Prestonfield House (also known as Priestfield)2700

Edinburgh, Scotland

Brief Description

The structure of a late-18th- and early-19th-century designed landscape survives at Prestonfield House. The estate used to incorporate Duddingston Loch and the current golf course. There is some remaining parkland, grass walks with bulbs and the remains of a 19th-century formal terrace garden. Since 2003 Prestonfield has been a luxury hotel and wedding venue.

History

Sir James Dick bought the lands of Priestfield and Craigmillar and, in joining the two estates, named them Prestonfield. The house was burned down in 1681. However, Sir James started the rebuilding of a new house in 1687, commissioning Sir William Bruce who had just completed work at the Palace of Holyroodhouse. There is a formal design layout by William Walker in 1764 and there are some survey plans of the estate in 1817 & 1825, carried out by William Crawford.

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

Prestonfield House is situated within the historic boundaries of the City of Edinburgh, and within 2 miles (3km) of the city centre. It lies to the south side of Holyrood Park which forms a dramatic feature in the view from the house, with 'Samson's Ribs' prominent from this south side. Duddingston Loch lies on the north-east boundary of the designed landscape and has been a bird sanctuary since 1928. The site is bounded by minor roads, and by the golf course to the north and east. The western boundary has gradually become built up and has been described in the past as a 'bungalow colony'. The A68 leads into the city centre from beyond the housing. The site is very visible from the Queen's Drive through Holyrood Park, south of Arthur's Seat, and above Duddingston Loch from which point its circular pattern of tree planting can be easily defined.

The house is set in flat land above the marshes of Duddingston Loch, which was once part of the estate. The building of the railway line to the north of the house severed the outlying fields and Duddingston Loch from the rest of the estate; and the fields to the north of the railway line were then left unmanaged and are shown as marsh by the 2nd edition OS map of 1910. General Roy's map of 1750 shows the designed landscape extending further westwards than today, with a long west drive and a shorter south-east drive. The circular structure of planting around the house existed at that date but was formed by only one line of planting. There is no sign in 1750 of the formal garden layout drawn in 1764 by William Walker. A plan of 1817 shows the layout substantially the same as it is today, with its new drive to the north-west, and the new circular stable buildings to the north of the house. The kitchen garden at that date lay to the north-west of the stables and was also roughly circular in form. A small pond is shown to the north of the kitchen garden, and a small burn is shown diverted through the south park and broadening out with an ornamental pond due south of the house.

By the 1st edition OS map in 1857, the railway had cut through the north of the policies, cutting off Duddingston Loch, and also the feeder canal to the ornamental pond in the south park which had been filled in.

A new kitchen garden had been put in south of the house at the end of the south-east avenue, and a new south drive had been made to Clearburn Lodge. The tree planting around the circular design had also been thickened up to form more of a feature, and possibly to provide more shelter. The bowling green is also shown to the south-east of the house. By 1910 and the 2nd edition OS map, the southern kitchen garden had also become disused, but the structure of the designed landscape was laid out the same as it is today. There are 116 acres (47ha) in the designed landscape.

Landscape Components

Architectural Features

Prestonfield House, possibly designed by Robert Mylne in 1687, has twin gable ends, with curved gables, linked with a balcony across the west entrance. A detailed Roman Doric porte cochere is a later addition. The house is harled and listed grade A. The circular stables were built around 1816 by James Gillespie Graham for Sir Robert Dick and have been converted to a restaurant/function suite; they are listed B. The 18th century sundial, with cubical stone dial, is listed B. The Dutch Garden ornamentation is mostly dated 1687, and would have been put in at the time that William Bruce designed the house. It consists of two stone seats, a large Bacchus fountain, and a Sphinx which are all now located on the terrace to the south of the house. There is an obelisk in the south park, dated 1840, commemorating the children of Sir Robert Dick who had died abroad.

Parkland

The parkland to the north and east of the house has been incorporated into the adjacent golf course, and many of the older trees, notably the beech trees, remain. There has been some recent tree planting on the golf course. Duddingston Loch, once part of the estate, has been a bird sanctuary since 1928. The enclosed fields within the west side of the circular designed shelterbelts were converted to paddocks by Sir Robert Dick in the early 19th century and remain in the same use today. The south park, divided from the terrace by a haha and fence, is kept up as parkland today with remaining older individual parkland trees, and is grazed by cattle. The site of the former kitchen gardens are now grassed over.

Woodland

The only woodlands at Prestonfield are the shelterbelts, originally put in by Sir James Dick at the end of the 17th century, and interplanted in the early 19th century by Sir Robert Dick. Species include sycamore, elm, beech and lime, with a holly and elder understorey. There has been some more recent planting; the west drive was interplanted in 1920 by Sir William Stuart Dick- Cunyngham, with horse chestnut, beech, sycamore and lime. There are also some fine old parkland trees in the policies, particularly the old sycamores and yew near the house.

The Gardens

To the north of the house there are some herbaceous beds extending northwards to the stables and a rosebed surrounds the sundial. A formal pattern of flowerbeds, divided into eight compartments, is currently being replanted. The terrace garden to the south of the house was put in during the first half of the 19th century when the Dutch Garden was removed. A bowling green was originally laid out on the terrace, and steps lead down from it to the south park. This has now been left as lawn, and shrub beds were planted to the south of the house by Mrs Janet Dick-Cunyngham in the 1960s. The remains of the walls of a gazebo were discovered here adjacent to the house. The stone seats, the Sphinx and the Bacchus fountain are all features of this garden.

