Described in the later 19th century as 'a surprise among the hills' (Chambers 1864: 388), the designed landscape of The Glen was created through some initial, early 19th-century improvement, followed by more ambitious architectural and design projects instigated by the Tennant family from the 1850s onwards.
In previous centuries, the valley lands along the Quair Water had been divided between at least two separate estates; Easter Glen and Wester Glen. These were united during the earlier 18th century to create a single property, and The Glen changed hands twice over subsequent decades before its eventual purchase by Edinburgh banker, Alexander Allan in 1796 (Chambers 1864: 388). Roy's Military Survey of the mid 18th century shows no design of note during this period, while historical accounts refer to a relatively modest house; an 18th century farmhouse that stood on the site of the present Glen House (Chambers 1864: 388; map evidence: Edgar 1741; Thomson 1820).
Preliminary improvements were commissioned from c.1815 onwards by Allan's son, William Allan. Renowned architect and family friend, William Playfair, designed additions to the house, while draining, fencing, and planting, 'greatly changed the character of the scene' (Chambers 1864: 389), and established the basic structure of the design; i.e. perimeter woodlands surrounding a core landscape of house and parkland, complete with clumps and specimen trees. The canalisation of part of the Quair and the planting of an adjacent avenue with Douglas Firs remain as surviving, picturesque-style landscape works of the early 19th century.
A more intense phase of change and activity began in the mid 19th century with the arrival of the Tennants. Charles Tennant, Glasgow businessman and grandson of chemist and industrialist Charles Tennant (1768-1838), purchased The Glen in 1852 and immediately ordered the demolition of the existing house. He appointed David Bryce (1803-1876) to design a new mansion with associated structures, including entrance bridge, stables and garden terraces. As the estate complex developed, with the addition of a walled garden, kennels, farm buildings, and workers' cottages, the large, temporary population of masons, joiners and labourers connected with the various construction projects grew to encompass a more settled and diverse community. A photograph taken in 1897 shows a group of over 100 people who lived in the tied cottages and who forged a living at The Glen as shepherds, foresters, game hands, gamekeepers, gardeners and domestic staff (Bonn 1997: 66).
From the later 19th to early 20th century, The Glen became a key fixture in the social calendar of eminent Victorians, politicians and socialites, with surviving letters and later accounts providing glimpses of annual shooting parties, gatherings and family dramas (Crathorne 1973: 125-6; NAS GD510). Charles Tennant served as MP for both Glasgow and Peebles and was created a Baronet in 1885, while his children became well known society figures, and included Margot, later wife of Herbet Asquith, Prime Minister from 1908 to 1916. As with other country estates, the designed landscape helped forge the desired setting and effect for entertaining guests. Historic photographs reveal immaculately maintained lawns, a flower garden and impressive glasshouses, which earned the explicit approval of the Berwickshire Naturalists' Society in 1881 (Hardy 1882: 487), and the Royal Horticultural Society during a visit in 1899 (The Gardeners' Chronicle 1899: 6-7). The provision of leisure was also important, with the bowling green and lawn tennis court admired as 'the finest examples of velvet-piled turf yet seen by the writer' (ibid.). Behind the scenes, a head gardener supervised a team of about 14 gardeners. These men tended the kitchen, walled flower and formal terraced gardens, and cut the grass using a horse-drawn mower, with the horse equipped with leather shoes to protect the lawn (Bonn 1997: 67).
Key events in the early 20th century include a major fire in 1905, followed by the involvement of architect, Sir Robert Lorimer (1864-1929), in works on both the house and gardens in 1905-07, and then again c.1911. While the property remained in the hands of the Tennants (via Charles Tennant's son, Edward Priaulx Tennant, 2nd Baron Glencommer, and grandson, Christopher, 3rd Baron), the family spent much of the time residing elsewhere. Over subsequent decades, the community of workers dwindled and the post-war years were characterised by the decline of several parts of the designed landscape, including the walled gardens. More recently, however, the estate population has increased and today there is a community of more than 50 residents. The Glen was leased as a conference venue during the later 20th century. It is now a private family home, occasionally let out under very controlled circumstances.
