THE STORY OF

THE LOST GARDEN OF PENICUIK

PENICUIK COMMUNITY FOOD PROJECT RESTORING THE LOST GARDEN

An initiative of the Penicuik Community Development Trust

FEBRUARY 2012: THE PROJECT BEGINS

In February 2012, after three years of negotiations with the owners, the Trust began a long-term lease on the great brick-built Penicuik Estate Walled Garden. It’s the first step in what we see as a 50 year project for food production and garden restoration.

This page briefly outlines the story of the Garden over the years

For a fuller version see www.lostgarden.co.uk/story

 

 

For lots of images of the Lost Garden see http://www.makers.org.uk/penicuik/lostgarden

For progress with the restoration see www.makers.org.uk/penicuik/lostgardenlatest and our project website www.makers.org.uk/penicuik/food

 

For a 2009 inaugural prospectus see www.makers.org.uk/penicuik/fwalledgarden2009june

For our Town Centre ideas for the Pen-y-Coe Press see www.kosmoid.net/penicuik/press

 

THE CHANGING FORTUNES OF THE LOST GARDEN

THE LOST GARDEN OF PENICUIK

THE LOST GARDEN OF PENICUIK

THE LOST GARDEN OF PENICUIK

THE LOST GARDEN OF PENICUIK

LOST GARDEN OF PENICUIK: REMAINS OF WEST PEACH HOUSE

 

 

LOST GARDEN OF PENICUIK: STOVEHOUSE FRUIT STORE

 

 

THE LOST GARDEN OF PENICUIK: GRAND STAIRCASE

 

THE LOST GARDEN OF PENICUIK

 

THE LOST GARDEN OF PENICUIK

 

LANDMARKS IN THE LIFE OF THE LOST GARDEN

  

In the 1760s Sir James Clerk the 3rd Baronet created the unusual semicircular walled garden at Eskfield, south-west of Penicuik House, at the bottom of the hill beside the river Esk.  Never lost from view, this is sometimes now known as the Old Garden

  

The Cornton Burn flows through the Old Garden and joins the river Esk immediately to the south.  Inside the Garden is a two-storey pavilion by John Baxter, of brick with stone dressings and a pedimented gable with vases. For the next hundred years and more this Garden at Eskfield continued to provide the estate’s needs.  This old garden has remained visible in the landscape unlike its later successor the Lost Garden which has become hidden from public view.

JOHN CLAUDIUS LOUDON (1783-1843) AND HIS MAGAZINE

By the time of the great Scots-born garden and landscape writer John Claudius Loudon the Old Garden had been fitted out with an extensive range of glasshouses, which Loudon recorded before his death in 1843.  No matter what steps were taken to warm the houses, the Old Garden’s location  was still beset by cold air drainage from the Pentlands along the Esk valley floor. This problem was to be rectified by the creation of the New Garden further uphill north-northeast of the House and stables in the time of Sir George Douglas Clerk the 8th baronet in the 1870s.

 

PATENT GLASS HOUSE ADVERTISING 1868

Ever since gardener Joseph Paxton’s extravaganza of the Crystal Palace in 1851 there had an intensification of interest in horticulture. New forms of Patent Glass House had been springing up in the 1860s, and in Scotland elaborate growing arrangements were being put in place by wealthy patrons like sugar merchant James Duncan in his fernery at Benmore, Dunoon, municipalities like Edinburgh with elaborate glasshouses at West Princes Street Gardens, and commercial market growers like William Thomson with Britain’s best-known vineries at Clovenfords alongside the Peeblesshire Railway.

Blackwoods published William Thomson’s THE GARDENER in Edinburgh in the 1860s & 70s.

It was imbued with John Claudius Loudon’s practicality and graced with his initials (see right) 

In Penicuik by 1881 the house in the Old Garden was being looked after by the Penicuik Estate’s young forester, 27 year-old James Martin from Echt in Aberdeenshire.  The Mungall boys (William Mungall 26 from Muiravonside, James Jackson 24 from Deeside, Tom Stark 24 from West Linton, Archie Salmond 17 from Linlithgow and John Mungall 20 from Muiravonside) were beside the Old Garden in their portable sawmill.  All the gardeners were to be found elsewhere, at the New Garden.

DESIGNED TO FLANK A NEW DRIVE FROM TYMPANY LODGE & LOWRIES DEN

The New Garden had been built around 1877.  An extraordinarily detailed overall plan for it -signed M / or M A- was made in 1873, and the garden was made to almost exactly this pattern in the following few years.  The design was geared to horticultural production on a very big scale: vegetables, flowers and fruit.  Plans for the stairway to connect the two main levels were drawn up by John Leslie in 1875.  With its imposing gates, grand staircase and hothouses ranged along the skyline the New Garden would be an astonishing ornament to a newly diverted drive across a new bridge from Tympany Lodge. Then, after a hundred years, it would begin to vanish like a mirage.  This is the Lost Garden we now seek to restore.

