DiCamillo Companion
Scotland

Penicuik House (Newbiggin)

  • Earlier Houses: The earlier house of Newbiggin was destroyed in the mid-18th century and replaced by the current Penicuik House (today a ruin).

    Built / Designed For: Sir James Clerk, to his own designs.

    House & Family History: The grandfather of Sir John Clerk bought the Penicuik Estate in 1646, along with the existing house of Newbiggin. Sir John's son, Sir James, who succeeded in 1755, demolished Newbiggin and replaced it, starting in 1761, with a house of his own design. (Sir James used John Baxter, Sr., as executant architect for this work.) In 1857 David Bryce was engaged to add the end blocks. The nearby Marfield quarry provided the yellow-gray sandstone of which the House is built. The front portico is Ionic hexastyle and is a virtual copy of Palladio's porticos of the Villa Almerico Capra (La Rotonda). The niches flanking the main doors contain statues of druids carved by Willie Jeans in 1776. The cove of the Dining Room ceiling contained scenes from Ossian painted by Alexander Runciman. A great fire gutted the House in June of 1899, and, though the slow-burning flames enabled most of the contents to be saved, the interiors, including Runciman's scenes from Ossian, were all lost (some fireplaces and door frames were pried out and refitted into the new house in the Stableblock). The ruins of the House are substantial and are slowly collapsing; the Penicuik House Preservation Trust, in partnership with the Scottish Lime Centre Trust, is undertaking the consolidation and preservation of this historic structure, making the building and selected surrounding areas safe and available for the public to enjoy.

    Collections: A fine Indian carpet from Penicuik is now in the collection of the Winterthur Museum, Delaware; its mate remains today in the family home in the former Stables. The Redendo Horn, a mid-17th century straight, evenly tapered goat or antelope horn with silver fittings, is today in the collection at Penicuik. This horn is the means by which the barony of Penicuik is held for the crown. When the sovereign holds a hunt on the Burghmuir of Penicuik (until the late 20th century this was the last surviving bit of the ancient royal Forest of Drumsheugh), the baron, must on request of the sovereign, blow three blasts of the Redendo Horn.

    Comments: Colin McWilliam, writing in "The Buildings of Scotland: Lothian," says "Penicuik represents the ideal of a Scots Palladian house in a romantic, yet classically inspired, landscape."

  • Garden & Outbuildings: Sir John Clerk, whose grandfather purchased the Estate in 1646, laid out the grounds. Sir John's son, Sir James, designed the Stableblock, completed in 1766, which still stands; it was to here that the Clerk family moved after the fire of 1899. The new house formed within the Stable Court incorporated the Coach House, the Bakery, and the Brewhouse; the firm of by Lessels & Taylor carried out the work in 1902 for Aymee, Lady Clerk. In the Library today is a molded fireplace of 1662, probably from the old house of Newbiggin. The Drawing Room contains pedimented doorcases and a chimneypiece from the burned Penicuik House. The Stableblock is notable for its front of 11 arcaded bays topped with a steeple in the style of James Gibbs (similar to his steeple for St. Martin-in-the-Fields, London), fitted with a fine clock by James Pringe. The town of Stenhouse in Stirlingshire contained a building, destroyed in 1743, called Arthur's Oven; this building was most likely a Roman victory monument or shrine that originally stood near the Antonine Wall (the Antonine Wall in Scotland was the northernmost frontier of the Roman Empire and was named after the emperor who built it: Antoninus Pius. The wall ran for 39 miles -- exactly half the distance of Hadrian's defensive works further south -- and consisted of a line of auxiliary forts connected by a continuous rampart wall and ditch. These entrenchments ran from Borrowstounness near Edinburgh to the outskirts of Glasgow). The copy of Arthur's Oven at Penicuik is one of the Estate's most notable features: a Pantheon-like doocot (dovecote) planted on the top of a roof of the Stableblock. The two-story pavilion of Eskfield (of brick with stone dressings and with a pedimental gable with vases) is set within the Walled Garden. The Centurion's Bridge over the Esk was built in 1738. In Cauldshoulders Park is Allan Ramsay's Monument, built in 1759. At the end of Cauldshoulder Avenue is a Chinese Gate of fretted and painted timber erected by James Blaikie in 1758. Of particular note is Hurleycove, an artificial tunnel entered by a rusticated arch; the tunnel was built 1741-43 and is approximately 40 meters long. Directly in front of the House sits a machicolated Roman watchtower, built 1748-51. The firm of Peddie & Kinnear designed, 1872-73, the lodges and gates on the A701. The Penicuik Estate today comprises 6,000 acres.

