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The gardens at Northfield remain largely unchanged since their creation in the early-20th century. They consist of several compartments framed by yew hedging. The garden rooms contain a variety of fruit and vegetables, an orchard, herbaceous borders, rhododendron planting and a small pond. The house is surrounded by rockery terrace on three sides. Other structural planting includes a yew roundel, a pleached lime walk and a yew allee.

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 Traditionalist house and garden.

Location and Setting

Northfield House is sited on Lanark Road West (A70) in the village of Balerno, now a suburb of Edinburgh. The garden at Northfield is essentially inward-looking, with no views, except those over the fields to the north. Northfield is surrounded on three sides by residential housing, although to the west open countryside is soon reached.

The site at Northfield House is compact, the entire garden being approximately 1ha in extent. The site is bounded by the Lanark road West to the south and fields to the north. Neighbouring gardens provide the remaining boundaries.

The garden boundaries are unchanged from those of 1910. the house lies at the western end of the site with the remaining two-thirds of the garden falling gently away below it to the east. The only change has been the loss of the chauffeur's cottage and adjacent land which was part of a later extension to the grounds, and is now in separate ownership.

Landscape Components

Architectural Features

Northfield House sits on a terrace, above the gardens. The house is built in the Scottish tower house vernacular, is two storeys high, irregularly masses, with red sandstone gabled dormers. The gables are curved and resemble an inverted form of Dutch gable. The owner's monogram, WCW embellished with cornucopia and a star, appears in a panel over the front door. Above in Portuguese tiles is a depiction of the Madonna della Catena. The Gardener's Cottage is a square, single-storey building, with a pyramidal roof and tall central chimney. The two timber-framed Greenhouses, sited to the west of the gardener's cottage, have wooden staging. They are contemporary with the house and garden. The Entrance Gates are oak, with a slightly curved top with continuous vertical and horizontal bars forming a square lattice. 'Northfield' is carved into the top of the gate. The gates are replicas of those originally designed for the house.

Drives and Approaches

The house is approached by a short tarmac drive from Lanark Road West through the Entrance Gates. The west side of the drive is lined by a stilt hedge of Scarlet hawthorn (Crataegus oxycantha 'Paul's Scarlet'). This was matched by another on the east side of the drive which has been removed. The front door is flanked by Japanese maples (Acer atropurpureum and Acer atropurpureum 'Dissectum').

The Gardens

The house is situated in the western side of the site, with a rockery terrace on three sides.

Situated to the west of the drive, the Herbarium is an informal woodland garden planted with Rhododendrons and Azaleas. The area is divided by narrow, winding, stone paths between woodland plants. A circular grass lawn in the centre of this area once contained formal rose beds. These may have been inserted after Crum Watson's time. There is also an area of lawn and herbaceous borders.

The North Garden compartment contains a fruit and vegetable garden with a central gravel path. This area contains fruit cages and vegetable plots enclosed by box hedging. A large box-edged area on the north side has been grassed over and made into a 'herbe garden', an American concept of formal patterns cut into the grass by using different mowing regimes.

South of the house, the South Garden contains an orchard and four compartments aligned north to south. The compartments are divided by yew hedges (Taxus baccata), with borders of trellised roses and one border of Rosa rugosa. The lower, southernmost compartment is planted with Rhododendron hybrids and terminates in the small formal orchard, quartered by mown paths, with a central tree in a roundel of mown grass. The grass sward in the orchard is managed by as a wild flower meadow and includes common spotted-orchid (Dactylorhiza fuchsia) and snake's head fritillary (Fritillaria meleagris).

The central section is aligned on the east front of the house, and has a circular yew roundel set directly below the terrace leading into a yew allèe. A bank set with a rockery, and a set of central steps, leads out onto a stone path, leading to the roundel. The roundel contains a circular formal garden of box-edged beds laid out in the pattern of a stylised flower, planted with roses and grey foliage plants. Stone paths divide the box beds. The lawn slopes downhill, and is terminated by two sentinel yews at the eastern end.

On their east side, these compartments are joined together by a gravel path which runs north to south. East of the path the central compartment has a small, sunken, rectangular stone-lined pond set with a small stone fountain. The path is lined by pleached lime trees (Tilia x europaea) which continue around the edge of the pond area forming an apse. On either side of the pond, below each of the compartments, is a small copse planted with beech (Fagus syvatica), larch (Larix decidua), and birch (Betula pendula).

The northern side boundary contains mature oak (Quercus robur) and sycamore (Acer pseudoplatanus). To the south there is a small bank with a retaining wall. The banks are planted with mature beech.

Visitor Access, Directions & Contacts

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

An example of an unchanged, Traditionalist garden, laid out in 1910, with no overlays.

Main Phases of Landscape Development


Site History

Walter Crum Watson (1870-1934) designed Northfield House and gardens in 1910, for his own use. From 1893 to 1896 Watson was apprenticed to A. Waterhouse R.A., and was his assistant from 1896 to 1897. Subsequently he was assistant to Sir Aston Webb from 1897 to 1899. He is credited with work to Stonebyres House, Lanark (now demolished), Carfin House, Carluke and a new house at Greystanes, Murrayfield. He was also assistant architect for The Royal Naval College, Dartmouth and The Victoria and Albert Museum. Between 1896 and 1900 Watson spent time in Italy, France, Spain and Portugal. He wrote Portuguese Architecture published in 1910 and is listed as a subscriber in the preface to H. Inigo Triggs Formal Gardens in England and Scotland ' Their Planning Arrangements, Architecture and Ornamental Features (1902).

The architect George Mackie Watson (1859-1948), is sometimes credited with the design of Northfield and worked from the same office at 50 Queen Street, Edinburgh. It is not known if he was related to Crum Watson.

In 1910 W.C. Watson purchased 1ha (2.5 acres) of agricultural land from the Earl of Morton for £750. The garden is in the compartmented Traditionalist style, using clipped hedges which form a series of garden rooms. The Rhododendron planting could date from this time.

A strip of land to the west was subsequently acquired to build a chauffeur's cottage. This was sold by a subsequent owner and no longer forms part of Northfield.


  • 20th Century (1901 to 1932)
  • Early 20th Century (1901 to 1932)
Associated People
Features & Designations


  • Historic Environment Scotland An Inventory of Gardens and Designed Landscapes in Scotland


  • Allee
  • Pleached Trees
  • Ornamental Pond
  • House (featured building)
  • Description: The house is built in the Scottish tower house vernacular, is two storeys high, irregularly masses, with red sandstone gabled dormers.
  • Earliest Date:
  • Latest Date:
  • Orchard
  • Herbaceous Border
  • Rockery
  • Garden Terrace
Key Information





Principal Building

Domestic / Residential


20th Century (1901 to 1932)








  • Historic Scotland