Jane Stewart Smith, artist and writer

Jane Stewart Smith, undated photgraph, possibly taken by her husband, who was a leading figure in the Edinburgh Photographic Society for many years.
Jane Stewart Smith, undated photograph, possibly taken by her husband.

As soon as Jane Stewart Smith (c1839-1925) settled in Edinburgh, as a young woman, she started sketching the historic Old Town. More than fifty years later she said she wanted to “catch the reverberating echoes of the past as they linger around the old historic buildings”. 1

Edinburgh’s past had a hold on her imagination all her adult life, but there is nothing to show when this started. Very little is known about her before she married an Edinburgh picture framer and dealer, John Stewart Smith, in 1864. She was Jane Eliza James, a governess aged 24, who had been born in London to William Henry Spinks James, a corn merchant, and Eliza Burnet. 2 She had an older sister, Eleanor Mary, who was married to Edinburgh artist John D. Michie.

Edinburgh, old tiled houses 1860s
Old houses opposite South Gray’s Close, 1868,  Jane Stewart Smith

Her watercolours of Edinburgh’s Old Town were shown in an 1868 exhibition in Princes Street. 3 Even at the time these were seen as a valuable record of areas that might soon be demolished, and their importance was evident to later commentators who had seen many changes in the city centre. The pictures are full of architectural detail as well as atmosphere. While chimneys, stairs and stonework are carefully drawn, so too is life in the street, with closely observed “human” touches: bonnets, baskets, carters, traders, and washing hanging from upper windows.

Drawing and painting these scenes meant rising early to get started before there were many people around. A lady at work in the poorest, most cramped parts of town amongst “the denizens of the closes” 4 was seen as unconventional, even daring. In one notorious spot she bought protection with sixpences given to “the biggest bully among the swarm of rough boys”. 5  Her obituaries called her “an interesting personality”. 6.

Mrs Stewart Smith was a lady of marked intelligence, and had a large circle of friends who took delight in hearing her discussing with a note of originality all the many topics in which she was interested. 7

Victorian Duddingston
Duddingston Loch and Church, undated, Jane Stewart Smith

Her landscape paintings were included in almost every Royal Scottish Academy (RSA) exhibition from 1865 to 1887. As well as scenes of Edinburgh past and present, she painted in Fife and East Lothian, and further afield in Scotland. Other RSA pictures of hers were of Shrewsbury, Chester, Rouen and Genoa. Some were bought by Baroness Burdett-Coutts, who also collected the work of much better-known artists.

A Dream and a Book

In 1891 Jane Stewart Smith twice experienced a dream-like series of historical figures appearing one after another in dramatic scenes “like the moving pictures in a camera-obscura”. The first time followed a visit to Grange House where she speculated the vision arose from “…memories floating in the palpitating air surrounding these old historic buildings”. She was inspired to write a book about the Dick Lauder family who had lived there: The Grange of St. Giles. She took photographs for it as well as drawing and painting illustrations.

Belfry Tower, Grange House, published 1898
Belfry Tower, Grange House, 1890s

This book is full of interest, but it needs to be said that Jane Stewart Smith was not an experienced researcher. She was an artist, not an academic. Her creativity and intelligence shine through her work, but here she left herself open to criticism. Romantic imagination sometimes drowned out historical accuracy.  Nor did she have the solid grounding in history needed for such a project. When The Grange of St. Giles was published in 1898 Edinburgh reviews were polite enough, but one in a Glasgow newspaper was not at all complimentary.

…We are sorry to have to point out these serious blunders, especially when they occur in the work of a lady, and we do so only because they disclose an evident incompetence to the task undertaken, the signs of which are nowadays becoming alarmingly common in amateur antiquarian and historical works. 8

War and Peace

The First World War broke out when the Stewart Smiths had been married fifty years. They helped with fund-raising for the Belgian relief effort through the Edinburgh French Protestant church, with which they were both involved. 9 In 1915 Jane Stewart Smith also arranged an exhibition to raise money for the Red Cross. In a room full of her pictures of Old Edinburgh, one wall was dedicated to a new “symbolic” painting, The Dawn of Peace. She explained that it represented:

…the Mystic roll call of the White Cross warriors who have volunteered from every nation and every clime to fight against the Antichrist – the Demon of Hate and Destruction, whose overthrow they are here being called up to witness… 10 

The exhibition got extra attention after a visit by Lord Rosebery, the ex-Prime Minister, who had been invited by the artist. He was “charmed with the drawings of Old Edinburgh”. 11

Loss, a New Book and a Royal Visit

Bakehouse Close, 1870, Jane Stewart Smith
Bakehouse Close, 1870, Jane Stewart Smith

In 1921 John Stewart Smith died and then, six months later, Jane’s sister Eleanor. The three of them had been living together in Portobello along with a younger friend, Catherine Roberts. 12 The twice-bereaved octogenarian widow decided to produce a new book filled with black-and-white versions of her “Old Edinburgh” watercolours and other illustrations. The text offered historical background, anecdotes and memories of her sketching visits. She dedicated it to “the memory of my dear husband John Stewart Smith in affectionate remembrance of our 59 years of happy wedded life”.

