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Issue 8 - Manderston-Modernmasterpiece

History & Heritage

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Scotland Magazine Issue 8
May 2003

 

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Manderston-Modernmasterpiece

CHARLESDOUGLASVISITSSCOTLAND'SCLASSICEDWARDIANCOUNTRYHOUSE:MANDERSTON

Manderston’sappearanceinHollywoodfilms(TheHouseofMirth)andontelevision(TheEdwardianCountryHouse/ManorHouseintheUSA)hasbroughtitcelebrityexposure,butbeinglocatedintheScottishborderscountyofBerwickshire,offthedirecttouristroutes,itisoftenpassedby.Thisisashame,asitiswellworthavisit.

Forthisisafinecountryhouseonwhichnoexpensewasspared,fromitsopulentstateroomsandtheonlysilverstaircaseintheworldtotheextensive‘downstairs’domesticquarters.WhenthearchitectJohnKinrossaskedhisclientSirJamesMillerhowlargehisbudgetwas,hewastoldthatmoneywasnoobject.

Manderstonwascertainlyintendedtodazzle,butitwasalsorebuiltandrenovatedforlove.WhenSirJamesmarriedEvelineCurzon,daughterofLordScarsdale,headofoneofBritain’soldestdynasties,hewasdeterminednotonlytoimpresshisfather-in-law,buttocreateaspectacularhomeforhisfamily.

SirJames’sfather,SirWilliamMiller,hadmadeafortunetradinghempandherringswiththeRussians.After16yearsasHonoraryBritishConsulinStPetersburg,hehadreturnedtoScotlandwherehebecameLiberalMemberofParliamentforLeith,andlater,Berwickshire.ThePrimeMinister,WilliamGladstone,madehimabaronetin1874.Afewyearsafterthis,heboughtManderstonfromhisdeceasedolderbrother’sestate.

Onhisfather’sdeathin1887,theManderstonestate,fortuneandbaronetcypassedtohissecondson,James,whowasdescribedatthetimeasoneofthemosteligiblebachelorsintheland.

Apassionatesportsmanandhorse-racingenthusiast,‘LuckyJim’marriedin1893,trulyintotheBritishestablishment.In1898,hisbrother-in-law,GeorgeNathanielCurzon,agedonly39,wasappointedViceroyofIndia.

Tobeginwith,itwasthegardensonthesouthfrontofthehousethatpreoccupiedSirJames.Newterracesandthehorseshoefrontstairwerecreated,andforhiswife,hecommissionedan‘alpinechalet’boathouse.ThencametheGeorgian-stylestableblock,thegamekeeper’scottageandkennels.

In1901,onhisreturnfromfightingintheBoerWar,heaskedKinrosstobegincompletelyremodellingthehouse.SirJamesrequiredahomethatwasbothsubstantialandluxurious,wherehecouldentertainlavishly.

AnorthfrontwasthereforecreatedwithanelegantIonicporticoandabachelor’swingtoprovideampleaccommodationforguests.Theoriginalstableblockwasconvertedintoalaundrywithroomsforservants.

ItcomesasnosurprisetolearnthattheinteriorshaveonseveraloccasionsbeenusedbyfilmcompaniestoreplicatethoseofBuckinghamPalace.Evenso,itisstillverymuchthehomeofLordPalmer,SirJames’great-grandson,whowithhiswifeCorneliatookovertherunningoftheestatein1979.

Theovalentrancehallisthefirstofaseriesofclassicalrevivalrooms,withavaultedcloakroomtotherightwhichisscreenedfromthedining-roomanteroombyapairofsilver-platedgrills,setinarches,onpanelsoftranslucentapricotalabaster.TheceilingoftheanteroomwasinspiredbytheoneintheentrancehallofSyonHouse,nearLondon,builtbythegreat18thCenturyScottisharchitect,RobertAdam,andhere,theinlaidmarblefloorreflectsitspattern.

Thediningroomwascompletedin1905,andtheceiling,inhighrelief,featuresMars,theRomanGodofWar,withdancingmusesandvasepatternsinthelozengesthatradiatearoundhim.Theurnsflankingtherecessaretwoknife-holderscreatedbyRobertAdam.Onthesideboardandmantelpiecestandspartofacollectionofbluejohnurns,obelisksandcandelabracollectedbyLadyMiller.Themahoganydining-roomtablecanseat24.