THE LOST GARDEN OF PENICUIK: PLAN OF 1873 (click here for pdf view)

Designed by a confident, experienced and perhaps older hand, someone maybe based in England (the word “brook” is used), the originator remains a mystery to us until more research is done.  In 1873 the country’s prominent designer, who had had the support of the late J.C. Loudon, was Robert Marnock, with his assistant/successor Joseph Meston.

Here in the  late 1870s then, in a much less visited part of the estate north of Penicuik House and flanking the west bank of the Siller Burn, appeared the magnificence of the great new walled Garden with its 110 yards of continuous glasshouse. Note the two chimneys in the picture below, these correspond to the position of stoke holes on the plan.  The nearer one on the right was attached to the range of buildings flanking the glasshouses, beside the live-in gardeners accommodation.  The other, just to the left of it in this picture, is further uphill next to the Garden’s main north gate (of which only the rabbit-proof stone baseplate remains), beside the vanished Manure Yard and Hot Pits for cucumbers, melons, forcing and propagating.  As designed, the main range of glass seen here consisted of a central conservatory flanked by two pairs of vineries, a stove house and greenhouse in symmetrical formation, with a peach house beyond forming both ends of the range.

 The stonework of the new Garden’s construction was possibly supervised by the stairway designer John Leslie, or more likely by Penicuik builder James Tait.  The much more extensive brickwork was probably made and laid under the supervision of local specialist John Dennis of Eskbridge –no stranger to chimneys.  Both these men later adorned the local bench of magistrates and were to be guests at the eldest Clerk son’s coming of age party.  The new Garden’s hothouses and their heating pipes may have been fitted out at the start by local specialists Mackenzie & Moncur of Balcarres Street, Morningside, who certainly prepared plans to improve some of them in 1896.

 

Balcarres Street was itself a nod to the Lindsay Earls of Crawford and Balcarres, coal and ironmasters of South Lancashire and South Wales, whose interests in astronomy, alchemy and homeopathy were well-known and whose Wigan Company was perhaps the biggest industrial, chemical and transport undertaking of the age.  Parts of Balcarres’s  extensive Haigh Hall greenhouses are shown in the two pictures below.  The Wigan Company had employed John Young the Dalkeith gas specialist in coking experiments at Aspull from 1868, he was back in Midlothian by 1873.  John Dennis became Young’s executor when he died in 1886.

AMONG THE EXTENSIVE HEATED GREENHOUSES AT HAIGH HALL, NOW NO MORE

 

At Penicuik the straightforward iron perimeter estate fencing (some can still be seen in front around the main gates and on the west side towards the garden gasworks) was by Thomas Gibson and Sons of Bainfield House Foundry, Edinburgh, at Gibson Terrace where Fountainbridge Library now stands.  Some of Gibson’s simple fencing still graces the perimeter of The Meadows and Edinburgh’s Bruntsfield Links.

THE LOST GARDEN OF PENICUIK : MAIN GATES & GIBSON FENCING LONG AGO

Gibson’s fencing provided the rabbit-proof outer defence around the full outer area of the Garden and divided the sections both around and inside the big walled square.  As set out, the Penicuik walled square was quartered around a raised-edge fountain pond.  This was a familiar pattern, seen on a large scale at  Sugnall Walled Garden, Staffordshire laid out by John Campbell Lord Glenorchy from 1738.

 

SUGNALL AND QUADRANTS OF PENICUIK’S LOST GARDEN: NOW VANISHING

Penicuik’s quadrants were edged with fencing, paths and fruit trees, and each quadrant was to be divided longitudinally into three broad bands separated with more lines of fruit trees.  But Penicuik lacked one element of its 1873 plan.  The need for economy was already evident while the garden was still under construction in 1877.  In that year Stuart Neilson WS of North Charlotte Street reported to Sir George Clerk “on the amount of labour required to lay out the new gardens at Penicuik House... and afterwards the staff required to properly cultivate and keep them in good order”.  Perhaps as a result of this it appears that an important second and lower line of six glasshouses along the north side of the square, three on each side of the foot of the Grand Staircase, was never built. The Fig House, Plum House, Cherry House, Apricot House, Late Peach House and Orchard House “for choice pears” appear to have been left out to trim costs as the full expense of the walled garden investment began to be felt.

THE LOST GARDEN OF PENICUIK: GLASSHOUSES BUILT (27-31) AND LEFT OUT (34-39)

 

THE LOST GARDEN OF PENICUIK: WITH HEAD GARDENER’S HOUSE ON THE LEFT

Taking up residence in the purpose-built detached two-storey Head Gardener’s House just west of the top of the gardens was Charles Buchanan, a young man in his twenties born in Luss, the Colquhoun estate on Loch Lomondside. His wife Annie and her Devine relatives were from Carnwath, Lanarkshire. Perhaps she had been at the great estate where Charles had gained highly-regarded experience, or perhaps he had himself been employed near New Lanark or Carnwath where there were extensive conservatories on the estates of wealthy patrons like Charles Walker and Norman Macdonald Lockhart of Lee.

