Sunday, 27 February 2011
A Ducal Residence... my 1639 dream house
Sunday afternoon walks can be hugely inspirational to the aspiring historical romance author, especially when the afore-mentioned author is fortunate to leave a stone's throw from a number of imagination-stirring properties built in the 17th Century. I have blogged before about the Newhailes estate, with its rococo water garden and shell grotto but today I am reserving my enthusiasm for Brunstane House which is unbelievably close to my humble abode and the subject of all my lottery winning fantasies.
We are fortunate enough to have a free resource in the form of the Gazetteer for Scotland - a vast geographical encyclopaedia, featuring details of towns, villages, bens and glens from the Scottish Borders to the Northern Isles.
It is thanks to the Gazetteer that I was able to discover that the present Brunstane House was built in 1639 for John Maitland, 1st Duke of Lauderdale (1616-82). The entry continues as follows:
"The house incorporates an earlier L-plan house built around 1565, itself erected on the site of an even earlier tower which had been owned by the Crichton family. With the help of the noted architect Sir William Bruce (1630 - 1710), Maitland undertook further significant extensions in 1672 at the same time as the pair were working together on the building of Thirlestane Castle. Lord Milton purchased Brunstane in 1733 and employed the architect William Adam (1689 - 1748) to extend and rebuild parts of the house. Adam was also responsible for fine interiors; incorporating panelling, plasterwork, chimney-pieces and over-mantels of some quality. The stucco-work is likely to have been by Thomas Clayton. Between 1747 and 1766 Brunstane was home to Andrew Fletcher, Lord Justice Clerk."
The house is now divided into two private residences and many of the outhouses are crumbled and derelict (and crying out for my future lottery win and loving care and attention). The whole estate fascinates me - a little wander around the grounds is like a history lesson. The stone-blocked, blind looking windows (a sight seen in many of Edinburgh's historic buildings) remind us of window tax (which some claim is the source of the phrase "daylight robbery) and the gaping, tumble down stable block remind us of a time when carriages would carry passengers from country house to country house.
The pictures below (taken this afternoon) give a flavour of the atmosphere of the place. It's a shame that none of my writing is based in Scotland! But hopefully the images will be an inspiration for some other writer out there.