Thursday 3 February 2011: Bella/Victoria
A bit of (as it turned out) guerilla filming down in Musselburgh for the Poor Things project. This is M, in costume as Bella Baxter/Victoria McCandless, one of two actors in the show. She and J, as Archibald McCandless, did a great job in the freezing cold at Newhailes House, across the road from 'The Unit' where some of the earlier building work in the project was done. R, a QMU lecturer, did the filming, and dealt with the NTS woman who found us shooting in the stables courtyard and told us we shouldn't be there as we hadn't arranged it in advance, or paid the necessary fee. Admittedly it was all a bit last minute, as we had planned to go to Glasgow on Friday, but the weather forecast had forced a last minute change of plan. In the end, the NTS woman wasn't too bad, once she'd been assured that it was an educational project and that there might be the possibility of future costume collaborations with QMU students. So we got to finish our filming.
The house and grounds looked interesting - somewhere I'd never been before, even although it is only a few miles away. I looked it up on the web when I got home and found something about it on the Undiscovered Scotland site...
Newhailes, then known as Whitehill, was purchased in 1686 by an architect called James Smith. Smith went to Rome to train as a priest but was so impressed by the work of the Venetian architect Andrea Palladio that he became an architect instead and an early exponent of the Palladian style in Britain. Among his surviving architectural works are the Canongate Kirk in Edinburgh and Dalkeith House.
Smith's original Palladian Villa at Whitehill was seven bays wide and, though later restyled, can still be seen as the central portion of Newhailes. In 1702 Smith got into financial difficulties (perhaps linked to his offspring - he fathered 32 children during two marriages) and had to sell Whitehill. In 1709 the house was sold again, this time for 40,000 Merks, which translated to £27,000 at the time, or about £2.5 million in modern terms. The new owner was Sir David Dalrymple, 1st Baronet of Hailes.
Sir David was at different times Solicitor General for Scotland, Lord Advocate, and Auditor General of the Exchequer. He should not be confused with his older brother, Sir John Dalrymple, 1st Earl of Stair, who became one of the darkest figures in Scottish history when he organised and authorised the 1692 Glencoe Massacre.
The house's new owner based his title on the existing family estate at Hailes in East Lothian, and Whitehill was rapidly renamed New Hailes, which has since become Newhailes. Sir David was quickly started work on a new south east wing intended primarily to house his large collection of books, and he also began landscaping the surrounding park. The 2nd Baronet of Hailes, Sir James Dalrymple, completed the library wing, then moved on to balance it with what became known as the great apartment wing, a north west wing designed primarily to accommodate a series of grand reception and function rooms, albeit within the constraints of producing a symmetrical building.
The 3rd Baronet, another Sir David, built on his grandfather's collection of books and became an important figure in the Scottish Enlightenment. At this time the library was referred to by no less a commentator than Dr Samuel Johnston as "the most learned drawing room in Europe".
After Sid David's death in 1792, Newhailes passed through the hands of a further six generations of Dalrymples, starting with Miss Christian Dalrymple, and concluding with Sir Mark Dalrymple, 3rd Baronet of Newhailes. Sir Mark died without heirs in 1971, and his widow, Lady Antonia, continued to live at Newhailes until it was acquired by the National Trust for Scotland in 1997.