In 1924 Historic stones and stories of bygone Edinburgh was published by the author herself. Newspapers commented favourably on the quality and importance of the illustrations. Later that year Queen Mary visited Jane Stewart Smith’s modest suburban home called Fairyville. 13 After a drive from Holyrood House she drank tea and admired her hostess’ art collection, taking a special interest in her views of 1860s Edinburgh. 14 The next year Jane died: on 1 December 1925.

A few years later Catherine Roberts gave 60 of Jane’s water-colours to the Huntly House Museum:

…a unique miniature picture gallery, which furnishes a record of Old Edinburgh … also a splendid and lasting memorial to the lady whose skill has revealed not only her artistry but a passionate love for the Scottish capital… 15

Some of those pictures can be seen here .

There is a picture believed to be a self-portrait of Jane Stewart Smith here, but without a clear provenance. The company just has a description saying “Self-portrait of Jane Stewart Smith (1839-1925), Scottish painter who worked in Edinburgh“.

Illustrations

  • All pictures on this page are taken from Jane Stewart Smith’s books.
  • The title Old houses opposite South Gray’s Close comes from her 1924 book. On the Edinburgh Museums website it is called Antique buildings opposite Mint Close, Cowgate 
  • The date 1637 on the dormer window in the Belfry Tower picture was not an original feature of the house.

References

  • The Grange of St. Giles, the Bass: and the other homes of the Dick-Lauder family, written and illustrated with pen, pencil, and camera, Jane Stewart Smith, Edinburgh 1898
  • Historic stones and stories of bygone Edinburgh, Jane Stewart Smith, Edinburgh 1924
  • The Royal Scottish Academy exhibitors 1826-1990 : a dictionary of artists and their work in the annual exhibitions of the Royal Scottish Academy, Charles Baile de Laperriere, Hilmarton 1991.
  • Dictionary of Scottish art and architecture, Peter J.M. McEwan, Glengarden 2004
  • Birth, marriage, and death records, and censuses available at genealogy websites. (See ‘About’ page)
  • Will of John Stewart Smith, 1 July 1921
  • Street directories from NLS
  • Caledonian Mercury, Scotsman, Edinburgh Evening News and other newspapers
  • Marriage notice, Caledonian Mercury, 8 June 1864
  • Obituary, Scotsman, 2 Dec 1925
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Notes:

  1. Quote from Historic Stones. JSS “settled in Edinburgh after her marriage”, said the Evening News, 27 Aug. 1924.
  2. Both Jane’s parents had died by 1864. Her father’s middle name varied between Sprinks and Spinks in different documents. Her mother’s last name appeared as Burnet(t) on both Jane’s and her sister Eleanor’s marriage records. When they died, information supplied by John Stewart Smith’s son-in-law (James Rae) said Cuthbertson was their mother’s surname. There is one reference book which says she was born in Edinburgh, but that book was compiled before digitisation of documents made it clear that she was born in England with a sister born in Clapham (censuses) and came from London (newspapers). 
  3. At Hill’s Gallery, which was started by Alexander Hill, brother of David Octavius Hill. By 1868 Alexander’s son was running the gallery.
  4. Edinburgh Evening News, 27 August 1924, looking back to her work in the 1860s
  5. At Crombie’s Land, described in Historic Stones
  6. Aberdeen Journal, 3 December 1925
  7. Scotsman, 2 Dec 1925
  8. Glasgow Herald, 10 March 1898
  9. John Stewart Smith took an interest in the French Protestant Church in Edinburgh from its beginnings (c1860?), and Jane took part in its social life. She and her husband offered hospitality to young French-speaking visitors to Edinburgh. When her sister Eleanor married in 1867 one of the witnesses was the daughter of the French-speaking congregation’s minister: Lea Sumichrast-Roussy, whose Swiss father Eugen taught French in Edinburgh as well as preaching etc.
  10. Edinburgh Evening News, 31 March 1915
  11. Edinburgh Evening News, 19 April 1915
  12. Retired dressmaker, born c1859
  13. 72 Argyle Crescent, Portobello
  14. Edinburgh Evening News, 27 Aug 1824
  15. Edinburgh Evening News, 17 June 1932

Wyverns at Grange House, or the Griffin Gates

Wyvern in Grange today
Stone wyvern, 300 years old or more.

