Stately Homes and Castles - Scotland, Borders and East Lothian

Mellerstein House, Berwickshire

A delightful house with glorious Robert Adam ceilings

This is the well loved home of the Earl of Haddington. It is a fairly plain house with central battlemented tower with side wings and earlier wings at right angles to the building.


Steps lead up to the main door which has a crest above it. There is a huge gravel area with a fountain in front of the house. Beyond, black railings with a gate separate parkland with large specimen trees.

In 1725, George Baillie commissioned William Adam to build a house for him. Work came to a halt after the two wings were constructed. The family lived in the East Wing while the West Wing was stables and servants quarters.  Forty years later, the grandson commissioned Robert Adam to complete the house. This was his first important commission in Scotland and his ceilings are the crowning glory of Mellerstein. Some of his plans for the ceilings are on display in the gallery on the top floor of the house.

Entry is through a doorway in the earlier west wing and a corridor leads into the main house. Visits are by free flow and there is a certain amount of information in each room. Photography is not allowed in the house.

A series of six rooms run the length of the house and have lovely views across the terraced gardens to the back of the house with a lake surrounded by woodland.

They start with LADY HADDINGTON'S SITTING ROOM with its Robert Adam ceiling. There is a carved plaster fireplace with a gilt mirror above and comfy chairs. The fireback has the Royal Coat of Arms. There are pictures of horses on the walls.

This leads into the LIBRARY which was the most important room in the house and one of the best examples of Robert Adam’s work. The walls are painted green and have grey and white bas relief carvings with a Roman or Greek theme. The green, pink and white ceiling is in three sections. In the centre of each is a portrait. Round this are Wedgwood blue panels with white plaster cameos. The walls are lined with book cases with mock white classical pillars. Between them are mirrors in white carved plaster surrounds on a grey background.  The fire place has a white marble surround with grey marble inset panels. The room is comfortably furnished with sofas, arm chairs, a huge desk and occasional tables.

A door leads into the MUSIC ROOM with another beautiful Adam ceiling, this time pale green and blue with darker green and blue roundels with white plaster figures and urns. The walls are painted deep plum. The fireplace is carved with classical figures on either side. There is a small grand piano, sofas, white and gilt wall tables, an inlaid marquetry chest of drawers. On the end walls are large mirrors in white and gilt frames with gilt wyverns on top on either side of a coat of arms. The panelled doors are painted white and have carved green and white lintels.

The DRAWING ROOM has a less ornate ceiling painted pale green, pale blue and white with darker blue panels with wyverns and urns. There are sage green silk damask wall coverings. Round the top of the walls is a decorative frieze in pink with white plaster wyverns and urns and this theme is continued on the door lintels. A small desk with gilt decoration has a tooled leather top. The elegant white fireplace has a dark brown and beige marble surround. There is a small harpsichord dated 1683.

The SMALL DRAWING ROOM has a blue, white and dark blue Adam ceiling with a crystal chandelier. The walls are painted green and decorated with plaster panels with musical instruments and there is a splendid wall mounted clock. The small fireplace has a marble surround and wall mounted crystal chandeliers on either side The small black and gilt wood chairs look very uncomfortable.  A wall cupboard has a marquetry front and a huge china turkey on top.

The SMALL LIBRARY ceiling is divided into two with two different Adam designs in pale and dark blue and white. The walls are pale blue. The doors and skirting boards are stripped wood. The fire place has a carved wood surround and a picture above. Alcoves have large glass fronted bookcases full of books.

A corridor runs along the length of the front of the house with doors into the different rooms. The walls are pale green with white ceiling and woodwork and a red carpet.  Pictures in gilt frames hang on the walls.

The main doorway in the centre of the house has a grand ENTRANCE HALL with semi-circular ends. Alcoves have classical busts. It has a splendid Adam ceiling and a pale beige and white frieze round the top of the walls. There are elaborate gilt and beige wooden pelmets above the tops of the windows. From the entrance hall a splendid double staircase leads to the rooms on the first floor. This is unusual as it is the opposite way round, with the stairs going back up over the entrance hall rather than up off it. Facing you as you go up the stairs is a bust of the Earl of Marchmont. On the wall behind you is a large C16th Flemish tapestry.

A corridor runs along the length of the first floor with bedrooms off. Above the doors is a display of blue and white plates.

The GREEN BEDROOM was the main guest bedroom with off white wall paper with thin gold and green stripes. There is a mahogany four poster bed with a blue tasseled canopy and a greenish gold bed spread. The family motto, ‘Praesto et Persto’ is embroidered on the bed head.

The BLUE BEDROOM is a smaller room and was originally a dressing room for the bedrooms on either side. It has a late C17th style Victorian four poster bed with lace drapes.

The MACHINEAL BEDROOM is named after the West Indian wood which was fashionable in the mid 1800s. It is a mid brown colour with little grain and all the bedroom furnitures is made from it. There is a splendid four poster bed with floral design drapes. The wallpaper has a yellow floral pattern and there is yellow velvet Victorian love seat or ‘confidante’. The fireplace has a carved wood surround and an embroidered fire screen in front.

At the end of the corridor, stairs with a well worn red drugget carpet lead up to the top floor. The CHINESE ROOM with hand painted Chinese wallpaper has a beautiful inlaid cupboard with etched ivory and semi precious stones. There is a display cabinet with small pieces of blue and white china and rather spindly bamboo chairs and a settee.

The GREAT GALLERY runs across the full width of the building above the main door. Ladies used to walk here when the weather was bad. Allegedly badminton was played here in the 1960s.

The walls are painted pale green and there is a green and white plaster frieze round the top. There are Adam fireplaces on the long wall and at either end of the room are classical pillars with a roundel between them with a classical plaster figure. There are family portraits on the walls as well as framed plans for the Adam ceilings. Display cabinets have children's toys, puppets, clothes including two gents suits from 1750 and a ladies dress dated 1770-85. There are fans, bead purses, examples of C17th embroidery and a sampler dated 1706. On the wall by the fireplace are two unusual lace and silver gilt filigree panels. There are the robes and coronets worn at the coronations of George VI and Queen Elizabeth and the coronation chairs from Queen Elizabeth’s coronation.

There is a small ORATORY off the gallery behind a locked metal grille door. This has an altar with a carved wood Virgin and Child, candlesticks and a glass and ivory crucifix. In front is a small prie dieu.

The gardens on the south east side of the house are reached through the stable yard. William Adam landscaped the gardens and formed the lake. The present gardens were laid out by Reginald Blomfield in 1909. Along the front of the house is a herbaceous border. Three balustraded terraces lead to a sweeping lawn which descends to the lake he enlarged.


 Beyond, in the distance, are the Cheviot Hills. For those wanting to walk, there are woodland walks around the lake and through the woodland.

There is a small cafe in in the stable yard.

This is a very elegant house and the Adam ceilings are superb.

<<Previous page
Back to top
Next page>>

Eleanor's Pages Index