Monreith 2315

Port William, Scotland

Brief Description

The designed landscape at Monreith House features a large loch and part of the 18th-century parkland with woodland clumps. Remnants of the late-19th-century woodland garden survive, including several impressive rhododendrons. The structure of the formal garden is in place around the house but the terraces are grassed over.

History

The designed landscape at Monreith House was laid out in the late-18th century, possibly replacing a previous layout. The formal garden and the woodland garden were created in the late-19th century by Sir Herbert Maxwell, author of 'Scottish Gardens', who introduced many rare species to the woodland garden. Part of the house is now let out as holiday apartments.

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

Monreith is situated in the south-west of The Machars of Wigtownshire, approximately 0.5 mile (1km) inland from the coastal village of Port William to the west and the village of Monreith to the south. The town of Wigtown lies some 9.5 miles (15km) to the north-east and the town of Stranraer lies some 21 miles (34km) to the north-west. The A714 and the B7021 respectively form the western and northern boundaries of the policies. The landscape is relatively flat and there are no distant views out from within the policies although, from the top of the house, views can be obtained across Luce Bay to Ireland and the Isle of Man. The woodlands on the boundary of the policies are of some significance in the surrounding landscape, and they generally screen views of the policies. The parkland to the south of the house has more recently been exposed to view from the minor road linking Monreith to the A714 due to the felling of Sourcroft Plantation on the southern boundary.

Monreith House stands within a designed landscape which extends north to the B7021, south to the minor road linking the village of Monreith with the A714, which forms the western boundary and east to the Monreith Burn and Waterloo Plantation. Documentary evidence of the development of the designed landscape is provided by General Roy's map of c.1750, a survey plan of 1801, the 1st edition OS map of 1848 and the 2nd edition OS map of c.1900. Comparison of these maps indicates that the present extent of the designed landscape has remained consistent with the original layout of c.1800.

The 1st edition OS map indicates three drives converging on the house from the north, and also two from the west, Lochend Drive and Airlour Drive leading to Airlour Lodge, the Dower House of the estate at that time. Between the surveys of the 1st & 2nd edition OS maps, a new drive was made to the south of the house, linking it with the village of Monreith; this and Lochend Drive are now disused and access to the house is by the Wigtown Drive and the Airlour Drive.

The designed landscape today includes some 733 acres (297ha), including the White Loch of Myrton. Black Loch, which stood in the park to the east of the house on the survey of 1801, has now gone. Myrton Cottage situated to the north-west of the walled garden has been altered and is now a private house.

Landscape Components

Architectural Features

Monreith House, listed category B, was built in the late 18th century to the design of Alexander Stevens. It is a three-storey building with a later front Doric porch formed with four fluted columns designed by Sir Robert Smirke in 1821. Myrton Castle, listed A, is a Scheduled Monument. It was partly demolished in the late 18th century on the completion of Monreith House and the ruins are of a 16th century tower and late 17th century L-shaped Castle. The remains of Myrton Chapel, listed category C(S), are situated to the north of Myrton Castle. Monreith Mains, listed category C, dates from the late 18th & early 19th centuries; a date stone of 1813 is incorporated in the fabric of the building. The West Lodge dating from the 18th century and West Gate are both listed category C. The North (Wigtown) Lodge and Lochend Lodge are thought to date from the late 19th century. The terrace wall, on the south side of the house, appears to date from the late 19th century, from comparison of the 1st & 2nd edition OS maps. The Kennels stand at the north end of the loch and are in a derelict condition.

Parkland

The parkland at Monreith was laid out as part of the late 18th century improvements; the designer is unknown. The White Loch of Myrton forms a major landscape feature to the north of the present house and Myrton Castle was situated on its east bank. The survey map of 1801 shows an extensive area of designed parkland with wooded clumps forming features within it rather than with individual specimen trees. Individual trees were, however, planted in the parkland around the immediate vicinity of the house. The parks are shown more prominently on the 1st edition OS map of 1848 by which time a racecourse had been established to the south of the woodland which, by then, encircled the house. All trace of the racetrack had gone by the 2nd edition OS map of c.1900. By this time, a ha-ha had been constructed between the garden and the park.

In recent years, extension of the woodlands and more intensive farming practices have resulted in the loss of many acres of parkland; the present extent constitutes only around half of the original parkland but the woodland clumps within remain, forming an important feature of the design.

Woodland

Reference to the survey plan of 1801 indicates that Moormains and Cupidhill Plantations were already established along with the woodland edge around the White Loch and the many wooded clumps in the parkland. The 1st edition OS map of 1848 indicates the addition of Jaspers, Black Loch, Waterloo and Cockhill plantations. In addition, Lochhill Plantation and the wooded knolls in the park were extended. By 1901, Botany Bay Plantation had been established, as an extension of Cupid Hill Wood; Black Loch Plantation had amalgamated with Waterloo Plantation; and Lochhill Plantation was further extended, this time to up the A710.

In recent years, Sourcroft Plantation on the southern boundary has been felled, leaving only some young conifers, of c.10-15 years of age. Since World War II, many of the other woodlands, including Hillhead, Jaspers & Waterloo Plantations have been replanted with coniferous species. The woodlands to the north of the house, i.e. those within its view, contain a proportion of deciduous trees, mainly beech. The areas adjacent to the loch have been felled and allowed to regenerate with mixed scrub vegetation.

