Marchmont 2230

Polwarth, Scotland

Brief Description

The designed landscape at Marchmont was laid out by the mid-18th century and includes a mile-long beech avenue that was replanted in the late-19th century. The layout of early-18th-century formal gardens survives around the house and there are also shrubberies and informal 19th-century gardens.

History

The Great Avenue was first planted in about 1727 by the 2nd Earl of Marchmont. The designed landscape was laid out before the mid-18th century and has been little altered since then. In 1983 the property passed to Sue Ryder Care and opened as a care home in 1989.

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

An excellent example of a mid-18th-century design laid out in response to increased family status and prosperity, with some early 19th-century and early 20th-century additions. Although largely unmaintained in the final decades of the 20th century, the core structure of the original design of main house, avenue and parklands with surrounding woodland remains intact and plans are currently underway to improve the overall condition of the estate.

Location and Setting

Set within a much larger agricultural estate, the designed landscape at Marchmont is located approximately 5 miles (8km) south of Duns and occupies a swathe of gently undulating ground drained by the Rumblingstone, Swardon and Howe Burns; minor tributaries of the Blackadder Water. Marchmont House itself is situated on almost the highest part of the immediate landscape and commands impressive, long-ranging views, not only down the tree-lined avenue to the north-east, but also to the more distant Eildon and Cheviot Hills to the south west and south. The valley of the Howe Burn, which snakes along the southern edge of the designed landscape, provided the route of the former Berwickshire Railway line which also had a station at Marchmont.

Encompassing an area of 144ha (355ac), the extent of the designed landscape as defined today incorporates much of the original design as established in the first half of the 18th century. The steep Howe burn valley bounds the landscape to the south, much as it did then, while today, the mature trees lining the great avenue to the Dovecot at Cothill and the woodlands to the west and north-west separate the inner core of the design from the wider estate.

Roy's Military Survey map of the 1750s indicates that during the mid 18th century, the design was rather more extensive with a further long avenue, perpendicular to the present one, stretching north-west from the site of the old Redbraes Castle, (to the east of Marchmont House) as far as a woodland plantation up on Kyle's Hill. By the opening decades of the 19th century, however, this avenue had been removed and the distinction between the designed inner core and the rest of the estate (then comprising farmland, and beyond, a large area of grouse moorland) had been established.

Landscape Components

Architectural Features

Marchmont House is a large symmetrical classical mansion flanked by two outer, lower wings. Originally executed to designs by Thomas Gibson in 1750-54 for the 3rd Earl of Marchmont, the house was altered in the 1830s and extensively remodelled in 1913-20 by Sir Robert Lorimer. To the rear, low balustraded garden walls enclose the lawns, which feature stone stairs linking the two terraces, and, closer to the house, a sandstone sundial with octagonal base. Facing the house at the far end of the long avenue is a circular-plan tower dovecot, built in 1749 from sandstone rubble with ashlar dressings. Its primary function was that of an eye-catcher, and it may have originally been harled and limewashed in order to make it stand out over long distances (Kent n.d.). The large rectangular walled garden, constructed from the mid-18th century, features high, sandstone-rubble, coped walls with red-brick inner linings on the north-west and north-east sides. It features single-storey potting sheds on the exterior of these walls, while a symmetrical range of MacKenzie and Moncur glasshouses (1915), extends along the north-eastern wall. The surviving ruins of Redbraes Castle is surrounded by an interesting collection of later architectural features that includes two pairs of estate cottages, one c.1860, and the other, to the north, c.1900, a 20th-century estate house, called The Kennels, and Redbraes, an early 20th-century Arts and Crafts style house, thought to be designed by Lorimer. The nearby stables complex dates largely to the 17th century with later additions and alterations. Lorimer, who partly constructed the range, added a circular, battlemented Gothic tower at the south end. Other features include the former generator house, and the early 20th century old coach house, also by Lorimer. A partly-subterranean, red-sandstone, ashlar ice-house, bearing a date-panel of 1828, is situated within the steep Swardon burn valley. Spanning this burn to the north-east, the weathered single-arched, classical style Adam bridge, begun in 1759, is largely obscured by vegetation. The original balustraded parapets were removed and replaced with timber fencing in the late 20th century. Despite its name, the designer of the bridge is now thought to be George Paterson rather than William Adam. Marchmont Station opened in 1863. Originally a private railway station for the estate, it was dismantled after floods in 1948 (Butt 1995). The Duns to St Boswells branch line was closed in the same year.

