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Lennoxlove

 

 

 

 

 

LennoxloveMany a grand house in Scotland has suffered the indignities of neglect, decay and demolition and for a while it looked as though Lennoxlove might be among them. Rising damp and rampant dry rot had destroyed the interiors of several historic rooms and the entire house needed to be re-roofed, re-wired and re-plumbed. It was clear that a great deal of money was needed to put things right. The 15th Duke of Hamilton, who had spent much of his childhood here, decided that a complete refurbishment was the only sensible option. His father bought Lennoxlove House as a family home in 1947, and had used its grand rooms to display one of Britain’s most important art collections. The late Duke formed a charity, the Lennoxlove Trust, in 1987 to ensure the house would be preserved. In 2004 the trustees set about two years of planning which was to pave the way for 18 months of meticulous restoration.


The house is now an exclusive-use venue, a luxurious retreat for visitors who have the desire and the financial wherewithal to live like a Duke, at least for a short while. There seems to be no shortage of well-heeled Americans and Russians prepared to spend significant sums to taste, albeit briefly, the lifestyle of Scotland’s premier peer. Unashamedly pitched at the top end of the market, Lennoxlove’s success no doubt owes much to the perception of exclusivity: Edinburgh is just half an hour away and yet the house is surrounded by 460 acres of walled parkland and manicured gardens, a glorious green and golden buffer zone that ensures complete privacy. Lennoxlove House’s Chief Executive, Fraser Niven explained that the Duke of Hamilton’s primary concern was to ensure the future of Lennoxlove by making the house self-supporting. It is now owned by Lennoxlove House Limited, a company whose profits are being re-invested in the property.


The Trust supports the company by contributing to the repair and maintenance costs. “When we embarked on this restoration,” Mr Niven said, “everyone was determined that it should be done properly. Many of the rooms in the tower and on the top floors, which were once occupied by the Duke and Duchess and their family, had not been used for many years. Dry rot had set in so they all had to be stripped back to the bare stone. It was quite sad to walk around up there. Now that all the work is complete, the transformation is absolutely stunning. It has cost well over £3 million, but it’s been money well-spent.” One of the more significant costs was plumbing. Knowing the American predilection for long, hot showers, Mr Niven said he specified that there be “enough hot water so that every guest could take a shower and bath at the same time and at mains pressure without having any impact on the heating system.” “There’s no point,” he said, “in having a hot dribble”. The result is that Lennoxlove now has three boilers, which is just as well. The bathrooms are so luxurious that some of the lady guests have spent virtually all their time in them.

 

The Duke of Hamilton is the Keeper of the Palace of Holyrood House (the Queen’s official residence in Scotland) and in the 1950s and 60s the late Duke’s parents commissioned the distinguished interior designer, John Fowler of Colefax and Fowler, to create decorative schemes for their private apartments at Holyrood. At the same time, John Fowler was asked to help decorate the State Rooms at Lennoxlove. “We wanted to refresh and refurbish those rooms,” Mr Niven said, “and yet also retain the thought and design that had gone into them previously.” John Fowler’s interior design influence can be seen in two of the most beautiful rooms at Lennoxlove, the Blue Room which features his distinctive wallpaper, handblocked in France for the refurbishment, and the vibrant Yellow Room where brilliant colour highlights the magnificent Hamilton family art works. Lennoxlove House has had a fascinating and well-documented history.

 

In the sixteenth century it was the home of William Maitland, Queen Mary “Secretary Lethington”. The tower was extended in 1626 with the addition of the long east wing, a twostorey cap-house on the original parapet walk and various internal improvements, and in 1644 with a further tower to the south-east.


With the failure of the Maitland line following the death of John Maitland, 1st Duke of Lauderdale, in 1682, Lethington (as the house was then known) was sold to Charles Stewart, Duke of Richmond and Lennox, whose wife, Frances ‘la belle Stuart’, was the favourite, and possibly mistress, of Charles II. When she died in 1702 her will decreed that her nephew, Lord Blantyre, ‘buy a house and remember her’.