Strictly speaking they are wyverns, but they used to be known as griffins 1, or even dragons. Walking along Grange Loan today you will see the pair below have been separated. They now “serve to mark the southern corners of the grounds of Grange House” to east and west. 2

Ornamental gate pillars and stone wyverns marked the southern entrance. Usually said to be from the 17th century.
Ornamental gate pillars and stone wyverns marked the southern entrance. Usually said to be from the 17th century.

The wyverns probably started life on top of 17th century 3 gate pillars at the old northern entrance to the grounds of Grange House. 4 They were moved c1830 to decorate one of the many flights of steps in the terraced garden, which lay on a south-facing slope.

The Entrance to Grange House

Around that time the main entrance was moved too. The new drive began at an ornate arch in Grange Loan, to the south of the house, away from any of the new villas being planned. It turned right for the final 30 metres or so, and Lord Cockburn called it an approach “from the west”: 5

The old approach, which was from the north, and nearly inaccessible, has been given up for the more striking one from the west….

Steps leading down from the old gate pillars topped with wyverns
Steps leading down from the old gate pillars topped with wyverns, 1890s

There are photographs and drawings from the 19th century to show what the mythological creatures looked like as garden ornaments, but sadly no drawings of the pillars in their original position. (As well as the 1890s pictures on this page showing a rather overgrown garden, see this watercolour done in 1876.)

Just before the house was demolished in 1936,  a journalist who visited it with Henry F. Kerr, architect and antiquarian, as his guide, 6 said the “two elaborately-designed pillars surmounted by griffins” were “situated at the top of [a] flight of steps leading from the courtyard, but this probably is not their original site”. In the 1890s they were “at a few yards distance from the north side of the house”, according to McGibbon and Ross. The evidence strongly suggests it was the set of steps shown on the map below that was home to the wyverns after the extensive renovations of about 1830.

Most likely position for the wyverns in Grange House's last century.
Most likely position for the wyverns in Grange House’s last century. OS map from 1893 reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland.

A story about the wyverns – but is it true?

The wyverns at the top of the steps in the 1890s
The wyverns at the top of the steps in the 1890s

Various authors have repeated Jane Stewart Smith’s anecdote about the young Walter Scott climbing up the gateposts to check if the griffins’ tongues were red with fire or with paint. Is there clear evidence for this? Can anyone find it in Scott’s letters or memoirs? Or any biography? 7 Was outdoor stone statuary in Scotland often painted in the 18th century?

Jane Stewart Smith was an artist, not an academic. She put ‘veritable paint or veritable flame’ in italics and in inverted commas, but was she quoting, or building on a story she’d heard? Is there any earlier publication than her The Grange of St. Giles (1898) which mentions Scott playing near Grange House? 8

References and pictures

  • 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
  • NLS maps online
  • The wyvern aka a Lauder griffin, photographer Kim Traynor, licensed under Creative Commons
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Notes:

  1. “The Lauder griffins”, associated with the Lauder side of the Dick Lauder family, owners of Grange House.
  2. Scotsman, 23 March 1936
  3. Or early 18th century?
  4. A little SW of where Lauder Loan leads off Lauder Road, apparently. The old approach from town (pre-1840) appears to have roughly followed the line of today’s Tantallon Place and Cumin Place, passing Grange Farm on the right (west), then swinging towards the house in a straight line that ended in Lauder Loan. This is clearest when using the map layering available on the NLS website, where you can view semi-transparent old maps on top of a modern background.
  5. Journal of Henry Cockburn: Being a Continuation of the Memorials of His Time, Vol. 2, 1874
  6. As part of a visit organised for the Old Edinburgh Club, reported in the Scotsman, 23 March 1936.
  7. It is not in his Antiquities of Scotland which mentions Grange House.
  8. Nothing relevant can be found near the quotation JSS used in her previous sentence to make a point about Scott’s “love of adventure”: “I made a brighter figure in the yards than in class.” Walter Scott’s Biography, Vol 7, by his son-in-law, John Lockhart, an important source for information about Scott’s childhood.

Grange House: from tower house to baronial mansion

Grange House in the early 19th century, before major changes hid its late 16th century shape.
Grange House in the early 19th century, before major changes hid its 16th century shape.

