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Case Studies


Newhailes was conserved by The National Trust for Scotland between 1999-2002. Earlier work was carried out to the buildings within the estate from 1997. Altogether the Trust worked on the estate for a period of 7 years, with most of the work ongoing.

Newhailes was acquired by the Trust for the following reasons:

• the building and its collection were important
• the contents were original to the building and still intact
• the NTS had no other building exactly like Newhailes
• access was good and it was suitable to open to the public

Newhailes is owned and managed by The National Trust for Scotland, and is open to the public. There is a team of staff based at the site.

Why save Newhailes?

When the NTS acquired Newhailes estate in 1997, both the estate and buildings were in varying states of repair. Why did we decide to save it?

1. Newhailes house was built in 1686 by James Smith. It was altered in the 1720s and 1740s to form the villa that is there today. A subsequent set of alterations (mainly decorative) was executed in 1873 after which only minor alterations and repairs were undertaken to the house. The James Smith period villa is an excellent example of the smaller country house type which became popular from the late 17th century onwards. The original house and the surviving elements of its construction are of considerable national importance for their architectural, aesthetic and historical character.

2. The subsequent alterations and extension of the original villa, c.1718-1745, largely commissioned by Sir James Dalrymple 2nd Bart., are amongst the finest and most important Rococo interiors in Scotland. Many original surface finishes, including 18th and 19th century decoration and 18th century external plasterwork, survive intact, making Newhailes unique.

3. It is remarkable that so much of all the important phases of work survive to such an extent, each later phase being worked around the previous scheme in such a way as to preserve its scale, character and importance. The relationship between these phases of work, the absence of any disruptive reworking during the 20th century and the existing condition and patina of age contributes to the value of Newhailes. This ‘all-pervasive mellowness' creates a curious enigmatic quality of ageing beauty.

4. The Dalrymple family, who were the owners from 1709 until the Trust purchased the estate, was one of the most important judicial families in Scotland. They influenced the development of the Scottish judicial system at the crucial stage of its development between 1690-1720.

5. The NTS is a charity and, before any conservation work can begin, we need to fund the project. This project was generously supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund, Historic Scotland and the European Regional Development Fund.

Conserving Newhailes

The challenge for the Trust, in taking on the conservation of Newhailes, was to retain the quality of faded elegance. Following extensive research and analysis (including surveys on the archaeology, topography, history of the house, contents of the house and condition of internal and external fabric), it was demonstrated that Newhailes derived its unique cultural significance from a complex interaction of different elements that created a rich sense of place, and all-pervasive ‘mellowness' in which no one element dominated. It was for this reason that the principal conservation policy for Newhailes was (and is) to do as much as necessary and as little as possible. Existing fabric was returned to a state of good repair without being changed. You can visit Newhailes house during the summer season. The grounds are open all year round.