Tuesday 14 February 2012: Peffermill House
It was when we'd been to photograph some dangerous potholes in the road outside, after a cyclist had been injured, that I noticed this house, having driven past it many a time. Only visible from the street in Winter, when the many trees have shed their leaves, it is still difficult to see properly without entering the private driveway. This is the Western face. My
extensive knowledge of architecture curiosity suggested that I really should look it up in my various reference books. I thought it could be C18.
Peffermill House, originally called Peffermiln, was built for Edward Edgar of the Wedderlie family in Berwickshire in1636 (so I wasn't too far out) whose arms appear above the entrance. It was sometime referred to as Paper Milne, paper being made there in the late C18. It is described as 'a three-storeyed L-plan structure with a stair-tower in the re-entrant angle, steeply pitched roofs, crowstepped gables and gabled dormer windows'. In other words, fairly typical period Scottish architecture. The name Peffermill is the Anglo-Saxon derivation of 'the mill on the dark muddy stream' referring to the Braid Burn, which flows close by (though less dark and muddy these days).
In 1760 Thomas Braidwood founded a school for deaf and dumb at the house, the first in Britain, which came to the interest of Dr Samuel Johnson who then visited with James Boswell in 1773 on return from their tour of the Hebrides. Johnson set puzzles for the pupils in pronunciation of sesquipedalian vocabulary (ie. long, multisyllabic words) to test their ability and understanding.
There is also a reference to a tunnel connecting Peffermill with Craigmillar Castle but there is no obvious evidence of this.
Peffermill is grade A listed and is one of many houses in private ownership that I wish was in the Doors Open Day scheme.