Newhailes Estate put forward for £2.4m investment

An exterior view of Newhailes near Edinburgh.

Newhailes House has been one of the first ‘priority properties’ put forward by the National Trust for Scotland for a share of the £17m investment over the next three years.

Planning permission for the work, estimating to cost £2.4m, is now being sought for what the conservation charity says will be a ‘ambitious programme of development that will kick-start the return of Newhailes House near Musselburgh to its rightful glory.’

The National Trust for Scotland took possession of Newhailes in 1997 and the new investment represents the first phase of a programme of development, entitled The Newhailes Revival, that will ultimately restore and re-interpret major portions of the landscape and the house itself and provide exciting new features and facilities for visitors.

The first £2.4 million of investment, which will be divided between £1.48 million to be spent on conservation and landscape enhancement and £972,000 on commercial and visitor services improvements, will deliver:

· Restoration of the Ha Ha (a feature barrier which nevertheless preserves uninterrupted views of the landscape)

· Restoration of the historic Doocot to include new interpretation aimed at families, along with landscaping that will provide visitor amenities and catering facilities

· Creation of an extensive Doocot Village play area specially designed for younger children and themed on the Newhailes story

· Re-instatement of the Flower Garden walls to restore the ‘D’ for Dalrymple shape around the planting area

· Planting out of a volunteer-led community ‘growing space’ within the Walled Kitchen Garden, which will enable local groups to grow fruit and veg

· New interpretation within the tunnel by which servants moved to and from the house

· Bringing the curling pool back to use with an all-year synthetic rink

· A new visitor reception and café themed on the Enlightenment along with an outdoor space within the courtyard

· Office space to provide an HQ for the Trust’s newly created Edinburgh and East Region.

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The National Trust for Scotland’s Chief Operating Officer, Patrick Duffy said:

“Newhailes is to be one of the first ‘priority projects’ to be taken forward by the Trust and deservedly so.

“Our ambition is to do nothing less than reawaken Newhailes and return it to the elegance and excitement of its Enlightenment heyday.

“These first steps will provide the means to attract many more visitors to see what was once one of the great cultural and intellectual hotspots – but in ways that are innovative, engaging, accessible and enjoyable.

“The estate represents one of the original pleasure grounds and the combination of parkland, natural beauty, formal gardens, historic buildings and play is a potent one which will be especially appealing to families.

“In the longer term we aim to secure further funding to create new routes through the estate, re-plant and complete the restoration of the Flower Garden and ultimately restore, re-present and re-interpret Newhailes House itself.”

The history of Newhailes

Originally the Whitehill Estate, the property was purchased in 1686 by architect James Smith. He was responsible for the first Palladian villa on the site as well as Edinburgh’s Canongate Kirk and Dalkeith House.

In 1709 the estate was purchased by the powerful and influential Dalrymple dynasty in the form of Sir David, 1st Baronet of Hailes, who served as Scotland’s Solicitor General and Lord Advocate. The estate was then re-named New Hailes after the existing family estate in East Lothian.

In the decades that followed Newhailes House came to be seen as one of Scotland’s most beautiful Palladian-style country houses set among extensive and gorgeously landscaped grounds.

It was claimed that Dr Samuel Johnston described Newhailes’ library as “the most learned drawing room in Europe” and it became a centre of attraction for many figures involved in the Scottish Enlightenment and a location for many fevered conversations on society, politics, economics, art and science that helped shape the world as we know it today.

The last of the Dalrymple dynasty at Newhailes, Sir Mark, 3rd Baronet of Newhailes, died without heirs in 1971 – his widow, Lady Antonia, continued to live there until the property was acquired by the National Trust for Scotland in 1997, with the house and grounds in a much reduced condition and bounded by urban spread.

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