The Outer Hall
The oval entrance hall is the first of the series of classical revival rooms created for Sir James by John Kinross from 1890-1905. On either side of the front door, the pair of child’s sledging seats are part of a set bought in Russia by Sir James’s father, who collected all sorts of Russian objects whilst a merchant and diplomat in St. Petersburg in the mid-nineteenth century.
The vaulted cloakroom to the right is screened from the dining-room ante-room by a pair of silver-plated grilles, set in arches, on panels of translucent apricot alabaster from Derbyshire, which glow in warm shades when the sun is behind them and of which the architect, John Kinross, was particularly proud.
The Ante-room to the Dining Room
On the wall, the stucco relief of Diana, Roman goddess of hunting (one of Sir James’s passions), echoes a similar one outside above the gunroom door. To balance the relief, Kinross put in two doors, one of these leads to the back stairs, the other opens beautifully, but leads nowhere; one of several architectural confidence tricks at Manderston. The ceiling is inspired by the one in the entrance hall at Syon House built by Robert Adam, and the inlaid marble floor reflects its pattern.
The Dining Room
This was the last room to be completed when the house was finished in 1905 and its ceiling, in high relief, is the most ambitious of all those in the house. In the centre is Mars, Roman god of war (Sir James had fought in South Africa), with dancing muses and vase patterns in the lozenges that radiate around him. This is the only room on the ground floor which has been re-decorated since the house was rebuilt.
The door in the recess leads into the original serving room where food, carried some distance from the kitchen, was kept hot; now it is the family kitchen. The urns flanking the recess are two knife-holders actually made by Robert Adam and brought to the house by Major Bailie, Lord Palmer’s grandfather. On the sideboard and mantelpiece stands part of a collection of Blue John urns, obelisks and candelabra. Blue John is a very rare semi-precious stone mined only in Derbyshire.
The new Lady Miller was probably inspired to collect it by the large collection that already existed at her father’s house, Kedleston. It is the largest private collection of Blue John (called after its ‘bleujaune’ colouring) in Scotland. The Edwardian long-case clock was made by Andrew Padbery of Bishops Waltham of mahogany inlaid with satinwood.
The mahogany dining-room table extends to seat twenty-four on the Chippendale chairs, sixteen of which are reproduction, all of which were restored in 2006/2007. The pictures at the north end are not family ancestors, but were bought to give that impression! The silver on the table was presented to Sir William Miller by his constituency members from Leith in 1860. The pictures on either side of the door are by Gian Paolo Panini. Part of the collection of Blue John Marble.
Kinross was inspired in his designs by Robert Adam’s interiors at Kedleston Hall, Derbyshire, where Lady Miller had been raised, and where Sir James proposed to her. The fireplace and its elaborate stucco is an almost exact copy of that in the hall at Kedleston. More often Kinross worked in the spirit of, rather than copied Adam, as in the plasterwork below the dome, executed – as were all the ceilings in the
house – by French and Italian stuccoists, brought over specially for the purpose. The hall was just a grand space designed to impress.
The spaciousness of Manderston with large ante-rooms to the main rooms is distinctively Edwardian. An eighteenth-century house would have had a much simpler layout. The floor is of inlaid marble, typical of the rich, expensive materials used throughout the house. Facing the entrance are Louis XV pot-bellied bombe commodes veneered in kingwood. Opposite the fireplace is a reproduction of a fourteenth-century Venetian trousseau chest with portraits of the bride and groom, whose possessions it would have contained, on either end.
The Ante-room to the Drawing Room
This ante-room, opposite the stairwell, contains the pipes of the organ at the foot of the stairs. Made in 1910, their oak case was modelled on Adam’s design for an instrument in Sir Watkin Williams Wynn’s house in London. In the Edwardian period it was fashionable to have an organ in the hall and Manderston was very up-to-date. The organ has been lovingly restored by Mr William Hutcheson and is played regularly.
This room was originally intended as a ‘writing-room’. SirJames died in 1906, just three months after the house was finished, from pneumonia exacerbated by hunting on a cold January day. At the insistence of her brothers, his widow, Lady Miller, put the billiard table, an essential plaything for every Edwardian gentleman, in the library.
The crimson silk damask on the walls gives it the necessary masculine feeling. The ceiling is the closest to Adam’s own style in the house, perhaps because it was the first room to be decorated. The bookcases support busts which were inspired by those at Kedleston and represent American Presidents, (left to right) Benjamin Franklin, George Washington and Thomas Jefferson. The second panel of the principal bookcase is false, cunningly concealing a door to the hall.