The Silver Staircase
Prior to the First World War it used to take three men three weeks to dismantle, polish and re-assemble the balustrade. Subsequently, it had not been cleaned at all, and by 1980 the whole staircase looked like the end panel at the top of the stairs, when a couple from Edinburgh gallantly volunteered to restore it to its former glory.
The cantilevered marble stairs were inspired by Madame de Pompadour’s staircase at the Petit Trianon, Versailles. The balustrade is silver plated and the rail solid brass. The pattern is a swirling Vitruvian scroll motif used for ironwork all over
the house including the iron grilles outside the dining-room. Its magnificent sparkle is maintained by a team of volunteers who polish it three times a year.
The First Floor
The width and classical columns make the upper corridor very elegant. The door to the right at the top of the stairs, leads to the bachelors’ wing where single gentlemen guests slept, segregated by Edwardian social rules. The arched Bedroom doors give a further note of refinement to an area of the house normally left plain. The carpet is the original.
The North Bedroom
Decorated in turquoise with crimson damask curtains, is at the far end of the next passage. As in all the rooms, two tasselled bell-pulls beside the bed are marked either ‘up’ or ‘down’. ‘Up’ called a maid from the top floor, where all the female staff lived; ‘down’, a manservant from the basement.
The North Dressing-Room next door houses a collection of samplers from the mid-eighteenth century onwards, which was bought as a collection when the house was being furnished. Field-Marshall Earl Haig of World War I fame, slept here in 1927.
In the Portico Bedroom the giltwood suite, upholstered with tapestry, is in the style of Louis XVI. Wall brackets, fireplaces and even bell-levers are inset with Wedgwood plaques. The glassfronted wardrobe was built especially for this room to reflect the light and help brighten the room. It is, however, very unflattering to the figure!
It is worth remembering that the lift was only installed in 1960, and, prior to this, everything – from coal to food and tableware – had to be carried up the Back Stairs by servants of whom Sir James and Lady Miller employed twenty-two. Today the house is looked after by a team of three dedicated part-time ladies.
Manderston’s basement, stretching the length and breath of the house is almost entirely unchanged and is a superb example of the sophisticated domestic arrangements of an Edwardian house. Its walls are lined with white tiles, which are easy to keep clean and reflect the light. Single menservants and visiting menservants, slept and lived in the basement.The cook, butler and housekeeper each ran their own specialised department.
The Housekeeper’s Room
The housekeeper was responsible for the cleanliness of the house and therefore all the housemaids and female staff came under her command. At Manderston in 1905, there were three laundry maids, six housemaids, three scullery maids and one cook.
The house was built for a total living-in staff of twenty-two. The housekeeper’s room
merited the prime site in the bow below the morning-room, and housed the best porcelain and china in splendid floor-to-ceiling cabinets. In addition, it was the housekeeper’s job to order and keep a stock of soap, candles and cleaning materials.
With the butler, the housekeeper topped the hierarchy of domestic staff, and, in company with the lady’s maid, took all her meals in here, waited upon by junior members of staff. The bell-lever to the right of the fireplace (all the bell-pulls and levers in the house still work) rings one of the range of fifty-six bells outside her room, each with a different tone, installed by John Bryden and Sons.
Racing Room (Servants’ Hall)
This room was originally the servants’ hall where all the indoor servants ate and relaxed. It has now been redecorated in Sir James’s racing colours, primrose and white, as a memorial room to him and his racing career. On the left of the fireplace is a picture of Sainfoin. At the age of twenty-six, Sir James bought Sainfoin two days before the 1890 Derby. He won, romping home at twenty-five to one. Sir James was far more fortunate than the average owner, winning a total of £118,000 a huge sum by today’s standard, over a period of only sixteen years.
On the right of the fireplace is a picture of Rock Sand, bred by Sir James out of Roquebrune and sired by Sainfoin, at Sir James’s Stud at Hamilton, near Newmarket. In 1903 Rock Sand won the ‘Triple Crown’ (Two Thousand Guineas, Derby and St. Leger), won only three times last century. It is interesting to notice the change in style of the jockeys in just the thirteen years between the two paintings. The book shelves contain a complete rare and up-to-date collection of the Racing Calendar dating from 1773.
The Marble Dairy and Tower
Beside the dairy is the ornate Scottish seventeenth-century style Head-Gardener’s
House of 1897, directly inspired by Argyll’s Lodging in Stirling, and surrounded by its neat garden behind a fine wrought-iron gate. The high status of the head-gardener in the estate hierarchy is obvious from such a residence, including even a decorative dolphin fountain and sundial.
On the corner of the Dairyman’s House of 1900, below the corbel, are two carved heads. They are said to represent the tenant who paid his rent and the tenant who did not – but which is which?
The door to the marble dairy itself, is surrounded by boldly carved fleurons, each with a different centre, and crowned with the family motto Omne Bonum Superne. Inside the milkhouse, the boss in the centre of the rib-vaulted roof, shows a milkmaid milking. At Sir James’s insistence, the first one put there was taken down and recarved because the girl was sitting on the wrong side of the cow. It weighs half a ton.
One of the most skilful features of the room, however, is one of the least noticed: the entrance door is set at an angle from the walls of the room, which makes construction of the vaulted ceiling particularly awkward but was competently tackled here by Italian and French craftsmen. John Kinross, the architect, used marble and alabaster from seven countries and, for the door, solid teak held without a nail. The shape of the dairy courtyard copies a church cloister, with a fountain at the centre.
Outside the dairy is a tower built to look like a Border Keep. The stairs lead up to a turret room, completely panelled in oak, constructed entirely without nails. There Lady Miller would, on occasion, sip tea from delicate porcelain – it is still there – and enjoy the commanding view.
Horse and Hound recently suggested that Manderston could ‘probably boast the finest stabling in all the wide world’. They were completed in 1895, some years before work on the main house began, as a test of skill which, as far as the Millers were concerned, the architect evidently passed. Built around two courts, the first is entered beneath an arch flanked with Doric columns and surmounted by a pediment. On the inside of the arch, are detailed panels of huntsmen and hounds in high relief. To the left of the courtyard are coach houses, to the right are loose boxes.
The stables cost £20,000 at a time when building was comparatively cheap. Without doubt they are the most magnificent club for horses ever built in Great Britain and a horse without the right Jockey Club connections would have felt a rank outsider in its bounds. The barrel-vaulted roof of selected teak, runs above teak stalls with polished brass.