Heritage consultant David Hicks brings us the stories behind some of East Lothian’s historic properties.
Greywalls in Gullane is known today as a rather grand hotel, but inside it still feels more like an Edwardian family home. What makes the house so special though is its connection with the leading designers of the period.
The house was built in 1901 and designed by Sir Edward Lutyens, who is perhaps most famous as the architect for the Cenotaph war memorial in London. He was very influenced by the arts and crafts style, which championed traditional craftsmanship as a reaction to mass production.
Lutyens designed many private homes in this style, but Greywalls is a good example. It is built from Rattlebags sandstone from a quarry near Fenton Barns, with a grey tiled roof and small-paned casement windows, all drawing on local character. There are also the little finishing touches that arts and crafts architects liked to add – a sundial high up near the roof and the family motto carved over the main door.
A later owner decided to add a nursery wing for their family, and turned to another renown architect – Sir Robert Lorimer. He too, was a believer in traditional styles of building, and was making a reputation for sensitive restorations of historic houses.
The garden was designed by the acclaimed Gertrude Jekyll, who often worked with Lutyens as her style complimented his architecture. Jekyll liked to combine formal features such as stairs, brick paths and terraces, with informal planting of lilies, delpiniums and lavender to create a more natural style.
Greywalls was to be a holiday home, or as its original owner described it a ‘golf box’. At the time Gullane and North Berwick were highly fashionable places for a holiday, particularly with the opening of the railway in the 1890s. One holiday maker was King Edward VII, who stayed at Greywalls during his visit. Today a part of the building is still known as the ‘Kings Loo’ after his visit.
If you get a chance to visit though, do spare a thought for the servants. The entrance to Greywalls is guarded by two small lodges, and in the Edwardian period each of these would have been home to four footmen.