The thread about a curious house for sale; its short, scandalous and unhappy life as a matrimonial home; its place in a small community of eminent artists and the hidden civic building lurking within its walls

Today’s property listing of historical interest was a flat in this curious Victorian, mock-Tudorbethan house at 1 Belford Road at the head of the road above the Dean Village (or as it would have been known at the time, the Water of Leith village).

n.b. the property listing has long since been removed, but you can view an archive copy of it here.

1 Belford Road, 4 bedrooms, offers over £550,000
1 Belford Road, 4 bedrooms, offers over £550,000

The insides of this flat are almost entirely modern, all plasterboard walls and mod cons, so not much to write about, but the views are pretty. Well, pretty spectacular!

The Dean Bridge and former Trinity Episcopal Church
Over the rooftops of the Water of Leith village to the two towers of the Dean Orphan Hopital

The house is now split up into 3 separate flats/offices, it’s quite a remarkable (and more than a little bonkers) structure; a fantasia of different styles all cobbled together into one reasonably coherent structure.

One of the most intriguing features is a band of stucco around the lower courses of the building, impressed with the motif of an H, an eagle and a thistle along with lovehearts in the original cast iron window bars:

Intriguing details.
Intriguing details.

This house was built in 1891 as Lynedoch House, by the architect Sir George Washington Browne (1853-1939), who would go on to do Edinburgh’s Caledonian Hotel. Lynedoch was a local placename applied in honour of Thomas Graham, Baron Lynedoch, a hero of the peninsular war, by the landownder in the 1820s Major James Weir RM. It was built for Charles Martin Hardie RSA (1858-1916), a native of East Lothian and a fashionable and successful artist known for paintings of Scottish life and also portraits of Robert Burns and Walter Scott. Hardie built the house as a family home and his studio.

Friendly Critics by Charles Martin Hardie. Hardie is seen on the left, leaning on the frame, showing his work to friends. This was painted 10 years before the construction of his house at Belford Road. CC-by-NC National Galleries of Scotland.
Friendly Critics by Charles Martin Hardie. Hardie is seen on the left, leaning on the frame, showing his work to friends. This was painted 10 years before the construction of his house at Belford Road. CC-by-NC National Galleries of Scotland.

The “H” impressed in the render is Hardie’s initial. The thistle is for Scotland. The eagle is for America, from where his first wife – Mary Lewis – hailed. They had married in 1889 and the love heart was a symbol of their matrimonial bond. It didn’t work; he divorced her in 1895 after she ran off with an actor. The case, heard by Lord Moncrieff in the court of Session, caused a minor sensation in the papers at the time and was so heavily attended at court that his Lordship had to have the public ejected to make room for all the junior lawyers and reporters who had attended.

Charles Hardie alleged that after the birth of their second child – who did not live to see his first birthday – his wife had become weak and had spent a lot of time in London staying with friends to recuperate; he was too busy with his work to either accompany her or care for her himself. On one of these visits he decided to go to London to find her and could not do so; she turned up later in Sydney, Australia. It later transpired that she had done so with an actor and opera singer, Mr Courtice Pounds, and “she admitted misconduct with him in his rooms“, where the hotel manager testified that she had been playing the part of his wife, and that the room had but one bed and that they had occupied it overnight. On this evidence alone, the judge granted Hardie his divorce and custody of the couple’s daughter.

Courtice Pounds soon abandoned Mary and took up with another woman of that name, the Irish actress Mary Gertrude Cranfield. Mary refused to reconcile with either her husband or her wealthy parents back in America and took up the name Jones to try her hand as an actress. Her family continued to give her an allowance of £240 a year (about £40,000 in 2022) which she spent on drink and what the newspapers called “stimulants”, being reported as being depressed. The death of her second child, the breakdown of her marriage, the loss of custody of her first child, her abandonment by Courtice Pounds and the schism with her parents must have all been heartbreaking for her. While touring with the play How London Lives in Burnley, she drank herself to death on Thursday 6th October 1898, aged just 27.

Lynedoch House clearly had a very short and unhappy life as a matrimonial home, but all is not quite what it seems with the place; within its walls is an earlier and smaller house, the 1820s Drumsheugh Toll, which enforced the turnpike road tolls of the Cramond District; the roads from the city leading to the Cramond Brig and onwards to the west. The Trustees of the Turnpike roads did not employ tollkeepers, rather they built a tollhouse and then let it out to the highest bidder, who made their income from enforcing and collecting the tolls.

For every coach, berlin, landau chariot, chaise or calash, drawn by six horses, the levy was 2s; but a one-horse chaise paid only 3d. Waggons, wains or carts paid charges graded from 6s, if pulled by six horses, to 3d if pulled by one only. a single horse, unyoked, incurred a charge of 3/4d; oxen, 7 1/2d per score, and sheep 3 3/4 d per score.”