Charles Buchanan later rose to the position of factor of Penicuik Estate. The Factor  -or more correctly Land Steward- in 1881 was Charles S. France, a council member of the Royal Scottish Arboricultural Society, who lived at Bank House just inside the Estate’s lodge gates at Penicuik Station.  France left the estate for Bridge of Dee, and Bank House later became the home of Penicuik’s famous minister-novelist S. R. Crockett. 

ON SHOW AT THE POPULAR INTERNATIONAL FORESTRY EXHIBITION:  EDINBURGH: 1885

A new electric tram is tried by Midlothian MP and woodsman W.E. GLADSTONE who donated an axe

But Charles Buchanan continued to live in the Head Gardener’s House by the New Gardens, and his wife ran a Sabbath School in the garden’s Fruit House in the furthest right section of the bothy buildings shown below.  Charles became a keen curler, as you’d expect from someone exposed to Penicuik’s well-known enthusiasm for the game.  Also, not unexpectedly, he joined the Royal Scottish Arboricultural Society in 1885.  This was the year when the Society arranged the great International Forestry Exhibition in the fields and grounds around Donaldson’s Hospital for the Deaf with a timber station at Roseburn.  The Caledonian Railway ran trains from their Edinburgh terminus at the west end of Princes Street.  The Donaldson Hospital clerk and adviser was none other than Penicuik estate clerk and adviser Stuart Neilson WS.  With Prime Minister Gladstone as Midlothian’s Member of Parliament and himself a keen woodsman, the international exhibition was given all the resources of Whitehall to persuade other countries to participate.  Its great timber halls filled with displays of forestry practice and innumerable forest products from Japan, the United States, and India brought thousands of visitors including the Prince and Princess of Wales to Edinburgh. It was a chance to take a look at the Forth Bridge, the engineering wonder of the world like a great timber bridge in steel, which was being built at the same time under the supervision of Kaichi Watanabe its Japanese site engineer.  The Society made no secret of its intention to make Edinburgh the world centre of forestry education and excellence.  Charles Buchanan rose to become vice-president of the Society in 1897 and took part in their official visit to Dublin that year.  He was also to achieve a moment of fame in the national press in 1899 as we’ll see when the story unfolds.

THE LOST GARDEN OF PENICUIK: RANGE OF BOTHY AND PROCESS ROOMS ALONG  NORTH SIDE

Staying towards the middle of the new brick-built range of bothy buildings on the north side, with its 3 gardeners bedrooms, scullery and mess-room, was the Garden’s 6-man team, all of them single in the 1881 census. The Foreman was James Borthwick aged 26 from Ecclesmachan in Linlithgowshire. Under him were four journeymen: Elvin Jackson aged 27 from England, Andrew Porter aged 29 from Alvah, Banffshire, Thomas Wilson aged 18 from Newburn, Fife, and John Napier aged 19 from Penicuik. The apprentice gardener was Donald McKay aged 19 from Dingwall in Ross and Cromarty.

 

A Trust had been set up for the marriage of Sir George and his wife Aymee Napier-Milliken in 1876.  But difficulties associated with some of the Scottish investment in American transcontinental railroad ventures were already causing unease in financial circles and led to the failure of the City of Glasgow Bank in 1878.  A lot of Scotland’s much-vaunted sense of financial security now began to unravel, and respected Edinburgh accountant George Auldjo Jamieson was engaged as the man best able to take charge of the Glasgow Bank crisis and prevent the collapse of the other Scottish banks.  His stabilising presence was seen as a way to gain time for the careful and creative responses needed to weather the storm.  And he came forward to lead the Trustees in seeking solutions to Penicuik Estate’s now-pressing financial problems. 

A private Penicuik Trust Estates Act was carried through Parliament in 1883 to allow the Trustees led by Jamieson greater freedom to take charge of the Estate’s affairs.

THE LOST GARDEN OF PENICUIK : WEST PEACH HOUSE AS IT WAS LONG AGO

Although the horticultural climate might have been better at the new Garden, the economic climate of the next few years was disastrous, particularly for those who had borrowed heavily for grand projects on the back of doubtful speculations.  Financial ruin faced many overstretched families with the near-collapse of Barings Bank in the panic of 1890 and its subsequent rescue by the Bank of England.

