DiCamillo Companion

Mavisbank House (New Saughton Hall)

  • Built / Designed For: Sir John Clerk

    House & Family History: Considered the first Palladian house in Scotland, Mavisbank was executed by William Adam from an original design by Sir John Clerk (Howard Colvin says Sir John was "Scotland's chief arbiter of taste in matters architectural during the second quarter of the 18th century"). The house is of five bays and two stories over a basement, with a French style roof. The bay design is based on The Mauritshuis at The Hague (see photo in "Images" section). Unusually, the top floor windows are as big as those on the main floor (piano nobile). The house is linked to pavilions by quadrants of one-story over a basement. In 1876 Mavisbank was purchased by Dr. John Batty Tuke, who changed the house’s name to New Saughton Hall and repurposed it for use as a mental asylum. Dr. Tuke, vastly ahead of his time, believed that mental illness was a medical problem, not a criminal one, and worked to understand patients and treat them more humanely. The asylum closed in the 1950s and Mavisbank was sold to a private owner, who used the house as a car breakers yard. After a disastrous fire in 1973, Mavisbank was left floorless and roofless and its deterioration intensified. In December 2015 Mavisbank was shortlisted for the most endangered heritage sites in Europe list.

    Comments: Mavisbank is considered one of Scotland's most important country houses. Colin McWilliam, writing in "The Buildings of Scotland: Lothian," calls Mavisbank a "highly original...beautiful house."

  • Architect: Thomas Hamilton

    Date: Circa 1840
    Designed: Additions and alterations
    (Attribution of this work is uncertain)
    View all houses

    Architect: John Clerk

    Date: 1723
    Designed: Original design for House; William Adam improved and executed Clerk's design.

    View all houses

    Architect: William Adam Sr.

    Date: 1723-27
    Designed: Executed and contributed to designs of Sir John Clerk

    View all houses
  • Vitruvius Scoticus: Adam, W., pls. 46, 47, 1810.

  • Title: Buildings of Scotland: Lothian Except Edinburgh, The
    Author: McWilliam, Colin
    Year Published: 1980
    Publisher: London: Penguin Books
    ISBN: 0140710663
    Book Type: Hardback

    Title: Biographical Dictionary of British Architects, 1600-1840, A - SOFTBACK
    Author: Colvin, Howard
    Year Published: 1995
    Publisher: New Haven: Yale University Press
    ISBN: 0300072074
    Book Type: Softback

  • House Listed: Category A

    Park Listed: Listed as a Garden & Designed Landscape

  • "Restoration" (2006 - BBC documentary, brief update in epidode 3.4 "Scotland").
  • Past Seat / Home of: Sir John Clerk, 18th century; Clerk family here until 1811.

    Current Ownership Type: Preservation Organization

    Primary Current Ownership Use: Unoccupied

    Ownership Details: Though it does not have an identified owner, the Landmark Trust committed to restoring Mavisbank after receiving a grant in 2024.

  • House Open to Public: No

    Historic Houses Member: No


Help preserve Britain’s privately owned country houses by joining Historic Houses. Use code DICAM7 for a £7 discount off a new membership that will give you access to hundreds of historic houses.

Join Now