A product of the best craftsmanship and highest domestic sophistication the Edwardian era had to offer, the home and its grounds is the gem of Scotland and attracts hundreds of visitors internationally every year.
What will strike you upon entering the grand house is the unique oval entrance hall, a classical revival room with beautiful marble floors and exceptional natural light. From there, you’ll see the stunning vestibule and the vaulted cloakroom, framed by silver-plated grilles, high arches and panels of translucent apricot alabaster from Derbyshire.
The Grand Dining Room
You’ll get to view the first of many beautifully created art works dedicated to the roman gods, a fashion of the time. From the stucco relief of Diana, Roman goddess of hunting to the painted ceiling featuring Mars, Roman god of war, you’ll be amazed by the sumptuous original details of the room.
Inspired by Robert Adam’s interiors at Kedleston Hall, Derbyshire, where Sir James proposed to Lady Miller. The fireplace and its elaborate stucco was inspired by the hall at Kedleston as was the plasterwork below the dome, and the ceilings in the house, created by French and Italian stuccoists brought over specially for the purpose. Created as a grand space designed to impress, the space certainly succeeds in this.
Originally intended as a ‘writing-room’, when Sir James died in 1906 his widow Lady Miller, installed a billiard table at the insistence of her brothers as it was an essential plaything for every Edwardian gentleman. The deep crimson silk damask on the walls gives it the necessary masculine feel, while the bookcases support busts which were inspired by those at Kedleston and represent American Presidents, Benjamin Franklin, George Washington and Thomas Jefferson. An interesting part of this room is the second panel of the principal bookcase which is false, cunningly concealing a door to the hall.
More information on the history of the rooms is below.
The vaulted cloakroom to the right is screened from the dining-room ante-room by a pair of silver-plated grilles, set in arches, on panels of translucent apricot alabaster from Derbyshire, which glow in warm shades when the sun is behind them and of which the architect, John Kinross, was particularly proud.
The Ante-room to the Dining Room
On the wall, the stucco relief of Diana, Roman goddess of hunting (one of Sir James’s passions), echoes a similar one outside above the gunroom door. To balance the relief, Kinross put in two doors, one of these leads to the back stairs, the other opens beautifully, but leads nowhere; one of several architectural confidence tricks at Manderston. The ceiling is inspired by the one in the entrance hall at Syon House built by Robert Adam, and the inlaid marble floor reflects its pattern.
The Ante-room to the Drawing Room
This ante-room, opposite the stairwell, contains the pipes of the organ at the foot of the stairs. Made in 1910, their oak case was modelled on Adam’s design for an instrument in Sir Watkin Williams Wynn’s house in London. In the Edwardian period it was fashionable to have an organ in the hall and Manderston was very up-to-date. The organ has been lovingly restored by Mr William Hutcheson and is played regularly.
The crimson silk damask on the walls gives it the necessary masculine feeling. The ceiling is the closest to Adam’s own style in the house, perhaps because it was the first room to be decorated. The bookcases support busts which were inspired by those at Kedleston and represent American Presidents, (left to right) Benjamin Franklin, George Washington and Thomas Jefferson. The second panel of the principal bookcase is false, cunningly concealing a door to the hall.
The Ballroom and Drawing-Room
On 7th November 1905, Sir James and Lady Miller gave their first and only ball at Manderston to celebrate the completion of their new house. It was a sumptuous occasion. Antique tapestries decorated the ballroom, drawing-room and the marquees on the terrace.
In these interconnecting rooms, Adam would have used the filigree borders to outline the chimney pieces, but Kinross ran friezes all round the cornice, dado rail and down the corners. The opulence of Louis XVI was successfully married with the restrained Adam style.
Charles Mellier and Co., the fashionable firm of decorators, who had already furnished the Millers’ London home in Grosvenor Square, supplied furniture to be grouped around the walls in a formal Georgian style. Scott Morton and Co., the Edinburgh cabinet-makers, furnished the rest of the house with details recorded in their filing books. The decoration was in primrose and white, Sir James’s racing colours.
The walls of the ballroom are hung with silk embossed with velvet and the curtains are woven in gold and silver thread. The rich materials have lasted well thanks to careful protection. These two rooms have rarely seen the light of day and until about 1960, the walls were covered and the curtains put into bags, when the rooms were not in use.
