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Manderston House

Manderston House from a 1911 post card

Manderston has been described as the "final flowering of the country house", being built between 1903 and 1906 on a budget of "no expense to be spared". The architect was John Kinross.

The lands and estate of Manderston were originally held by the Hume family and it is recorded that Janet daughter of Sir George Home of Manderston married Lord Renton in 1622 who was later proposed as Lord Chancellor of Scotland, a proposal however blocked by the Duke of Lauderdale on the ground that Renton "had not the fortune to bear out the rank".

By the mid eighteenth century the property would have been a simple peel or tower and appears as such in General Roy's map of 1750. The property for a short time passed into the hands of The Swintons of Kimmerghame and around 1790 a substantial dwellinghouse was built for Dalhousie Watherston to the design of either Alexander Gilkie or John White.

In 1855 the estate was purchased by Mr. Richard Miller, merchant, son of James Miller of Wick and Elizabeth Sutherland, daughter of the Rev. William Sutherland, minister in Wick and on his death passed to his brother William Miller. William Miller had made a fortune trading in herring and hemp particularly with Russia and was subsequently appointed British Consul at St. Petersburg. Sir William was a considerable collector and there are a number of items which he brought back from Russia still on display in the house including in the entranceway a pair of child's sledging seats.

On his return from Russia he became M.P. for Leith and latterly for Berwickshire. In 1874 he was appointed a Baronet by the Prime Minister, Mr. William Gladstone for political services rendered although it is reported that that at no time did he ever make a speech in the House of Commons.

In 1871 Sir William added a pillared entrance porch, a new French Renaissance style roof and additional servants accommodation to the design of architect James Simpson.

On Sir Williams' death in 1887 the estate and title passed to his second son James Miller,  his eldest son William having died after chocking on a cherry stone while a schoolboy at Eton. Sir James was described in Vanity Fair in 1890 as "a good fellow, one of the most wealthy commoners in the country and a bachelor. He is a very eligible young man ". He also had the epithet, "Lucky Jim" .

The silver staircase

Sir James had married Evelyn Mary Curzon daughter of the 4th, Baron Scarsdale and sought to provide for her a home the equal of her family house, Kedleston Hall in Derbyshire

Sir James swept away the alterations of James Simpson and instructed John Kinross to design the present house using a design excellence and best craftsmanship on a lavish scale made possible by the open budget and 'no limit in cost' There were 400 workmen employed at the height of construction and the total cost worked out at £221,000, three times the original estimate.

The Stable Block (sometimes mistaken for the house itself)

Before instructing John Kinross in the rebuilding of the house he had asked him to "prove his worth" by designing a stable block - subsequently described as "as perhaps the finest stable block in the world"

The house itself was build to the very highest standards of the time incorporating many innovations including electricity, central heating, running water and modern conveniences. The most striking features are perhaps the silver staircase, the only such staircase in the world, the luxurious and sumptuous staterooms, the magnificent ballroom and the exceptionally fine kitchens. For a full detail and description.

The house was completed in 1905 and on 7th. November Sir James and Lady Miller held a grand ball to mark the event. Unfortunately but two months later Sir William was to die of a chill caught while hunting at the age of only 42. For a photograph of his funeral .

Sir James and Lady Miller had no issue and on their death the house passed to Sir James' brother John Alexander Miller who died in 1918 again with no issue and the estate in turn passed to his sister Amy Elizabeth Miller who was married to Major-General Thomas Manbourg Bailie and from whom it has descended to the present owner Adrian Palmer, 4th. Baronet Palmer.

The house contains the largest collection of Huntley and Palmer biscuit tins in the world and also the world's largest collection of Blue John ware. Blue John or (bleujaune) named after its colour is a semi precious stone found only in Derbyshire, The collection was put together by Lady Evelyn Miller building on the collection which already existed in her family home at Kedleston.

The house has been used as a set in several films and featured in the acclaimed television series "The Edwardian Country House" when a number of actors lived for several months in conditions, recreated so far as possible, as they would have been in Edwardian times and which gave a most interesting insight as to what life both upstairs and downstairs would have been like at the time.

The house is open for public viewing in the summer months.


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