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