A Brief History of Ravelrig and the Walled Garden by Keith Taylor, BVT Chair.
The development of the walled garden will continue a tradition of horticultural use at Ravelrig which goes back over 200 years.
There has been a house on the site at Ravelrig since the 17th century if not before. What records there are of the house indicate some fifteen different families had possession of the small estate whose policies are attractively located on south-facing ground that progressively slopes down to the Water of Leith, It is likely that John Maitland (younger son of Charles 3rd Earl of Lauderdale) developed the house in the period 1655-1710. Having no expectation of succeeding to the Earldom, Maitland probably intended that Ravelrig become a family seat for his descendants. He is recorded as buying a new family pew in Currie Parish Chu8rch and investing in the development of the estate including the building of a mill.
The Lauderdales were the most powerful political dynasty at the time and were create architectural patrons – overseeing the rebuilding of Holyrood Palace and the reconstruction of the family seat at Thirlestane Castle. They also developed Hatton House, just two miles to the north-east of Ravelrig, which was also the birthplace of John Maitland.
Hatton house was destroyed by a fire in the 1950s, the old driveway gate can be seen near the new Kirknewton traffic lights on the A71. Ravelrig House was also largely destroyed by fire in 2004. It is unclear when the walled garden was first built but Historic Scotland have the walls ‘B’ listed and the listing indicates to the early to mid-18th century foundations with alterations during the mid-19th century.
By 1870 Ravelrig was owned by the 18th Earl of Morton, proprietor of the neighbouring Damahoy Estate. It is likely that the gardens were developed during this Victorian era as there was a keen interest in gardens across Britain with plant coming in to collectors from all over the British Empire.
The garden was used as a market garden by Balerno resident Jim Hawkins until the 1970s and the produce was sold at the Precinct (situated where Scotmid store now stands). If anyone knows Mr Hawkins please get in touch as we would love to have a chat about the garden!
The Balerno Village Trust has the Ravelrig Walled Garden as a flagship project for 2015/16 and would like to see it being used by the community for horticulture. The early concept of allotments has now been largely superseded by ideas around a community garden. This would give involvement to a greater number of people, there are many models of community gardens so it is hoped that ideas will come from interested people as to what they would like to see.
This article was first published in the April 2014 issue of BVT ‘Trust News’, PDF copy is available here.