Drives and Approaches

The great avenue formed the main entrance drive until 1816. Armstrong's map of 1771 depicts two further approaches, both of which remain today. Entering from the south west from the direction of Greenlaw, a drive lined with beech hedges enters woodland south of Hardens Park before curving around sloping parkland towards Marchmont House. The other approach enters from the north west through woodland over the Adam bridge on a track that crosses perpendicular to the great avenue (allowing impressive views both up and down the avenue) before leading to the estate buildings and stables at Redbraes.

Paths and Walks

By tradition, a path leading from Redbraes to Polwarth church is known as 'Lady's walk', after the secret nightly trips made by Lady Grisell Hume bringing food to her father Patrick Hume during his month of concealment in the vaults during the winter of 1684. Meanwhile, the early OS editions of the mid to later 19th century show the grounds as criss-crossed with paths used to connect the house with the different components of the immediate policies (1855-7, OS 25'; 1896-8, OS 25').

Parkland

The parkland is shown on the 1st edition OS map as enclosed by policy woodlands and extending from Hardens Park in the south west to Cothill in the north east. The areas closer to the house were planted with a greater density of individual specimens, which today include beech, oak and sycamore. A few veterans, dating to the latter decades of the 18th century, stand in the Deer Park, a higher area of parkland divided from the formal gardens south west of the house by a ha ha and depicted on Roy's Military Survey of the 1750s. To the front of the house, new saplings planted at the beginning of the 21st century will eventually help to recreate the oval space laid out as part of the original 18th century design. Similarly, young saplings established near the terraced drive leading from the south west will help retain the future parkland character of this area.

Avenues and Vistas

The great avenue, an epic landscape feature stretching 1.3 miles (2.1km) from Marchmont House, was planted in the late 1720s by the 2nd Earl of Marchmont, probably following negotiations with William Adam who had conceived something similar for the Earl's sister and husband at the nearby Mellerstain estate. In 1827, the author and publisher Robert Chambers described it as 'the most imposing thing of the kind I ever saw' (Chambers 1828: 33). Originally lined with elms (10,000 were ordered in 1726), these have long since been decimated by old age and gales, most notably in 1881, to be replaced by beech. Today, the avenue is lined mostly by veteran beech with some breaks appearing as older trees die off, particularly towards the dovecot. The effect, however, remains impressive. Roy's Military Survey of the 1750s indicates that originally, from the dovecot, tree-lined linear space extended even further east, albeit on a slightly different alignment, while curiously, another long avenue, perpendicular to the great avenue, extended almost exactly the same distance north-west from the old Redbraes Castle to a plantation on Kyles Hill. Perhaps initiated at the same time as the great avenue, it was subsequently interrupted with woodland plantations after the demolition of Redbraes Castle in the later 18th century. By 1826, when Sharp, Greenwood and Fowler's map was published, a short fragment of it survived as a linear, tree-lined space where it crossed the long axis of the great avenue in front of the house. Further to the north west, its alignment is preserved by the track called Craw's Entry.

Woodland

The perimeter woodlands retain a structure established during the first half of the 19th century and comprise mainly conifers to the south, west and north-east. Mixed deciduous species along the Swardon and Rumblingstone Burn valleys have grown unchecked and the area around the Adam Bridge is now heavily overgrown. The mixed deciduous woodlands around the house developed partly from veterans originally planted as specimens in the 18th century, together with 19th century planting. The woodlands enclosing the southern area of garden include yews, a Wellingtonia and large rhododendron.