The designed landscape contains a high number of notable architectural features. The centrepiece is Glen House, a multi-bayed, Scottish Baronial mansion of coursed cream ashlar completed in 1858 to designs by David Bryce, with formidable six-storey tower added by Bryce in 1874. Considered an outstanding example of his work, the house displays typical flourishes, including crow-stepped gables and conical-roofed turrets with fish-scale slates. The drama of arrival is enhanced by Bryce's two-span entrance bridge and courtyard entrance with castellated archway. Other prominent Bryce elements around the house include the stable courtyard, with two-storey gabled entrance pend, and the formal terraced gardens (with some later work by Lorimer in 1905 and 1911). Accessed via a distinctive lion gateway, these gardens feature harled rubble terrace walls, steps and stone seats. They lead north to the former swimming pool and terrace area, developed on the site of earlier glasshouses in the mid 20th century, and sheltered by harled walling topped with ball-finials. Less than a kilometre to the south of the house, the temple is a survivor of earlier design work by William Playfair, 1822. Comprising a classical-style, former portico of an early farmhouse, it now serves as a Tennant family memorial with engraved glass by Luke Dickinson, 1997. To the west of the house, the early to mid-19th-century walled garden, (with significant alterations c.1909), incorporates a Mackenzie and Moncur lean-to style glasshouse and shed range. A row of nursery cottages stands opposite the shed range on the other side of a frame-yard, with the brick-built bases of the frames still intact. The concave east wall of this walled garden features round towers with conical roofs, one of which houses a timber-lined summerhouse. Further to the north, the rectangular-plan old walled garden, c.1857, was designed for kitchen produce and although derelict, retains a formal south entrance with ashlar gatepiers and decorative wrought-iron gates. Access to the designed landscape is via a crow-stepped entrance lodge and arch-way, dated 1858. From here, the estate road leads past a significant number of estate buildings and labourers' cottages, built mostly c.1860-90. Most notable among these are the kennels and house and old school house, while more centrally located features include the Glen Farm steading, with cart-shed, the Factor's House, the Garden Cottage, a pavilion-style piggery with dovecot tower, and the octagonal dairy. The estate road crosses the Kill Burn via an early-mid 19th century, single-span bridge (bridge near shrubbery), while the nearby, K6-type telephone kiosk was installed in 1935 for the use of the estate workers.
Drives and Approaches
The drive enters from the east, via the lodge and mid-19th-century arch-way. Referred to as 'the avenue' in an account of 1899 (The Gardeners' Chronicle 1899: 7), it follows a straight trajectory, ascending through fields and parkland past occasional conifer specimens and loose broadleaf clumps. The structure of tree cover around Glen House ensures that the house is concealed until near the point of arrival and the entrance bridge over Kill Burn; an almost certainly deliberate 19th century design feature intended to heighten impressions of scale and grandeur on arrival. The effect could have been enhanced by the sound of rushing water echoing over the manipulated Kill Burn watercourse below the bridge (Staempfli pers.comm. 2008). At the entrance to the designed landscape, an informal estate road diverts to the north, leading through woodland clumps towards the main farm and cottage buildings of the estate. It terminates at the head of the valley at the western limit of the designed landscape.
Grazed valley parkland around Glen House retains much of its 19th century structure and provides an attractive landscape setting for the house and gardens. Many of the clumps and individual specimens mapped on the 1st Ordnance Survey (1855-58, OS 25' and 6') remain in place and have been supplemented by some later 20th-century replanting. The mix of species is varied and includes oak, elm, beech, lime and some conifers. The ornamental loch, by the entrance drive, and the planting design on the slope of Larch Knowe, to the south of Glen House, are of particular importance to core landscape views. This swathe of high, ascending parkland, visible on the opposite side of the Quair from the southern terraced gardens, features a good coverage of trees and offers a significant visual contrast with the bare moorland plateaux beyond. Written accounts applaud the aesthetics of the park, with the Gardeners' Chronicle referring to a 'sylvan retreat of endless variety and inexhaustible beauty' (1899: 7).