  • Architect: Peddie & Kinnear

    Date: 1872-73
    Designed: Lodges and gates on the A701

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    Architect: Lessels & Taylor

    Date: 1902
    Designed: Refitting of the Stable Block as new House for Aymee, Lady Clerk.

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    Architect: John Baxter, Sr.

    Date: 1761-69
    Designed: Acted as executant architect for Sir James Clerk

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    Architect: David Bryce

    Date: 1857
    Designed: Added end blocks

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    Architect: John Clerk

    Date: 1761
    Designed: House, Stables, and outbuildings for himself.

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    Architect: John Baxter, Jr.

    Date: Circa 1770-78
    Designed: Minor alterations to House for Sir James Clerk

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  • John Preston (J.P.) Neale, published under the title of Views of the Seats of Noblemen and Gentlemen in England, Wales, Scotland, and Ireland, among other titles: 2.S. Vol. II, 1825. Scotland, 1830.

    Country Life: Alistair Rowan in CXLIV, 383, 448, 1968.

  • Title: Treasure Houses of Britain, The - SOFTBACK
    Author: Jackson-Stops, Gervase (Editor)
    Year Published: 1985
    Reference: pg. 95
    Publisher: Washington, DC: National Gallery of Art (New Haven: Yale University Press)
    ISBN: 0300035530
    Book Type: Softback

    Title: Buildings of Scotland: Lothian Except Edinburgh, The
    Author: McWilliam, Colin
    Year Published: 1980
    Reference: pgs. 385-388
    Publisher: London: Penguin Books
    ISBN: 0140710663
    Book Type: Hardback

    Title: Destruction of the Country House, The
    Author: Strong, Roy; Binney, Marcus; Harris, John
    Year Published: 1974
    Reference: pg. 21
    Publisher: London: Thames & Hudson Ltd.
    ISBN: 0500270052X
    Book Type: Softback

    Title: Classical Architecture in Britain: The Heroic Age
    Author: Worsley, Giles
    Year Published: 1995
    Reference: pg. 270
    Publisher: New Haven: Yale University Press (The Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art)
    ISBN: 0300058969
    Book Type: Hardback

    Title: Debrett's Peerage and Baronetage, 1990
    Author: Kidd, Charles; Williamson, David (Editors)
    Year Published: 1990
    Publisher: London: Debrett's Peerage Limited (New York: St. Martin's Press, Inc.)
    ISBN: 0312046405
    Book Type: Hardback

    Title: Biographical Dictionary of British Architects, 1600-1840, A - SOFTBACK
    Author: Colvin, Howard
    Year Published: 1995
    Reference: pgs. 111, 112
    Publisher: New Haven: Yale University Press
    ISBN: 0300072074
    Book Type: Softback

  • House Listed: Category A

    Park Listed: Outstanding

  • Seat of: Sir Robert Maxwell Clerk, 11th Bt.

    Past Seat of: Sir James Clerk, 18th century.

    Current Ownership Type: Preservation Organization

    Primary Current Ownership Use: Unoccupied

    Ownership Details: The big house is today owned by The Penicuik House Preservation Trust, which was established and endowed by the Clerk family to own and restore the ruinous house. The family live in the Stableblock.

  • House Open to Public: Grounds Only

    Phone: 01968-670-738

    Email: ranger@penicuikhouse.co.uk

    Website: http://www.penicuikhouse.co.uk

    Historic Houses Member: Yes