Mellerstain House & Gardens

  • One of Britain's 10 best stately homes.  - The Telegraph 2011
  • A wonderful visit with delightful staff in the café & house.  We will be coming again!  - ESU – Epping Forest Branch 22 May 2013
  • Really has the 'wow' factor.  Superb guides too - thank you for a special visit.  - 16 August 2013
  • One of the most beautiful houses I have ever visited.  - 13 Sept 2013

William Adam at Mellerstain

William Adam had been commissioned by George Baillie of Jerviswood to design a new house in 1725. There had been an earlier house on the site before William Adam was involved, but this was demolished to make way for his design. The original drawings for this design show a restrained Palladian mansion with two wings and a linking central block. This house was designed with dressed stone voussoirs and quoins only. The general wall surfaces were intended to be harled (rendered) on rough undressed coursed stone, presumably a cost saving measure.

The work on William Adam’s design started in 1725, but came to a halt after the two wings were constructed. For some forty years the East Wing was used as the residence of the family and the West as stables and servants quarters.

Robert Adam at Mellerstain

In 1759 another George Baillie, grandson of the previous, inherited the estate. As a young man in 1745 he had set off on the “Grand Tour” and had apparently come back to Scotland imbued with enthusiasm for and knowledge of current architectural taste. In 1770 he commissioned Robert Adam to design a new house.

The main design problem Adam had to resolve was to link the two wings of the incomplete house his father had begun. The position of the wings, determined by William Adam’s design, set the scale, orientation and location on site of the proposed new building. The new house had to link to the old in a coherent architectural style and (given the choice of materials that was made) there was probably a relatively tight budget.

This is an early design by Adam in his Castle Style. The detailing and elevational treatment is unsophisticated when compared to the complex stone detailing and intellectual games that Adam plays with the designs of (for example) Dalquharran, Seton or Culzean Castles.

The two pavilions (the corners of which can be seen in the plan above), constructed to William Adam’s design, were a long way apart. To join them would require a lot of building. A classical façade would have entailed much larger quantities of expensive dressed stone. The walls of a “castle” could be constructed from irregular “drove” (rough chiseled) stone, or even random rubble, with dressed stone only used around the window and door openings, at external corners, for string courses, corbelling and machicolation along the battlements and wall copings. Expensive elements such as ornate columns and pilaster capitals could be avoided.

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