The development of 'Fleurs' epitomises well the changed Border society and landscape of the 18th century. Formerly part of the monastic estate of Kelso Abbey in the Middle Ages, the land was granted to the Kers of Cessford following the Reformation. The Kers were a long-established and politically powerful family whose residence at Cessford to the south was a massive war-battered stronghold, built to withstand cannon fire and the skirmishes of the Border conflicts. Around 1650, however, the family quitted the castle for Floors and just over half a century later, plans were afoot to build an altogether different kind of home. These plans were realised by John Ker, the 5th Earl of Roxburgh; a well-travelled, well-educated man whose early rise to political prominence and role in securing the 1707 Act of Union were awarded with a peerage. As the 1st Duke of Roxburgh, he instigated work to replace an existing tower house at Floors with a large elegant house with expansive formal grounds fitting for his status and prosperity and the fashions of a more stable 'enlightened' age. After some deliberation, William Adam was hired as the architect and the first stone of the new 'castle' was laid in 1721.
Historic maps, drawings and documents provide some indications of what the 1st Duke's house and grounds were like. Daniel Defoe, who published an account of his tours of Scotland in 1723-6 mentions the ongoing embellishment and predicted that a future visitor would hardly recognise the land after its transformation from 'open and wild' to 'enclosed, cultivated and improved'and the house surrounded with large grown vistas, and well-planted avenues, such as were never seen there before..' (Defoe 1726) And, sure enough, William Wyeth's estate plan of 1736 (NAS RHP3234) and Roy's military survey of 1747-55, show a remarkable extensive formal design with Adam's large symmetrical Georgian house flanked by woodland plantations that line a central approach from the north. According to Wyeth's plan, these ample plantations, criss-crossed by geometrically ordered allés and rides, were also dissected by vistas structured so as to lead the eye towards the local landmarks of Hume castle and Smailholm tower, a design perfectly in accord with the contemporary fashion for 'borrowing', or drawing in more distant landscape features. Meanwhile, the plantations either side of the house linked up with much longer woodland strips planted to follow the escarpment of higher ground running above the river. A later engraving of 1804 depicts the view from Kelso and shows the tall mansion framed by a lush backdrop of mature trees (RCAHMS RXD 2/34 P).
Work to develop and expand the policies continued after the 1st Duke's death in 1740, with his son, and then, after 1755, his grandson inheriting the estate. Major projects included straightening the Tweed river bank to the south, while to the south east, part of the town of Kelso was acquired following negotiations during the mid to later 18th century. The scale of the task to transform this part of the landscape in the late 18th century can be appreciated from the results of a 1980s archaeological project which showed how buildings, roads and the old upper market area of Kelso were all demolished, cleared and levelled to make way for enclosed parkland, a new road to the castle and a walled garden. Further west, a metre-thick layer of soil and clay was dumped over the site of the old medieval burgh of Wester Kelso in order to even out the surface of the new park (Dixon et al. 2002). Closer to the house, meanwhile, the original straight paths and rigid geometry of the first design were replaced by a more up-to-date, informal design incorporating perimeter woodlands and meandering walks and drives through the plantations (1798, Matthew Stobie) .
The opening decades of the 19th century marked an unsettled period at Floors. The 3rd duke died in 1804 having never married and the estate passed to an elderly relative whose death just one year later was followed by a bitter and costly seven year legal wrangle between different claimants to the titles and property. Fortunately, the 3rd duke had amassed an extraordinary collection of books at Floors, the sale of which by the eventual successful claimant, Sir James Innes, greatly improved financial affairs. Having acquired Floors Castle aged 76, Innes went on to produce a son four years later, who, on his fathers death in 1823, became the 6th Duke of Roxburgh.
The 6th Duke was responsible for the next major phase of activity at Floors. Following his marriage, he commissioned the architect William Playfair in 1836 to radically alter the plain Georgian house, inside and out. Over the course of the next decade, Playfair added height to the structure, created curved links to the side pavilions, and, inspired by the Scottish Renaissance typified by George Heriot's Hospital in Edinburgh, erected a crowded array of exterior flourishes, thus giving Floors its distinctive fairy-tale castle silhouette. The duke's programme of works did not stop at the house; two new lodges were built to the north of the estate, existing 18th century estate buildings at Floors Home farm were renovated and joined by further farm structures and a new large walled garden with extensive suite of glasshouses was built to the west of the house in 1857. By the time of Queen Victoria's visit a decade later, Floors had every appearance of a typical large, opulent country estate in its prime, managed by a large workforce and widely admired for the picturesque qualities of the parks and woods.
