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Sundial, Marchmont House

A Category A Listed Building in Polwarth, Scottish Borders

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Latitude: 55.7291 / 55°43'44"N

Longitude: -2.4107 / 2°24'38"W

OS Eastings: 374306

OS Northings: 648484

OS Grid: NT743484

Mapcode National: GBR C2L6.W3

Mapcode Global: WH8XD.Y87C

Plus Code: 9C7VPHHQ+JP

Entry Name: Sundial, Marchmont House

Listing Name: Marchmont Estate, Marchmont House Including Garden Walls, Stairs and Sundial

Listing Date: 9 June 1971

Category: A

Source: Historic Scotland

Source ID: 348962

Historic Scotland Designation Reference: LB15386

Building Class: Cultural

Location: Polwarth

County: Scottish Borders

Electoral Ward: Mid Berwickshire

Parish: Polwarth

Traditional County: Berwickshire

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Thomas Gibson, executant architect, 1750-54; alterations by William Burn, 1834; remodelled by Sir Robert Lorimer, 1914-20; converted to residential home late 20th century. Originally 2-storey with basement, 9-bay symmetrical classical house (H-plan, grouped 1-7-1) with separate single storey, rectangular-plan pavilions to left (kitchen) and right (stables) linked by concave screen walls. External entrance stair removed early 20th century; basement lowered and arcaded porch added to form new entrance; squat upper windows enlarged; full-height, single bay additions recessed to outer left and right; attic storey formed in new mansard roof; flanking pavilions raised and linked by corridors; stable block converted into music room. Predominantly harl-pointed tooled cream sandstone rubble (part coursed and squared to basement); sandstone ashlar dressings. Original base course in place; raised band course at principal floor; ashlar eaves course beneath corniced eaves; urn-shaped finials to main house; ball-shaped finials to flanking pavilions. Rusticated quoins; raised keystones to lower openings; lugged, ashlar margins to upper floors with stylised lintel motifs; flush cills.

NE (ENTRANCE) ELEVATION: 3-bay porch centred at ground with consoled keystones aligned above round-arched openings, balustraded parapet; 2-leaf timber panelled door centred behind; flanking single windows. Single window in corniced doorpiece centred in piano nobile; cartouche and carved swags beneath single window aligned above; surmounting box dormer; classically-detailed, ogee-roofed cupola with ball-finials and wind vane centred behind. Regularly fenestrated at all floors in bays flanking centre. Full-height, single bay outer projections with single windows at ground; tripartite windows at piano nobile (narrow side-lights, pilastered mullions, balustraded aprons, scrolled pediments); carved swags flanking single windows aligned above; surmounting box dormers. Later full-height bays recessed to outer left and right with single windows at both floors to left; single window at upper floor to right. Lower corridors set behind balustraded screen walls linking house and outer pavilions. Each pavilion comprising single storey screen wall to front with central, round-arched niche; flanking single windows; square-headed doorways in lower, balustraded bays recessed to left and right; taller blocks set behind with central round-arched wallhead stacks.

SE (SIDE) ELEVATION: irregularly fenestrated 2-storey and basement pavilion advanced to right (kitchen) with single storey, flat-roofed addition off-set to right of centre; segmental-arched opening in single storey infill recessed to outer right (behind ball-finialled screen). Regularly fenestrated main house recessed to left with external stair to left of centre; blind oval niches between piano nobile and upper floor; surmounting box dormers.

SW (REAR) ELEVATION: main block with perron stair accessing corniced entrance centred in piano nobile; single windows at all floors in bays to left and right; surmounting box dormers; ogee-roofed cupola centred behind. Full-height, single bay outer projections with single windows at basement; Venetian windows above with balustraded aprons and pilastered mullions; single windows aligned at upper floors; surmounting box dormers. Small single window in full-height bay recessed to right. Single windows in single storey with basement, 3-bay corridor linking taller pavilion to outer right with single windows in all 3 bays. Small single window in full-height bay recessed to left of main block. Single storey with basement, 4-bay corridor with round-arched windows at upper floor linking taller pavilion to outer left with single windows in all 3 bays.

NW (SIDE) ELEVATION: pavilion (music room) advanced to left with single windows in both bays at ground; irregularly fenestrated at basement; central round-arched wallhead stack. Main house recessed to right with single openings at all floors; blind oval niche to outer right between piano nobile and upper floor; surmounting box dormers.

12- and 20-pane glazing in timber sash and case windows. Grey slate platformed mansard roof; lead flashings. Corniced sandstone stacks; various circular cans. Cast-iron rainwater goods (dated '1915' to front).