Lethington was duly bought and renamed as “Lennox love to Blantyre”. A contemporary of Blantyre, the Duchess of Hamilton (Duchess Anne), commented in her correspondence that this name was “ridiculous”. It was subsequently shortened to Lennoxlove. After further extensions and alterations in the 19th and 20th centuries, including those undertaken for the Baird owner by Robert Lorimer in 1912, the house was purchased by the Duke of Hamilton in 1947. Until its demolition in 1919, the Hamilton family seat had been Hamilton Palace in Lanarkshire, which was by far the largest and most magnificent house in Scotland and could hold its own proudly against any of the stately homes of England. It housed one of the world’s greatest private art collections. Its magnificence was made possible by the apparently limitless wealth conferred upon the Hamiltons by their mineral rights in the Lanarkshire coalfields. Ironically, it was the relentless pursuit of coal that eventually caused the Palace to subside and collapse. Mr Niven explained that two pits were sunk at Bothwell about two miles from Hamilton. “Coal miners are coal miners,” he said, “and where there’s coal, they’ll take it. Unfortunately the seam ran right under Hamilton Palace. When the coal was exhausted, the ground beneath the palace began to crack and subside. Eventually the entire Palace had to be pulled down.” Much of the vast Hamilton art collection was subsequently sold and dispersed to museums and institutions across the world, although many of the most beautiful paintings, porcelain and furnishings from Hamilton Palace are now on public display at Lennoxlove. Amongst those treasures is a macabre death mask, said to be of Mary Queen of Scots, a wax cast that shows just how beautiful and how serene she was, moments after her execution.


There is also a beautiful silver casket similar to, or perhaps even the very one, that contained the notorious Casket Letters, the supposed evidence of Mary’s plotting, which was used to secure her conviction for treason.

 

Towards the rear of the house, the Museum Rooms reflect the interests of the most recent generations of the family. The present Duke’s grandfather was chief pilot for the first flight over Everest, and there are photographs of the expedition which took place in 1933.

Other items include the map and compass carried by Reichsfuhrer Rudolf Hess on his trip to Scotland in 1941 when he apparently hoped to persuade the 14th Duke of Hamilton to use his influence to stop the Second World War.

The 15th Duke has made a collection of British motorcycles, with one for each decade from 1900 up to 1980. The oldest is a G.A.C.S. (Glasgow Auto Cycle Service) of about 1907 and the youngest being a Norton 850 Commando dated 1977.

A recent addition to the castle’s attractions is a room commemorating the life of the historical author Nigel Tranter (1909-2000). His novels have a worldwide following, and the exhibition features a video film, and details of his work.

 

 

One need not necessarily be a millionaire to visit Lennoxlove. Over the summer months from Easter to October, the house is open for public inspection three afternoons a week. Fraser Niven stressed that the Duke of Hamilton is particularly keen to allow the house to tell its own story and the Hamilton story. “He wants to make it accessible to as many people as possible,” he said. If you are among those who can afford to stay at Lennoxlove House, you might like to have some inkling of the cost. Danielle Ellis, who was recently appointed General Manager, explained that there are 11 bedrooms including two two-bedroom suites, six that have en-suite bathrooms and another which has a room adjacent to it. The luxurious Tower suites are in the oldest part of the house, which dates from the 14th century. “We are targeting several markets for the House,” Mrs Ellis said. “These include private groups taking advantage of the more than 20 golf courses in the area, companies wanting to wine and dine their clients and, of course, our wedding parties.” Wedding ceremonies are performed in the Undercroft, then guests are free to roam about the house enjoying the beautiful paintings and artefacts until the wedding breakfast is served in the Great Hall, or a marquee for larger events. “We charge a facility fee of £5,500,“ Mrs Ellis said, “and up to £3,300 for the guest bedrooms.


“The wedding breakfast is charged separately, depending on the number of guests and the menus chosen. Many wedding guests make a weekend of it. They arrive on Friday at lunchtime and leave on Sunday morning by which time everyone has had a truly memorable weekend. I have a highly trained staff on hand to make sure the guests feel right at home. We have guests from all over the world, but especially from the United States. The Americans are particularly keen on the idea of being King and Queen for a day.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Last modified: Saturday, 18 March 2017