Floors Castle and policies passed through successive generations of the Innes-Ker family during the late 19th, and 20th centuries with the only significant alterations to the design being the grand east entrance built in 1929, and a rockery constructed on the north lawn. As with many large estates, some elements fell into decline during the 20th century, including the rockery, which now lies overgrown and neglected, and the glasshouse range, which was eventually demolished. During the later 20th century, Floors was developed as a visitor attraction with the subsequent addition of car-parking, a garden centre and cafes, along with two new gardening ventures opened in time for the Millennium; the Star Plantation and the formal Millennium parterre. In 2008, Roxburgh estates installed a new renewable energy scheme designed to provide sufficient power for the castle, estate nursery and garden centre.
Floors Castle, standing on a natural gravel terrace overlooking the Tweed, is a large, distinctive country mansion originally built to designs by William Adam in 1721 but with extensive remodelling work in Scottish Renaissance style by William Playfair (1837-45). Built from cream sandstone, it comprises a central range of 4 storeys plus basement with square towers at each side, and is flanked by two lower side ranges. While Playfair's many exterior decorative features remain intact (theatrical parapets, fluted chimney stacks, ornate water spouts and pepper-pot angle turrets), his interior scheme was largely replaced through a major refurbishment organised in 1927-30 by May Goelet, New York heiress and wife of the 8th Duke. To the east, Reginald Fairlie's castle gates and lodges were built at the same time and provide a suitably imposing entrance point to the grounds as a whole. Square ashlar gatepiers topped with urns support a tall iron overthrow displaying the Roxburgh arms. Below, fine wrought iron gates provide access and the whole ensemble is flanked by two square plan gate lodges. Adjoining the lodges is a high boundary wall dating mostly to the mid-19th century that extends around the east and north sides of the castle grounds, its course interrupted by two further entrances that are flanked by the north and west lodges, both built in the 1840s. Within the grounds, a rectangular walled garden stands to the west of the castle. Built in 1857 using both brick and stone, it features a single-storey range of bothies and stores on the exterior north wall, a distinctive two-storey, crenellated Gardener's House and, on the east end, the Queen's House, supposedly built in preparation for Queen Victoria's visit in 1867 as a good vantage point for the glasshouses (now demolished). To the north of the castle, the Floors Home farm contains a significant number of buildings mostly constructed or remodelled during the 19th century. They include diminutive Palladian style kennels, a keeper's house, stables, dairy cottages and, most notably, the symmetrical, Palladian style Steward's house. A short distance to the west is a small ice-house with a barrel-vaulted roof. Beyond the grounds of the castle, some 2.4 km to the south-west of Kelso on the A699 is a folly comprising a crenellated stone wall, possibly built to provide an impressive viewing point for Queen Victoria to observe the Castle in its wider, and carefully planned, landscape setting.
Drives and Approaches
The principal entrance is at the south-eastern corner via Fairlie's distinctive 1929 gates. There are clear views of the Castle standing proud above the park as the drive gradually curves and ascends before entering the woodland strip on the escarpment. It follows a route largely established during the later 18th century as it re-emerges from woodland and turns to curve almost back on itself to approach the castle from the north. At this central point in front of Floors Castle, it joins a drive that approaches from the north west via a meandering route through Simonton's Hill Plantation that was also partly established during the informalising period of the late 18th century. The northern section of this drive is no longer used and is rapidly becoming overgrown by encroaching vegetation and sprawling rhododendrons. The north drive, meanwhile, provides direct access to Floors Home farm.
The grass sward of the southern parks sweeps up from the Tweed to the gravel terrace of the Castle. Small clumps of mature beech, oak and some copper beech frame views both to the castle and outwards towards the Cheviots, while the backbone of dark green woodland planted along the escarpment encloses the park except at the castle where the turrets and castellations are silhouetted against the sky. This scenically important area of parkland was created mainly during the 18th century when the course of the Tweed was altered. Wyeth's 1736 estate plan shows the original route of the river, which flowed closer to the castle, and the islands at Faircross Anna, which were subsequently incorporated within the Floors parklands through the construction of a bank, which diverted the natural flow of water (NAS RHP3234). This estate plan also shows the park divided into smaller fields by lines of trees. By the time of Stobie's survey of 1798, these lines, though recognisable, had been broken up, and by the mid-19th century, more parkland specimens had been planted in order to complete the aesthetic effect that remains in the present landscape, although a line of mature oaks still marks the route of an 18th-century riverside path, leading westwards from Kelso. Judging from brief 19th and early 20th-century descriptions, the single holly tree, said by tradition to mark the spot where James II was fatally injured in 1460, may have been planted by the 6th duke in the earlier 19th century on the site of an older stump (New Statistical Account 1845; Dallimore 1908). At Bleaklands, meanwhile, to the north east of the castle, parkland was also established during the 18th century with later planting including copper beech and Wellingtonia.
