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Issue 17 - Paxton House - Reminder of a golden age

History & Heritage

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Scotland Magazine Issue 17
November 2004


This article is 14 years old and some information provided may be time sensitive. Please check all details of events, tours, opening times and other information before travelling or making arrangements.

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Paxton House - Reminder of a golden age

Charles Douglas visits the lavish Paxton House in Berwickshire

The latter part of the 18th century was a golden age for many people living in the south of Scotland.

Money for some was plentiful, and there were those prepared to spend it. This period saw the building of Edinburgh’s glorious New Town, and a number of families of wealth and position (north and south), lavished their wealth on building spectacular new houses.

The Kinross-based Adam family, with their distinctive skills, began to design buildings which today comprise some of our most admired stately homes and palaces.

Patrick Home was a friend of John Adam, and was studying in Leipzig in 1751 when he received the news that his mother had been stabbed to death by the butler in her Berwickshire house while paying out the staff wages. The result of this tragic event was that at the age of 20, Patrick inherited a very sizeable fortune and the ancient Home estate at Wedderburn, in Berwickshire.

Choosing not to return home immediately, the young man set off for Berlin where he was warmly welcomed into the Prussian court by a group of exiled Jacobites. It was here that he met and fell in love with Charlotte de Brandt, a natural daughter of Frederick the Great.

Their betrothal was not opposed, but the conditions were that Patrick must first move his fortune to Prussia, and be prepared to take up a commission in the Prussian Guards.

These terms were quite unacceptable to him, and the young man returned to Scotland heartbroken but determined, declaring to Charlotte that he would never marry anyone else without her written permission. The gloves that she removed and pressed into his hands on their parting remain at Paxton to this day.

And so it was that Patrick Home decided to build himself a home fit for a princess. Paxton was designed and decorated between 1756 and 1772, and although there is no documentary evidence that the Adams were involved, Home’s close friendship with John Adam, the Palladian style so strongly associated with the Adam brothers, and the exquisite ceilings suggest involvement.

In 1770, almost 20 years after their separation, news arrived from Prussia of Charlotte’s death. There is no record of Patrick’s reaction, but the following year he married Jane Graham of Dougaldstone and sold the unfinished Paxton to his cousin Ninian for £15,000.

Ninian was, at the time, a planter in the West Indies. On his next visit to Scotland he commissioned the famous furniture-maker Thomas Chippendale to furnish the entire house and announced that he was retiring to Paxton. This was not to be for in 1795, after he had become Governor of Grenada, he was murdered by slaves who had been incited into a rebellion.

Paxton next passed to Ninian’s brother George, and it was this laird who commissioned Robert Reid of Edinburgh to add on the fine library and spectacular picture gallery we see today.

George ordered the furniture for these rooms from William Trotter of Edinburgh, and Paxton now boasts some of the finest examples of Trotters work to be found.

George died unmarried in 1820 and his estates were inherited by his cousin William Forman, whose eldest daughter and heiress married Admiral Sir David Milne, who fought alongside Admiral Nelson.

The estates then passed through his descendants to John Home Robertson, who is currently Member of the Scottish Parliament for East Lothian.

Sixteen years ago, the Home Robertson family took the decision to make over Paxton to a charitable trust set up by the National Heritage Memorial Fund. The house was opened to the public and features a dazzling collection of publicly-owned art on loan from the National Galleries of Scotland.

There are Scottish masterpieces by Sir Henry Raeburn and Sir David Wilkie amongst many of local interest such as Sam Bough’s Berwick upon Tweed and the Rev John Thomson’s Fast Castle. Surrounding the house are 800 acres of wood and parkland, an adventure playground and picnic areas within the grounds.

With a mile long stretch of the River Tweed to walk beside, there is something to preoccupy visitors of all ages.

Open daily, April to October.
Shop and Tea Room:
10.00am to 5.00pm
House: 11.00am to 5.00pm last tour 4.15pm.
Garden: 10.00am to sunset.
Booking for parties of twelve or more is advisable.
Paxton House, The Paxton
House Trust, Paxton House,
Near Duns, Berwickshire,
Scotland, UK

Tel: +44(0) 1289 386291
Fax: +44 (0)1289 386660
Web Site:

Email: Director:
Access Officer:

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