Importance of Site
A site included in the Inventory is assessed for its condition and integrity and for its level of importance. The criteria used are set out in Annex 5 of the Scottish Historic Environment Policy (December 2011). The principles are represented by the following value-based criteria and we have assigned a value for each on a scale ranging from outstanding value to no value. Criteria not applicable to a particular site have been omitted. All sites included in the Inventory are considered to be of national importance.
Work of Art
Newliston has outstanding value as a Work of Art both in its present form and for its recorded value as a Work of Art in the past.
It has outstanding Historical value with good documentary evidence and associations with the 2nd Lord Stair, and William & Robert Adam.
Horticultural, Arboricultural, Silvicultural
It has some value for its shrub rose collection (Records at Malleny).
It provides the setting for a grade A listed building, one of the last country houses designed by Robert Adam. It also contains several other features of historical and architectural interest, including the doocot and the statue of Hercules. It has outstanding Architectural value.
Although Newliston's shelterbelts screen the park from the outside, they also provide woodland contrast with the surroundings and thus make some contribution to the scenery.
There is some value for Nature Conservation in the relatively undisturbed mixed deciduous woodland cover and the habitats provided by the ponds.
Location and Setting
Newliston lies 9 miles (14.5km) to the west of Edinburgh and 4 miles (6.5ha) south of the Forth Road Bridge. Secluded within its park and avenue woodlands, it is surrounded by major road and rail links to Edinburgh and to the Forth Road Bridge; Edinburgh Airport lies beyond the M9 to the east.
The land is low-lying and slopes gently south-eastwards. Three burns flow eastwards through the park to join the river Almond and have been used to feed the water features in the designed landscape. At the time the gardens were designed, the surrounding landscape would have been rural and enabled views and vistas to be seen through the radiating avenues; one avenue was designed to focus on Craigiehall six miles to the east; another on Niddrie Castle two miles to the north-west. Today the surrounding landscape is within Edinburgh's urban fringe and some views are interrupted by elevated motorways and shale bings. The Newliston woodlands provide seclusion for the house and screen views in from the surrounding areas.
The previous vernacular style house at Newliston is shown on a plan dated 1759 as being sited a little to the west of the existing house. The layout of the grounds preceded the building of the new house by some forty years when a much larger and grander house was contemplated. The basic structure of the garden layout today corresponds with that laid out in the 1720s by the 2nd Lord Stair. It is bounded by shelterbelts and strengthened around the formal layout to the north of the house by a bastioned wall. There are 739 acres (299ha) in the designed landscape today.
There is map evidence of the designed landscape from 1725 when William Adam drew up a plan of the grounds; the survey dated 1759 is reputed to be a copy of this plan. Although the fine detail of the design has disappeared today, the layout is substantially the same.
Newliston was owned from the early fifteenth century by the Dundas family until the 2nd Lord Stair inherited it from his mother Elizabeth, the eighth and last Dundas of Newliston in her own right. In 1665 she married Sir John Dalrymple who became the 1st Earl of Stair and lived at Castle Kennedy. The 2nd Lord Stair is reputed to have been a founding member of the Honourable Society for the Improvement of Agriculture, and he carried out extensive works both at Newliston and Castle Kennedy. He was Ambassador at Versailles between 1715- 1720 and brought back to Newliston the formal French style of garden, complete with cascades, canals, ponds, terraces, avenues and serpentine walks. A plan of 1725 by William Adam is at Blenheim Palace (Lord Stair served under the Duke of Marlborough and sent him the plan of his new 'seat'), but whether Lord Stair employed Adam to design the gardens in detail is not known. He certainly drew up plans in 1723 for a grand house which was never built (Vitruvius Scoticus); however, the stable-block of 1723 is built in William Adam's style and he was paid 150 pounds at this time by Lord Stair.
The garden layout has also been attributed to Switzer but, in the absence of any records, it seems likely that Lord Stair himself would have introduced the Formal French style from Versailles. The gardens were laid out between 1722-44 by a reputed 200 workmen who possibly included troops from the Scots Greys stationed at Newliston as a bodyguard. Lord Stair was Field Marshal at the battle of Dettingen, 1743, and later called up as Commander in Chief of South Britain against the Jacobite uprising of 1745. Stories that the garden layout was designed to correspond with the battle array at Dettingen were refuted in the Stair Annals of 1875 but the Union Jack pattern of the Hercules Wood may well have been a celebration of the victory.
