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Manderston House

A Perfect Edwardian Mansion

If ever there was a ready-made backdrop for a Gothic novel or
turn-of-the-century drama, it is surely the elegant expanse of
Manderston House.

BY STEPHEN MCGINTY

Last night I dreamt I went to Manderston again. Well, I didn't actually dream about the great house nestled in the Scottish Borders, but I did think about it as I lay in bed, for in many ways it reminds me of the unforgettable first line of Daphne Du Maurier's Rebecca: "Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again."

It would be churlish not to be charitable about this comparison, for if ever there was a home that could easily slip between the pages of a bewitching Gothic romance and thriller, it would be Manderston House, its honey-coloured stone exterior embracing 109 rooms while 56 acres of gardens extend as far as the eye can see. There are few homes quite like it and fewer still in such sumptuous surroundings as the gentle rolling hills of Berwickshire.

When visitors first step over the threshold and into the oval entrance hall of Manderston, they will be struck by how illuminating the experience is. In many ways it reminded me of Dumfries House, which also has a reception room that is bathed in natural light, with pristine marble floors underfoot. To stroll into Manderston House is to stroll back in time -- but to a very particular period, for the house is one of the great examples of the Edwardian era.

If you wander round the rooms, you can feel the promise and affluence of those short few years between the death of Queen Victoria and the mud of the Western Front. The Edwardian era was about wealth and modernity and both are encapsulated in the view as I look up at the house's beautiful silver staircase. You want to touch it, but you feel it's rude to do so, or at least I did. Especially after learning that its gleam is maintained by a team of energetic volunteers who arrive armed with shammies three times a year.

The history of Manderston House is like the story of many grand homes: the tale of ambitious men with money to burn.

The full text of this article is available in the Summer 2020 issue of Scottish Life.

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Photos © Manderston House