The central ceiling panel painted, signed and dated by Robert Hope in 1905, represents the sun god Apollo with Cupids: the long panels depict Venus, goddess of love, in different scenes and the corner roundels are filled with cherubs. Above the fireplace is a portrait of Nancye Bailie, Lord Palmer’s grandmother, painted by G. Hillyard Swinstead, when she came to Manderston as a bride in 1921. The porcelain on the mantelpiece is nineteenth-century Meissen; on the opposite wall is a painting by Norman Heppel of Eleanor Bailie, the pianist and aunt of Lord Palmer. The chandeliers are of Italian crystal.
The drawing-room is reached by two sets of beautifully made double doors. Behind them is another of Manderston’s secret places, a hidden passage, which leads on to a false loggia which, in turn, leads to the gardens.
The drawing-room is the first of three rooms which have survived from the earlier Georgian house. The only structural alteration made in the drawing-room was to extend the shape of the bay by the double doors. It was completely redecorated in the sumptuous style of the house. Once again, the materials are of the highest available quality, white silk for the curtains, bordered with turquoise, and white silk brocade for the walls.
The embroidered seats on the three Louis XVI chairs in front of the fireplace were worked by Lord Palmer’s great-grandmother, Amy. His grandmother, Nancye Bailie, worked the exquisite embroidery on corded silk on the four chairs opposite the fireplace during the 1939–1945 war years. The ceiling colours are the same as those chosen by Adam for the library ceiling at eighteenth-century Mellerstain, the nearest Adam mansion to Manderston.
The former Ante-Room to the Drawing-Room was reduced to a passage when the organ was installed. The Regency style cupboard cost the large sum of £2,400 in 1905, though, unlike most furniture, it has not gained in value and is perhaps worth no more than that amount today.
The costume jewellery in the ormolu mounted kidney-shaped display cabinet belonged to Lady Miller, who loved giving fancy dress soireés – when she would often dress as the Czarina of Russia.
This completely circular room has a superb view over the lake and woodland garden, reaching as far as the Cheviot Hills on a clear day, making this feminine room one of the most delightful. In it, something of the sense of the old house survives, and the ceiling and chimneypiece are probably original. The fact that no one is quite sure, says much for the quality of Kinross’s work. Yet another concealed door leads from the niche in the morning-room to the tea-room.
Inspired by the eighteenth-century fashion for ‘chinoiserie’, this room is furnished with lacquered cabinets, Chinese Chippendale chairs and a long case clock and screen in the same style. Family portraits hang on the walls. A charming family group by Charles Lutyens – father of the famous architect Sir Edwin Lutyens – shows Sir James Miller and his sisters and brother gathered around a dog called ‘Lion’ whose birthday it was.
Prior to the First World War it used to take three men three weeks to dismantle, polish and re-assemble the balustrade. Subsequently, it had not been cleaned at all, and by 1980 the whole staircase looked like the end panel at the top of the stairs, when a couple from Edinburgh gallantly volunteered to restore it to its former glory.
The cantilevered marble stairs were inspired by Madame de Pompadour’s staircase at the Petit Trianon, Versailles. The balustrade is silver plated and the rail solid brass. The pattern is a swirling Vitruvian scroll motif used for ironwork all over the house including the iron grilles outside the dining-room. Its magnificent sparkle is maintained by a team of volunteers who polish it three times a year.
The width and classical columns make the upper corridor very elegant. The door to the right at the top of the stairs, leads to the bachelors’ wing where single gentlemen guests slept, segregated by Edwardian social rules. The arched Bedroom doors give a further note of refinement to an area of the house normally left plain. The carpet is the original.
The North Bedroom
Decorated in turquoise with crimson damask curtains, is at the far end of the next passage. As in all the rooms, two tasselled bell-pulls beside the bed are marked either ‘up’ or ‘down’. ‘Up’ called a maid from the top floor, where all the female staff lived; ‘down’, a manservant from the basement.
The North Dressing-Room next door houses a collection of samplers from the mid-eighteenth century onwards, which was bought as a collection when the house was being furnished. Field-Marshall Earl Haig of World War I fame, slept here in 1927.
In the Portico Bedroom the giltwood suite, upholstered with tapestry, is in the style of Louis XVI. Wall brackets, fireplaces and even bell-levers are inset with Wedgwood plaques. The glassfronted wardrobe was built especially for this room to reflect the light and help brighten the room. It is, however, very unflattering to the figure!
It is worth remembering that the lift was only installed in 1960, and, prior to this, everything – from coal to food and tableware – had to be carried up the Back Stairs by servants of whom Sir James and Lady Miller employed twenty-two. Today the house is looked after by a team of three dedicated part-time ladies.