A description of the tolls in force at Kirkbreahead

This was the 3rd location of the Cramond District bar. In its first incarnation of 1755 it was known as the West Kirk Toll and was positioned at the end of the Lang Dykes, what would become Princes Street. It moved around 1790-1800 to a location now underneath the Queensferry Road, where Bell’s Brae and Belford Road now split off of it, and became known as the Kirkbreahead Toll, from the name of this district. To make way for the Dean Bridge, this toll was moved about 100m west to a new position at no. 1 Belford Road, becoming the Drumsheugh Toll; it is this house which would be incorporated into Martin’s Lynedoch House.

The movements of the Cramond District toll bars, 1755-1883
The movements of the Cramond District toll bars, 1755-1883

When the Dean Bridge opened in 1831, the Queensferry Road was relocated across it, meaning that it could no longer control the traffic passing this way as it had been bypassed; previously all traffic heading in this direction would cross the Water of Leith down in the Village of Water of Leith (“Dean Village”) and therefore had to pass the Drumsheugh Toll. A further toll house, the 4th, therefore had to be opened opened on the Queensferry Road at the head of Orchard Brae; the Dean Check Toll. The city moved all its toll bars to its boundary in 1854, making both of these redundant, and a new toll was opened where Queensferry Road meets Queensferry Terrace; the Dean Park Toll.

The Drumsheugh Toll cottage was disposed of as a residence. The building of Kirkbrae House is frequently mistaken for the old toll house given its prominent location at the end of the Dean Bridge, however this was the home and business premises of Cabbie Stewart, a local personality and horse cab proprietor who accumulated some considerable wealth and built himself this rambling Scottish Baronial pile, incorporating many old decorative stones from the neighbourhood. Cabbie Stewart’s stables formed the basement level of Lynedoch House to the rear on Bell’s Brae.

Cabbie Stewart’s House at the head of Bell’s Brae and the south end of Dean Bridge

You can see how the Drumsheugh toll fits into Lynedoch House by overlaying an 1887 photo by Thomas Begbie with the current street view (original image can be viewed here © The Cavaye Collection of Thomas Begbie Prints; The City of Edinburgh Council Museums & Galleries).

NowAndThen animated gif transition of Drumsheugh Toll and Lynedoch House

It is the projecting window of the toll house, which would have allowed the keeper a clear view up and down the road that they controlled, and the front door which is the point of constant reference here. A further clue to Lynedoch House’s predecessor is the name painted above the door!

Drumsheugh Toll
Drumsheugh Toll

Charles Hardie remarried in 1899, to Margaret Sommerville Smart and kept his studio here, but the building was split and the house was occupied by the Misses Boyd. The “Norman” church behind the house is the Dean Free Church, built in the 1840s. It removed itself to the other end of Belford Road to a much larger and grander building to better serve its parish in 1888, the old building becoming another artists studio; the Dean Studio. The lower part, formerly the Free Church school, became the Edinburgh Arts & Crafts Club, the upper levels which had been the church were occupied by a variety of artists. The 1905 postal directory lists: William Grant Stevenson RSA (Sculptor and Painter), Joseph Hayes (Sculptor), Miss Meta Napier Brown (an arts and crafts silversmith) and Thomas Beattie (Sculptor).

A 1902 photograph of Lynedoch House – notice the entire façade is covered in render, not just the lower courses, with the ex-Dean Free Church and the Drumsheugh Baths behind. © Edinburgh City Libraries

In 1906, Charles Hardie stood in the City Corporation elections as a Unionist candidate, putting his address as Lynedoch Studio. He was soundly beaten by the incumbent. In 1912, he was still based there for work although he was by resident in North Queensferry. At this time the Misses Boyd were still in the house at no. 2, the Edinburgh Arts & Crafts Club and the Dean Studio still in the church at no. 4. Hardie died in 1916 aged 58 after a heart attack. His obituary did not mention his first marriage and divorce. After this the former studio at 1 Belford Road was occupied by R. S. Kennedy, a dealer in Austin cars, who remained here until 1939.

In 1934 the former main hall of the old Free Church was converted into a theatre by the author and playwright Christine Orr, who had 100 seats installed infront of a stage and based her theatre company – The Makars – here. It was taken over during WW2 as an ARP (Air Raid Precautions) and First Aid post. She was unable to return after the war and instead it was taken over by ornamental woodworkers Robert Laurie & Son., who were based here when it burned down in 1954.

The remains of the first Dean Free Church after the fire, Edinburgh Evening News, 1954

Lynedoch House was split into 3 private residences at some point before 1940. It was category B listed in December 1970. The ground floor had by this time became occupied by the Waddel School of Music and the upper floors by the Edinburgh Society of Musicians, who have a recital room and practice rooms there to this day.

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These threads © 2017-2023, Andy Arthur

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