After the death of Lord Stair in 1747 Newliston was sold to Roger Hog, a London merchant from a Berwickshire family. The old house was lived in until 1792 when Roger's son Thomas employed Robert Adam to build a new house. Thomas's son Roger (artist of the 1790 painting of the old house) succeeded in 1827 and died unmarried in 1833 when it passed to his half-brother James Maitland Hog, most of the furniture going to his sister. Loudon, writing in 1820, refers to the former terraces and curious flights of steps being obliterated at the beginning of the century; however, as the remnant banks correspond today with a survey plan of 1759, it is difficult to determine how much was lost at this time. In 1835 W.S. Gilpin was commissioned to work at Newliston and the south drive was grassed over and a spinney planted at its south end. The lines of the longer west and east avenues were also softened. Gilpin gave evidence to the railway enquiry of 1835, (ref. SRO BR PYBS 1/7 1837}. Since that time no major alterations have been made and some replacement planting has been undertaken. The present owner's grandfather specialised in collecting shrub roses. The present owner, Mr James Findlay, succeeded his uncle in 1972 and has continued the family policy of replacement planting.
The House is listed A: it is a late classical villa by Robert Adam with additions in the form of two wings by David Bryce in 1845. Designs for offices to the west of the house were never carried out. The orientation of the house is slightly out of line with the garden layout, although that was also designed to be asymmetrical. The twin facsimilies of Florentine Boars were added in 1845. The wall of the terraced garden around the mansion is listed B. The 18th century stables and coach-house are thought to be designed by William Adam and are listed B. Also listed B is the East Lodge, built in 1848. There are kennels at the West Lodge, and the twin lodges at the original southern approach to the house were designed by William Adam. The lectern-type Doocot of c.1700 is listed B, and was the most commodious doocot in Scotland (Niben Robertson 'Old Dovecotes') with two compartments holding some 2,663 nesting holes; it has recently been repaired and converted into a dwelling house. Also listed B are the statue of Hercules (recently knocked off its plinth and now replaced to face in the opposite direction), the walled garden, and the early 18th century sundial in the walled garden.
The area of parkland has reduced slightly from that shown in the 1850 1st edition OS map, but the remaining parkland still contains fine trees which are replaced when necessary. The unusual horseshoe-shaped enclosure at the entrance to the house was laid out originally for schooling horses; it is surrounded by a haha. The pasture immediately to the north of the house is grazed; the remains of the two-tiered parterre formed from the spoil excavated from the fish pond are still visible today. The south driveway was closed in 1835 and has been incorporated into the south park.
Some of the trees at Newliston are thought to predate the improvements of the 1720s, including the grand Spanish chestnuts which stood at the west side of the old castle. The girth of one of these chestnuts today is 24'. The spinneys were put in by W.S. Gilpin in 1835 and some of the structure planting of the formal garden has been replanted over the years. The pollarded limes in the south-east corner of the formal design were all felled in 1964 and replanted in the same pattern with birch. Dutch Elm disease has become a problem recently and affected trees are being felled and replaced with other deciduous species. The avenues are composed of mixed deciduous species.
The shrubbery lies to the west of the house and to the north of the walled garden and contains some old trees as well as the exotics introduced by Mr Findlay's grandfather, who also planted species Rhododendrons here.
The layout of the formal garden is simplified but similar in design to when drawn in 1759. It has bowed projections at the ends of the main east/west avenue and a large centred axial projection on the north, surrounded by a deep ha-ha, the retaining walls of which run into circular bastions at the corners. The enclosed area was planted with a complex scheme of diagonal avenues and rond-points and enough remains to give an indication of the general layout. The remaining water features consist of two ponds along the north/west axis and two on the east/west axis with linking canals. The small pond at the east end of the garden had disappeared by the early 1900s and was planted up with willow. The area to the south-west of this pond, Hercules Wood, was laid out in eight compartments and when the original limes were felled they were replanted with birch in the same pattern.
The walled garden was kept up until c.1970 and used as a kitchen garden including fruit and rose gardens divided by hedges and herbaceous borders. The walls date from 1706 and the south wall was rebuilt between 1875-81. Part of the very high north wall has recently collapsed. To the south-west of the walled garden, the bowling green has been replaced by the tennis court; the bowling hut remains. The B listed sundial is in this section of the garden and has a cylindrical pier and base; it is thought to predate the walls.