Gunsgreen House, Eyemouth

Christine Smith

Grovedale, Australia

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Camera: Canon EOS 50D, Lens: @ 38mm, ISO: 160, Aperture: f5.6, Shutter: 1/500

Gunsgreen House is at Eyemouth in Scotland and is under the control of the Gunsgreen House Trust. It was built in the 1750s by John Adam, one of the most famous and most expensive architects of the day. Inside, you are still able to see his drawing of the house and a record of tax being paid for nineteen windows in 1753. Built for local Merchant’s (and smugglers) John and David Nisbet, John Adam adapted the house for their ‘special requirements’. The large cellars lead direct to the sea to receive their illegal overseas deliveries. Goods such as brandy, tobacco and even tea were highly taxed by the British government to raise money for their war chest. Smuggling was dangerous and highly profitable.Goods came into Scotland from Europe as far away as Sweden, where tea came via Scottish merchants John Sibbald and Henry Greig, Scottish Merchants in Gothenburg. This was totally against the law. All tea had to come directly from China. Finally though it seems John’s business succumbed to one too many cargo seizures and what economist Adam Smith described as “the infallible road to bankruptcy”. As a result of a court case brought by his rival Alexander Robertson, John went bankrupt in 1789. Alexander snapped the house up for himself at an auction in Edinburgh. To the end of his life though, despite retiring to nearby Berwick upon Tweed, he continued to call himself “John Nisbet of Gunsgreen.” John could have saved the house butt for a long drawn out court case. In the 1750’s David had helped their Clerk, Alexander Dow, made a hasty escape from the country. He chose to name David in his will in thanks for their help. As a Colonel in the East India Company, Alexander had become something of a celebrity. He translated works from Persian into English and wrote two plays which were performed at Drury Lane under the direction of David Garrick. At the time of his death he had amassed a personal fortune. The money from the will would have averted bankruptcy but it was contested and not settled until after John’s death. After the Nisbets, their rival, smuggler Alexander Robertson, lived in Gunsgreen until his death in 1804. Alexander Robertson’s sister, Margaret, had married George Home, the Minister of Ayton parish, and they moved into Gunsgreen House in the early 1800s. They lived there until George retired, when they moved to Edinburgh. In 1836 George and Margaret’s son, Abraham, the Minister of Greenlaw inherited Gunsgreen House. He divided his time between Greenlaw Manse and Gunsgreen. His daughter Anne Mary hid a favourite pair of Maltese Slippers in the tea chute, Found during its restoration, they are still on display in the house today. When Abraham’s son inherited the house, it was let to a series of tenants. The local link was finally severed in 1881 when Abrahams daughter sold Gunsgreen to farmer John Gibson. Gunsgreen ceased to be a family home, and had many owners. At the turn of the last century it was run as a bed and breakfast by William and Wilhelmina Dougal. One of the hotel’s most famous guests was Stanley Baxter who stayed at Gunsgreen as a child. Bought by Eyemouth Town Council, for future generations, it finally became the Club House of Eyemouth Golf Club. Now the house has come full circle. Gunsgreen House Trust, set up in the late 1990s, has raised money to restore the House and its History, and open it to the public.

Artwork Comments

  • Tom Gomez
  • Christine Smith
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