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Issue 76 - Saved For Posterity

Scotland Magazine Issue 76
August 2014


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Saved For Posterity

Charles Douglas visits The Haining in Selkirk

There is a tranquil beauty about The Haining, a country house on the outskirts of Selkirk in the Ettrick Valley, 30 miles south of Edinburgh. But as you approach from the front driveway, the timber shuttered windows appear to wink at you. Something is going on.

This is yet another splendid example of a fine old Scottish mansion being given a new lease of life by a caring and enthusiastic local community. Its potential as a hub of artistic and cultural activity from the Scottish Borders is being assured.

In medieval times, a Royal castle stood nearby, but this was destroyed during the Scottish Wars of Independence. A great mound and ditch where the castle once stood can still be identified, but in the centuries that followed its dismantling, the estate which it occupied was transformed by three Lowland families: the Scotts, for approximately 160 years; the Riddells, for 76 years, and the Pringles for 197.

The Haining first appears on record in the reign of James III as belonging to 'Robert Scott of Hanyng,' and the name possibly originates from the Anglo Saxon word meaning ”Fences enclosure.” By 1507, Robert Scott's son John had secured the right to build. In 1625, the estate was sold to Andrew Riddell of Riddell and gifted to the eldest son of his second marriage. In 1701, The Haining was sold to Andrew Pringle of Clifton for his second son, John, a lawyer, and on his death in 1754, it was purchased by his younger brother John, a merchant in Madeira.

Just how much time he spent here is uncertain but on John's death in 1792, the estate passed to his great-nephew Mark, and it was he who set about building the Palladian mansion that we see today on the northern shore of Haining Loch. Employing the Kelso-based architect Archibald Elliot, a classical-style house was erected, and by 1823, a large walled garden had been established.

However, Mark Pringle's death in 1812 left his elder son John to succeed at the age of seventeen. John joined the army as a Cornet in the 7th Dragoons at the age of twenty-two but two years later, having attained the rank of Lieutenant on half pay, returned home to take over the estate.

Marble statues were installed on the garden terrace at this time, and several estate buildings including the stables were erected. A row of statues in the style of the Italian sculptor Antonio Canova were placed on the south terrace.

Unfortunately, John Pringle's tenure came to an abrupt end when, returning from a fishing expedition in 1831, his horse drawn carriage overturned at the stable doors and he died from his injuries. According to a contemporary account, his funeral “was the largest ever seen in Selkirk up to that time. Having made use of his abilities to further the public weal, and of his wealth to help the poor, he was greatly lamented for.”

On John's death, The Haining passed to his brother Robert, also a soldier, then to their sister Margaret and then to their niece, Anne Pringle-Pattison who, having no children of her own, bequeathed the estate to a relative, Andrew Seth, Professor of Logic and Metaphysics at Edinburgh University.

Andrew Seth was asked to change his surname to Pringle-Pattison as part of taking on the estate and he agreed to this, but having in turn passed the estate on to his son Norman in 1931, it was sold in 1939 and thereafter leased out, when it was requisitioned by the Government. During the Second World War it was occupied by the Welsh Guards, who allegedly stripped the flooring to lay down cement, and destroyed some of the original cornicing.

Around 1943, the older part of the house was destroyed in a fire and the remains were demolished. Three transitory owners followed until 1959, when it was bought back by Andrew Nimmo-Smith, son of Elinor and Francis Nimmo-Smith, Elinor being Andrew Seth-Pringle-Pattison's daughter. Andrew Nimmo-Smith lived in the house until his death in 2009 when he bequeathed the by then A-Listed building with 160 acres “for the benefit of the Community of Selkirkshire and the Wider Public.”

The Haining Charitable Trust was therefore created and has since been defining its purpose “to create a self-sustaining, commercially viable estate, developing its use for the advancement of education, arts, heritage and culture.”

On my visit towards the end of May, I was shown around the beautifully proportioned rooms by Lawrence Robertson, a Trustee of The Haining Charitable Trust, and Carol Byers, Events and Communications Manager. Their enthusiasm was contagious. With painters and carpenters much in evidence, the major internal renovation work was well underway and scheduled to be completed by the time this article appears.

A large proportion of the original house contents had to be auctioned off but a few fine oil paintings remain and a range of grand domestic lighting has been specially commissioned from Mike Stoane Lighting of Edinburgh. The trustees are particularly proud of the fine front hall flooring slabs that were allegedly rejected by Sir Walter Scott when he was building his nearby home of Abbotsford.

In the grounds, the six artists' studios renovated by Edinburgh-based architect Lee Boyd have already received Commendations from The Edinburgh Architectural Association and from Scottish Design Awards.

The adjacent area offers five apartments, three of which are let on a permanent basis, with two others being made available for holiday letting.

And now the fun begins.

Last September, the grounds were opened for an immensely successful performance of Haining Dreaming, a specially commissioned, choreographer-led, community dance and music promenade performance.

In August, The Haining will host a Crafts Scotland’s event called ‘Meet Your Maker’ where a number of intricate crafts will be showcased and at the same time, a new series commences of Haining Arts, exhibiting the work of local artists for a few days each month.

Also during August, the community will benefit from an exciting family event, a Teddy Bear’s Picnic and Summer Fair. At the end of August, the grounds of The Haining will facilitate the Silver Finish in the gruelling annual event in aid of the Children’s Hospice Association Scotland (CHAS) ‘Beat The Borders’ – a 40 mile bike ride and 18 mile run.

In September, the grounds and the house will be highlighting the disastrous Battle of Flodden, during a Bygone Borderlands open day.

This September and November, the Haining Charitable Trust is offering a two-way communication with the community by way of a pop-up shop in Selkirk's High Street for a couple of days.

There are over 60 local volunteers all determined to restore the old house to its former glory, ‘all working their hearts out!’ as are the Board of Trustees and the handful of employees taking on this monumental and historical task.


The Haining Selkirk, Scottish Borders, TD7 5LR. Tel: +44 (0)1896 668271 Web: Email:

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