Grange House: three schools, change and decline, 1850-1930s

Grange House in the 1890s.
Grange House in the late 1890s, probably unoccupied.

Sir Thomas Dick Lauder laid the foundations for change all round the Grange Estate. After taking possession in 1825 he commissioned maps and had the preparatory legal work done for feuing out building plots. 1  The first advertising for “the most beautiful sites for small villas” appeared while Sir Thomas was still alive. 2 He also put his energies into expanding and enhancing Grange House, writing numerous books on history, nature etc., and keeping up with a large circle of literary and other acquaintances.

For the earlier history of Grange House click here.

His heir John had spent some years in India as a cavalry officer. When he inherited after his father’s death in 1848, the Grange Estate entered a new phase. Sir John’s interests seem to have been different from his father’s. There is little recorded about his life in Edinburgh apart from a report of his trial in 1850 for assault on a railway guard who challenged him about vandalism after a hunt dinner. He and his wife soon moved out of Grange House.  3 George F. Barbour and his family lived there from c1853-1856. 4 There was a steady flow of advertisements offering land for new buildings to north and east of Grange House, and in 1857 the mansion and its “pleasure grounds” were rented out to John Dalgleish.

School for Young Gentlemen

Grange House School opening announcement, 1857
Grange House School opening announcement, 1857

Mr. and Mrs. Dalgleish had been running an educational institution for young ladies in George Square for more than twenty years. Now, joined by their son Walter Scott Dalgleish M.A., they announced the launch of a school for “young gentlemen of the highest ranks”. They praised Grange House’s ideal location – elevated, south-facing, and well-sheltered – and a convenient distance for teachers “of established reputation” to reach from Edinburgh. The curriculum would vary according to whether a boy was destined for university, “mercantile pursuits”, the British or Indian civil service or army.  More details here.

Dreghorn Castle School, once Grange House School
Dreghorn Castle, home to the boys’ school that started in Grange House.

The 1861 census showed nearly 40 boarders: many from Scotland, with some from England or distant parts of the British Empire. 5 The school seems to have done well and soon moved to Dreghorn Castle, where there was far more space: sixty acres of grounds and new classrooms as well. 6

The school’s 1864 advertising gushed about the move to one of the “healthiest” sites in Scotland, and explained that at the Grange there was some… 7

…difficulty, in a district which is fast becoming a populous suburb, of securing the requisite facilities in grounds and otherwise for conducting a High-class School for Boys.

 

Edinburgh Town Council thwarts the Grange Estate

Lovers' Loan today. This stretch ran close to Grange House and its gardens. Photo by Kim Traynor.
Lovers’ Loan today. Grange House and its gardens were on the left of this stretch, which had hedges not walls. Photo by Kim Traynor.

The year after Grange House School moved away, 1865, one of the new villa owners in the Grange was indignant to find John Dick Lauder had ordered the cutting down of a hedge beside the ancient pathway called Lovers’ Loan. The laird apparently assumed he would succeed in an application to close it off and add an extra strip to his landholding. A court case started, but faded away after firm negotiating by the Town Council meant that Sir John had to back down. What his motives were, it is hard to say. He said at the time that he had given so many new roads to the public, for the convenience of residents of the Grange, that no-one could possibly need the Loan any more. 8

School for Young Ladies

Grange House School for girld, 1864
The Mouats announce they are moving their school to Grange House, 1864

Four sisters, the Misses Mouat, had been running an “establishment for the board and education of young ladies” in South Gray Street. They moved it to Grange House after the young gentlemen left. There were resident “foreign governesses” and the “best masters” attending for “the various branches of education”. The healthy and charming situation was emphasised in advertising, as were the private grounds, and the closeness to the town’s “educational resources”. 9 In 1871 there were over thirty boarders in their late teens living at the school, along with several servants, three governesses from Belgium, Germany, and Shetland and, of course, Barbara, Christina, Marion and Robina Mouat. They paid about £350 a year in rent. 10

Elocution and an Educational Garden

Botanical garden designed by Patrick Geddes for Grange House School in 1883
Botanical garden designed by Patrick Geddes for Grange House in 1883

A new establishment for “the daughters of gentlemen” replaced the Mouats’ in 1882. It may well have attracted the same parents, and yet there were differences of emphasis. Mrs. Whaley Bouchier Nutt, and her husband advertised a gymnasium: unusual for girls at the time, even for graceful exercises. The rose garden was replaced with a unique botanical garden, to support education in natural sciences. Mr. Nutt had expertise in “vocal physiology and elocution” which he believed was essential to good health as well being an art form. 11 He was a tutor at several other educational establishments as well as Grange House.

In 1895 Whaley Nutt died and his widow left Edinburgh. Grange House was then unoccupied for a while except for the gardener, gate-keeper etc. in their cottages.

