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Newhailes, Tea House

Tea House (18th Century)

Site Name Newhailes, Tea House

Classification Tea House (18th Century)

Alternative Name(s) Newhailes House

Canmore ID 123531

Site Number NT37SW 168.05

NGR NT 32533 72931

Datum OSGB36 - NGR


Ordnance Survey licence number 100057073. All rights reserved.
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Administrative Areas

  • Council East Lothian
  • Parish Inveresk (East Lothian)
  • Former Region Lothian
  • Former District East Lothian
  • Former County Midlothian

Summary Record (January 2013)

Located in the north-west corner of the Newhailes Estate, the Tea House is the final monument of the walks that follow along the Brunstane Burn. As built it was a focal point at the northern end of a long canalised stretch of the Burn and consisted of a small pavilion over an arched, rusticated basement level, through which the Brunstane Burn flows.

The pavilion now ruinous, is almost square in plan, measuring ca. 4m in width by ca 3.75m in depth and some 4.02m in height between its base course and wallhead.

The north face of the basement is of coursed, stugged masonry. The south face of the basement comprises v-jointed rustication centred by a round-arched tunnel whose voussoirs adjoin each of its five polished ashlar courses and keystone projects boldly from the face of the stonework. A polished band course separates the basement from the principal elevation and bears the carving 'NOS HVMILEM' translated as 'Our Humility.'

The principal (south) elevation is now almost entirely demolished. What little remains suggests that it was formerly constructed of coursed polished ashlar. A pencil sketch of 1892, illustrates the lower half of the principal face. It depicts a tall central window with inward-opening, full-height, diamond-leaded casements, set behind a balustraded handrail and flanked by engaged columns set on tall pedestals.

The east, west and north faces are of coursed, stugged masonry. The west face contains a central door-opening with a lugged architrave. That to the north has partly collapsed but appears to have been blank. The east wall is all but gone, however it is known to have once contained a window. The roof is entirely lost and there is no indication of its former appearance.

The structure is flanked by wing-walls which would have lent the tea house a sense of width and proportion. They comprised of a balustraded hand-rail supported by a moulded base course (which joins the two walls by continuing around the front of the building) and set on a dressed and coursed stone retaining wall (with that to the west apparently containing a small niche).

The interior is of hand-made brick with a stone course towards the top. The walls are smooth plastered with four horizontal rows of dook-holes. These dooks bore horizontal battens, which presumably supported vertical timber lining. There is some evidence of shells within the plaster at the north-east angle. This may indicate that the tea house was originally decorated in a similar way to the grotto, and that it was panelled as part of a subsequent refitting. A segmental brick arch spans the door. Two small brackets are set into either door embrasure. These would have held a timber jamb in place and onto which the door would have been hinged. A fireplace, now collapsed, once centred the north wall. The floor is now lost and there is a considerable drop between the door cill and the present floor level. This suggests that original floor may have been of compacted earth with a stone flag finish, with the soil subsequently being removed; or a sprung timber floor with a cavity beneath.

It has been noted that the Tea House is a close imitation of the flanking pavilion and basement story of the celebrated Palladian canopied bridge at Wilton House, Wiltshire (1736-7) (and its copy at Stowe of 1739) designed by Roger Morris. In 1744 Morris spent some time at Brunstane House, the neighbouring property to Newhailes and it is likely he would have interacted with the Dalrymple family. It is probable that the design for the Newhailes Tea House was a collaboration between William Adam (who was involved with the extensions to Newhailes House) and Morris, with the Tea House being built somewhere between 1744 and 1747.

Excavations in 2002, 2007, 2008 and 2009 have contributed to the understanding of the Newhailes Tea House. The 2002 work saw the excavation of a trench in front of the Tea House west wing which exposed the original ground surface created during its construction. 37 fragments of carved stone were recovered from the trench and the area around the Tea House, allowing a preliminary reconstruction of the Tea House to be drawn. Further work in 2007-2009 recovered 427 carved stones) including architectural elements such as:

1. Pediment (raking cornice)

2. Pediment cornice

3. Modillions

4. Pulvinated frieze

5. Architrave

6. Ionic capitals

7. Engaged columns

8. Ashlar masonry

9. Engaged column jambs

10. String course cornice

11. Balustrade coping

12. Half baluster

13. Baluster

14. Balustrade plinth

15. Bullnosed step risers

16. Unknown moulding

17. Terracotta tiles

The lack of interior fittings and window glass from the recovery site perhaps shows that by the time the tree collapsed (ca. 1960s) into the Tea House the structure was already in a dilapidated state. The large number of slates recovered however shows that the roof was still largely intact.

