In 1738 William Adam’s patron at Mellerstain died, and was succeeded by his grandson, also George Baillie. The Hon. George Hamilton (1723-97) was the second son of Charles Hamilton, Lord Binning and his wife Rachel Baillie. He took the name of Baillie on inheriting his maternal grandfather’s estates at Jerviswood and Mellerstain. Baillie’s older brother, Thomas Hamilton, succeeded their paternal grandfather in 1735 as 7th Earl Haddington.
In the late 1760s, this younger George Baillie commissioned Robert Adam to incorporate William Adam’s wings at Mellerstain into a complete house, by the addition of a large new central block. This is a long, thin, E-shaped block; built in the castle style, it is comparable to Adam’s work at Alnwick Castle. The choice of the castle style may have been in the interest of economy as it permitted the use of rough stone rather than expensive carved stone dressings. We can see from Adam’s elevation of the principal (north) front of the house (Adam volume 43/42) that he had intended to remodel his father’s wings in the castle style so as to match his central block, but this remodelling work was not executed. The new central block and older wings were connected by short single-storey links.
Adam’s central block was built on a slope so that the basement storey on the principal (north) front is at ground level on the garden (south) front. For the purposes of clarity, however, the principal storey – above the basement – will be referred to here as the ground storey. The new central block was completed in 1770, and Adam continued his work at Mellerstain by designing interior decoration for rooms including the entrance hall, dining room, library, and drawing room on the principal (ground) storey, and an unusual bathroom with dolphin-shaped spouts in the basement beneath the dining room. The decorative paintings were produced by John Bonnar, the carving by James Adamson, and the plasterwork by an unknown craftsman named Powell. Further to his work on the house itself, Baillie also commissioned Adam to make designs for a memorial tower in the park, dedicated to his great-grandfather Robert Baillie, who had been executed for treason in 1648. This was not executed.
Baillie’s grandson, George Baillie-Hamilton, succeeded his cousin as 10th Earl of Haddington in 1858, and Mellerstain remains in the ownership of the 13th Earl. Few alterations have been made to the house. A new front door surmounted by a small pediment were added to the principal (north) front at the turn of the twentieth century to designs by Sir Reginald Theodore Blomfield (1856-1942), but otherwise the exterior of the house remains unchanged. The interiors by William Adam survive in the east wing, but the stables and service quarters in the west wing were converted to domestic use in 1971-73 to designs by Walter Schomberg Scott (1910-98). Much of Robert Adam’s interior decorative work survives within the central block, and the house is open to the public.
There is a collection of Adam drawings at the house.
A.T. Bolton, The architecture of Robert and James Adam, 1922, Volume II, Chapter 34, pp. 252-262, and Index p. 22, 61; E. Harris, The furniture of Robert Adam, 1963, pp. 78-79; D. Stillman, The decorative work of Robert Adam, 1966, pp. 71-72; D. Yarwood, Robert Adam, 1970, pp. 29, 40, 161-162, 207-208; G. Berwickshire, Mellerstain, 1976, pp. 1-16; G. Beard, The work of Robert Adam, 1978, pp. 48-49, 63; J. Ingamells, A dictionary of British and Irish travellers in Italy: 1701-1800, 1997, p. 40; S. Astley, Robert Adam’s Castles, 2000, p. 34; D. King, The complete works of Robert & James Adam and unbuilt Adam, 2001, Volume 1, pp. 156, 160-162, and Volume II, pp. 228, 245; K. Cruft, J. Dunbar, and R. Fawcett, The Buildings of Scotland: Borders, 2006, pp. 529-532; E. Harris, The country houses of Robert Adam: from the archives of Country Life, 2007, pp. 118-123; ‘Mellerstain House, Earlston, Scottish Borders’, British listed buildings online
Frances Sands, 2014
Sir John Soane's collection includes some 30,000 architectural, design and topographical drawings which is a very important resource for scholars worldwide. His was the first architect’s collection to attempt to preserve the best in design for the architectural profession in the future, and it did so by assembling as exemplars surviving drawings by great Renaissance masters and by the leading architects in Britain in the 17th and 18th centuries and his near contemporaries such as Sir William Chambers, Robert Adam and George Dance the Younger. These drawings sit side by side with 9,000 drawings in Soane’s own hand or those of the pupils in his office, covering his early work as a student, his time in Italy and the drawings produced in the course of his architectural practice from 1780 until the 1830s.
Browse (via the vertical menu to the left) and search results for Drawings include a mixture of Concise catalogue records – drawn from an outline list of the collection – and fuller records where drawings have been catalogued in more detail (an ongoing process).
Contents of Mellerstain, Earlston, Scottish Borders: designs for the house, interiors, and an unexecuted memorial tower for the Hon. George Baillie, c1768-78 (19)
- Finished drawings for the addition of a central block, and alterations to William Adam’s wings, largely as executed, c1768-70 (3)
- Design showing laid out wall elevations for the entrance hall, c1770-78, executed with minor alterations (1)
- Design showing laid out wall elevations for the library, 1770, executed with minor alterations (1)
- Record drawing for the ceiling for the library, 1770, executed with minor alterations (1)
- Preliminary design for the ceiling for the dining room (later the music room), 1773, as executed (1)
- Design for the chimneypiece for the dining room (later the music room), 1778, executed with alterations (1)
- Record drawing for the ceiling for the gallery, 1775, unexecuted (1)
- Record drawing for a chimneypiece for the gallery, 1775, as executed (1)
- Record drawing for a ceiling for the drawing room, 1778, as executed (1)
- Record drawing for a ceiling for the principal bedchamber, 1778, as executed (1)
- Record drawing for a ceiling for the lady’s dressing room, 1778, as executed (1)
- Record drawing for a ceiling for the little dressing room, 1778, as executed (1)
- Record drawings for friezes for the hall, galley, staircase, library, library doors, dining room, drawing room, lady’s dressing room, and little dressing room, ND, all but that for the staircase as executed (3)
- Preliminary design and record drawing for a memorial tower, 1774, unexecuted (2)