More about Mr and Mrs Whaley B. Nutt and their school here

Fashionable Society at Grange House again?

By 1901 a retired colonel and his wife were living in Grange House. Alexander Ferrier Kidston-Kerr was the son of a Lanarkshire shipping magnate and went to Merchiston Castle School near Edinburgh. He spent 33 years with the Black Watch, or Royal Highlanders, and won medals for his part in major campaigns in Africa. 12 He and his wife Jean were involved in military charities, went to smart social occasions connected with the Black Watch and the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Help Society, and hosted fund-raising events at Grange House.

There may not have been dancing into the small hours as in the house’s heyday, but at least there was a military band when they held an “American Tea” for charity, in 1904. The event was fulsomely described in the press. For one newspaper, it was the Lord High Commissioner’s appearance among the other 500 guests that led the story. He…

…had tea in the drawing-room and spent almost an hour in the house and grounds…there was a constant stream of carriages and motor cars to the principal gate, over the ivy-clad arch of which three Union Jacks fluttered gaily in the breeze. 13

Another paper concentrated on the ladies’ fashions, saying that some of the frocks were “really worth recording”.

Mrs. Kidston-Kerr’s toilette was grey crepe de chine trimmed with bands of ecru lace and her toque was composed of flowers. 14

The rent on the valuation roll was £220 a year, including a home in the courtyard for the coachman, Horatio Snook. In the Nutts’ time the council’s assessed rental value was £328. Had the house deteriorated so much?

Rubble

old terrace retaining wall
A section of wall likely to have been part of the original terracing in the Grange House gardens.

The colonel died in 1926, aged 84, his wife two years later. Lord and Lady Ashmore lived at the house briefly. 15 Even before the next Dick Lauder baronet inherited in 1936, the property was in the hands of a Mr. A.R. Knox 16 and in that year the house was demolished. New housing and a new road, Grange Crescent, took its place. A section of retaining wall there is probably a remnant of the old garden terracing. 17 Otherwise, only the (re-located) wyverns on gateposts remain nearby, though a few stone pieces with inscriptions and some garden ornaments went to the Huntly House museum, and heaped rubble from 17th century outbuildings lasted into the 1960s.

References

  • David MacGibbon and Thomas Ross, The Castellated and Domestic Architecture of Scotland From the Twelfth to Eighteenth Century Vol V,Douglas 1892
  • Jane Stewart Smith, The Grange of St. Giles, the Bass: and the other baronial homes of the Dick-Lauder family, Constable 1898
  • Historic South Edinburgh, Charles J. Smith, John Donald, 2000
  • Sciennes and the Grange, Malcolm Cant, John Donald, 1990
  • NLS maps online, especially the Ordnance Survey maps of Edinburgh of 1853, 1877, and 1894
  • Caledonian Mercury, Scotsman etc.

Pictures and thanks

Alexander Ferrier Kidston-Kerr, Jean Howe McClure, Catherine Glen Kidston
Grave of Colonel and Mrs. Kidston-Kerr in Grange Cemetery, Edinburgh
  • Grange House was photographed by Jane Stewart Smith in the 1890s.
  • Lovers’ Loan photo is copyright Kim Traynor and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.
  • Thanks to the book below, I discovered what the school “botanical garden” advertised was like, and was able to find Geddes’ design.

Learning from the Lasses: Geddes’s Women: by Walter Stephen, 2014 Edition, Publisher: Luath Press Ltd

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Notes:

  1. Feuing out land means selling it off under the old Scottish land ownership law where the original owner retained certain rights, including the right to a regular payment called feu duty. For this particular case the legal preparation involved an Act of Parliament.
  2. e.g. Caledonian Mercury, 20 August 1846
  3. A few years after inheriting, Sir John leased a country estate at Skene in Aberdeenshire.
  4. George Freeland Barbour (1810-1887) “landed proprietor” on 1861 census, with business and charitable interests, grandfather of more famous namesake.
  5. According to the birthplace given in the census.
  6. Saturday Review of Politics, Literature, Science and Art, Vol. 17, 1864
  7.  Greenock Advertiser, 6 August 1864
  8. Caledonian Mercury,13 April, 1865, and Scotsman, 18 April  and 11 July 1865
  9. Hull Packet, 26 August 1864
  10. See John Dick Lauder’s executors’ inventory, 1867.
  11. Lecture reported in The Dundee Courier & Argus, November 26, 1892
  12. He was a Kidston like his father until 1903 when he inherited an entailed estate in Kinross requiring him to add the name Kerr.
  13. Scotsman, 27 May 1904
  14. Dundee Evening Telegraph, 31 May 1904
  15. Scotsman, 10 March, 1836, and P.O. directories. Lord Ashmore was a judge in the Court of Session.
  16. Scotsman 23 March 1836
  17. It matches the alignment of lines on old maps, too.

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