Friday, December 15, 2006

Hopetoun House, Scotland

Hopetoun House, near Edinburgh

Hopetoun House is one of the finest examples of Georgian architecture in Great Britain. The house, located on about 150 wooded acres just outside of Edinburgh, was begun in 1699 by the well-known Scottish architect William Bruce. The commission came at the request of Lady Margaret Hamilton, whose husband, John Hope, had purchased the land with the intention of building a great estate, but died before it could be realised. Hamilton carried out the wishes of her husband and began construction of the house upon the marriage of her son to the sister of the Marquess of Anandale, an avid art collector. Upon the death of the Marquess, his collection passed to his sister and thusly formed the basis of Hopetoun's remarkable offerings of paintings and tapestries.

Hopetoun was greatly expanded by another famous Scottish architect, William Adam, in the 1720s, when it took on its present shape and ornamentation - a massive colonnade along the new front facade, two anchoring pavilions, and a highly fashionable enfilade of receiving rooms that were testament to the growing wealth of the Hope family. Adam died before the work was finished and two of his three architect sons, Robert and James, completed the project in the early 1750s.

The estate provides a tremendous study in 18th and 19th century country-house life through a private archive located in a small anteroom in the original core of Bruce's design. The documents reveal a detailed story of how rooms were used - and changed - over the course of the last 300 years. There are numerous accounts of the day to day operations of the estate, as well as family letters and instructions to staff regarding the visits of a German prince in 1819 and George IV in 1822, shortly after a major renovation of the yellow and red drawing rooms and the conversion of the state bed chamber into a formal dining room. The receipts and sketches from this era in the house's history offer their own unique glimpse into early 18th century design, and how tastes travelled from the Continent and from London all the way up to the Scottish countryside.

Hopetoun, which has been maintained by a private trust since 1974, is divided into two sections, public and private, as the family still occupies one wing of the house. The entire estate continues to undergo renovations largely funded by The Heritage Lottery and has recently established a textile conservation studio and restored the Round Pond and Jet d'Eau at the rear garden.

The house and surrounding grounds are open to the public from Easter to late September, but pre-arranged tours can be scheduled throughout the year. The estate is also hosts weddings and other corporate and private events.

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