Mavisbank House

Mavisbank House from the rear
©2022 Gazetteer for Scotland

Mavisbank House from the rear

Located at Polton, just to the south of Loanhead, looking down onto the River North Esk, Mavisbank was a fine Palladian mansion built between 1723 and 1727 by William Adam (1689 - 1748), working closely with its owner Sir John Clerk of Penicuik (1676 - 1755), who himself had prepared the initial designs. Clerk nurtured Adam's talent and took him to England to view the work of Sir John Vanbrugh (1664 - 1726), including Castle Howard. Mavisbank shows these influences, together with others from the Mauritshuis in The Hague (Netherlands). Always intended as a second home by Clerk, the house is of two storeys (a third intended by Adam was resisted by Clerk) with five bays. Mavisbank's significance is as the perfectly-proportioned model for the classical style which was popularised by the Adam family.

After the Clerk family sold the house in 1815, it was extended by adding two sizeable wings in the 1840s. By the end of the 19th Century Mavisbank was in use as an asylum.

Bought by a local car-breaker, Archie Stevenson, the house fell into disrepair. The 19th C. wings were demolished in 1954 and the entire house was gutted by fire in 1973, leaving a bare shell. Its demolition was only averted by the intervention of the Secretary of State for Scotland in 1987 and it is now Category 'A' listed. Despite many local supporters, its rescue was prevented by questionable ownership following Stevenson's death. By the early 21st C. Midlothian Council had indicated they would issue a Compulsory Purchase Order and pass ownership to the Mavisbank Trust. In 2003, the house appeared on the BBC television programme Restoration, at which time the cost of repairs and reconstruction was put at £7 million.

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