Manderston’s basement, stretching the length and breath of the house is almost entirely unchanged and is a superb example of the sophisticated domestic arrangements of an Edwardian house. Its walls are lined with white tiles, which are easy to keep clean and reflect the light. Single menservants and visiting menservants, slept and lived in the basement.The cook, butler and housekeeper each ran their own specialised department.
The Housekeeper’s Room
The housekeeper was responsible for the cleanliness of the house and therefore all the housemaids and female staff came under her command. At Manderston in 1905, there were three laundry maids, six housemaids, three scullery maids and one cook.
The house was built for a total living-in staff of twenty-two. The housekeeper’s room
merited the prime site in the bow below the morning-room, and housed the best porcelain and china in splendid floor-to-ceiling cabinets. In addition, it was the housekeeper’s job to order and keep a stock of soap, candles and cleaning materials.
With the butler, the housekeeper topped the hierarchy of domestic staff, and, in company with the lady’s maid, took all her meals in here, waited upon by junior members of staff. The bell-lever to the right of the fireplace (all the bell-pulls and levers in the house still work) rings one of the range of fifty-six bells outside her room, each with a different tone, installed by John Bryden and Sons.
Racing Room (Servants’ Hall)
This room was originally the servants’ hall where all the indoor servants ate and relaxed. It has now been redecorated in Sir James’s racing colours, primrose and white, as a memorial room to him and his racing career. On the left of the fireplace is a picture of Sainfoin. At the age of twenty-six, Sir James bought Sainfoin two days before the 1890 Derby. He won, romping home at twenty-five to one. Sir James was far more fortunate than the average owner, winning a total of £118,000 a huge sum by today’s standard, over a period of only sixteen years.
On the right of the fireplace is a picture of Rock Sand, bred by Sir James out of Roquebrune and sired by Sainfoin, at Sir James’s Stud at Hamilton, near Newmarket. In 1903 Rock Sand won the ‘Triple Crown’ (Two Thousand Guineas, Derby and St. Leger), won only three times last century. It is interesting to notice the change in style of the jockeys in just the thirteen years between the two paintings. The book shelves contain a complete rare and up-to-date collection of the Racing Calendar dating from 1773.
Beside the dairy is the ornate Scottish seventeenth-century style Head-Gardener’s
House of 1897, directly inspired by Argyll’s Lodging in Stirling, and surrounded by its neat garden behind a fine wrought-iron gate. The high status of the head-gardener in the estate hierarchy is obvious from such a residence, including even a decorative dolphin fountain and sundial.
On the corner of the Dairyman’s House of 1900, below the corbel, are two carved heads. They are said to represent the tenant who paid his rent and the tenant who did not – but which is which?
The door to the marble dairy itself, is surrounded by boldly carved fleurons, each with a different centre, and crowned with the family motto Omne Bonum Superne. Inside the milkhouse, the boss in the centre of the rib-vaulted roof, shows a milkmaid milking. At Sir James’s insistence, the first one put there was taken down and recarved because the girl was sitting on the wrong side of the cow. It weighs half a ton.
One of the most skilful features of the room, however, is one of the least noticed: the entrance door is set at an angle from the walls of the room, which makes construction of the vaulted ceiling particularly awkward but was competently tackled here by Italian and French craftsmen. John Kinross, the architect, used marble and alabaster from seven countries and, for the door, solid teak held without a nail. The shape of the dairy courtyard copies a church cloister, with a fountain at the centre.
Outside the dairy is a tower built to look like a Border Keep. The stairs lead up to a turret room, completely panelled in oak, constructed entirely without nails. There Lady Miller would, on occasion, sip tea from delicate porcelain – it is still there – and enjoy the commanding view.
Horse and Hound recently suggested that Manderston could ‘probably boast the finest stabling in all the wide world’. They were completed in 1895, some years before work on the main house began, as a test of skill which, as far as the Millers were concerned, the architect evidently passed. Built around two courts, the first is entered beneath an arch flanked with Doric columns and surmounted by a pediment. On the inside of the arch, are detailed panels of huntsmen and hounds in high relief. To the left of the courtyard are coach houses, to the right are loose boxes.
The stables cost £20,000 at a time when building was comparatively cheap. Without doubt they are the most magnificent club for horses ever built in Great Britain and a horse without the right Jockey Club connections would have felt a rank outsider in its bounds. The barrel-vaulted roof of selected teak, runs above teak stalls with polished brass.