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Ninewells, Berwickshire, designs for a house for Joseph Home, c1790, unexecuted (5)


Ninewells is a modest estate on the Whiteadder, positioned to the south of Chirnside. It takes its name from the nearby hillside springs. In the early eighteenth century it was the family estate of Joseph Home, the father of philosopher and historian David Hume (1711-1776), who spent much of his childhood at Ninewells. David Hume’s personal connection to Chirnside is outlined in his will of 1776 in which he bequeathed £100 for the rebuilding of the Chirnside Bridge. Interestingly, he also allocated £50 to his nephew Joseph Home for repairs to the drains and sewers at Ninewells, a sum which may alternatively have been donated to the parish poor.

Joseph Home’s eldest son John Home (d. 1786) inherited the family estates at Ninewells and Hornden and dedicated himself to the life of a country gentleman. He was a respected landlord, was highly skilled in agriculture and made several improvements to the estates. In 1740 John rebuilt the house at Ninewells, replacing an older building which had been damaged by fire.

In 1751 John Home married Agnes Carre, daughter of Robert Carre, Esq. of Cavers, Roxburghshire and together they had at least eight children. John Home died at Ninewells 14 November 1786 and was interred in the family vault in the parish church at Chirnside. Following John’s death the estate was inherited by his eldest son Joseph Home, a former Captain in the Queen’s Bays / 2nd Dragoon Guards. The Adam brothers note Joseph Home as an unmarried man of independent estate. Joseph Home resided at Ninewells until his death 14 February 1832, aged 81.

Adam’s 1790 scheme for Ninewells was produced four years after Joseph Home inherited the estate from his father John. It seems at this time, the client was considering substantial alterations to the modest three-storey, three-bay house. The proposed design is 150ft in length and Bolton noted this relatively plain scheme as uncharacteristic of Adam, particularly in its planning. The scheme proposed the construction of a new block to the rear of the house along with flanking link blocks and pavilions. The pavilions were designed to contain various domestic offices and small courtyards are formed to the rear of the links.

King notes a fault in the design which proposes a ‘cramped’ attic-storey level. King suggests that this may have been required to ensure the rear block did not rise significantly above the older building. King also highlights the application of numerous internal steps for the transition between the new and old buildings, as the floors are positioned at differing levels.

Adam’s scheme is not known to have been executed and the earlier eighteenth-century house was rebuilt in the Tudor style by architect William Burn (1839-41). During the Second World War, Ninewells was employed for the billeting of army personnel and from 1942-1943 it was designated a prisoner of war camp. The house fell into a ruinous state and was demolished in 1964. In the 1990s a new property was built on the site, set within 3.5 acres of land and given the name Ninewells. It was offered for sale in August 2020.

D. Hume, My Own Life, (ed.) I. Gordon Brown, 2017; A.T. Bolton, The architecture of Robert and James Adam, 1922, Volume II, Index pp. 24, 76; G. Hunter, ‘David Hume: Some unpublished letters 1771-1776’, Texas Studies in Literature and Language, Summer 1960, pp. 127-150; D. King, The complete works of Robert and James Adam & unbuilt Adam, 2001, Volume II, pp. 10-11, 132; I. Gordon Brown, 'Hume in Paris: Le Bon David and Guid Auld Uncle Davie', Folio, Spring 2003, pp. 6-9; ‘Ninewells House’, www.canmore.org.uk/site/59681; ‘Testament of David Hume, 1776: CC8/8/125/2, pp. 558-868, www.nrscotland.gov.uk; ‘Ninewells House: History and Heritage’, www.scotlandstartshere.com; ‘John Kay – John Hume of Ninewells, 1709-1786. Brother of David Hume’, www.nationalgalleries.org; ‘David Martin – John Hume of Ninewells, 1709-1786. Brother of David Hume’, www.nationalgalleries.org; ‘Ninewells House, Chirnside, Berwickshire, TD11 3XF’, www.knightfrank.com/property/brochures; ‘David Hume’s Family (3)’, www.chirnsidecommongood.org; ‘David Hume at Chirnside’, www.chirnsidecommongood.org (accessed March 2021)

Anna McAlaney, 2021



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Contents of Ninewells, Berwickshire, designs for a house for Joseph Home, c1790, unexecuted (5)