Thehallisdesignedtoimpress.Thefloorisofinlaidmarble,thefireplaceanditselaboratestuccoisalmostareplicaofthatinthehallofKedlestonHall,theCurzonhome.

On7thNovember1905,theMillersgaveaballtocelebratethecompletionofthework,andKinross’sballroomblendstheopulenceofLouisXVIwiththemorerestrainedAdamstyle.Thedécorisprimroseandwhite,andthewallsarehungwithsilkembossedwithprimrosevelvet,Miller’sracingcolours.Thecurtainsarewoveningoldandsilverthread.

Intheballroom,thecentralceilingpanelpicturesApollowithcupids.ThelongpanelsshowVenusindifferentscenes,andthecornerroundelsarefilledwithcherubs.OnthewallsarepaintingsofNancyeBailie,thepresentLordPalmer’sgrandmotherwhenshecametoManderstonasabride,andofEleanorBailie,pianistandauthorandLordPalmer’saunt.

ThedrawingroomsurvivesfromtheoriginalGeorgianhouse,butagainwasentirelyredecoratedwithnoexpensespared.Thewallsarelinedinwhitesilkwithcurtainsinwhitesilk,borderedwithturquoise.TheceilingcoloursarethesameaswerechosenbyRobertAdamforthelibraryceilingatMellerstain,anothergreatBordersmansion.

Acircularmorningroomaffordswonderfulviewsofthelakeandwoodlandgarden.Thetearoomisfurnishedwithlacqueredcabinets,ChineseChippendalechairs,andfamilyportraitsthatincludeafamilygroupbyCharlesLutyens.

Thenthereistheremarkablestaircasewithitssilver-platedbalustradeandsolidbrassrail.ThepatternisaswirlingVitruvianscrollmotifusedfortheironworkalloverthehouse,andthecantileveredmarblestairswereinspiredbyMadamdePompadour’sstaircaseatthePetitTrianon,Versailles.PriortoWorldWarI,ittookthreementhreeweekstodismantle,polishandreplacethisstaircase.Untilrecently,itwas
caredforonavoluntarybasisbyanEdinburgh-basedcouple.

Manderston’sbasement,stretchingthelengthandbreadthofthehouse,isasuperbexampleofhowagreatEdwardianhouseholdoperated.Unmarriedandvisitingmanservantssleptandlivedhere.Thecook,butlerandhousekeepereachrantheirindependentspecialiseddepartments.

Thekitchen,fortheera,wasstate-of-the-art,withacookingrangefromG.DrouetinParis.Anunderfloorflueconnectsittoachimneyintheboilerhouseatthefarendofthehouse.

EventhehorsesatManderstonlivedinstyle.Thebarrel-vaultedroofofteakrunsabovestallsalsomadeofteak,withpolishedbrassposts.Thehorses’names(allbeginningwith‘M’tocomplementMillerandManderston)areincisedonmarblepanels;thetiledfeedtroughsaresetinteak,andallthedoorfittingsandhalterringsareofthefinestbrass.Theharnessroomisamasterpieceofrosewood,withafloorofmarbleandtableofbrassandItalianmarble.

Thereare56acresofformalandinformalgardenstoexplore,providingawonderfulexcursionforvisitors.Inthespring,thelawnatthefrontofthehouseisacarpetofbluebellsandablazewithdaffodils.Theterracesarealivewithcolourthroughoutthesummer.

Manderstondoesnotresonatewiththepassageofcenturies,oratleastnotyet;butittransportsthevisitorintotheearly20thcenturyandthelavishlifestylesthatwerefundedbythegreatwealthoftheVictorianera.Notyetacenturyold,itisinterestingtoreflectthatwhenJohnKinrosscompletedhisworkin1905,Manderstonwasseenastheultimateachievementinmodernity.

Despiteallthedevelopmentsintechnologyandmanufacturingthathavetakenplacesince,nobodycouldaffordtobuildsuchamasterpiecenowadays,eveniftheywereabletosourcethematerialstodoso.