INTERIOR: adapted for use as Sue Ryder Home. Majority interiors intact with good examples of 18th, 19th and 20th century work. Entrance hall with Lorimer's reinforced concrete dogleg stair off-set to right of centre comprising iron balustrades with foliate and floral panels set between plain uprights (Thomas Hadden). Painted, panelled walls lining stair-well with decorative plaster frames surrounding sporting and musical motifs (Beattie); decorative frieze; intricately carved, circular ceiling detail with central light fitting and outer compartments. Offices and service rooms at ground (former basement). Main reception rooms at piano nobile with boarded timber floors; decorative plaster friezes, cornices and ceilings (those in drawing room and saloon 18th century, possibly Thomas Clayton); panelled walls. Timber panelled doors (those with lugged panels replaced by Lorimer). Various architraved, corniced, carved and lugged door surrounds. Majority fireplaces intact: drawing room has marble surround with sunburst motif, surmounted by painting of the 1st Earl of Marchmont by William Aikman (mirrored frame integral with fireplace); morning room has classical surround with caryatids. Main floor lobby off-set to left of centre (marking position of original stair) lit by oval skylight with balustraded balcony enclosing upper floor; regularly spaced Ionic columns; glazed cupola. Groin-vaulted corridor linking house and music room with whitewashed walls, carved ashlar springers, blind circular niches centred in arches with consoled supports at base of each. Near double-cube music room (Lorimer) with grey oak wainscoting; fireplace centred in NW wall with flanking giant order fluted pilasters and lugged central panel. Organ (W & A Clow) centred in NE wall with carved celestial musicians surmounting parapet (Pilkington Jackson); pierced panels between giant order fluted pilasters; surmounting fawns linked by carved swags (modelled by Louis Deuchars). Combed ceiling with intricate plaster ceiling comprising central wreath flanked by square compartments. Sparsely detailed Roman Catholic Chapel beneath music room (opened 1938). Remaining rooms not seen 1998.

GARDEN WALLS AND STAIRS: low, balustraded sandstone garden walls to rear with architraved coping; squat, square-plan newels. Stone stairs linking differing levels.

SUNDIAL: sandstone sundial centred at rear with octagonal table on balustered shaft; octagonal base; dial and metal gnomons missing.

Statement of Interest

B Group comprises Marchmont House, Adam Bridge, the Cottages near the Remains of Redbraes Castle, the Dovecot, Gamekeeper's Cottage, Ice House, The Kennel House, 1 & 2 Marchmont Estate Cottages, Redbraes, Stable Courtyard and the Walled Garden (see separate list entries). As built in the early 1750s, Marchmont bears some affinity with the work of William Adam, leading some to assume he was indeed, its architect. However, no drawings by Adam exist for the house and that which does, is signed 'Thos. Gibson Archt.' In 1724, Adam was commissioned by the 2nd Earl to draw up plans for a new house and the modernisation of the nearby Redbraes Castle. However, despite being "...very well pleas'd" with his ideas, the Earl stressed that "...what is necessary must be preferred to what is only convenient and both, in my opinion, to what is only magnificent" (GD158/2515). Following consultation with Adam and the likes of James Gibbs, Colen Campbell and quite possibly, the exiled Earl of Mar, the Earl concluded it inadvisable "...to go to the expence of 5 or 6000? for a House in the Country." As a result, only minor upgradings at Redbraes and the laying out of the landscape (possibly to Adam's designs) were implemented by the Earl, leaving his son to build a new house. Marchmont was built after Adam's death and although it may be possible that the plans he drew up 25 years previously were simply revived, no evidence can be found for this. According to Colvin, "Thomas Gibson was the architect employed by the 3rd Earl of Marchmont to design Marchmont House." Furthermore, a letter from the Earl, dated December 1792, refers to "the late Gibson the Architect of Marchmont House" (GD158/2628/2). The fact that so little is known about Gibson, perhaps leads to Macaulay's suggestion that he was no more than a draughtsman and clerk of works, responsible for executing the Earl's own ideas - Lord Chesterfield having noted his "...chief lights were from Johannes Serlius." Much has changed since its completion in 1754, with William Burn's alterations and more significantly, Sir Robert Lorimer's remodelling for Sir Robert Finnie McEwen. In an attempt to make the house more practical, Lorimer lowered the entrance level from the piano nobile to the basement, enlarged the upper windows, created an attic storey within a new mansard roof, heightened the pavilions and linked them to the house, reorganised the kitchen block and converted the stables into a music room - McEwen being a musician and composer. Writing to his wife in 1750, the 3rd Earl described the then incomplete Marchmont as "...the best house in Britain" (GD158/2584/18/1). Now much altered, with what some consider an uncomfortably proportioned entrance front, it remains one of the most significant houses in the country. Opened as a Sue Ryder Home for the sick and disabled 1989.

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