Abbotsford is a historic house in the region of the Scottish Borders in the south of Scotland, near Melrose, on the south bank of the River Tweed. It was formerly the residence of historical novelist and poet, Walter Scott. It is a Category A Listed Building.
The nucleus of the estate was a small farm of 110 acres (0.4 km²), called Cartleyhole, nicknamed Clarty (i.e., muddy) Hole, and was bought by Scott on the lapse of his lease (1811) of the neighbouring house of Ashestiel. He first built a small villa and named it Abbotsford, creating the name from a ford nearby where previously abbots of Melrose Abbey used to cross the river. Scott then built additions to the house and made it into a mansion, building into the walls many sculptured stones from ruined castles and abbeys of Scotland. In it he gathered a large library, a collection of ancient furniture, arms and armour, and other relics and curiosities, especially connected with Scottish history.
The last and principal acquisition was that of Toftfield (afterwards named Huntlyburn), purchased in 1817. The new house was then begun and completed in 1824.
The general ground-plan is a parallelogram, with irregular outlines, one side overlooking the Tweed. Abbotsford’s picturesque and irregular architecture is the progenitor of the Scottish Baronial style of architecture in which identifiably Scottish precedents and elements of architecture, including steeply pitched slate roofs, turrets, bartizans, and crowstepped gables reminiscent of ancient castles, keeps and fortified houses, are used to evoke a sense of national identify. Into various parts of the fabric were built relics and curiosities from historical structures, such as the doorway of the old Tolbooth in Edinburgh.
Abbotsford’s interiors are essentially unchanged since Scott’s time and are now, possibly, the best-preserved suite of late Georgian interiors in Scotland. Abbotsford’s interiors are exemplars of the Romantic period defined in part by the objects they contain and in part by the motives of those who created them.
While Scott is justly famed world wide as Scotland’s most successful and prolific author, his surmounting interest, which gave him the most pleasure, was gardening. At Abbotsford, Sir Walter created enclosed gardens and parkland to complement the house, and laid out the largely unimproved land to form an extended wooded agricultural landscape, that remains uniquely adapted to its Tweedside setting. Historic Scotland has classified the landscape and gardens created by Scott as of outstanding aesthetic, scenic and architectural importance, and, as the creation of Scott, of international significance. Scott wrote on tree planting and landscape gardening and kept detailed records of his landscaping at Abbotsford, all of which add significantly to the historical value of the Abbotsford Estate. His landscape design at Abbotsford influenced many of his peers and neighbours, informing garden design across the UK.
The house at Abbotsford stands at the top and south east side of a terraced slope, which was shaped from the natural gravel escarpment that rises to a height of 12 metres above the Tweed. On the south east side, Scott created a formal entrance courtyard, the first of three enclosed garden spaces, each enclosed by high walls. To the north and extending westwards from the north side of the house, Scott's descendents developed the Morris Garden and the impressive kitchen garden.
Much of the gardens and landscape remain as they were in the time of Sir Walter, with some modest additions and alterations. This, coupled with the association with Scott, make the Gardens at Abbotsford among the most historically important in the UK.
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