemes of works are notes to order 21,000 trees and hedging plants in 1766, and to plant a further 6,800 'firs and best grey wood', mostly from the estate nursery, in 1780 (NLS, MS.998). Today, the historic structure of the plantations remains largely intact. Although the design does not feature large swathes of woodlands, a complete perimeter shelterbelt composed mainly of sycamore, Scots pine and beech enclose the outer parks and extends down some of the field divisions. Sinuous strips of mixed deciduous trees with some yew line the long west drive and the route of the Lady's walk to the south of the former mansion site. The woodland canopy within these strips is managed so that attractive shrubs and flowers thrive along the thoroughfares.

Walled Garden

This large, immaculately-maintained garden is located just above the River Tweed and is enclosed on three sides by rubble and brick-lined walls. A curving, low south wall affords views across the river towards the Northumbrian countryside. Initiated in the second half of the 18th century, depicted on Blackadder's map of 1779, and probably either rebuilt or modified in 1783, the garden presents a curious mixture of old and new features. Today, it forms the immediate setting for the principal house, built in the north-east corner in the 1960s. Divided into smaller areas by beech and yew hedging, the garden also features a tennis court, lawns and several arrangements of ornamental shrubs. Kitchen produce is cultivated in the north-west corner from beds, fruit trees and small greenhouses erected in the 1990s to replace an older structure on the south-facing wall. Clues to the garden's past remain evident however. Parch-marks on aerial photographs reveal the course of intersecting paths that served to divide the garden into quadrants until the later 20th century. A potting range extends along the exterior of the north wall, while a hollow space within this wall belies a former Victorian heating system. Carved key-stones over a blocked up archway in the south-east corner feature William Robertson's initials and the date 1783.

  • House (featured building)
  • Description: The principal, late 18th-century mansion was damaged by flooding in the earlier 20th century and was demolished during the 1950s and 60s. A replacement house with Lorimer-type bellcast gables was built in 1965-6 in the north-west corner of the 18th-century walled garden.
  • Earliest Date:
  • Latest Date:
  • Ruin
  • Description: The estate incorporates the ruins of the Lady Kirk.

Electoral Ward

  • Tarbolton Symington Craigie

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:

Reason for Inclusion

This is a rare and intact parkland landscape that contains two scheduled prehistoric barrows. Surviving records provide outstanding historic value for documenting estate improvement from the 18th century onwards and suggest the possible early involvement of the designer Robert Robinson. Today, plentiful mature parkland and woodland broadleaves enrich the local scenery of the Tweed valley.

Main Phases of Landscape Development

Late 1750s to 1800, 1840s to 50s

Site History

The Robertson family first acquired the Ladykirk estate c.1737-9. Their subsequent close interest in the design, development and radical improvement of the grounds is documented in valuable surviving records. Fresh from a 3-year-long Grand Tour of Europe, the laird's son Roger Robertson set to work, carefully noting details of purchases, projects and meetings in his leather-bound Memorandum book. In 1753, he commissioned a land surveyor to plot out the 'inclosures' from a plan by William Adam and to find the situation of a house and avenue. In 1757 and 1758, he met a Mr Robinson, surveyor, who sketched out ideas and plans for a garden, pleasure grounds, a 'Green Walk' and a bowling green with ornamental gate for the front of the house (NLS, Acc.12245). The names of these associates are intriguing. While any link with the architect, William Adam (d.1748) seems unlikely, the latter could conceivably be the well known designer Robert Robinson who was working on a scheme for the nearby Paxton House (q.v. Inventory) at about the same time.

An intensive period of activity followed. Commencing his farming and harvest journal in 1758, and clearly in tune with contemporary trends towards land improvement strategies, the estate factor complains of irritations such as a 'Garden being much spoil'd by bad usage' before listing detailed and extensive schemes across the whole estate for planting, trenching, levelling, manuring, liming, gravelling roads and digging sunken ditches (NLS MSS.998). His journal, along with Robertson's own Memorandum Book, log valuable details and dates. Amid notes on farm work and accounts, there are entries relating to the construction of faced dykes, stables, barns and a byre (1750s), a planned extension of the walled garden (1758), the procurement of itemised vegetable seeds and fruit trees, a new nursery ground laid out to accommodate nearly 50,000 young trees, hedges and shrubs (1757-60), and subsequent plantation work across the policies (1761, 1766, 1780).

Armstrong's 1771 map and Blackadder's 1779 map both indicate a house with substantial planting around the designed landscape. Clumps of trees were evidently popular. Surviving diagrams of this period plot out precise measurements for circular and oval plantations, not just for the immediate policies, but for the wider estate, such as on the summit of Lot Law, to the north (NLS MS.999). An earlier 19th-century estate plan depicts no less than 19 clumps in the Ladykirk parklands (NLS EMS.b.4.1.a). The remnants of some of these can still be observed today together with some later roundels.

Roger Robertson died in 1782. He had been a prominent antiquarian of the day, a vocation that perhaps led to the naming of a well in one of the parks after Sybil, the famed prophetess of Virgil and Ovid. His son, William Robertson (c.1763-1830) inherited and became renowned for his pursuit of agricultural improvement and excellence. With much of the groundwork complete at Ladykirk, spending was channelled into architectural adornment. A new mansion house was finished by 1799, and date stones bearing William's initials were installed not only on the house, but at other significant points, such as above an entrance arch in the walled garden, and on the grand lion gate at the west entrance.

The next phase of development at Ladykirk took place in the mid-19th century. The estate had passed to William's granddaughter, Marianne Sarah, who married David Marjoribanks in 1834, the later Liberal MP for Berwickshire. Over the coming decades, the bustle and noise of construction filled the valley air as the new owners instigated a series of ambitious and costly construction projects in the 1840s and 1850s. New stables, a riding school, lodges, an ice-house, estate cottages and additions to the principal house were among the commissions at Ladykirk.

Ownership of the property descended directly down the generations, with the marriage of female heirs leading to changing surnames. In the summer of 1891, some 75 members of the Berwickshire Natural History Club descended upon the estate. Despite their morning visit coinciding with a 'great atmospheric disturbance' that 'aroused the trees into violent commotion', (Hardy 1892: 302), the ensuing write-up for their journal was a glowing and poetic report that praised the 'magical effect' of the view from the house in its 'combination of wood and water and green lawn and meadow near at hand' (Hardy 1892: 299).

Today, much of the historic structure of the landscape endures. The main loss has been the old mansion-house, demolished during the 1950s-60s. The site was subsequently levelled and put to grass while a new house for Major Marjoribanks-Askew was erected in the walled garden. The present owner, who also descends from the 18th-century Robertsons, has overseen a number of more recent developments. Projects of the 1990s included the reorganisation of the walled garden and the creation of a new lake from a formerly-boggy woodland area. Ongoing maintenance and gardening work, meanwhile, ensures that the designed landscape remains in an excellent condition.


  • 16th Century


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