The first ten years of the walled garden had already proved expensive and ideas were put forward to reduce running costs. A “Memorandum by the Penicuik Estate Trustees in regard to Penicuik Gardens” prepared in January 1889 records that if “the Conservatory & vineries were to be allowed to go out of use and the new garden were to be cropped with turnips and potatoes the wages of two men or even possibly three might be saved”.  This looks like a deliberately provocative option.  Turnips and potatoes were hardly likely to find favour with gilt-edged investors.  It was thought in professional circles around this time that the Prince of Wales and Princess Alexandra could be in the market for an estate near Edinburgh, and the Duddingston House Estate was at one time put forward as a possibility.  The Memorandum shows that the Trustees were actively considering sale of the estate even in the 1880s.  They had their sights set high.  It was a question of finding the right moment.    The Memorandum advised that “in the event of it being found necessary ultimately to bring the estate to sale, the Trustees are satisfied that the detriment to the value of the property by dilapidating the new Gardens... would be ten times as great as any saving that could be effected within at least the three years during which it is proposed to suspend the question of sale”. 

 

Late in 1890, as the financial climate continued to worsen, the moment seemed to have arrived.  The palatial Penicuik House and Estate, with the great new Garden, was put up for sale by the Trustees responsible for clearing the accumulated debts.

SOCIETY SMALL-TALK. …The splendid estate of Penicuik, in the counties of Midlothian and Peebles, is to be offered for sale at Edinburgh to-morrow. This property, which belongs to Sir George Clerk, extends to nearly eleven thousand acres. and the reserve price is two hundred and twenty thousand pounds.  Penicuik House, a magnificent Grecian mansion on the wooded slope of the Pentland Hills, about nine miles south of Edinburgh, is one of the finest country places in Scotland.  The house presents a  most imposing appearance, especially on the north side, where there is a superb portico supported on eight immense Ionic columns, and approached by three stately flights of stairs.  The principal drawing-room has an exquisite ceiling, painted by Runciman with subjects from Ossian's poems, and the cupolas surmounting the staircases are also painted in fresco. The demesne, which covers eight hundred acres, is beautifully laid out and very richly wooded, and is intersected by the Esk, and contains three most picturesque lakes. The ruins of the ancient castles of Brunstane, Ravensneuk, and Uttershill are on the outskirts of the Penicuik demesne, which contains the tower of Terregles, from which one of the finest views in the Lowlands is obtained on a clear day, The fruit and flower gardens, which extend to twelve acres, are among the best in the country, and there is an immense range of glasshouses. There is also a very pretty American garden near the house. The walks through the Den of the Esk are lovely. There are about thirteen hundred acres of woodland on the estate, which affords first rate shooting.

 

But in that difficult decade no buyer could be found and a series of leases were arranged.  Then the darkest day for the estate arrived in 1899 while the house and grounds were being tenanted under lease to the prominent Edinburgh legal family of R. B. Ranken W.S. 

 

On 16th June 1899 an outbreak of fire completely gutted Penicuik House.

 

Next day, under the headlines DESTRUCTIVE FIRE AT PENICUIK. HISTORIC HOUSE BURNED, the Dundee Telegraph described the scene to its readers:

Penicuik House, so well known for its Ossian Hall, was destroyed by fire yesterday. About 1 o'clock the butler saw smoke issuing from the roof, and the alarm was at once given. Mr Charles Buchanan, the estate factor, was early on the spot, and caused the house hose to be directed on to a bedroom in the north-east corner of the building on the top flat, where the fire was first noticed. Mr Buchanan promptly sent messengers to Penicuik and Glencorse Barracks, and telegraphed to Edinburgh for assistance. By two o'clock Penicuik Fire Brigade, shortly afterwards followed by the steamer from Valleyfield Mills, accompanied by Mr Alexander Cowan and Mr R. C. Cowan, and a large number of their workmen, and the fire picket of the Royal Scots, Glencorse Barracks, about 70 in number, under Captain H. E. P. Nash and Sergeant-Major Nash, appeared on the scene.   Vigorous efforts were made to extinguish the fire, and at three o'clock a detachment of the Edinburgh Fire Brigade, under Firemaster Pordage, arrived, and did excellent work, but with a strong east wind blowing the fire was carried rapidly from room to room, and at six o'clock last night the whole building was gutted except the basement. Special efforts were made to save the Ossian Hall, with its rich mural decorations by Runciman, and the charter room. The fate of the former was watched with deep regret by a large number of the townspeople, and about four o'clock the roof on which the valuable painting was gave way with a crash. The charter room is understood to have withstood the flames, as it is strongly built with brick. Nearly all the furniture and other valuables were saved by the many willing helpers, which included clergymen and ladies and gentlemen in the locality. Penicuik house, the property of Sir George Clerk, Bart, of Penicuik, was in the occupancy of Mr Ranken, W.S., Edinburgh, and was one of the most imposing mansion-houses in the county. The central portion was designed and built in 1761 by Sir James Clerk, the third Baronet, after his return from a long residence in Italy. The two wings were erected in 1857, and the whole ground covered is 180 feet by 78. The central portion is three storeys in height, while the wings are four storeys high. The Ossian decorations, by Alexander Runciman, in the drawing-room were familiar to all students of decorative art, while the adornment by the same artist of one of the cupolas surmounting the staircase with scenes from the life of Queen Margaret was remarkable for its richness of tone and dramatic power of illustration. The building is believed to be insured. It is generally believed the fire originated through the overheating of the chimney.

THE STABLES: CONVERTED FOR FAMILY USE IN 1902 AFTER THE FIRE IN THE MAIN HOUSE

Mr and Mrs Ranken returned to their house the next day leaving the estate factor Charles Buchanan to sort through the ruin and to superintend the removal of the salvaged contents to the stables nearby. For a brief time in 1900 it seemed the house might be rebuilt.  Local builder James Tait offered to rebuild the house and finish it, apart from the top floor, for as little as £4,500.  The insurance company refused to pay the full sum for which the house had been covered, on the grounds that the walls still stood. and without the insurance even Tait’s estimate was beyond the means of Sir George.   Lady Clerk had come up to Scotland immediately after the fire to take charge of the family's affairs. She decided to convert the stables including the coach house, brew house and bakery to become the main family accommodation in 1902.  James Tait was employed for the conversion. 

THE LOST GARDEN GLASSHOUSES LAST A CENTURY FROM LATE 1870s TO LATE 1970s

 

Steps had already been taken to ensure that the magnificent walled Garden, “among the best in the country”, would pay its way  as a commercial enterprise. The Trustees could save on employment costs by leasing the Garden to a market gardener as a going concern.  In 1900 a lease was drawn up with William Angus and an inventory prepared of all the plants under cultivation. This elusive inventory, once listed in the National Archives of Scotland as GD 18/1493/1, is not currently available.  We are trying to track it down, though we have found a small extract in a partial 1900 list of the lost garden’s tender plants made by a researcher who saw the document in 1999.  The list of plants grown and equipment used in the garden was part of the conditions of the let.  The list reflected the horticultural fashions of the time and reportedly included various begonias, azaleas and no less than 75 different varieties of chrysanthemum.

IN 1900 THE WORLD LOVED CHRYSANTHEMUMS & PIET MONDRIAN BEGAN TO PAINT THEM

 

William Angus’s early advertising in the Edinburgh Evening News confirms that the garden was already well stocked with Japanese Azaleas, though Portugal Laurels are more of a feature of the Lost Garden today.  Through 1902-3 the newspaper also shows Angus’s constant difficulty in obtaining strong, willing , cheap manpower –he placed regular ads for sturdy lads to drive the van (presumably horse-drawn; a motor van would have been mentioned) and to help with work in the Garden.

 

By the end of the Great War, William Angus no longer had the tenancy of the Garden.

 The lease was now in the hands of nurseryman William Wilson

William Wilson’s wife was the daughter of Blair the outfitter in Penicuik High Street.  The shop still stands, gilt lettering hidden by a recent coat of masonry paint.

William Wilson and his Penicuik Garden supplied the peaches required for the Prince of Wales visit to Edinburgh in 1924.

 

 

William Wilson ran the business as a family operation.   In due course his son David and daughter Minnie joined him to work the Garden as they grew up.   It was a highly effective team, producing quantity and quality of output with the help of the Garden’s benign microclimate, and with limited manpower in a way the Estate Trustees might have envied fifty years earlier.  But it was hard work, and those ramps were a killer when you had a heavy wheelbarrow to push up.

Glasshouses and the warm brick walls inside and outside the square of the walled garden produced a big range of everyday and more exotic produce.  September Blackcurrants, Rhubarb, Mushrooms, Chrysanthemums could all be produced in large quantities. To help with tilling the big square itself, a horse was borrowed from a local farmer to turn the ground over with a plough.  Local farms and the stables of local businesses  provided much of the garden’s manure requirements too.

David Wilson is seen here ploughing in the big square, and –dressed for town- about to drive the motor vehicle. His father can be seen through the glass.  As well as serving the needs of Penicuik and vicinity, the Wilsons regularly drove the motor to Market beside Waverley Station.  The telephone was a vital part of the business, and allowed an immediate response to market requirements from the Garden and its Glasshouses, well-stocked with fruit, flowers and vegetables.

 

The Wilson family left the Garden in 1942 during the dark days of the War.  Were the Gardens then put to wartime purposes, like the grounds of Black Barony at Eddleston?

 

David Wilson became gardener to the Cowans at Valleyfield.

For a while the tenancy of the Penicuik Garden was taken by another Penicuik nurseryman, Eckie Pendleton, who had growing space at Bellman’s Road.

 

THE ANSWER LIES IN THE SOIL

Newly-married Michael Newton and his wife Annemarie were next to occupy the Garden from around 1948.  The first of their family were raised there.  The Newtons found difficulties with diseases in what was now tired overworked soil in the big kitchen garden square, and rabbits had become a problem everywhere.  They tried with some success to rejuvenate the garden and re-establish it as organic along the lines advocated by Eve Balfour, founder of the vigorous new Soil Association which was gaining worldwide attention in the postwar years.  Under the hospitable Newtons, the garden became a mecca for singers, and for teachers and older pupils from the Steiner School.

 

The Newtons took up the biodynamic methods which had been advocated by Rudolf Steiner.  Around 1955 the family left their Penicuik tenancy for Murieston, Livingston where Michael Newton’s father, a former Japanese prisoner-of-war, was able to provide him with a much larger wholly-owned farm-scaled site.  Here he established the first bio-dynamic organic farm in Britain.  The Murieston Trust continues Michael Newton’s work by offering a bursary to young people to study organic methods. 

 

DREAMING OF THE FUTURE

The Whitfield family were next to occupy the Garden and the little vestibuled bothy in the brick-built range at the north end.

Their son Jonathan Whitfield –also a pupil at the Steiner school- vividly recalls the strong impression the garden made on him.  It was a lost and secret world.

Penicuik House Garden Cottage was one of the most primitive places to live, but amazingly I have the fondest memories of it.  It was a rundown cottage attached to a huge walled garden on the old Scottish estate of Sir John Clerk outside Edinburgh.  My dad took care of the garden and managed to support us as a family while he went to college.  The walled garden was like the “Secret Garden” (Frances Burnett story) for us.  It had 20-foot-high walls enclosing 2 acres.  It contained a feast of fruits and vegetables that had been planted over the years. “

 

“ The cottage that went with it was somewhat primitive.  I would wake up in the mornings and the walls would have moisture on them from the condensation and dampness of the Scottish climate.  Nevertheless, it was the greatest place to be because we were in the country.  We had goats and hens and had the greatest times.  We children were not aware of the fairly primitive conditions in which we were living. We enjoyed it immensely.  I remember overlooking the property from a 70-foot fir tree that I climbed.  I would sit at the top of it swaying in the wind, overlooking this huge garden.  My mother would always be very alarmed to see me atop this giant fir!  I'd dream about my future.  I still have very fond memories of doing that.”

“The cottage consisted of a row of single rooms that were attached to huge greenhouses.  After coming in the front door, if you turned right you went through the kitchen and my parents' bedroom to get to the children's bedrooms; if you went left, you had to go through a living room to the bedrooms.  We had an inside toilet, running water, and a wood Rayburn stove with a bath behind a curtain.  We took baths once a week.  We had our first telephone, one with the separate earpiece.  I still remember the number—Penicuik 119.  My mother used to love to talk to her friends. It was a shared line.  One great entertainment for the kids was to pick up the earpiece and listen to the neighbors' conversations.”.

 

BECOMING THE LOST GARDEN OF PENICUIK

As the upper Walled Garden passed into the nineteen sixties and seventies, it became increasingly isolated and forgotten.  It would soon enter a half century of wilderness and decay.   Meanwhile Penicuik began to change as Wimpey laid out its enormous and revolutionary Cornbank development on land once part of Penicuik estate, and the town became Scotland’s fastest-growing urban area just as the papermills went into decline and closure.

The nineteen seventies saw a new role for the Garden.  Food was being provided in new ways –Penicuik had its own small William Low and Co‑op supermarkets in the centre and a very successful larger independent supermarket run by Ian S. Mckay at the Edinburgh end of town.  And Edinburgh fruit and vegetable suppliers? Those days are surely over.  What’s the advantage of hothouses when exotic fruit and flowers can be flown in cheaply from abroad?  Even the Royal Botanic Garden had removed its range of Victorian planthouses in 1967.   Why not get rid of the out-of-date monstrosities and concentrate instead on supplying Christmas trees and barbecue charcoal for all those modern commuter families moving into Penicuik?  You know it makes sense.

 

 

IN THE NINETEEN SEVENTIES: FRASER FORESTRY AND CHARCOAL

So while the lower square was planted with Christmas trees, the upper part of the Lost Garden was taken over by a forward-looking forest and charcoal business. The glasshouses were progressively demolished.  The little vestibuled gardener’s house in the long range of buildings was taken over and made into the business’s offices and new windows were cut through the brick wall where the glasshouses had once been. Spruce trees were planted in the walled Garden square as a future Christmas tree crop.  A new destiny was being created for the Garden.  At the same time, Penicuik itself saw the vast 250-year-old centrepiece of local employment reduced to rubble. With Valleyfield papermills demolished, a complex with all the world significance of New Lanark was removed in its entirety in the speculative hope that new industry or a housing development might take its place. 

PENICUIK’S YEARS OF DEMOLITION: ALEX COWAN & SONS VALLEYFIELD MILLS DISAPPEAR

But economic fortunes changed and the trees in the Garden were never harvested.  The big walled area at the foot of the steps became shaded by a high dark canopy. The steps themselves became increasingly overgrown and impassible. The terrace around the bases of the old glasshouses became piled with unused plastic sacks of charcoal.  Worse was to follow as asset strippers got to work. Lead and guttering was removed and the range of bothy buildings at the north end – offices and all – began to collapse hastened by neglect and lack of maintenance.    The big garden walls had their protective coping stones removed by human predators, the great slate paving slabs were pulled out of the ground, the old Mackenzie & Moncur heat and ventilation metalwork stripped out and bricks in large numbers began to be taken away.  Nature took over all across the Garden.  By the turn of the twenty first century, one of the finest places in Britain for growing fruit and flowers was now in every sense well and truly Lost.

THE LOST GARDEN OF PENICUIK

 

Down the road, Penicuik Community Development Trust formed in 2005 in  response to a press report of the possible closure and sale of Penicuik Town Hall, which had been given to the townspeople in Trust as the Cowan Institute.

 

The Trust’s early efforts were directed at saving the Town Hall and restoring it to active community use (successful so far), starting a weekly Saturday Open House of community life and identity (still running after seven years), re-establishing a Penicuik Cinema (running for over five years), trying to save Jackson Street School for community use and prevent its needless destruction (failure), beginning the Penicuik Food Project as part of a fifty year project to restore the Lost Garden (now in progress), and attempting to rescue Bank Mill as an active papermaking demonstration facility along the lines of the water-powered Vaucluse mill at Penicuik’s twin town in Provence (stalled  meantime).  The Trust is currently examining possibilities for improvement and site purchase of the old post office and Pen y Coe Press in Penicuik town centre.

One of the Trust’s earliest supporters was the late Barrie Corlson, an old sea dog and land surveyor who lived in the Baxter pavilion in the lower Eskfield walled garden at Penicuik estate where this story began.  Barrie inspired us with his enthusiasm and organised some of the Trust’s first Open House displays.

 

 

BARRIE CORLSON BRINGS TRUST SUPPORTERS TO THE OLD GARDEN -AND PLANTS IDEAS

 

The Lost Garden of Penicuik restoration was first mooted as the Penicuik Food Project in spring 2009.  The Trust put a prospectus to the Estate in June and pictures were taken of the garden’s lost condition in July that year.  The Trust helped to form a Midlothian Growing Partnership with like-minded local food-garden groups.  After lengthy negotiations to establish a lease of the Lost Garden the project started on site in February-March 2012.

See www.makers.org.uk/penicuik/lostgardenlatest and the original project website www.makers.org.uk/penicuik/food.

some of the pictures on this and companion pages are from collections of Anna Dorward, David Wilson, Kitty Fyffe, Marianne Cortes, Robert Clerk, Roger Kelly, Sutherland Macivor

 

Find out more about Penicuik Trust projects at the weekly Open House in Penicuik Town Hall

On-the-spot exhibitions, on-the-spot hands-on crafts sessions for kids and adults, onsite visits and more…

 

Penicuik Community Development Trust is responsible for the Lost Garden of Penicuik, Penicuik Food Project, Penicuik Open House, Penicuik Cinema and the Bankmill Project. The Trust is a charitable company limited by guarantee registered in Scotland with company number 380626 and OSCR charity number SC O37990 and Trustee Directors Roger Kelly (chair), Roger Hipkin (secretary 20A John St. Penicuik EH26 8A ), Jane MacKintosh (treasurer), Dave Stokes, Mose Hutchinson and Penny Wooding, forming part of a Managing committee with Anne-Ruth Strauss, Bill Fearnley, Caroline Maciver, Chantal Geoghegan, Chris Langdale, Daniel Baigrie, Doreen Gillon, Jane Kelly, Katie Sydes, Lynn Niven, Marianne Cortes, Marjory Bisset, Mitch Lewis, Peter Coutts, Simon Duffy, Simon Fraser, Ulla Hipkin, elected annually at the Trust's AGM.   Paid-up Membership of over 200;  Patrons: Ian Macdougall, Gerda Stevenson, Colonel Edward Cowan.  Trust official Website www.penicuikcdt.org.uk Bank Mill website: www.bankmill.co.uk The Trust is a Member of Development Trusts Association Scotland (DTAS) takes part in Doors Open Day, and works with Penicuik Community Council, Midlothian Council, Midlothian Voluntary Action, the Midlothian Growing Ideas Partnership (including Midlothian Garden Services, Mayfield & Easthouses Development Trust, and other garden and food projects in Midlothian associated with the Federation of City Farms and Community Gardens), and the Mapa Scotland restoration of the Great Polish Map of Scotland at Eddleston, and supported the papemaking tercentenary led by Penicuik Historical Society.  There are personal and mutually supportive links with Penicuik Community, Sport & Leisure Foundation, Penicuik Community Arts Association, the Penicuik House Project, the Scottish Civic Trust and the Saltire Society, with community groups and trusts in Aberfeldy, Broughty Ferry, Gorebridge and Moffat, with Penicuik’s twin town at L’Isle-sur-la Sorgue , Vaucluse, Provence, with Salaberry-de-Valleyfield, Quebec and with the Papeterie St-Armand in Montreal.  

 

WEBSITE LINKS:

PICTURES OF THE LOST GARDEN

LOST GARDEN LATEST

 

STORY OF THE LOST GARDEN

–how the Lost Garden of Penicuik came to happen

 

www.makers.org.uk/penicuik/food

–how the Penicuik Food Project in the Lost Garden came to happen

 

PENICUIK SATURDAY ORGANIC & FAIRTRADE MARKET

–entirely non-profit and run by local volunteers since 1990

TAKING ON THE PRESS

 –ideas for Pen-Y-Coe Press & Old Post Office, Bridge Street Penicuik 

BANK MILL PROJECT LATEST

Campaign to restore General Maczek’s GREAT POLISH MAP OF SCOTLAND

PENICUIK HOUSE PRESERVATION TRUST

 

PICTURES OF BIELD COMMUNITY WALLED GARDEN, PERTHSHIRE

 

PILLAR AND MOON : THE GRAND ENTRANCE TO NOWHERE

 

Penicuik Community Development Trust

 Saturday Open House in the Town Hall:

Some of the 100 or so Penicuik Open House weekly displays

KITTY FYFFE’S POSTCARDS

PENICUIK CO-OP

HEAT & LIGHT

OLD TOOLS

TOM ADAMS TOWN PLANNER FROM CARLOPS TO NEW YORK

ROBERT NASMYTH AND PENICUIK’S CORNBANK DESIGN

THE COWAN PAPER ADVERTISEMENTS OF 1944

JOHN DENNIS AND THE ESKBRIDGE BRICKWORKS

THE COWAN ARTISTS OF 1944

DEMOLITION OF VALLEYFIELD MILL IN 1980

 

PENICUIK COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT TRUST a message from the chair,  25 April 2012

The Lost Garden of Penicuik

Penicuik’s Food Project and the restoration of Penicuik’s Upper Walled Garden is now under way –we make a tour of the site every first Sunday of the month (meet in the Penicuik House Estate carpark on the road to Carlops at 2pm) and there are regular workdays for all ages.  Working in the garden is tremendously satisfying and helping to move this ambitious project forward gives a real sense of achievement.    Find out the latest news of the Lost Garden regularly at our special page www.makers.org.uk/penicuik/lostgardenlatest  You can also contact roger@kosmoid.net, ring Penicuik 677854 for details about access, workparties and plans, talk to us at the Town Hall Open House (see below) or at the volunteer organic food market every Saturday morning at Valleyfield House 17 High Street where East Coast Organic produce from Haddington is available till the walled garden comes on stream, plus artisan bread from Penicuik’s local Breadshare bakery.

Saturday Open House is the Trust’s free drop-in community cafe with a warm friendly welcome and good home baking.  It’s open every week from 10 am to 2 pm in Penicuik Town Hall, with regular displays on the Lost Garden and Food Project, Trust ideas for premises in the Town Centre, and more exhibitions of Penicuik Greats like photographer Albert Watson.  Drop in and find up what’s going on in Penicuik: local groups are always welcome to come in and set up a stall.

Penicuik’s Weekly Cinema in the Town Hall continues on Sunday nights with Youth Choice team selection Aliens on 29 April, the new Isle of Man TT classic Closer to the Edge on 6 May, this year’s Best Picture, The Artist, on 14 May,  Youth Choice animation My Neighbour Totoro on 20 May, gaelic feature Seachd The Inaccessible Pinnacle on 27 May, youth choice animation Howls Moving Castle (2005) with Christian Bale and Jean Simmons on 3 June, Ben Kingsley in Gandhi on 10 June and youth classic Into the Wild (2007) on 17 June. We’re always looking for helpers young and old for our projection and front of house teams, and erectors and dismantlers for the stage-sized big screen in the upper hall each week: email Chris (cglangdale@hotmail.co.uk ) or Dave (trikindave@live.co.uk) or Daniel Bagrie for Youth Choice or see us in the town hall.

Annual General Meeting: join us in the Town Hall at 7.30 on Wednesday 30 May for Penicuik Community Development Trust AGM.  The Trust is people like you determined to keep our town alive and build real assets for the future.  Where there’s a will there will always be a way.