The core woodland areas planted along the escarpment and around the castle in the early 18th century now contain a mix of oak, beech and sycamore. The Star Plantation, to the north west of the castle, lost many older trees following a major storm in 1993 and has since been the focus of a project of restoration. Now, paths radiate from a central mature lime encircled by a wrought-iron seat, while older veterans surviving in the plantation have been joined by younger ornamental trees and shrubs. Elsewhere, plantations in the northern half of the policies that were established in the later 18th and early 19th century contain mostly mixed deciduous species with some blocks of Sitka spruce plantations towards the west.
A row of magnificent veteran Spanish chestnuts extending westwards from the castle immediately to the south of the Star Plantation is one of the few survivors of the original, early 18th-century formal layout. The 1st duke's house had been at the centre of a formal garden design, tightly enclosed by plantations, the clean straight lines of which had served to focus views outwards along the central northern ride and strategically placed vistas. The softening of the formal lines and the creation of a plantation to the north of the Castle in the later 18th century created the more secluded 'north lawn'. A rockery built in the north west part of this lawn during the early 20th century fell into disuse towards the end of the century and remains in a derelict condition today.
In the 1830s and 1840s, part of William Playfair's design for the remodelled house included a plan for an intricate flower garden on the terrace just west of the Castle featuring a glass conservatory and geometrically-shaped flower beds arranged either side of a central path. While the conservatory and stone steps remain, the flower beds were removed in the early 20th century and the area is now occupied by a swimming pool.
More recently, to mark the new Millennium, the present Duke and Duchess of Roxburgh commissioned a new formal garden immediately to the west of the Star Plantation. Drawing inspiration from the French formal style, the 'Millennium Parterre' was created using gravel and traditional box against a closely clipped lawn background to define the intertwined, curving initials of the Duke and Duchess plus R for Roxburgh, the letter M to denote the year 2000 and a coronet further highlighted with spindle tree (Euonymus fortunei 'Emerald 'n' Gold'. The French theme continues on the adjacent raised terrace where over 50 young apple trees of the historic cultivars, Bloody Ploughman, Galloway Pippin and Scottish Dumpling, are being trained with traditional French techniques to form goblets, dwarf pyramids and full pyramids.
The present mid-19th-century walled garden at Floors appears to have had two predecessors located elsewhere on the grounds. The first was created in the irregular space at the extreme south east corner of the estate following the acquisition of land at the 'Town head' of Kelso by the 3rd Duke of Roxburgh in 1783-4. Excavations carried out in this area in the 1980s revealed that previously existing structures had been demolished and levelled to make way for the garden which, as shown on the early Ordnance Survey map editions, featured a traditional layout of four quadrants divided by gravel paths (Dixon et al. 2002, 1856-9, OS 25'). These gardens were dismantled in the second half of the 19th century.
Currently, the evidence indicates that a second, even more short-lived walled garden was created to the south-west of the Castle sometime in the first half of the 19th century, but which had been removed and grassed over by the time of the first Ordnance Survey. In a detailed description of the present walled garden, the author of an article of 1874 begins by stating 'the garden was formerly situated at the bottom of the bank'a quarter of a mile west from the Castle; and it was a great disfigurement to the park.' (Gardener's Chronicle 1874: 713). This description corresponds precisely with the location of a rectangular feature identified through aerial reconnaissance in the late 20th century. Although thought to represent the remains of a formal garden, the form of the parch marks (a rectangular outline divided into quadrants) suggests a walled garden. The theory that this was a second, but unsuccessful or unpopular walled garden is further strengthened by another 19th century account. The author complains that the walled garden marred 'the view and beauty of the domain from the Castle' and goes on, 'On this account, it is to be entirely cleared away, and new gardens are already in process on the rising ground to the north-west of the Castle, but entirely hid from it by an intervening wood' (The Scottish Gardener 1858: 252).
When Queen Victoria paid a visit in 1867, the new walled garden was in its heyday. The transfer had been overseen by Hector Rose in the late 1850s and the garden was designed for both the practicalities of growing produce and aesthetic display. There was a boiler system, bothies and sheds, a workforce of 12 and ample room for cultivating vegetables, fruit and flowers. At the north-eastern corner, where the Queen took tea, there was an excellent view down the length of the 80 metre-long glass 'Tropical Corridor', lined with exotic, rare and colourful plants and which connected seven further hot-houses that extended at right angles from the corridor. Falling into decline during the earlier 20th century, the hot-houses were dismantled and the site of the Tropical Corridor is now occupied by the Millennium Parterre terrace described above. The walled garden however retains something of its former character and hustle and bustle through its maintenance, since the late 1970s, as part of the overall visitor attraction at Floors. While a large children's play area and garden centre occupy the southern and central areas of the garden and part of the old potting range now contains a gift-shop and café, the original layout of paths remains. The legacy of Mr Crozier, head gardener at Floors from 1957-2006 is plainly evident in the well-maintained planting schemes that include a range of different apple species, fruits and vegetables, and vibrant, well-stocked herbaceous borders.