The House. The most lasting change Pringle made in the twelve years he had to manage his estates was in the appearance of the house. Almost his first act must have been to commission Archibald Elliot, a prominent Edinburgh architect, to redesign and enlarge the whole (demolishing the old house in the process), for in 1821, only two years after his leaving the army, impressions of a grand, very elegant scheme appeared in Vews of the Seats, Mansions, Castles, &c of /Noblemen and Gentlemen, In the words of this genteel guide book, "The House has lately been enlarged and improved under the direction of Mr Elliot, an architect, whose taste and genius has so many splendid memorials in the public buildings with which Edinburgh is adorned. It is a pure Grecian building and of the enriched ionic order. The stone employed is a beautiful polished freestone of a pale lead colour".
Unfortunately Elliot, the architect, died in 1823 and also, as a result of a national financial crisis, work on the new house was halted. Whatever the reason, work was halted when only the re fronting of the two main faces of the building was complete. (the two main sides remain much the same as when built in the 1790s), and the old building escaped destruction.
Whatever the reason, work halted when only the re fronting of the two main faces of the the building was complete (the two sides remain much the same as when built in the 1790s), and yet again the old building narrowly escaped destruction (its space - for kitchens, servants and so on - as essential as before). Instead of great elegance, all poor Pringle achieved was a centrepiece, with nothing to be centre of; looking grandiose rather than grand since what lay behind its Potemkin-like facades was the same small country house there had been before and the visual conflict with the old house next to it was now even more severe. (Mr Burns, the architects meeting with Pringle, cancelled by death, is an interesting footnote on what may have been a revival of interest in finishing the extended house. Burn would go on to do something similar in essence but much less coherent at nearby Bowhill the same year.)
The Architect Archibald Elliot (1760-1823), was a well-known, Edinburgh-based architect of wide repute, responsible for a number of public works and large country houses, some in the popular castellated style (for instance, Loudon Castle, Ayrshire, 1804 and Stobo Castle, Peebleshire, 1805, the Calton Prison, 1815), others a more austerely elegant version of classical Greek works, as in the Waterloo monument, Roxburgh, 1817, designed to celebrated the victory (after a previous design by the equally renowned William Burn had ignominiously crashed to the ground the year before).
It is Elliot's other, much larger celebratory work, Edinburgh's Regent Bridge scheme of 1815 onwards, that gives hints of his work at The Haining a few years later. Its two great porticos, framing the Calton Hill from Princes Street (echoed in Haining's north front), are designed for maximum visual impact, while the soothing repetition of units that follow on Waterloo Place then calm this force down to a level that can merge with the surroundings (paralleled in The Haining's - sadly unbuilt - tranquil wings).
John Smith (1782-1864), who also had a hand in the work, was the most prolific member of a Darnick family of mason-contractors, turning his hand to anything from carving a mounting block in the shape of a dead pet dog for Walter Scott, to building Ashteil bridge, as well as carrying out innumerable alterations, extensions and new buildings in the Borders area. From 1819-24, his Diary and Journal show him circulating mainly between Abbotsford, Melrose Abbey and The Haining, meeting the clients and architects but mostly supervising the progress of his work force (80 men by 1822).
It is not clear how far Smith was involved in the design, especially after Elliot's death. In 1822, Elliot was still evidently in charge, ordering Smith to do 'several things before Mr Pringle comes home'. In January the same year, Smith sent a sketch of the larder and figured pavement to Pringle, who, in August, was asking for a 'pIan and Estimates of a Screen with piers and railing' (The doors were being hung in the lobby in July, and in September Smith was unpacking 'a number of busts and statues [indecipherable] PringIe', which implies the main block of the house was near finished.) In December, he had yet another long diet with Mr Pringle about the proposed offices and he is accredited with constructing the Stable Court and Town Gate after Elliot's death (see below).
Pringle, from the one letter from him that remains, was obviously not the most decisive or plainspoken of clients, which may go some way in explaining the lack of hard fact known about the 1820s scheme.
When Scott wrote to his son,
Captain. John Pringle was here yesterday most fiercely bewhiskered and with him a party of indescribable dandies Luckily it was but a flying visit — they did but skim round and light down for a moment like so many wild ducks. I might say wild geese but the simile would not be civil.
Though not an unbiased view, it still may be revealing of this young man's character, and may explain some of the oddities of the eventual building.
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