~ Oscar Wilde on Abbotsford House
Abbotsford House (1812 to 2012 and still standing last time I looked) is a Stately Home near Melrose, in the Scottish Borders. It is built in the Scottish Gothic style by Sir Walter Scott, the great Scottish Novelist also known for being a sycophantic Royalist and Tory. At time of writing, the house is not open to the public, but that doesn't matter because you weren't going to travel all the way to Scotland just to see someone else's house, were you? Unless you're a direct male - line descendant of Sir Walter Scott, or American, or both (psst. A tip for travelers: there is an unlatched window in the SE corner of the basement).
In 1811, Sir Walter Scott (at that time just plain Walter Scott because he hadn't been baroneted yet) found that he had far more money than he knew what to do with (he wasn't as brainy as he looked). Well he thought he had. He had written a few poems, had them published, and wasn't short of a few bob. He bought a property known as Cartley Hall, on the bank of the River Tweed near Melrose (which wasn't as posh then as it is now) and renamed it Abbotsford, as the locals had insisted on calling it Clarty Hole.
Moving into the property in 1812, Scott set about pulling down the old farmhouse and having it completely rebuilt from scratch, on a grand scale, partly to emphasize his status as Sheriff of Selkirkshire, and partly to annoy his Iriah wife. Although the architectural style of the house later became known as Scottish Gothic, it was originally conceived by Scott's friends Thomas De Quincey and Oscar Wilde, after a particularly heavy session of substance abuse.
Another of Scott's friends, the American author Washington Irving, visited Abbotsford in 1817. He later wrote "Jeezuss, it was flippin' HUGE! And it still isn't finished yet! This bloke must be absolutely ferkin LOADED! Never mind working for a living, I'm going to start writing novels, there's obviously shedloads of money to be made..." Irving's story "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" was originally set in Melrose, and was inspired by Scott's large collection of celebrity severed heads.
Abbotsford House was finally completed in 1824. Scott wanted to make it even bigger, but he'd just realized when his wife's family moved in that money didn't grow on trees after all. Scott's and his wife's family and their descendants lived in the house from 1812 to 2004, and the estate has recently been purchased by a Mr. Williamson, who apparently intends to rename it Arselickingroyalist Toryford if he can avoid the authorities.
A Tour of the House
Abbotsford House is, as Irving observed, absolutely huge. Entering by the main front porch, one can visit the Entrance Hall, Sir Walter's Study, the Library, the Drawing Room, the Armoury, and the Dining Room. Elsewhere in the house, there is a fine suite of Dungeons and a Torture Chamber, as well as all the usual rooms and facilities one might expect.
Sir Walter Scott is generally reckoned to have passed away in the Dining Room, in September 1832, and it is said that his ghost still walks abroad, but according to other sources, he simply got lost in his own home and was never seen again. As the house is currently undergoing major renovation work, he may yet be found alive. This is unlikely but by no means impossible.
The Entrance Hall
The Entrance Hall contains many historical artifacts, including the Skull of Robert the Bruce and the severed Head of Napoleon Bonaparte. The Custodians of Abbotsford are hoping to add the severed head of Margaret Thatcher ("The Iron Lady") in the not too distant future, but there are some concerns that she may not have finished with it just yet.
Sir Walter's Study is by far the most interesting room in the House, as it contains his own personal Time Machine, cunningly disguised to look like a small turret room. Sir Walter was able to use this ingenious device to travel back to any period of history he wanted to research, which explains why his novels were always 100% historically accurate, and never contained any errors or anachronisms. Unfortunately, Sir Walter kept the operating system to himself, and the secret was lost. Some historians have suggested that in fact he traveled forwards as well as backwards in time, and is currently masquerading under the name Alex Salmond.
It's full of books. What did you expect? Just hide one of the Shakespeare folios under your coat and get out of there.
The Drawing Room
How long have we got? What time do the pubs open round here?
This is more like it. The armoury, one of the finest in Scotland, is absolutely stuffed full of weapons, everything from big sticks with 6 inch nails in the end to Tomahawk missiles. What do you mean, is it safe? Of course it's safe, they've all been deactivated. Well most of them have. This collection was put together over a period of 30 years, during which Sir Walter was Sheriff of Selkirkshire, and was therefore in an enviable position to confiscate various items from the Neds of Bannerfield.
- It wasn't illegal in those days.