The initial impact of the tree would have caused structural damage to the top right-hand of the principal elevation and may have brought down several elements of the pediment, architrave and perhaps the right-hand column. The mixing of the floor tiles with large architectural fragments can only have been achieved through deliberate clearing out of the interior of the structure, which may also have included knocking down further parts of the Tea House, presumably to make the area safe. The flanking balustrades (at least on the left of the main structure) would not have been so affected by the initial tree strike and must also have been pushed over on to the sloping banks and into the burn. The location of the columns and other larger architectural fragments within the trees immediately to the east shows further human intervention

The 2008 work also investigated the extent and slope of the east embankment, and demonstrated that the base level of the canal to the south was a flat gravel surface. The 2009 work found evidence for a sluice mechanism.

(Information from the National Trust for Scotland January 2013)

Archaeology Notes

NT37SW 168.05 3253 7293

NT 3269 7250 A major programme of monitoring, evaluation and architectural recording was undertaken at the mansion house and within its surrounding policies during conservation works between June 2000 and August 2001.

Tea house. A small evaluation trench was excavated across the threshold of the entrance into the W side of the tea house, an 18th-century garden structure located at the N terminus of the water gardens.

T Addyman 2001

Further problem-oriented evaluative fieldwork was conducted at Newhailes during the National Trust for Scotland 'Thistle Camp' in June 2002.

The project included the full exposure by excavation of the western wing wall flanking the Tea House, the recovery and record of fallen architectural stones revealed in that area, and the measured survey of the S elevation of the structure itself. The Tea House is a close copy of one of the pavilions flanking the Palladian bridge at Wilton (1736), by Roger Morris and the Earl of Pembroke, or its later copy at Stowe (1739). Historical research revealed that Roger Morris had most likely stayed in the vicinity of Newhailes, at neighbouring Brunstane House, in the entourage of the Duke of Argyll in 1744, and may well have had a direct influence in the design of the Newhailes Tea House (perhaps in collaboration with William Adam).

D Connolly (Addyman Associates) 2002


Fabric Recording (14 June 2008 - 24 June 2008)

NT 32533 72931 A removal and recording exercise was undertaken on 14–24 June 2008. 118 architectural fragments were recovered, catalogued and stored with the assistance of volunteers from the Bank of Scotland as part of a Corporate Challenge. The principal elevation is now fully understood and the importance of the structure within the Scottish Enlightenment is confirmed.

The canal to the S of the Tea House was partially cleared of recent debris and the original side slope exposed. Additional artefacts were recovered from the river.

Archive: RCAHMS

Funder: The National Trust for Scotland

David Connolly (Connolly Heritage Consultancy), 2008

Fabric Recording (May 2009)

NT 3253 7293 A removal and recording exercise was undertaken in May 2009 in the area around the Tea House. 464 architectural fragments were recovered, catalogued and stored with the assistance of volunteers from the Bank of Scotland as part of a Corporate Challenge. The principal elevation is now fully understood and the remaining recovery issues have been quantified. The canal to the S of the Tea House was partially cleared of debris and the original side slope exposed, including the mortar foundation spread for a brick revetment wall. A further brick-walled structure was uncovered to the S of the Tea House canal. Additional artefacts were recovered from the river.

The completion of three years’ work has provided a definitive understanding of the Tea House’s architecture,

its final collapse and demolition, and expanded to the S to provide evidence for the canal. With the discovery of

structural brick elements to the extreme S of the canal the original layout of the 18th-century water garden is becoming clearer.

Archive: NTS (Newhailes)

Funder: The National Trust for Scotland

David Connolly – Connolly Heritage Consultancy


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