The Grange is an affluent Edinburgh suburb that once upon a time was a medieval farm belonging to the church. Then came a 16th century tower house: Grange House. For more than 200 years this was “a tall grey keep” 1, its entrance topped by a stone lintel carved with the date 1592. 2 It looked much the same until about 1830: an L-shaped, three-storey fortified mansion-house with six-foot thick stone walls. 3

1592 lintel set over the original doorway which was blocked off in the 1830s. Repos a[i]lleurs means 'rest elsewhere',
1592 lintel set over the original doorway.
As well as arable land and pasture, there were also mills, a doocot, and cottages for people working on the Grange estate. 4 In the 1690s, the owner, William Dick, paid a property tax for sixteen dwellings as well as his own. The tax was based on the number of hearths, and reveals that most of the houses belonging to the laird had just one or two fireplaces, while Grange House itself had twelve. 5

“Conveniences for a great family”

The 16th century structure is outlined in red within a ground floor plan of the Victorian mansion. The original entrance is labelled in blue.
The 16th century structure is outlined in red within a ground floor plan of the Victorian mansion. The original entrance is labelled in blue.

Seventy years later, the house was still the same twelve-hearth size. In 1766 the ground floor held a large entrance hall, a vaulted kitchen, a cellar and pantry, and one bedroom with a “light closet” 6 (a dressing room with window). A staircase from the entrance led to the second storey dining room and drawing room, and one more bedchamber. The next floor, up a spiral stair, had three bedrooms, two light closets, and various presses (cupboards). There was also a “large garret for lumber”. Tax was payable for thirty windows, 7 presumably not all in the main house.

1613 coat of arms
1613 wall plaque from the Grange estate

There was a separate “court” with a stable, coach-house, brew-house, pit-well, “several other offices for servants” and “conveniences for a great family”. 8 An arched entrance to this courtyard later displayed a coat of arms dated 1613, but it is not certain that it had always been there. 9 The laundry was done in a washing-house with its own supply of spring water and a drying green. Fruit and flowers were cultivated, as well as vegetables in a kitchen garden. The gardens were partly terraced.

Some of these outbuildings had been constructed in the 17th century. Ornamental gate pillars topped with stone wyverns were probably made in the 17th or early 18th century. These are assumed to have been for the main entrance though they were later moved to an ornamental flight of steps near the house.

“A quiet situation and a beautiful landscape”

Ornamental gate pillars and stone wyverns marked the southern entrance. Usually said to be from the 17th century.
These ornamental gate pillars with stone wyverns are thought to have been at the main entrance until about 1830.

For the next few decades the house was let out. The last resident members of the Dick family died in the 1760s; their ancestors had lived there since 1631. 10 People who rented the house included John Forrest, a merchant burgess and member of Edinburgh town council, who died in 1777. 11 The family of Robert Forrester, treasurer of the Bank of Scotland, lived at Grange House in the early 1800s. 12

The rural atmosphere at Grange House attracted a well-known Edinburgh citizen as tenant, the learned William Robertson. According to a biographer 13, in his last years (1790s) Dr Robertson appreciated Grange House for:

…the advantage of a freer air, and a more quiet situation, … the pleasure of rural objects, and of a beautiful landscape. While he was able to walk abroad, he commonly passed a part of the day in a small garden, enjoying the simple gratifications it afforded with all his wonted relish. Some who now hear me will long remember—among the trivial yet interesting incidents which marked these last weeks of his memorable life—his daily visits to the fruit trees, which were then in blossom…

Balconies and balustrades

View from south west in 1825
View from south west in 1825

Sir Thomas Dick Lauder, great-grandson of the last resident owner, decided to modernise and double the size of Grange House, and spend a good part of the year there. He wanted to move his large family to Edinburgh 14 for the city’s  educational and social opportunities, apparently. 15

View from south-west in about 1890. Follow the battlements if you want to compare it with the 1825 drawing.
View from south-west in about 1890. Follow the battlements to help compare with the 1825 drawing.

Before his builders set to work, Sir Thomas sketched the old house (above). The extension 16 and embellishments, in Scottish baronial style, blended quite easily with the old tower house, especially once it was all harled. Inside, the old dining and drawing rooms were knocked through to make a big new dining room, 45 feet long. Jane Stewart Smith, who described the house with great enthusiasm in the 1890s, was not sure how much of its “antique character” was original: for instance the panelling and a beamed ceiling in the old part of the house. The light, modern drawing room had a “lofty” ceiling and two large oriel windows. One window had a balcony leading to a romantic garden nook with stone seats, via a turret and steps.

