Pil­lars of so­ci­ety

Fam­ily home in 18th Cen­tury court­yard built to house Earl of Aber­corn’s staff

The Scottish Mail on Sunday - - Property - By Paul Drury

THE term ‘be­low stairs’ was once sniffily used to de­scribe the lower or­ders, the as­sorted maids and but­lers who would await his lord­ship like the cast of Down­ton Abbey. In Ed­in­burgh, the Earl of Aber­corn was so averse to the com­mon peo­ple that he could not bear to have them liv­ing un­der the same roof.

In 1765, he com­mis­sioned his ar­chi­tect Sir Wil­liam Cham­bers to de­sign out­build­ings at Dud­dingston House, Ed­in­burgh, which would ac­com­mo­date his ser­vants and pro­vide a net­work of store rooms and wine cel­lars.

Fast for­ward 250 years and there’s noth­ing ‘be­low stairs’ about Dud­dingston House Court­yard today.

Af­ter years of ly­ing derelict, the for­mer ser­vants’ quar­ters were trans­formed into breath­tak­ing apart­ments which make the most of the build­ing’s Ge­or­gian ori­gins.

At the top of the house, it is the cupola, for ex­am­ple, which floods the liv­ing area with light, es­pe­cially dur­ing these longer mid­summer days.

But it’s ‘be­low stairs’ where some of the most in­trigu­ing ac­com­mo­da­tion is to be found. What was the earl’s wine cel­lar has been brought up to date by con­vert­ing it into a suite of rooms, of­fer­ing of­fice space, a gym and a fam­ily room. The vaulted ceil­ing makes for a spe­cial at­mos­phere, a kind of sub­ter­ranean secret known only to the oc­cu­pants.

‘It’s a bril­liant house for play­ing hide and seek,’ says Val O’Con­nor, who lives in 3 Dud­dingston House Court­yard with her hus­band Dean and chil­dren, An­gus, ten, and fiveyear-old El­lie.

The fam­ily are va­cat­ing the prop­erty on a tem­po­rary ba­sis while Mr O’Con­nor takes up a telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions post in Hong Kong.

Mrs O’Con­nor says: ‘I know we’re not away yet but I can’t wait to come back here. This will be our fam­ily home so, hope­fully, we won’t be gone for too long.’

As a re­sult, the house is be­ing of­fered un­fur­nished for rent from Au­gust 1. So what does a ten­ant get for £3,410 a month?

Well, Dud­dingston House Court­yard en­joys an en­vi­able ru­ral po­si­tion to the south-east of the cap­i­tal, within easy reach of Holy­rood Park and Arthur’s Seat.

It has a lovely pri­vate gar­den and ac­cess to two gi­ant lawns at­tached to Dud­dingston House, which is used as of­fice ac­com­mo­da­tion.

Mrs O’Con­nor says: ‘My son says it’s the best house ever. You sit out­side and all you can hear is birds singing.

‘We’ve had loads of fam­ily par­ties, bar­be­cues and stuff in the gar­den and vis­i­tors just love it. Yet we are only 15 min­utes from the cen­tre of Ed­in­burgh.

‘There’s lots of room in the place. An orig­i­nal fire­place takes up a huge amount of space in the draw­ing room, but it can take it.

‘When we moved in, the place was dec­o­rated in mainly neu­tral colours, mostly duck egg blue. Be­cause it’s a fam­ily house, we wanted to liven things up a bit. The bright yel­low Far­row & Ball paint fin­ish in the draw­ing room may not be to every­one’s taste, but we like it.’

Per­haps the prop­erty is suited to a sim­i­lar fam­ily. Cer­tainly, they won’t need to lift a fin­ger apart from find­ing enough fur­ni­ture to fill the place.

The ground-floor re­cep­tion hall is beau­ti­fully lit by the cupola. The din­ing room is ac­cessed from the draw­ing room and there’s a mod­ern kitchen/break­fast room with sep­a­rate li­brary or fam­ily room.

Up­stairs, there are four bed­rooms – two of them en suite – and a gor­geous fam­ily bath­room.

But per­haps it’s ‘be­low stairs’ which will most ap­peal to a new ten­ant. Per­fect for run­ning a small busi­ness from home, it would be a shame if its fu­ture use was lim­ited to play­ing hide and seek.

Con­tact Neill Bukes at DJ Alexan­der Let­tings. Tel 0131 558 3000 or email neill­[email protected]­der.co.uk

IM­POS­ING: Dud­dingston House Court­yard and, in­set, the draw­ing room is painted in a sunny Far­row and Ball shade

STYLISH: Spa­cious bed­rooms and a sump­tu­ous mod­ern fam­ily bath­room

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