Water Features

A large oval pond created in the second half of the 19th century at the confluence of the Swardon and Rumblingstone Burns may have been used as a curling pond. Other water features in the grounds, including a long narrow curling pond in Lounds Dale and an oval pond in the parkland to the north of the house appear to have been removed during this period, while a fish-pond, immediately to the east of the Adam Bridge, was removed during the 20th century.

The Gardens

To the south east of the surviving corner fragment of Redbraes Castle, the rectangular outline of the old pre-18th century formal garden can still be identified to the south east by virtue of the lines of large yew trees that have steadily grown from an original border hedge. The gardens immediately associated with Marchmont House, meanwhile, extend from the rear (south-west) of the building. Although currently comprising a simple wide oblong lawn with lower terraces accessed by stone steps, evidence from old photographs and maps indicate a formerly much more intricate design. The large-scale 1st edition OS map, for example, depicts a series of parterres, symmetrical in their layout, and featuring flower and shrub beds cut in a variety of ornate shapes (1855-7, OS 25'). The parterres are surrounded and dissected by paths which, in turn link features such as urns and statuary. These paths eventually curve and lead outwards towards more informal areas enclosed by woodland. Originally, regularly spaced gaps allowed the viewer from within glimpses out through the trees across the parkland. Within these curving woodland fringes (which are now overgrown), 19th-century planted specimens remain and include flowering shrubs, such as rhododendron, and individual specimens such as a fine Fern-leaf beech (Fagus sylvatica 'Heterophylla'), an Arbutus X andrachnoides (a hybrid form of Strawberry Tree), Wellingtonia, cedars and hollies.

The second edition of the OS map reveals a gradual simplification of the design with the grassing over of parterres by the 1900s (1896-8, OS 25'). Today, only the principal gravel paths remain evident, while only very slight undulations in the lawn suggesting the former intricacy of the gardens. Key pieces of Italian statuary, some dating to the 18th century, were removed and sold in the 1980s. These included a circular stone fountain featuring Triton and the Dolphins, a well head and garden seats (sale catalogue 1984).

Walled Garden

The large rectangular walled garden is situated between Marchmont House and Redbraes and was established from the mid-18th century (Cruft et al. 2006: 525; NAS GD158/2996). Notable components include three carved-stone panels set above the doorways, said to have been retrieved from Redbraes Castle (Cruft et al. 2006: 525). Of the two that remain legible, one is a reused lintel with the date 1677, while the other features the arms of Patrick Hume and his wife, following his creation as Earl of Marchmont in 1697 (ibid.). Although maintained, the garden is largely uncultivated today, apart from a section of flowers and shrubs along the border against the northern wall. During the mid-19th century, the interior followed a symmetrical arrangement, divided into a grid of smaller compartments by paths and low hedges, with an ornamental section against the north wall (1855-7, OS 25'). This appears to have been removed by the close of the 19th century, although some of the former paths remain visible as slightly raised linear features (1896-8, OS 25'). The central axis remains in place. Lined with a partially-surviving trimmed yew-hedge, it terminates in the diamond-shaped stone footings of a fountain installed in the second half of the 19th century. Associated structures include potting sheds on the exterior of the north wall, and a glasshouse, built by MacKenzie and Moncur in 1915 following plans by Sir Robert Lorimer. Labels on Lorimer's plan denote compartments for carnations, peach, nectarine, vines, ferns and melons, and reveal expectations for the range of produce to be grown here (RCAHMS E10171). Later used for growing tomatoes on a commercial basis in the latter part of the 20th century, the glasshouses subsequently fell into disuse and remain in a very poor condition.