One of the "antique fiery dragons": the wyvern at Lover's Loan. Photo by Kim Traynor.
One of the “antique fiery dragons”: the wyvern now at Lover’s Loan. Photo by Kim Traynor

The gardens were dramatically re-designed. There was a bowling-green surrounded by statues, 17 shrubberies, seats, sun-dials and other ornaments. “Gas apparatus” for “lighting up the old terraced gardens” was acquired. 18

…the garden preserved but greatly improved…the place is rich (perhaps rather too rich) in evergreens, statues, vases, stairs, balustrades, terraces… 19

This was a fine setting for a wealthy family to entertain friends. In 1840 they arranged particularly impressive festivities to follow the wedding of Charlotte Dick Lauder. The garden lamps shone on the house, light blazed from the windows, and a newspaper report 20 of the splendour and spectacle even described the “antique fiery dragons” on the gate pillars as “spouting real fire”. After a 100lb wedding cake had been cut, and a band had played for a couple of hours, there was a fireworks display arranged by a “celebrated fireworker”. The supper room was dressed with evergreens and dahlias, and festooned with coloured lamps. Dancing continued “with great spirit” until five o’clock in the morning.

Cottages in 1865 at entrance to Grange House
Cottages in 1865 at entrance to Grange House

Beyond the grand house, times were changing. More than a hundred houses were planned for estate land to north and east of the mansion. Building plots for these were advertised in the 1850s and 1860s, 21 but even in 1865 there were quiet, semi-rural patches nearby. The Grange estate still had a shepherd as one of its tenants. 22 On the southern side of the mansion house, Grange Loan remained undeveloped, except for a couple of lamp-posts. The ivy-smothered cottages, said to date back to the mid-18th century at least, 23 were eventually cleared in the 1880s to make way for a new Grange House Lodge. The ancient lane, Lovers’ Loan, reached through an opening in the wall just beyond the arched entrance next to the cotttages, has survived to this day, despite an attempt by Sir John Dick Lauder to close it and take possession. The mansion itself was demolished in 1936. For more about Grange House’s later days in the 19th and early 20th centuries click here.

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 (newspaper)

Pictures

Most are from the books above, except for:

  • The wyvern aka a Lauder griffin, photographer Kim Traynor, licensed under Creative Commons
  • The first picture of Grange House, from Views in Edinburgh and its Vicinity Vol I, J and H Storer,  Constable 1820
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Notes:

  1. According to Henry Cockburn, reminiscing about his youth in Memorials of His Time
  2. There may well have been an earlier building there, but expert opinion including McGibbon and Ross suggests this particular house was built in the late 1500s.
  3. It is possible that windows in the third storey were altered during those centuries.
  4. Specified in Disposition (legal document) when sold to William Dick in 1631, as transcribed by Jane Stewart Smith.
  5. Hearth tax records for Midlothian, volume 3 (Edinburgh and Leith), 1695
  6. 18th century house description mostly from “To Let” advertisements in the Caledonian Mercury during 1766 and 1771, plus details from other sources referenced on this page.
  7. Midlothian window tax records 1755-56, vol 75
  8. Caledonian Mercury 1766 and 1771
  9. Jane Stewart Smith
  10. Isobel Dick, the one remaining descendant of the family, married Sir Andrew Lauder, and their children grew up at his Fountainhall estate near Pencaitland, East Lothian.
  11. J.S. Smith.  Debrett’s Baronetage of England (1839) calls him “John Forrest of the Grange”, says he married the daughter of a baronet and died in 1778. Parish records call him bailie and give his death date as 1777.
  12. His daughter Anne married there in 1817 and he died at the house in 1824. Blackwood’s Magazine, Vols. 1 and 16
  13. Dugald Stewart, in his preface to Works of William Robertson DD to which is Prefaced an Account of the Life and Writings of the Author, Cadell 1827
  14. From Relugas House in Morayshire
  15. J.S. Smith, Chap 24. Though she does not give a source she had talked to Sir Thomas’ daughter, Cornelia.
  16. There were 35 rooms with windows, according to later censuses.
  17. One of these statues, a “Greek maiden”, was in the garden of Huntly House at one time. Scotsman, 18 August 1939
  18. Caledonian Mercury, 28 Sep 1840
  19. Henry Cockburn, Memorials, Black 1856
  20. Caledonian Mercury, 28 Sep 1840
  21. Edinburgh Evening Courant and Scotsman advertising referring to Cousins’ and Raeburn’s Feuing Plans
  22. Valuation rolls
  23. Date according to Jane Stewart Smith, who also said the cottages were a wonderfully picturesque subject for artists, a “constant theme for landscape painters”, and sketched them herself. George Harvey, president of the RSA, included them in his painting, The Bowlers. One painting shown at the RSA in 1878 was Old Cottages, Grange Loan, by John Reid. Another by James Heron exhibited in 1873 was Roadside Cottages, Grange Loan. Were they of these?

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.