Long strips of woodland around the perimeter of the designed landscape shelter the parks and outer fields, while larger hillside tracts, (Gentle's Wood, Fethan Wood, Larch Wood and Blairy Wood), are crucial to the landscape setting of the house and gardens. The general structure of the late 19th-century design is mostly intact (1897-8, OS 6'), and the combination of extensive tree cover, rolling terrain, and visual contrast with the bare hills beyond is vital to the overall scenic effect at The Glen. Although the balance of the plantations shifted overwhelmingly in favour of conifer cultivation during the 20th century, the last two decades have witnessed a much greater emphasis on broadleaf planting.
Manipulation of the Quair Water and its tributaries began with the canalisation of a stretch of the Quair prior to the Tennants' arrival at The Glen, probably during the early decades of the 19th century. The straightened channel of water flows alongside the tree-lined avenue to the temple, located some distance to the south of Glen House. Closer to the house, the rills and falls of the Kill Burn were created during the later 19th century by head gardener Mr McIntyre, and were noted for the 'rippling and leaping music' they created (Gardeners' Chronicle 1899: 7). The two lochs, meanwhile, were created during the mid to later 19th century, the first being laid out in the northern park, to a 'fine picturesque effect' (Chambers 1864: 390), while the larger and more secluded Loch Eddy, with central island, was developed in the later 1880s (NAS GD510/1/69/10).
Terraced gardens by Bryce (1854), with additions by Lorimer (1905) extend from the south and west elevations of Glen House. Partly furnished with beds of rhododendron, azalea and Berberis at the close of the 19th century (Gardeners' Chronicle 1899: 7), the terraces are now generally maintained as more simple lawns, ornamented with topiary, and structured by the surviving 'hard' garden elements of straight walks, straight terrace walls, stone steps, urns, seats, and wrought iron gates. Of particular note are the large Irish Yews, over a century old, that line the main terrace paths to the west of the house. Despite the prevailing winds and relatively cold climate of this upland glen, suitable herbaceous plants are still cultivated along the borders of this garden, most notably below the sunken garden wall that defines the northern limit of the garden. While rough, grazed grassland now extends right up to the terraced gardens, historic photographs reveal greater expanses of immaculately maintained lawn.
Visible elements of former garden components include remnants of a small shrubbery to the north of the walled flower garden, and the original bowling green, a rectangular, sunken area in the lower, southern terrace. Grassed over since the later 20th century, it still bears the faint outline of later rose-beds curving around a central sundial (no longer present). Specimen trees growing just north of the entrance drive, meanwhile, include a sycamore planted by Gladstone in 1890.
The irregularly-shaped Walled Flower Garden to the west of Glen House was developed from an existing mid-19th century garden enclosure, initially through the construction of glasshouse ranges (late 19th century), followed by later remodelling by Lorimer, c.1909. Unlike the more functional kitchen garden to the north, this garden was for display; a historical photograph, probably c.1900s, shows the main part of the garden with large, elaborate and densely-stocked flower beds curving across the lawn, behind which is the façade of an impressive glass-house range. Used for the cultivation of orchids, vines and other exotic fruits and flowers, the once substantial complex of glasshouses has now been reduced to only one complete Mackenzie and Moncur, lean-to range. Apart from this glass-house, the adjoining potting shed-range, nursery cottages, walls and towers of the east wall, (see architectural components), surviving structural elements within the garden today include stone steps and urns, and the deteriorating remnants of two other glasshouses. Apart from some minor horticultural work, this garden area remains unmaintained and disused.
Located to the north of the walled flower garden, the Walled Kitchen Garden, a high-walled, rectangular-plan enclosure is now derelict. Built c.1857, with the possible re-use of early 19th century gatepiers, it retains only the main structural features of steps, walling and entrance-ways. The interior of the garden is arranged over two levels and once featured long narrow glasshouse ranges along the northern, interior wall, which followed canted sides and terminated in pavilion-like structures (1855-8, OS 25'). Used to produce staple fruit and vegetables during the later 19th and earlier 20th century, the productive capacity of the garden was enriched early on by the addition of soil 'carted up from the valley' (Crathorne 1973: 124). Following the abandonment of horticultural production from the mid-20th century onwards, a small conifer plantation was established on the upper level of the garden. The remainder is disused.