Information from Historic Environment Scotland
Location and Setting
Lanfine is situated south of the towns of Newmilns and Darvel and south of the River Irvine. The heavily wooded policies of the designed landscape provide a backdrop to Newmilns and Darvel. The estate lies on gently sloping ground to the south of these settlements in the valley of the River Irvine. The designed landscape is relatively enclosed, the policy planting prohibiting outward views except from the house. There are views towards the designed landscape from the A71 between Newmilns and Darvel. More general views are obtainable from the backlands of each town. The full estate, including Parkerston and Bonnieton Hill plantations, which frame the designed landscape to the south, is encompassed in panoramic views from the minor road to the north of Newmilns and Darvel. Parkerston, Bonnieton and Dykehill plantations are part of the essential setting.
There are few map records of the designed landscape. It appears to have changed little in extent since its development in the earlier 19th century, as shown on the 1st edition OS 1:2500 map of 1854. The designed landscape boundaries extend to the River Irvine in the north. To the west, east and south it is bound by the minor road which runs from Ranoldcoup Bridge at Darvel in the east to Mount Pleasant by Newmilns in the west.
Lanfine is depicted as ‘Glenfin’ on General Roy’s Military Survey, 1747-55, but its origins at this date remain obscure and there is no evidence of a designed landscape.
Lanfine, and Waterhaughs, a small independent estate north-east of Lanfine House, were bought in 1769 by John Brown (1729-1802) of the Glasgow banking firm Carrick, Brown and Co.. He built the earliest parts of the present house which was completed in 1772. The work was carried out by James Armour who was to become the father-in-law of Robert Burns. It was John Brown who was responsible for much of the tree planting at Lanfine which is so visible from Newmilns and Darvel. He is also known to have cultivated tender plants in the greenhouses in the walled garden. Thomas Brown, the nephew of John, was a physician in Glasgow and also Professor of Botany at Glasgow University. He inherited the estates of Lanfine and Waterhaughs from his cousin, Nicol, in 1829. The latter was probably responsible for the building of the east drive bridge and the lodges.
The road alongside the river, known as Brown’s Road, was built as a riverside walk between Newmilns and Darvel and, following the building of the bridges at Ranoldcoup and Craigview, provided access to the estate. The last Brown died in 1897. The estate was bought by Thomas Neil McKinnon in 1902 but he was bankrupted in 1910 and forced to sell.
The estate was then bought by Sir Charles Cayzer in 1911 for his son, Lord Rotherwick, and remained with that family until 1967. The garden terraces, on the north front, were probably built in 1911. There were formal parterres on the lawn below the terraces on either side of the extant pond. An aerial photograph shows these features still in place in 1946. The estate was bought by a holding company of Eagle Star Insurance Company in 1967. Lord Rotherwick bought the estate back in 1969 and re-sold it in 1971 to Mrs Holt of Lanford Lodge Holdings. From the estate of 400 acres acquired by John Brown in 1769 to one of 10000 acres in 1873, the Lanfine ownership now extends to 2200 acres. Waterhaughs is again in separate private ownership.
Lanfine House is a composite house, the earliest part of which is late 18th-century. The Georgian core was extended in 1860 by adding wings to the west and south. The bow windows were added around 1912 and further additions in 1919-21. The Dovecote is cylindrical with a conical slated roof and lined with brick pigeon-holes. It has been heavily restored, probably in the 1920s. In the park, over the Newlands Glen, there is a Single-arch Bridge with rusticated masonry, dated 1828. The East Lodge opposite Ranoldcoup Bridge has a columned porch, with slate roof. There are stone panelled Gate Piers and curved screen railings. The Mid Lodge, opposite Townhead, is single-storey with a recessed columned porch and broad oversailing eaves. The West Lodge is similar to the east lodge. The Walled Garden consists of an inner walled garden surrounded by walled slip gardens on the south, east and west. The inner walls are double-skinned brick. There is the skeletal frame of a glass-house range which contains a central conservatory and a range of derelict potting sheds behind. The three Garden Terraces on the north front of the house were probably built in 1911 when the bow windows were added to the house. The upper and middle terrace are built of stone with stone balustrading. There is a central flight of stone balustraded steps and balustraded steps at each end. The lower terrace is retained by engineering bricks. The central steps are on an axis with the house and lead to a stone-edged, rectangular pond set in the middle of the lawn below the terracing. Immediately to the west of the house is a small circular Stone Pond with a two-tier, cast-iron Fountain, surmounted by two putti, supported by three intertwined dolphins. On the east drive is a small circular Stone Pond with central jet Fountain. The Gardener’s House, Newlands, is a one-storey and attic Victorian cottage with barge-boards. Langdale House, a harled, slate-roofed, symmetrical cottage, is also one-storey and attic. The Stables comprise a 19th-century courtyard range.
Drives & Approaches
There are three drives to Lanfine House, the east, mid and west drive respectively, from Brown’s Road to the north. There is also a lesser drive from the minor road to the south. Road bridges built across the River Irvine, one at Darvel and the other at Newmilns, provided quick access to the estate from these towns.
The east approach via Ranoldcoup Bridge from Darvel is the longest drive. A mixture of coniferous and deciduous tree planting stands on either side of the drive and there are views down to the River Irvine. The west and mid drives are similarly planted.
There is no parkland as such, although an open area to the north of the house and the garden terraces were treated in a parklike manner, as shown on the 1st edition OS 1:2500 (25”) map of 1854. The planting was much reduced by 1946 and remains so today. Species that survive in this area include Scots pine, sycamore, and lime. The area is surrounded by a belt of larch interspersed with clumps of rhododendrons.
The woodland is the chief feature of the Lanfine estate and provides an impressive backdrop to the towns of Darvel and Newmilns. Around the house and the picturesque walks there is mature planting of beech, oak and coniferous plantations.
The main area of garden lies immediately around the house. On the north side it consists of formal terraces built of brick and stone with stone balustrading. There is an herbaceous border along the top terrace, and specimen horse chestnuts stand at each end. The parterres on either side of the pond below the terracing were replaced by a collection of golden conifers (Chamaecyparis sp.) which works to great effect against the darker background of the woodland. Other trees in this area include a Dawyck beech (Fagus sylvatica ‘Dawyck’) and Weeping beech (Fagus sylvatica ‘Pendula’). On the south and south-west side of the house there is an area of grass planted with specimen trees, particularly conifers, dating to the 19th century. These include Wellingtonia and Western red cedar (Thuja plicata). A Sweet chestnut (Castanea sativa) and a Californian redwood (Sequioa sempervirens) are planted by the dovecot. A path, marked by a line of Irish yews (Taxus baccata ‘Fastigiata’), leads from this area to walks on the west. Near the turning area by the front door, species include a Cut-leaved beech (Fagus sylvatica ‘Asplenifolia’), Sawara cypress cultivar (Chamaecyparis pisifera ‘Squarrosa’), Western hemlock (Tsuga heterophylla), and lime.
There are woodland walks along the Newlands Burn to the north which are currently all overgrown. A path also leads eastwards past the south side of the stables and from the north end of Newlands Bridge to the walled garden. A summerhouse on the bank above the bridge, shown on the 1st edition OS 1:2500 (25”) map of 1854 is no longer extant.
The walled garden which lies to the east of the house is expansive and there is evidence of a sophisticated layout, indicating that gardening was an important pursuit at Lanfine. The garden is now unused and the glass-houses and potting sheds derelict.