In the border town of Coldstream a footpath leads from a lodge down to the river Tweed. The route passes an ice-house shaded by trees before a stroll along the riverbank brings one to an elegant stone temple. The Temple ornamented the landscape of a grand Georgian mansion called The Lees, which was largely pulled down in the 1970s.
The Lees (sometimes just Lees) was the seat of the interrelated Pringle and Marjoribanks (pronounced Marchbanks) family. In 1760 a traveller noted that ‘Mr Pringle has built a handsome house, and made a beautiful plantation’: ‘Mr Pringle’ was James, who died in 1769 leaving the estate to his cousin Edward Marjoribanks.
The temple was extant by 1769 when a historian noted Mr Pringle’s ‘modern seat’ as well as the ‘octagonal tempiato’ on the banks of the river. It is shown as an existing feature on a ‘Design for the improvement of Lees’ by the Edinburgh based designer Richard Stephens (?-1821) dated 1816. Stephens’ family business was in ‘draining, irrigating and embanking’, but he also drew up improvement plans for a small number of Scottish estates.
The Temple is named as such on the 1st edition Ordnance Survey map of 1858. The map shows the Temple and the Ice House as well as an array of summerhouses and seats that are lost today, and the surveyors preparing the map noted the ‘considerable and well laid out pleasure grounds’. Historic England Scotland incorrectly date the structure to the ‘later 18th century’ and it is listed as Category B.
By the middle of the 20th century the house at The Lees was in a very dilapidated condition and the then owners were only interested in the fishing rights. In 1975, when all attempts to find a buyer or a purpose had been exhausted, permission was granted to demolish. By that date the house was owned by Andrew Douglas-Home, nephew of the former Prime Minister (which information the Flâneuse shares simply so the headline in The Scotsman can be understood: ‘Doom for House of Home’). The paper reported that whilst the Scottish Civic Trust and the Scottish Georgian Society thought the case was ‘one of the saddest ever’, they accepted that there was no alternative to demolition.
Douglas-Home had a long term plan to build a new house on the site, and for that reason the circular central section won a reprieve and was left standing.
Towards the end of the 20th century it was incorporated into a new house designed by Nicholas Groves-Raines, which has since been further extended.
As briefly mentioned the Tweed is of course famed for salmon, and the wide stretch of river in front of the Temple became known to fishermen as ‘Temple Pool’, as seen in this postcard view (which helpfully points out that in Coldstream the river is the border between Scotland and England).
After the Right to Roam was introduced in Scotland Mr Douglas-Home created a footpath through his grounds and down to the river. Walkers are welcome but are requested to keep to the path and to respect the usual rules of the countryside (and to give Mr Douglas-Home a cheery hello if you see him out and about).
Thank you for reading and do please get in touch if you have any thoughts or comments – scroll down to the bottom of the page to make contact.