Woodland Garden

Reference to the survey map of 1801 shows the area around the house to be of parkland character with specimen trees on the lawn and it appears to extend north to the edge of the White Loch. By the 1st edition OS map of 1848, a woodland canopy had been established to the east and south of the house and it is here that Sir Herbert Maxwell established his woodland garden of specimen trees and shrubs, the latter mainly species Rhododendrons. Daffodil varieties carpeted the floor. Sir Herbert's planting books spanning some 60 years of his lifetime are held by the present owner, along with several photographs of the garden in its heyday around the turn of the century.

The garden has been under a steady decline since World War II. The woodland canopy is now being exploited for timber and, whilst some of the beech from c.1790 and some of Sir Herbert's specimens remain, including a fine cedar (Cedrus atlantica 'Galuca') and Eucryphia glutinosa, many of the trees are being removed as part of a programme of timber extraction. Trees lie uprooted across the ground, having caused extensive damage to the mature Rhododendrons in their fall. The tall specimen Rhododendrons still form a magnificent display in season.

The Gardens

A formal garden was created within a terrace on the south side of the house by Sir Herbert Maxwell in the late 19th century. It is enclosed by a semi-circular balustraded wall. Evidence of the original layout is provided by photographs and postcards of the south front of the house taken between 1900-1910. They show the area to be planted with flowers and shrubs, but it is now all grassed. Steps down from the south side to the woodland garden were flanked by two columnar conifers but they also have gone. Gavin Maxwell describes in his autobiography how his grandfather's garden at Monreith was laid out: 'the garden itself was sloping, haphazardly planned, and surmounted by a half- circular terrace on whose gravel surface a short cut growth of box or privet spelt the Latin words of the 102nd Psalm: "The days of man are but as grass, for he flourisheth as a flower of the field, for as soon as the wind goeth over it is gone and the place thereof shall know it no more" ' (Gavin Maxwell. The House of Elrig. 1965).

Walled Garden

The walled garden of Monreith was associated with Myrton Castle. Reference to General Roy's map of c.1750 indicates it to be present by that time. The wife of the 3rd Baronet made a tapestry which depicted the flowers in the walled garden at that time and which are described by Sir Herbert in his book of 1911 and include madonna lily, clove carnations, mullein, lupin, hyacinth, red primrose, Polyanthus, guelder rose, Anemone, moss rose, scarlet Lychnis, pink Geranium, Convolvulus, sunflower, sweet- william, Scabious and canterbury bells.

Reference to the 1st edition OS map shows the garden to be in two compartments; the western edge of the most southerly compartment has an informal area within, extending into the woodland on the west boundary. By the 2nd edition map, this feature had gone, replaced by a garden of regular proportions. The walled garden has been used over the past ten years for cattle grazing.

Features
  • Ruin
  • Description: The ruins of Myrton Castle
  • Garden Terrace
  • Description: A semi-circular balustraded terrace wall.
  • House (featured building)
  • Description: Monreith House, listed category B, was built in the late 18th century to the design of Alexander Stevens. It is a three-storey building with a later front Doric porch formed with four fluted columns designed by Sir Robert Smirke in 1821.
  • 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

An attractive designed landscape comprising parkland, lochs, woodland, formal and walled gardens, notable architectural features and an ancient monument.

Site History

The Monreith estate was acquired by a younger branch of the Maxwells of Caerlaverock in the 15th century. The original family home was Myrton Castle, now in ruins, which stands on high ground above the east bank of the Myrton Loch.

The baronetcy was conferred on William Maxwell in 1681. His grandson who succeeded to the title of 3rd Baronet in 1730 married Magdalene, daughter of William Blair of Blair. Tapestry work by her of flowers which grew in the walled garden of Myrton in her lifetime remains in the house today, and provides the only available record of the nature of the garden at that time. Reference to General Roy's map of c.1750 indicates the designed landscape of this time to include two square enclosures around the Castle and a woodland belt along the east shore of Myrton Loch.

Their son, Sir William Maxwell, 4th Baronet, inherited the estate on his father's death in 1771. He was responsible for the construction of the new house in its present position and for the layout of the designed landscape which remains today. The survey plan commissioned by him indicates the extent of the designed landscape by this time. He continued to develop the policies up until his death in 1812.

The 7th Baronet, Sir Herbert Maxwell, succeeded to his father's estates in 1877. He held a number of offices and was well known as an academic, politician, painter and writer. He wrote of several gardens, in addition to his own, in his book 'Scottish Gardens' published in 1911. He was a knowledgeable plantsman and introduced many rare species into the woodland garden which he established at Monreith. He died, aged 95, in 1937, when he was succeeded by his grandson, Sir Aymer, the 8th Baronet, to a reduced estate of c.9,000 acres.

With the advent of war in 1939, the estate, like many, entered a period of decline. After the war, Sir Aymer continued to live in London and the estate was rented for a period of several years. It was inherited in the 1980s by the present owner, Michael Maxwell. On his succession, urgent restoration work was required to save the house. This has been put into operation and, in the meantime, part of the house has been converted for use as flats for holiday letting. The garden and estate in general had run down since World War II and much of the plant collection amassed by Sir Herbert has been lost.

Period

  • Late 18th Century
Associated People

Just one person associated to Monreith

Contact

Telephone

0131 668 8600

Official Website

Click Here

Owners

    References

    References

    Contributors

    • Historic Scotland