Manderston, on the Scottish-English border near Berwick-upon-Tweed, is a product
of the best craftsmanship and highest domestic sophistication the Edwardian era had
to offer. It was commissioned by Sir James Miller, a nouveau riche baronet who
married into the aristocracy.
For its design he employed an up and coming Scottish
architect, John Kinross, to create a home of glittering style to match his wealth
and status as a country gentleman. A great sportsman; an excellent shot; a horse
racing enthusiast and soldier, Sir James was affectionately known by all his friends
as 'Lucky Jim'.
Sir James's family had bought the estate in 1855, his father William Miller having made
his fortune trading hemp and herrings with the Russians. After 16 years as Honorary
British Consul at St Petersburg, William returned to become Liberal Member of Parliament
for Leith and later for Berwickshire. Gladstone made him a baronet in 1874.
Now 'Sir William', Miller himself undertook some work on the original house and had intended to
leave the estate to his eldest son, but he died choking on a cherry stone at
Eton in 1874. So the estate, baronetcy and fortune all passed in 1887 to his
second son, Sir James Miller.
In 1893 Sir James married very well indeed. His wife was the Hon. Eveline
Curzon, cultured daughter of Lord Scarsdale, head of one of the oldest families
in the country. She and her brother George (later Viceroy of India) were
prominent among the cultured and sexually adventurous circle of Edwardian
aristocrats known as the Souls, whose leader was Arthur Balfour.
Lady Miller's childhood home was Kedleston Hall in Derbyshire, the architectural masterpiece
of 18th century architect, Robert Adam. Sir James, eager to impress his new
father-in-law, at once accelerated the work of improving Manderston. As a wedding
present to his new wife, Sir James had a boathouse built in the style of an alpine
Kinross was then hired to build Manderston's grand stables, as a test to see
that he was really up to the job of the whole home. He passed with flying colours
and the keystone at the stable entrance reads "1895", some ten years before
completion of the house.
In 1901, newly back from the Boer War, Sir James and
Kinross set about the complete remodelling of the house itself. The brief was
to come up with something as coolly elegant as neo-classical Kedleston, large
enough for the army of servants necessary for Edwardian comfort and grand enough
for entertaining. When Kinross asked how much he could spend on the rebuilding,
he was told, 'it simply doesn't matter'.
Inspired by the work of Robert Adam at Kedleston Hall, Kinross took him at
his word when it came to remodelling the interiors of the house. No expense
was spared. The fireplace in the entrance hall and its elaborate stucco is
an almost exact copy of that in the hall at Kedleston. All the plasterwork
in the ceilings of the house were executed by French and Italian stuccoists,
brought over especially for the job. The hall was designed to impress. The
floor is made of inlaid marble; typical of the rich, expensive materials used
throughout the house. The defining feature of Manderston is its modernity.
With all the mod cons available at the time, it is provides a stunning insight
into the life of a manor house.
With building work finally finished, on 7th November 1905, Sir James and
Lady Miller gave their first and, as it turned out, only ball at Manderston
to celebrate the completion of their new house. It was by all accounts a
glittering occasion. But within five months tragedy struck when Sir James
caught a chill out hunting and subsequently died of pneumonia. Lady Miller
continued to live at Manderston for the rest of her life, until she died
childless in 1942.
Manderston is a stately home that is open to the public as it was when it was
rebuilt in 1905: the decoration is as when John Kinross had finished, the furniture
as Sir James and Lady Miller chose and positioned it, the pictures where they hung
them. But it is also a home, lived in by descendants of Sir James Miller, Lord
Palmer (of the biscuit manufacturing family Huntley and Palmers), his wife Cornelia
and their children, who vivify the Edwardian setting.
Manderston opening times: 2.00pm to 5.00pm on Thursdays and Sundays from mid-May
to the end of September plus Bank Holiday Mondays of late May and August. Parties
at any time of the year by appointment.
For more infomation, see the official Manderston website: