Iconic build­ings

Take a glimpse in­side Broomhall, the mag­nif­i­cent home of the Bruce fam­ily

SCOTS Heritage Magazine - - Contents - Words Mal­colm MacGre­gor

The name Broomhall comes from Broom Haugh. Broom is a type of plant, whilst Haugh is a meadow. The house was built in 1702 on a fine meadow in a com­mand­ing po­si­tion over­look­ing the Firth of Forth, near Dun­fermline. Un­like many other sig­nif­i­cant build­ings in

Scot­land there was no an­cient for­ti­fi­ca­tion on which to build the house.

The 3rd Earl of Kin­car­dine com­mis­sioned a four storey house, built to plans laid out by Sir Wil­liam Bruce. In 1766 the house was con­verted into a neo-Pal­la­dian man­sion by John Adam, sim­i­lar to Dum­fries House in Ayr­shire. The house was re­built again some thirty years later in the style of the Greek Re­vival for the 7th Earl of El­gin by Thomas Har­ri­son. Fi­nally in 1865, the por­tico on the north side was added as the last act in the build­ing of this great house. It is the vis­ual demon­stra­tion of the con­tri­bu­tion of the Bruces to Euro­pean and

western civil­i­sa­tion.

But where did the Bruces come from and what was their role at the fore­front of many of the events in Scot­tish, and Bri­tish his­tory? How did this fam­ily come to be so heav­ily in­volved in the af­fairs of state for nearly 1000 years?

As with many An­glo-Norman fam­i­lies it be­gan in 1066 when Robert de Brus crossed the English Chan­nel with Wil­liam the Con­queror. His de­scen­dants ac­quired lands in the South West of Scot­land, be­com­ing Lords of An­nan­dale. Robert the Bruce’s long jour­ney to the throne of Scot­land took him through

south­ern Scot­land and North­ern Ire­land. Hav­ing killed his main ri­val, John ,’the red’ Comyn in Dum­fries in 1306, he was crowned king. He led his troops into bat­tle as the King of Scots at Ban­nock­burn, rout­ing King Ed­ward II of Eng­land, and se­cur­ing his po­si­tion on the throne. The great sym­bol of Robert the Bruce is his two handed sword. This sword was given by his son David II to Thomas Bruce of Clack­man­nan, a fore­fa­ther of the present chief. Since that time the sword has been con­tin­u­ously in the pos­ses­sion of the chief ’s fam­ily.

The his­tory of Scot­land led to the Union of the Crowns in 1603. Some­what iron­i­cally, Sir Ed­ward Bruce was the last Scot­tish Am­bas­sador at the Court of St. James. He ne­go­ti­ated James VI of Scot­land’s ac­ces­sion to the throne of Eng­land on the death of Queen El­iz­a­beth. He was re­warded with the ti­tle ‘Lord Kin­loss’, a lo­ca­tion near El­gin in the north east of Scot­land. Sir Ed­ward’s son was cre­ated 1st Earl of El­gin, with the Earl­dom pass­ing to the Earls of Kin­car­dine in 1647, thus unit­ing the two ti­tles.

Like many of the great fam­i­lies of Scot­land, the Bruces be­came mixed up in the Ja­co­bite up­ris­ings. But af­ter the ill-fated 1745 up­ris­ing they em­braced the new fu­ture as part of the United King­dom, and ex­pand­ing Bri­tish Em­pire. From that time on, the Earls of El­gin

Un­like many other sig­nif­i­cant build­ings in Scot­land there was no an­cient for­ti­fi­ca­tion on which to build the house

were very much to the fore in Scot­tish and Bri­tish life.

The 7th Earl of El­gin was the fa­mous diplo­mat and am­bas­sador to the Ot­toman Em­pire in Istanbul in 1799, hav­ing served in the 3rd Reg­i­ment of Foot Guards. He was heav­ily in­volved in cur­tail­ing the ac­tiv­i­ties of Napoleon Bon­a­parte in the Mid­dle East, ne­go­ti­at­ing al­liances with the Turks. He was such a thorn for Napoleon that he had him kid­napped and held in the Pyre­nees un­til his wife, the Count­ess, ne­go­ti­ated his re­lease.

It was this earl who se­cured the an­tiq­ui­ties at the Parthenon in Athens for the Bri­tish Mu­seum, which bear his name ‘The El­gin Mar­bles’. He was very much part of what came to be known as the Scot­tish En­light­en­ment, sup­port­ing Greek style build­ings in Ed­in­burgh such as that on Carl­ton Hill. Hence Ed­in­burgh’s nick­name at the time as ‘Athens of the North”.

His son, the 8th Earl of El­gin, was very much in the same mould. He was Gover­nor of Ja­maica and Gover­nor-Gen­eral of Canada, as well as be­ing sent on del­i­cate mis­sions to the Em­per­ors of China and Ja­pan. These mis­sions re­sulted in the build­ing of ships on the Clyde and Ty­ne­side for the Ja­panese Navy. This in turn con­trib­uted to the de­feat of the Rus­sian Navy at the bat­tle of Tsushima, in 1905, which her­alded the rise of Im­pe­rial Ja­pan, and the be­gin­ning of the end for Tsar Nicholas II.

The 9th Earl was ac­tive in lo­cal pol- itics as Chair­man of the Scot­tish Lib­eral Party. But his big mo­ment came in 1895, when he was ap­pointed Viceroy of In­dia. He was per­suaded to take on the job by Lord Rosebery dur­ing a long walk over Arthur’s Seat in Ed­in­burgh. He was known as the ‘walk­ing Viceroy’, as he was al­ways on his feet. He was re­spon­si­ble for the ex­ten­sive rail­way build­ing pro­gramme in In­dia. The Du­rand Line, which sep­a­rated Afghanistan from In­dia, cut­ting through the tribal ar­eas of the North West Fron­tier, was con­ceived by him. Fur­ther ap­point­ments in­cluded the post of sec­re­tary of state for the colonies. Back home he headed a royal com­mis­sion into the ef­fects of pol­lu­tion on sal­mon, and he was in­vited by the phi­lan­thropist An­drew Carnegie to chair his Scot­tish Uni­ver­si­ties Fund, en­abling work­ing class Scots to ob­tain univer­sity de­grees.

The 10th Earl was a pub­lic spir­ited in­di­vid­ual who con­vened the Scot­tish Coun­cil for De­vel­op­ment and In­dus­try, meet­ing reg­u­larly at Broomhall. He also chaired the last Em­pire ex­hi­bi­tion at Bel-

la­hous­ton Park in Glas­gow, which at­tracted over 11 mil­lion peo­ple. Sig­nif­i­cantly he was also the first con­venor of the Stand­ing Coun­cil of Scot­tish Chiefs. His son, the 11th Earl, and 37th chief, has con­tin­ued in the same vein.

Hav­ing served in the Scots Guards, and wounded in Nor­mandy, he is per­haps one of the last of what Amer­i­cans call the great­est gen­er­a­tion. Like his fa­ther, he took a great in­ter­est in the clan net­work, or­gan­is­ing the first in­ter­na­tional gath­er­ing at Mead­ow­bank in Ed­in­burgh in 1977. In the char­ac­ter of his

fore­bears, he has jour­neyed con­stantly to Canada where he is hon­orary Colonel of the El­gin Reg­i­ment. His main aim as chief has been to put the needs of the di­as­pora at the fore­front of his chief­ship.

This fam­ily, at the head of the Bruce name, came to promi­nence dur­ing the Scot­tish Wars of In­de­pen­dence se­cur­ing the throne of Scot­land. By a co­in­ci­dence, the fam­ily then had a hand in the union of crowns be­tween Eng­land and Scot­land some 300 years later and, de­spite be­ing Ja­co­bites, em­braced the Bri­tish Em­pire as Viceroys and Gov­er­nors-Gen­eral dur­ing which their de­ci­sions had far reach­ing con­se­quences. Kins­men have been mil­i­tary of­fi­cers and ex­plor­ers, such as James Bruce of Kin­naird who dis­cov­ered the source of the Blue Nile in 1770. On the cul­tural side the Bruces were en­thu­si­as­tic sup­port­ers of the En­light­en­ment, the arts and ar­chi­tec­ture. There does not seem to be an as­pect of Scot­tish life that they have not touched; and Scot­land is all the bet­ter for it.


The south face of Broomhall de­signed in 1796 by Thomas Har­ri­son.


Charles, Lord Bruce at the north en­trance to Broomhall.

Image: The draw­ing room houses a grand pi­ano.


James 8th Earl of El­gin, Governer Gen­eral of Canada and Viceroy of Inida.


Thomas, 7th Earl of El­gin in uni­form of Scots Fusilier Guards. Image:

Tar­tan jacket from 1760, made for James Bruce of Kin­naird.

Image: The Arms of King George III.

Image: China or­na­ments adorn the li­brary.

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