Features
  • House (featured building)
  • Description: The house was built in 1754 for the 3rd Earl of Marchmont, Hugh Hume, replacing Redbraes Castle. It was remodelled in 1834 and then in the early-20th century by Sir Robert Lorimer.
  • Earliest Date:
  • Latest Date:
  • Dovecote
  • Earliest Date:
  • Latest Date:
Avenue, Shrubbery
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

The remarkable Great Avenue, which stretches 1.3 miles (2.1km) from Marchmont House, is a rare and impressive component of this early to mid-18th century landscape, notable for its balanced symmetry and a possible association with William Adam, who was consulted by the 2nd Earl of Marchmont in the 1720s. The tree-lined avenue, parklands and woodlands, important for their scenic and wildlife habitat value, also provide the setting for a number of exceptional architectural features, including the category-A listed Marchmont House and dovecot.

Main Phases of Landscape Development

1724-60, 1800-30s, 1913-1920s

Site History

Marchmont estate in its present form can be traced to a sequence of dramatic family events that took place towards the end of the 17th century. Born in 1641 in Redbraes Castle, Patrick Hume of Polwarth was a strict Presbyterian whose alleged involvement with the Rye House plot to assassinate Charles II in 1684 resulted in his brief imprisonment on the Bass Rock, a month spent hiding in the dark vaults of Polwarth Church, and finally escape and exile in Holland. Salvation came with the Revolution of 1688. Returning triumphantly to royal favour, an active political career and the reinstated lands at Redbraes, Patrick Hume was declared Chancellor in 1696, First Earl of Marchmont in 1697, and the Kings High Commissioner to Parliament in 1698.

Such a spectacular change of fortune prompted ambitions for a new, impressive house and grounds fit for the elevated status of the family. Inheriting in 1720, Patrick's son, Alexander, commissioned William Adam in 1724 to draw up plans. Although '...very well pleased' with Adam's ideas for transforming the family seat at Redbraes with a new mansion and designed landscape, (NAS GD158/2515/p.119), the 2nd Earl baulked at the sheer expense involved. So, while work on the designed landscape got underway, including the establishment of parkland, and the planting of the Avenue with 10,000 elms ordered in 1726, the house itself had to wait.

It was left to Alexander's brother and successor, Hugh, the 3rd Earl of Marchmont to renew activity from the 1740s onwards. Roy's Military Survey of the 1750s depicts an estate on the brink of major change, with old and new elements coexisting. The 3rd Earl's position on the outskirts of political life perhaps encouraged his focus on the estate; he instigated the final demolition of Redbraes Castle, the family seat since at least the early 16th century, and organised the construction of the main house, (designed and built by Thomas Gibson in the 1750s). He also commissioned the dovecot at the terminal of the great avenue, the 'Adam bridge' over the Swardon burn, continued planting, the walled garden and the terraced drive leading from the south-west. After his death in 1794, the estate passed to a sister, Lady Ann Purves, and via her son, the Hume-Campbell family. Early to mid-19th century additions include the ice-house, and possibly the oval pond close to the confluence of the Swardon and Rumblingstone Burns.

The Hume-Campbell family retained the estate until 1913 when it was sold to Mr Robert Finnie McEwen of Bardrochat in Ayrshire, a musician and composer who, upon purchase, immediately commissioned Sir Robert Lorimer to remodel the house and design a range of glasshouses for the walled garden. The estate passed to his son, John in 1923. During World War II, the house became a temporary boarding school for children evacuated from Edinburgh. A rare memoir written over 60 years later about this experience describes games of touch rugby on the gravel in front of the house, projects to dig small allotments, and team efforts to create temporary hockey, cricket and rugby pitches from the parklands in front of the house (Brown 2004).

Having passed through a third generation of the McEwen family, the house was finally sold in 1980 to the Sue Ryder Foundation, and was run as a home for the disabled until 2007 when the estate was purchased in its entirety by Marchmont Farms Ltd. At the time of survey, early stage plans had begun for the restoration of the house as a family home and for the renovation of the gardens and surrounding designed landscape, which received only minimum maintenance during the final decades of the 20th century.

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