Features
  • Obelisk
  • Earliest Date:
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  • Fountain
  • Description: A lead Bacchus which used to be a fountain in the 18th-century formal Dutch gardens.
  • Sundial
  • Earliest Date:
  • Latest Date:
  • Mansion House (featured building)
  • Description: Prestonfield House, possibly designed by Robert Mylne in 1687, has twin gable ends, with curved gables, linked with a balcony across the west entrance. A detailed Roman Doric porte cochere is a later addition.
  • Earliest 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

Scenically and architecturally outstanding, the designed landscape at Prestonfield House dates from the late 18th/early 19th century. Although somewhat degraded today, the structure is still evident.

Site History

There is a formal design layout by William Walker in 1764 and there are some survey plans of the estate in 1817 & 1825, carried out by William Crawford.

Part of the estate was originally known as Priestfield, dating from the times when it was owned by the monks of Kelso. The lands were later acquired by the Hamiltons and were bought from Sir Thomas Hamilton in 1672 by James Dick, created a baronet in 1677. Sir James later bought the land of Craigmillar from one Preston and, in joining the two estates, named them Prestonfield. Sir James was one of the first land improvers in the neighbourhood, and set about draining and enclosing the fields, cleaning the streets of Edinburgh City (of which he was Provost) at his own expense, and using the manure to fertilise his lands. Before these improvements were made, the area had been covered with scrub oak woods, the hiding place for Edinburgh's 'thieves and lymmars' and one of the meadows was famed as a duelling ground.

Sir James was an Episcopalian; however, in 1681 his house was burned down by students from Edinburgh in an anti-catholic riot. Money was approved in theory from the public purse in recompense but, in practice, was not available. However, Sir James started the rebuilding of a new house in 1687, commissioning Sir William Bruce who had just completed work at the Palace of Holyroodhouse. Sir James was friendly with Charles II's brother, the Duke of York (later James VII of Scotland & II of England) who lived at Holyroodhouse at this time and it is reputed that a path leading from the Palace to Prestonfield was known as the 'Dukes Walk'. The new house incorporated a little of the former tower, and was built in a domestic style. The initials SJD and DAP, (for his wife Dame Anne Paterson) are carved above the upper windows. Sir James improved his lands to the extent that he recorded selling surplus produce from his vegetable garden. Seed catalogues dating back to 1690 have been found at the house, advertising fruit trees and seed. He died in 1728 and was succeeded by his daughter Janet, who had married Sir William Cunyngham of Caprington; their younger sons, on succeeding to the Dick Baronetcy, adopted the name Dick.

Sir Alexander Dick succeeded his elder brother in 1748. He was a famous physician, for many years President of the Royal College of Physicians. He also entertained many of the famous writers and philosophers of the day, including the Allan Ramsays, Hume, Boswell and Johnson. His great-niece, who visited and wrote about Prestonfield, was Lady Anne Lindsay, the poetess. Sir Alexander put in a canal, dredged marl from the loch, planted many trees in the policies, including the yellow 'Lorraine' planes, and he is also recorded as laying out the long grassed walks, planted with snowdrops, crocuses and daffodils. In 1774 he was awarded the Gold Medal of the Royal Society of Arts for the cultivation of a strain of rhubarb for medical purposes (thus apparently saving #s in imports) It was a strain imported from Dr Maunsey of St Petersburg, which had originally come from the Great Wall of China. Hemust also have cultivated mushrooms, as he recorded that he breakfasted each day on mushrooms stewed in cream; the growing of nectarines, peaches, figs grapes and melons is also recorded. Sir Alexander died in 1785 and was succeeded by his son, Sir William. Lord Cockburn's memorials record that in Sir William's time, 'the weeds on Duddingston Loch were regularly cut over by means of short scythes, and this made the loch nearly twice its present (1856) size. Between the loch and the house was a sort of Dutch Garden admirably kept. Besides the bowling green, it had several long smooth lanes of turf, anciently called bowling alleys, parterres and lawn interspersed, fountains, carved stone seats, dials, statues and trimmed evergreen hedges. How we used to make the statues spout! There was a leaden Bacchus in particular, of whose various ejections it was impossible to tire. A very curious place.'

In the early 19th century, Sir Robert Keith Dick built a new circular block of stables on the site of the old Dutch Garden and turned the remnants of the garden into grazing land for his stud horses. The new kitchen garden was put in to the south of the house, and the old one put to grass. The Bacchus was relocated in the 1880s, having resided in the stables for the previous three generations. It is now on the terrace south of the house. Sir Robert extended the house at about the same time, building on the two oval rooms on the south facade, and adding the portico.

Few changes have been made to the layout since that time; Sir William Stuart Dick- Cunyngham planted a grand show of daffodils along the main drive in the 1920s. The rose beds were put in c.1935, and the present layout of the shrubbery was designed by Mrs Janet Dick-Cunyngham in the 1960s.

Period

  • Late 18th Century
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References

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